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How to retain your new oboe students

Updated: Feb 17

Last week I gave you my short-list of the perks of playing the oboe (if you missed it, you can check it out here), and this week I thought we should talk about how to retain those students once you get them to switch.

This blog is all about the actions you as a band director can take to help your student feel successful and lower the barriers. We know that oboe isn’t easy, but it really doesn’t have to be a struggle!

3 steps to retaining your newly switched oboists:

1. Give them an instrument that works

The number one cause of frustration for my beginners is being handed an instrument that doesn’t fully work! Maybe there’s a rod screw that keeps falling apart so they can’t practice at home. Sometimes there’s a pad missing that they don’t realize is missing until they come to a lesson and ask me why their low D won’t play. Often they have to really mash their fingers down on the keys to get the pads to fully close because the instrument hasn’t been adjusted properly.

Action Item #1: Get your school oboes adjusted by a repair person who actually play-tests the instruments before you hand one to a new oboist! Even if you’re not an oboist, you’ll rest easier knowing that it’s been checked out and play-tested and actually works.

2. Start them off with 1 or 2 handmade reeds that will work for sure and a link to purchase more of them

Another cause of students switching away from oboe mid-year is that they just don’t sound good, or maybe their parent says that they don’t sound good! Just last week a middle school student told me that she wouldn’t play on her new reeds (the old reed she was playing looked like a hamster had chewed on it, seriously!) because her mom said that the new reeds sounded bad!

Don’t let Mom’s comment about how your student sounds hold them back from rotating reeds or playing new ones, and beginners don’t have to sound awful or out of tune.

Action Item #2: Find a source for handmade oboe reeds that fits within your budget and provide the student with 1-2 handmade reeds (medium soft or medium) when they first get their instrument. Handmade reeds are made in tune and play-tested by a professional!

(Try Singin’ Dog Classic reeds in medium or medium-soft, Bocal Majority beginner reeds, or Bennett Lopez educator reeds in soft.)

3. Give them access to Switching to Oboe: 8 weeks of self-paced private lessons which covers oboe-specific tricks

Ok, ok, this is my shameless plug. But you're reading the blog to hear from me, so I'm going to tell you why my online course Switching to Oboe will help your students.

I’ve carefully crafted 8 private lessons to go over all the skills that oboe students will need to know to play in band successfully:

  • Embouchure formation

  • Playing with enough air support

  • How to simplify parts (especially helpful for high school students)

  • All 12 major scales and the chromatic scale

  • Playing with dynamic contrast

  • How to tune without drastically changing tone

Each lesson is complete with interactive play-along video warm ups and introduction of new topics, a practice technique to try that week, scale study, repertoire study, and a self-assessment.

Action Item #3: Check the course out and see if it will fit your program's needs! I have a few videos set up to preview, so you can check out the format, topics covered, and see the course in action.

Subscriber bonus:

It’s an extremely powerful course which I know will help your students switch to oboe. So I’m offering an end-of-year Subscriber-Only Discount starting tomorrow, December 15 through December 31.

And finally, an invitation to connect: I'll be at the Midwest Clinic next week on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Email me so we can set up a time to meet! I'd love to meet you in person, and learn about your oboe students!

Until next week,



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