Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

Cabin thoughts...

Learning to play the oboe (a difficult instrument used in classical music), a decision I made after hearing an oboist in the Oregon Symphony demonstrate the melody to "Scarborough Fair" during a grade school field trip to the symphony, was a pivotal decision in my early life. Although I didn't continue to play beyond college (for a variety of reasons this is not an instrument you can play casually if you expect to sound good), being able to reach a level of competence at this rare and complex skill catalyzed my development of self-confidence, and eventually researching and writing about various technical aspects of the instrument helped me develop a taste for writing.

So, in the spirit of this trip touching on as many of the critical themes of my life as it can (i.e. for the same reason I'm going to visit physicist Paul Dirac's memorial in Tallahassee and Chief Justice John Marshall's memorial in Richmond), while I'm in New York City I plan to hear the New York Philharmonic perform, so that I can get a sense of what the state-of-the-art is for oboe playing today.

In looking up more details about this, I was surprised to learn that the (still relatively young) principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic retired in 2006 and has been replaced by a 26 year-old superstar named Liang Wang.

But here's the interesting thing: even though Wang began his education in China, his educational lineage still leads back to the same guy as just about every other professional oboist or serious student. Specifically:

Liang Wang (current principal) was a student of Richard Woodhams, who was a student of John DeLancie, who was a student of Marcel Tabuteau.

Joseph Robinson (former principal) was a student of John Mack, who was a student of Marcel Tabuteau.

In my case, I was a student of Karen Strand, who was a student of Robert Sprenkle, who was a student of Robert Bloom, who was (you guessed it) a student of Marcel Tabuteau.

Since Tabuteau introduced the innovations in reedmaking and tone which marked the inception of the American style of oboe playing, it would be fair to consider that the beginning of the lineage (throughout his life Tabuteau acknowledged the mastery of Georges Gillet - his own teacher at the Paris Conservatory - but at that time the instrument wasn't even the same mechanically).

The following is purely trivia, but for what it's worth the actor John DeLancie (who played "Q" on Star Trek and who has appeared in a number of films) is actually the son of the oboist John DeLancie mentioned above.
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