2012 Operation O.B.O.E and Bocal Majority Summer Camps – Austin, Texas

The second leg of my trip took me to Austin, Texas where the beautiful Chicago summer lake weather turned to hot and sunny Texas summer weather. I was scheduled to give some reed knife sharpening seminars to the budding oboe and bassoonists of the Bocal Majority and Operation O.B.O.E. Summer Camps, which are run by Bassoonist Jennifer Auerbach and her amazing admin team and student helpers/workers.

Jesse Woolery, who is the assistant director of the camp, and a band director at Denton High School in Denton Texas, met me at the airport and we immediately became the best of friends! This trip really needed to stop getting better already!

We headed over to the camp at Pflugerville high school, where I met up with Jennifer and the gang, and barged in on Martin Schuring’s reed making class to say hello. More on him later…

In the meantime, I received a phone call from Extended Stay America – the hotel where I was scheduled to stay – saying that they had overbooked the hotel, and they moved me to another hotel and were going to comp me 1 night! YEAH, BABY! And if things just couldn’t go any better, I even got a very nicely discounted rate for the second night!! Thank you for the great customer service, Extended Stay America!

The camp ended for the day, and we all headed out to eat at Kerby Lane. Their guacamole dip with melted cheese was just satanicly decadent. I ended up ordering the grilled chicken sandwich with a mashed potato side. As many of you may know, Martin Schuring is the current president of the IDRS, and with the 2012 conference in Oxford, Ohio only a week away, we ended up having a really nice, in-depth discussion some of the current IDRS issues. It is safe to say we all left fully satisfied after the great meal and a great conversation!

Tuesday was my seminar day. We got there a little early, and the door wasn’t open yet, so we ended up playing catch for a few minutes. :)

Oboists and Bassoonists Playing Catch

Since there are different age and level groups at these oboe and bassoon camps, we started with the beginner reed makers who were mostly middle school age and were making their first reeds ever this week. This was a new challenge for me, too, since my seminars usually cater to more experienced double reeders and reed makers. So instead of the usual knife sharpening demo, the seminar revolved around the introduction to the reed knife and its role in the whole reed making and adjusting process. We also passed around a few different knives of varying levels of “sharp”, and began to calibrate the students to the differences in feedback and results between a sharper knife and a duller knife. This worked out really well, and it was a great reminder that I can always learn something from my own seminars.

Just after lunch, Jesse conducted the more advanced ensemble, and I sat in for a bit. It was a little weird, actually. There are usually only 1-2 oboes and/or bassoons in an ensemble, but to see and hear 1st, 2nd and 3rd oboe and bassoon parts with multiple players on each part was a new experience for me – especially when one of the students is Martin Schuring!

Ensemble Rehearsal

 

The afternoon seminar was for the high school level students, who had more reed making skills overall, and knew about the importance/requirement of a reed knife. So this was familiar waters for me. We grouped the bassoon and oboe students together, and enjoyed a lengthy, in depth reed knife sharpening demo. After the initial demo had concluded, students had the choice to break off into their reed making groups, or stick around for more sharpening. Those who stuck around got their knives sharpened and questions answered. A nice treat was one bassoonist’s reed knife that was a beautiful single bevel knife made in Japan. It was very well made from laminated steel, and it was an absolute dream to sharpen. Even though my technique for sharpening that knife was not the usual method prescribed in my reed knife sharpening book, I was more than happy to get a little geeky on the student and produce a more aesthetic (yet every bit as sharp)  finish that was more the style of a Japanese sword polisher off my Shapton Pro stones.

As I was sharpening, it was really great to see Martin interact with the students. This man receives the utmost levels of respect in the double reed world, and I can totally see why. He was having a great time with the kids, patiently and informatively answering every question thrown at him, and making fun little jokes while enthusiastically encouraging them through the trials and errors of beginner reed making. All the students were relaxed and felt completely at home. I easily could see why there were about 50 participants in this week’s camp alone!

One interesting moment came when one Martin mentioned a reed knife at the table needing a little TLC. I naturally said that we can just happen to do that today… This knife was an older Herder, but the stabilizer on the shoulder was much lower than the rest of the blade. I didn’t want to ruin my stones too much over this (we’re actually talking a lot of time to fix this issue on just the stones) so I took Ashley, one of the assistants in the camp (who showed great interest and improvement in her own sharpening since I had met her a couple years ago at Michigan University) and gave her the “graduate” level sharpening class, which took place under the hot Texas sun on the curb just outside the music room. Yes, I literally took the knife and got medieval on it – scraping away the height of the shoulder to bring it up to level with the rest of the blade. Ashley even gave it a try. With the knife somewhat evened out (more of a band aid, really), I proceeded to sharpen it up, much to the satisfaction of everyone.

After the day died down and I cleaned up, we went to Tino’s Greek Café, where the food was plentiful and oh so tasty! I had a Gyro platter with beef, rice and vegetables along with a nice lemon chicken soup. The conversation centered on bassoon, which is an interesting change from all the oboe talk I’m more accustomed to.

I said goodbye to Jennifer, and thanked her for such a wonderful experience. I told her just how impressed I was with everything they were doing, and that I would love to come back again next year. On my way back to the hotel, Jesse and I had some more great conversation, and after a sound sleep, headed out to the airport, where I started getting ready for our sharpening party in New Jersey.

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