This must happen to everyone. It can’t just be me.
Throughout January I was getting worse and worse. And I blamed the reeds, the snow, the busyness, the baby. But it was just that I was struggling with the oboe. I practiced every day, but I always felt like I was trying to get back to where I started rather than trying to improve. Not coincidentally, my reeds got worse and worse. I had nothing new, and my old ones were aging rapidly. I gave a recital I wasn’t that proud of, and then bombed an audition that I had really been excited about.
We started rehearsals last Monday for the Tchaik 4 concert in Northwest Indiana, and I felt lousy. Killed off two reeds in the first rehearsal, two in the second. I had only one reed in my whole case that would play all the way through the solo - and it’s not that hard a solo by any stretch. By the third night, when we played the Schumann Concerto for the first time, I was getting really worried. Maybe not worried, exactly - angry would describe it better.
Every day I was making extra time for the oboe, and for reeds, at the expense of family time and me time. I was practicing instead of exercising, and scraping at my desk instead of playing with my awesome daughter and my husband whom I love. I have been a professional oboist for more than 15 years. This kind of slump should have stopped happening by now!
To clarify, this was not a reed slump, per se. It’s easy for an oboist to blame the reeds, because they are so obviously the x factor every day. Every time I pick up the oboe it feels different, because those little pieces of damp wood that form the interface between me and the instrument change constantly. But I’m used to coping with the normal variations the reeds can dish out. And used to having to replace them as they wear out, or as the seasons change. When I have my act together they are not a limitation. But it’s easy to say, “Oh, what a lousy reed” when I mean, “Boy, I really stink today.”
And then… it stopped happening. Between one quintet gig and the next one, 45 minutes later, my slump ended. I stopped fighting the oboe and started enjoying it. Music became easy and fun again.
Some of the reeds in my case woke up to their potential. I made a few more that worked effortlessly right off the knife. The Tchaik 4 concert went well. I’ve pushed the Easy button. I’m back.
Do I know what caused the slump? No. Do I know what pulled me out? Also no. Does this periodic struggle happen to everyone? I must admit that I hope so.