Oboe, reeds, music. That’s my mantra as I leave home, for every gig, every time. I have to see or put my hands physically on each part of that equation before I pull out of my driveway. Occasionally, when I’ve neglected to hit my checklist, I’ve pulled over before getting on the expressway just to make perfectly sure. I don’t know how I happened to forget to check Saturday morning.
We moved into our new house 10 days ago. I’ve been keeping a lot of details in my head, things like gas and internet appointments, address change forms, and exactly which box Zoe’s snow pants are in. Our first Musicians for Michiana concert is coming up in two weeks and my mind is full of rehearsals, newsletters, press releases, and programming insights. I was working on a scheduling email for my students. I had decided to leave extra early for my gig this morning to return some library books and check the mail at the old house. All of that left me not very focused on the job to which I was headed after I ran my two errands and met my carpool.
Everything happened as it was supposed to. We drove two full hours to Fort Wayne. And it was after I turned the car off, as I was reaching into the back seat for my case, that I realized what I had forgotten. Not the oboe, mercifully, but the reeds. All of the reeds. My own and also the box of reeds-in-progress that I usually carry in case I find a spare minute to work. All of the reeds, without which the oboe makes no sound at all. I had 30 minutes before my rehearsal, and no way to play my instrument.
So I texted my husband, who was at home with a five year old and a barely working car - on the off chance that he was near his phone (he wasn’t) and eager to help (he would have been). I messaged the other two oboists in the section. I cursed a little bit, out loud in the frosty air, and I headed into the hall to see what I could do.
Well, oboists are kind. The principal lent me a reed to use for the rehearsal and concert. The English horn player was nice about it, too. Thanks, Pavel and Leonid!
Although reeds are very personal, and made by the oboist for the oboist, taking into account his instrument, the hall, and the musical task at hand, a well made reed can do whatever it needs to do, for whomever, and I had no trouble playing two services on this one that my knife had never touched. I had to make some adjustments to my approach, but nothing stressful. The playing was fine.
Interestingly, though, my pre-concert routine changed dramatically. I didn’t realize how much of my time is taken up with choosing between reeds in my case, and lightly tweaking whichever one is in my hand in an attempt to be ready for anything that the concert throws at me. I sat down 30 minutes before the concert, and Pavel’s ONE reed, which I wasn’t entitled to work on, was the only choice, so I looked over all of my notes and played through the tricky parts of the concert - and still had 20 minutes to go!
Normally, I have two or three reeds and alternates soaked up, and test the difference in resistance between them, and try entrances and solos on each, and scrape maybe just a little - but I’ll tell you, my odds in performance of playing perfectly are no better than they seemed to be this weekend when all I did was warm up the oboe and check the notes in my music.
I wonder how much of my usual system is just busy work. Or totally unnecessary work. I wonder if I’d be better off with fewer choices, and more focus on the actual music coming up. I wonder if I make too many reeds! If I walked in with one and just had to make it work, would I be a better, stronger person?