I’m in Columbus, Georgia at the International Double Reed Society conference this week, after taking a year off and NOT flying to Tokyo for last year’s event. It’s amazing to be back.
An IDRS conference is not a relaxing affair. Every hour is double and triple and quadruple booked. It’s impossible to see everything I want to see, and I find myself leafing through my program frantically the MINUTE I sit down at a recital, wondering what I’m going to next and even whether I dare to sit all the way to the end of this one. Inevitably I have to choose whether to see a friend perform or hear a lecture I am interested in or soak in some learning at a masterclass. And somehow I have to carve out enough time to buy ALL OF THE THREAD COLORS at the exhibit hall. It’s very stressful.
The great thing about double reed players is how amazingly supportive we are of each other. Flutists can be mean at their convention, or so I hear. But the oboe and bassoon are just too darn hard to sustain rivalries. We are all in this together, and that’s how it feels.
Over the course of a very few days you hear a LOT of playing. Some is amazing, some is only OK, but all of it can be inspiring.
You hear players that do not sound like you think a good player should sound. But if you let go of that judgement and listen for what IS good, or assume that the player got to where they are for a reason and listen for that reason, you can learn. If you hate everything you hear, but you use your listening time to ANALYZE what you don’t like, and think about ways that you too could avoid these pitfalls, you can learn. If you hate everything you hear, but recognize in the playing something that your students do, you can think about how to talk about it with them in the most positive way possible.
And of course, you hear players that you only wish you could be when you grow up. Selected highlights: I was floored by Mark Ostoich and Christopher Philpotts, who played together on the first night’s concert. Gorgeous, effortless, liquid playing that had EVERYTHING in the sound. Nermis Mieses blew me away with a work for oboe and four amplified wineglasses – the piece was great and her presentation was just beautiful. So musical and so rich. Kathryn Greenbank did a masterclass and was just LOVELY in her approach to students of varying abilities. So focused, and holding them to such high standards while not overwhelming them with information as I might have done. This was a very, very inspiring conference for me from that standpoint.
And the OBOES! I spent hours at the exhibition hall – trying in advance to get a handle on the instrument I plan to buy next year. This is not fifteen years ago in the oboe industry. It used to be that Real Players Played Loree and that was all there was to it. A couple of people here and there would have Laubins, and those were always worth commenting on. But now! There are just so many brands and they are all so great!
I played a Bulgheroni Musa that Steve wanted me to buy on the spot. I played a Moennig 155 with truly vulgar golden keys all up and down that I would have bought instantly. I played a Marigaux M2 that felt absolutely like my voice. I even wavered briefly toward a Howarth in cocobolo (synthetic top joint) called the coco-jazz. Super lovely. So many options. I had planned to narrow my choices down at this conference and I made them twice as broad instead.
Tomorrow we’re off on the next phase of our 2016 vacation, while more of my friends and colleagues stay to turn out great work here in Georgia. Best of luck to all you oboists and bassoonists, and see you next summer in Appleton!