I believe it is very important that a beginning oboe student take private lessons from the very beginning of playing the oboe. Many parents/directors wait to see if the student likes the oboe or progresses a bit before taking lessons from an oboe teacher. However, because of the complicated nature of the fundamentals involved in playing the oboe, many “bad habits” may be formed without proper guidance. These bad habits will no doubt interfere with the progress the student makes, resulting in lack of progress and thus frustration.
Also, unlearning these bad habits later will interfere with their progress in the future. Proper guidance from the very beginning allows the student a much greater chance for excellence and enjoyment throughout their oboe playing experience.
It is very important that the proper teacher be selected for the beginning oboist. If there is more than one teacher available, I encourage the student and parent to “audition” the teacher.
Here are some ideas to have in mind:
- The teacher is an experienced oboist.
- The teacher is an experienced teacher.
- The teacher comes recommended by others if possible.
I find it helpful for the parent to sit in or listen in on the lessons through this process. Trusting your judgement is very important and it is just fine to share your audition plan with the teacher. If they didn’t like the idea that would be a “red flag”. However, most, if not all, competent teachers will support this process.
A few points to observe during lessons:
- Does the teacher address and stress learning the fundamental techniques, such as embouchure (formation of the mouth around the reed), breath support, body and finger position?
- Does the teacher introduce practice techniques to learn each fundamental on its own?
- Does the teacher address the importance of daily practice in an organized fashion?
- Does the teacher discuss the importance of the oboe reed?
- Is the teacher addressing the student in a positive and encouraging manner?
- Is the teacher explaining themselves in a clear and understandable way?
- Does the teacher play for the student?
- Does the student react positively to the teacher?
All these can be used to help determine which teacher may be most effective in teaching the young student. No teacher is perfect, but if the answer to most of these questions is yes, it will be a good sign that the teacher would be a good fit.