Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sister Crawford's First Semester

Here it is, one week left in the semester, and I have not updated my professional blog even once in the past 4 months. 

Last week was social media week in my Music Technology course and I heard myself saying things like...
If you have social media, you have to use it.
Consistent posting keeps your followers engaged. what I say, not what I do.  (The worst teaching strategy...ever.)

This has been an absolutely wonderful semester!  I have truly enjoyed every aspect of it: working with students, lesson planning, course design, writing tests, one-on-one consultations, faculty quintet, the bassoon studio, weekly masterclasses, guest artists, student performances.  It has been so much fun and an incredible learning experience.  

My Music Tech course student have to make a Vlog for their final project.  I decided to make one for them to gain the best sense of what I expect of them.  It's a snapshot of this semester and I think it captures all the many experiences I have had here in the BYU-I department of music.  

I doubt that a written summary can do better than that but I do want to collect some thoughts I was having as I walked back from the Faculty Women's Holiday Luncheon.  Little nuggets of wisdom that I anticipate I will use many, many more times during my time here in academia.

  • You can do hard things.
  • Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.
  • Undergraduate music theory is useful.
  • Doing things well requires work.
  • Yes, you will have to work...for the rest of your life.
  • The ability to practice is far more powerful than talent.
  • Procrastination is a student's greatest barrier to success - not a lack of intelligence.
  • Excuses are not reasons.
  • Being present is different from attending.  Both are required.
  • Communication is essential.

I think the students here at BYU-I are profoundly fortunate.  They are truly receiving a world class education for pennies on the dollar.  I wish I had been as savvy when I was 18/19/20/21 . 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"It's Shake-N-Bake and I helped!"

Ohhhh bassoon!  Despite all the low brass jokes, percussion harassment, and perplexed looks from flute players, the commercial value of bassoon has been BLOWIN' UP!

Have you seen these?

A young bassoonist and her poor mom trying to earn that last, sweet, ooey-gooey roll:

I don't even know WHAT IS HAPPENING in this one but I want to buy a VW:

"You don't have to be a talented bassoonist..." bassoonist = genius

Somewhere there is an arthritis commercial featuring a bassoonist.  I will have to find it and post later.

Now there is this whole indie, singer-songwriter trend happening.  And of course bassoon is the go-to instrument when trying to break into that market.

And how can we possibly forget all the amazing media around Rainn Wilson "The Bassoon King".

What am I missing here?  Have you found your own?  Share the link so I can get them all compiled into the most amazing list of commercial-bassoon-awesomeness!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer Project: Values to Live By

One of the advantages of being a musician, like a public school teacher, is the opportunity to spend summers finding projects/work to inspire, learn, and grow.  Last summer, I took on the task of launching a successful fundraising campaign for the Chinook Winds.  Many musicians will find a home in various festival orchestras, returning year after year to make music in wonderful surroundings with a different set of colleagues.  Other musicians fill various music camps tucked away in woods and on lakes all over the world; teaching and mentoring young musicians at every level.  

This summer, in addition to moving to a new city and preparing to start a whole new adventure in academia, I have discovered myself in a most exciting project: The Ken Moses project.  (Title in progress.) This undertaking is a new tab on my blog and a whole new chapter in my life.  

Ken Moses was my very first bassoon teacher - and what a whopper of a teacher!  I think I knew, to a small degree, that I was fortunate to have been able to study with him in the Eastman School of Music community division.  But in the past 22 years, I have come to realize how unbelievably fortunate I was to have begun my training under a masterful performer and educator.  

Ken and I have been exploring his journey as an artist both, as an aid to me in preparing for my new position, but also in a deeply indulgent dream I have had, for more than two decades, to know more about him.  He has existed as a veritable man of mystery in my life and I'm truly overwhelmed that he has thrown open the lines of communication with me to allow me to ask him questions and hear his story.  

In the process of interviewing and transcribing our on-going conversation, I wanted to share some beautiful words he gifted me this past week.

These are the values he lives by and hold's himself accountable to and you can learn more about them at

    Vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is our greatest measure of courage. Vulnerability is at the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief and disappointment, but it's also the birthplace of love, belonging, innovation, and creativity - the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.                                        
    If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall. Getting back up requires us to turn toward the truth of our struggle and look it in the eye. When we deny our stories, they define us. When we run from struggle, we are never free.                         
    We are all called to be brave with our lives and answering that call means choosing courage over comfort, choosing what's right over what's easy, practicing our values rather than professing them and leaning into our vulnerability.       

What I LOVE about these values is that they are obviously applicable to any person but especially to a performer.

If we applied these 3 values to each performance, how would that performance be transformed? If we applied these 3 values to our journey as musicians, how would our lives and careers be transformed?

Be vulnerable: to your audience! To yourself! Allow the moment to be a manifestation of your work without judgement of your human errors.

Be brave: take on the projects that seem impossible. Chose the repertoire you *think* you can't play. Ask for the help you need. Share your process/fears/triumphs with those who chose to listen. Be brave enough to take risks.

Choose Courage: to take an audition, to apply for a job, to go back to school, to ask for feedback. Choose courage rather than fear.

Ken's story, as an artist, educator, performer, and person is a gift. I'm enjoying the process of learning and following the path he is sending me down: discovering new music, finding old recordings, imagining exotic concerts and wild collaborations.

Being an artist is a life lived with vulnerability, bravery, and courage.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Audition Thoughts Part 20: From the Other Side of the Screen

Procuring a job through a competitive audition is a long process.

Ignore the exceptional outliers who win first auditions.

What more can I say?  What more needs to be said?

Well, quite a bit because we all need a little support and affirmation in this career.  As you can see in the pic above, mostly, we receive a lot of rejection.

This is your safe place, my friends.  I don't care how many auditions you have taken and lost.  Let me be the one to say that I am proud of you for going and trying.

The skill of auditioning gets easier with each audition.  Invariably, as you improve, so will your audition experience.  Unfortunately, the mental, emotional, financial aspects seem only to get harder.  You start to notice that candidates get younger and younger.  You feel greater and greater risks from those affected by your audition success (or failure) whether it is family or colleagues.  You question yourself more and more.  I think the ones who have the best outcome are those with a great support system, thick skin, and no better offers or an alluring Plan B.  

I was not part of the selection committee/panel for the principal bassoon and oboe auditions for GFSA/CW.  However, I did play in the final round oboe audition and observed the final round bassoon audition.  Being a part of the audition panel with the GFSA and the Billings Symphony for the past four years has allowed me to reflect and gain a whole new perspective.

Here are a few of my thoughts from the other side of the screen:

  1. Know the job you are auditioning for.  If it's a military band, you better nail the band excerpts not just the orchestral excerpts.  If it's a second bassoon job, you have to be great at playing second, not just a work-hungry principal.  If it has a large chamber music component, make sure you are totally prepared to sit down and make music with a few other musicians and no conductor.
  2. Present yourself!  Take a public speaking course.  If your degree doesn't require it, require it of yourself.  Join toastmasters, put yourself in front of people, get away from your practice room, BE DYNAMIC!  New professionals, seasoned professionals, ALL MUSICIANS have to be able to communicate away from their instruments.
  3.  The audition isn't just what happens in front of a screen.  Interacting with managers, administrators, community members - they are all watching, listening and talking.  Will an off-hand remark cost you an audition?  Not likely!  But your entrance into an organization can be smooth...or not.  Make it smooth.  
  4. Don't audition/apply for a job you don't want.  I have thought about this for a few years sitting on the other side of the screen and discovering, in subsequent rounds, that we were wasting our time listening to people who didn't want/couldn't take the job.  I am fully aware that all musicians take auditions without a full knowledge of what the job/pay/benefits may be.  What I find frustrating is going into a final round and discovering that a candidate has no way of accepting the position.  In my opinion, if you keep advancing through rounds and you know you can't/don't want the position, BACK OUT BEFORE THE FINAL ROUND!  Give that opportunity to a musician who wants to be there and don't waste the time of the panel.  
  5. The panel WANTS you to be good, they WANT/NEED to hire a great musician!  I have heard this many times as an auditionee and was skeptical because there are many auditions where no one is chosen or several are given trials.  For those actively on the audition circuit, this is very frustrating!  With more experience on the other side of the screen, I now have much greater appreciation for why this happens.  It's hard to listen to a lot of "good" musicians.  With each candidate you hope *this is the one!*  Musicians want to work with other great musicians.  We want the whole package: great player, great person.  We also want someone who is going to be around long enough to build something with.  There is a lot at risk in selecting someone after hearing them for only a few minutes.  Don't overthink your deficiencies/mistakes.  If you don't advance, or if you do advance but don't win, don't make it personal.  There is so much more happening there than you realize.  
  6. Move on!  Having taken 18 auditions and having been part of hiring musicians, I am more aware than ever that auditions are still pretty random.  Yes, you have to be a great player, have a great day, be a great person...and also hope the stars are aligned, the moon is full, the karma is good, and the energy is positive.  The more competitive a position, the more it comes down to minutiae that you, as the auditionee, cannot even be aware of and have no control over.  We all have taken an audition that felt like a make-or-break experience.  Maybe an audition that you simply wanted more than all the rest.  BUT MOVE ON!  If it's not for you, have faith!  I firmly believe that there is a purpose in all things.  Every audition is one audition closer to where you should be.  Don't give the audition power over you and your career.  Don't let a single audition make you or break you.  The best thing you can do as a musician whose employment depends on the success of an audition is: take many auditions, learn as much as you can, keep doing the work, and keep moving forward.  
Congratulations to all the oboists and bassoonists who came out to audition for the Great Falls Symphony and the Chinook Winds Quintet. Best wishes to each of you as you forge a path in this crazy career of ours!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Audition Thoughts Part 19: You Can Call me Sister Crawford

My Mom always said, "Let's clean up one mess before we start another."  To be clear, this almost always referred to baking projects in the kitchen and my career is not a series of messes.

However, I feel like I can apply the same wisdom here: let's finish one season before we start another.  I am still a little in shock that this is my last actual week of work with the Chinook Winds Quintet.  Part of this week I will participate in the audition process to replace both myself and our Principal oboe position.

Over the next several weeks my little family will be relocating to Rexburg, Idaho so I can assume duties as full-time, bassoon faculty for the BYU-Idaho music department.  Just to be clear, at BYU-I I won't be referred to as Professor Crawford.  Instead, you can just call me Sister Crawford.  I will also be starting every class I teach with a prayer!

But let me back track a bit and share the story of how I won my first, full-time, university position...

Last August our principal second violinist in the Cascade Quartet forwarded me an email from her bassoon colleague with the announcement that BYU-I was launching a national search for a new full-time, tenure-track, bassoon instructor.   Having applied for this position two years prior when they were looking to fill 1 of 3 different positions, I was a little skeptical about applying a second time.  I reached out to a colleague of mine on faculty at BYU-I and inquired about my deficiencies as a previous applicant.  He gave me the strong "thumbs up" to apply again.  Thusly, I submitted all my materials...again...

...except this time, I opened it up for revisions and edits by the three smartest women I know: my mom and my two sisters.  Clearly, that was the right decision.  By the time I submitted my CV, cover letter, resume, and other documents, I was feeling pretty confident about how I presented myself.  Well, at least fairly confident considering I have minimal experience in a college classroom, do not have my terminal degree, and had been appointed adjunct faculty at U of Montana only about 6 weeks prior.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

 I proceeded from the "resume round" to a Skype interview.  The search committee asked about my teaching philosophy, my ability to collaborate, and my teaching experience.  What I found myself talking about was homeschooling and the many different things I have found myself teaching - without prior experience or professional qualifications.  When I first applied for this position, I was just beginning my second season with the GFSA and not yet homeschooling.  Mentally and professionally, I really wasn't in the proper place to take seriously the process of presenting myself to academia.  Two years later, a little wiser and a lot more experienced, I am pleased to recount that I was able to articulate very easily my teaching philosophy and my approach to teaching in areas that may be out of my immediate comfort zone.

In November, the week of Thanksgiving, I received an automated email from Human Resources informing me that the position has been rescinded by the University - uuuuugggghhhhhh!!!!  Happy Thanksgiving!

After lots of emailing and status changes, the position re-emerged from whatever place such things are decided but no longer as a tenure track position.  It's called a full-time, visiting artist position with a renewable, 1-year contract, up to 3 years.

I was invited (1 of 3 candidates) for an on-campus interview.  Oddly, in that sentence, it sounds like 1 interview.  In reality, the on-campus portion included:
  • 4 interviews
  • 1 theory class instruction
  • 2 private lessons instruction
  • 1 faculty chamber music rehearsal
  • 1 recital
It took 2 days, in the middle of January, in Rexburg ID - which is WILDLY more cold than Montana.  There were aspects that I felt really confident about: private lesson instruction, faculty chamber music rehearsal, 2 of the 4 interviews.  There were aspects that were not awesome.

What I did not expect was how much I learned in the process (about the school, the position, and what I had to offer) and how much I had to ponder upon leaving.

It was such a whirlwind experience!  The Chinook Winds had our 11th & Grant premier party late in the evening.  My husband and I left after that, drove 5 hours in snow and cold, got in to the hotel around 2 am, spent 2 days interviewing, drove back to Montana, subbed in with the Helena Symphony for 2 days, saw myself on TV in a hotel room, and then back home to GTF and off on a tour.

I then spent the next 2 months talking myself into and out of the job on a daily basis.  
  • If I get, will I take it?  
  • Well, I won't get it.  
  • But maybe I will get it!  
  • Then of course I totally want it.  
  • But what if I am horrible at it?  
  • I shouldn't take it, I have so much going on in Montana.  
  • I have too much going on in Montana.  
  • I HAVE to get off the road as a musician.  
  • If I get the job, I have to take it - for our family, for my sanity.  
  • Maybe I should just go back to school and get my DMA?  
  • Maybe if I get the job, and I'm good at it, and I like it, then I will go back to school and get my DMA.  
  • I should definitely take the job.  
  • But we will have to move again in 1 or 2 or 3 years!  
  • Morgan graduates in 5 years, that's 2 more moves.  
  • But what an opportunity!  
  • To teach on a university level.  
  • To work with students who are choosing to be there.  
  • To work with faculty who are passionate about education.  
  • To shape the next generation of educators and audience members.  
  • To mentor students at such a crucial time in their lives.  
  • I hope the job is offered to me. 
  • I will never get this job!

You know, the usual mind games of self-doubt, inadequacy, and fear that plague every hilly trained professional - especially musicians.  

In March, I was informed that I had progressed to the final step but it would take several more weeks to hear anything official.   

In case you have lost track, this is now 7 months into the process.  

 Orchestral audition: walk in, play, get kicked off stage = 7 min.  

Then things got REALLY intense because the time frame for hearing about the BYU-I position did NOT line up with the GFSA contract timeline.  THE STRESS!!  I'm certain I gained 10 lbs from mid-March to mid-April!

Thankfully, our executive director gave me a great opportunity to delay signing my contract but advertise my position as vacant with the option to cancel if I wasn't offered the position.  It was SUPER AWKWARD to see my position posted everywhere while not knowing if I was going to stay or go...and not telling anyone except for those who absolutely NEEDED to know.  I definitely got some interesting emails from inquiring minds.

The last few weeks of waiting were excruciating!  Not only did I have the GFSA and my colleagues in the Chinook Winds waiting but also the Billings Symphony and University of Montana.  I started to realize how many people depended on me but also how over committed I was and how much I really wanted (needed) this position. 

LOOONNNGGG story short: I got the job!  Obviously!  

It was a very long process but I needed that time to work out the BIG PICTURE in my head.  I have gained a whole new appreciation for my colleagues who have/are applying for multiple academic positions and how demanding that process is.  

Suffice it to say, I am very excited for this whole new world I am entering!  I know, I have a LOT to learn but I'm really eager to learn and develop so many new skills.  I think it will be a phenomenal opportunity to see if this is the direction I want to go in my career.  I think the school is incredible and undergoing a major transformation in educational innovation.  I'm excited to be part of that process and to mentor students as they gain relevant education for their careers and lives.

I know my family was meant to be in Montana these 4 years - and I'm so emotional to be leaving - but I also know that this is definitely the right and next step for us.

The WILD WEST adventure for this Bassoonist continues on...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

When We Are Too Afraid/Tired/Frustrated to Share

One of my main goals with this blog is to increase the amount of positive content there is on the information super highway regarding musicians and what we do.  At the same time, I want to share the reality of what it's like to be a musician specific to me - a women, a mom, a bassoonist, living and performing in a very unlikely locale. 

Here follows a conversation that I bump up against a lot.

BACKGROUND:  (Read this if you want to know what traveling musicians do.)

Last week was my monthly residency with the Billings Symphony.  Every month of the concert season (September - April) I spend 6 days (Tuesday - Sunday) fulfilling my duties as principal bassoonist of this wonderful orchestra!  My compensation includes a per service fee, mileage, daily per Diem and housing.

It's tricky because I'm already on the road a lot with the Chinook Winds.  Being a homeschool mom means that when I'm not around I either have to find someone to fill my shoes at home, embrace several days with limited homeschooling for our 13 yo son, or bring him on the road with me.  As he gets older and more independent, this becomes easier but, in general, when you are a Domestic Goddess, it's hard to be gone with such consistency.

Last week was a great example of why I dread and look forward to these weeks.  We played Scheherazade...'nuff said.  OBVIOUSLY I wanted in on that!  However, I was out of town the entire week prior in addition to the much anticipated PBS premier event.  I spent 36 hours home, in between trips doing laundry, unpacking, repacking, finishing reeds, prepping teaching materials for private students and university students, and then my son and I hit the road to Billings.  We had great intentions to catch up on a ton of math and finish up reviewing for 2 big finals he has in science and history.

The reality is that the previous week was *SUPER STRESSFUL* and exhausting with the PBS event, a 2-day university interview out-of-state (+travel time), and then filling in for Helena Symphony which kept me away from home 3 more days.  I arrived in Billings, immediately taught a lesson, went to rehearsal, went to bed, woke at 4:30 am, drove 5 hours to Missoula for my university teaching, 5 hours back, played another rehearsal that SAME DAY, and then had the remainder of the week: more rehearsals, 2 more private lessons, 2 performances.  

All of which I am truly grateful for because I'm doing what I chose to do - be a musician. 


When I wasn't in rehearsal, driving, or teaching, I SHOULD have been homeschooling.  In reality, I, walk through the door, put down bassoon, crawl into bed, pass out.

Oh, and I took my son to the YMCA to stretch his limbs in the pool the day after he spent 10 hours in the car with me to cross the state for my university duties.

HERE IS WHERE THE STORY REALLY BEGINS: (Read this if you want to know what every musician dreads sometimes.)

Feeling too lazy and unbelievably drowsy, I opted to sit on the sidelines and catch up on reading ("Freak the Mighty" for my son's literature course).  It took every ounce of energy I had to not lay down on the bench and just sleep.  But that would have been tacky and clearly irresponsible, so I kept it together.  With only one person in the pool (#homeschoolers) in the middle of the day, the lifeguard sat down next to me and struck up a conversation.

Let me be clear, he was a SUPER nice guy!  He had nothing better to do and I have no qualms chatting with strangers.  But I KNEW there were going to be a series of questions because, let's be honest, we were OBVIOUSLY out of place.

"You folks aren't from around these parts, are you?"

Skipping school today?
No, we're homeschoolers.
LITANY OF HOMESCHOOL QUESTIONS (no we don't beat our son with the bible and keep him locked in his room)
Do you come here often?
No, we are from Great Falls.
Visiting family?
No, playing with the symphony.
Cool!  What do you play?
The Bassoon
Confused look, lots of miming back and forth, adjectives that are not accurate.
He arrives at the baffling conclusion so many before him have come to.
"Oh, it's like the bass clarinet!"
"I think it's cool we have a's important...and, like, aren't they taking all that stuff out of schools now?"
Great question!  I'm so tired I want to cry but I am going to have this conversation because at the core of my being I know I have to share with you - with everyone - how important these community based organizations are and how crucial arts education is.


Like I said, he was a very nice guy.  I invited him to come to the performances, he couldn't, but maybe someday he will.  I got to talk about how important arts education is, how music is a lifelong skill, etc etc etc.  I know this is important...nay...crucial for my entire profession.

...but sometimes I dread it...

...I mean, really, really, dread it...

...allow me to explain why.

  • because I have been on the road for 2 weeks and I'm so tired I want to cry, because it hurts to think, I feel guilty as a mom and wife, and I simply doubt my ability to be articulate.
  • because I hate explaining what a bassoon is which is why I often pull out my phone and show a picture.
  • because as incredible as my work is, it is also a job.  Like working for the sanitation company or Burger King, it's my vocation.  There are days when I don't like my job.  Yup,. that's the truth.  I do this AMAZING THING and I am SO FORTUNATE, and some days, just like every other person in humanity, some days, I just don't want to go to work.
  • because I know that no matter how many times I have this conversation, I will still need to keep having it.  I worry that I'm the only one having it.  I wonder if every musician is as committed to educating the public as I am.  Are we all doing our part?  When you, fellow musician, are on the third plane ride this week and want to sleep but your row companion sees that strangely shaped case, are you giving them the time, despite your exhaustion, to have the conversation?
  • because I'm still refining my delivery.  As a trained performer, I'm still working out this particular performance.  Why?  Because of all the amazing, expensive training I have had, no one ever teaches you to talk like this, to talk about this - but they should!
  • because I'm afraid that one day, even though it has never happened, someone will laugh and say, "What a waste!  Everything you do, what you believe in, what you fight for; it's a total waste of people's time and money."
The fact that this has never happened is a good sign.  It shows me that we must all be doing something right, something positive, because everyone always agrees.  No matter how afraid, tired or frustrated I am, people always smile and say the nicest things and they always agree that what I/we do is important.

So, even when I dread it, I will keep having this conversation as many times as I need to.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Légère Synthetic Bassoon Reed - a new review

I am so excited to see that my posts on the Légère bassoon reed are getting thousands of hits!

Not because I'm a bassoon narcissist (can such a thing even exist?) but because I believe deeply in these reeds.  I will share more about why I am promoting these reeds with such vigor but I want to immediately share the proof of how awesome these reeds sound, play, perform, and respond.

The Chinook Winds were invited to film an episode of 11th & Grant with Erik Funk, a Montana PBS show.  We spent 9 hours filming an episode meant to bring a live show into the homes of residents of Montana.  We filmed the Maslanka Quintet in 1 take.  By the end of the day, we weren't so...accurate.  It was an amazing experience and we are truly grateful to Erik Funk and team for inviting us to be a part of such an incredible experience.  Here is the episode and this is what a Légère reed sounds like:

Brief History of my experience with the Légère:

I purchased a Légère reed after Paul Hanson toured through Montana playing a Légère.  A group of Montana bassoonists got together and bought them from Miller Marketing.  You can read my earlier reviews by following the Légère tag.  I used a Legere reed exclusively for the 2014-2015 concert season.  Playing the reed in all elevations and climates, even toted it to the Baltimore Symphony audition though I didn't end up using it for that.  

I now have 3 Légère reeds including the very first one I purchased and have been playing on since June 2014.  Yes, it still plays!  I have purchased two more.  One which I am currently using and another one that is, in reality, probably many months from being used.  

The Légère bassoon reeds are very consistent and easy to adjust as needed.  

Video on adjusting here:

Taking an entire season off from reed making was amazing and a much needed respite for me.  It also highlights one of the reasons I am such a huge advocate for these reeds.  I am constantly amazed at how often I meet adults who played bassoon in high school and college.  All of them share how much they love the instrument and how much they loved playing it.  They also share that, because they never learned/couldn't master reed making (and despised manufactured cane reeds), they were forced to give it up.

This always breaks my heart to hear!

Reed making, though a necessary right of passage for a professional bassoonist, should never be a barrier to a passionate amateur or hobbyist.  They are innumerable community based ensembles that always need a bassoonist and it's a tragedy to realize that something so tiny stands in the way of bringing dedicated bassoonists into these ensembles.

I spent a portion of last week auditioning/interviewing for a university position and played a portion of my recital on the Legere in order to demonstrate its abilities.  I was very purposeful in doing this because of what I understood about the program and the students in it.  There are many music programs across the country that have bassoonists with great talent and desire to play.  They will likely not go on to be full-time professional bassoonists but will endeavor to play while managing careers, families, church and community service, and the various demands of life.  For these students, I feel like, the best news I can give them is that the struggle of reeds doesn't have to be the "death-knell" of their time with bassoon.

The Légère reeds will provide countless hours of stress-free playing for bassoonists across the whole spectrum of amateur - professional playing!

For the 2015-16 season I am back to making and teaching reeds but having the Légère in my case has proven to be a powerful tool and an amazing Plan B - which I have used in rehearsals and performances as needed.  I will continue to make and play on cane reeds but I will always have a Légère as well!


Wanted to share the following correspondence regarding a Légère reed that I purchased and didn't like because of a change that was made to the manufacturing process - but then corrected.  Not only a great product but a great company with excellent customer service.  IMPORTANT TO NOTE IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED A REED 

Greetings!  I wanted to contact you regarding the new style bassoon reed you are making.  I have been using the Legere bassoon reed since June 2014 and have absolutely loved it.  I have recommended it to my colleagues around the country who have since purchased them and students.  However, when Justin Miller sent me my latest Legere with the silver end and with the blades separated I was profoundly disappointed.  The reed does not vibrate!  It doesn't hold adjustment, it doesn't project with power, I can't lower the pitch, the sound is dead and very thud-y.  It functions like a read with weak corners.  I am writing to implore you to return to the previous style with the sides sealed the entire length of the blade.  If not possible, then please allow me to purchase whatever stock you may still have of the older style.  I have a few students ready to buy but I have told them to wait in hopes that you will either switch back or make the other style available in addition to the new style. I have been working with this new style for 6 weeks and simply cannot make it function for me in any setting: chamber music, symphony, teaching, solo work, not even just to practice on.

Please let me know your thoughts about this.

Many Thanks,
Elizabeth Crawford


They have the recently received reeds where the sides are now sealed and this is the only version that they have so rest assure this is the reed that you will receive. If you have any concerns or hesitation about the reeds performance you are more than welcome to contact Bocal Majority and they would be glad to discuss them with you.

Elizabeth, if you could please send your reed back to;
Légère Reeds Ltd.
121 Welham Rd.
Unit# 4
Barrie, ON
Canada L4N 8Y3

I would be happy to replace it for you. Can you please address it to my attention so that there is no delay as we don't typically offer an exchange on Bassoon reeds. If you could also include a short note (even a copy of this discussion) to refresh my memory when it arrives, as to why we are replacing the reed for you it would be greatly appreciated. Make sure to include a copy of your receipt and the address that you would like your replacement reed shipped to.

Thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter. We hope to renew your appreciation for our reeds. Please keep me posted.

Kind Regards,

Julie Vardy


This is wonderful news to receive!  I will let all my students know they should forge ahead with purchasing.  I will send you the reed ASAP.  THANK YOU so much for your response and care in making this product.  Looking forward to many more years of Légère bassoon reeds.
Best wishes,
Hi Julie,

Wanted to thank you for the replacement reed - it plays great!  I also wanted to share with you that my quintet, The Chinook Winds, is being featured on a PBS show here in Montana:11th & Grant.  Our 60-minute episode premiers on Thursday January 28, 2016.  I filmed the entire episode using a Legere bassoon reed.  People often respond to my blog reviews and Facebook posts and the question I hear a most often is: what does it sound like?  I'm really excited that they will now have the chance to hear (and see) the reed in this context.  

You can watch a preview of our episode here:

After the episode airs, it will be available to stream on-line at any time.

Best wishes,

***IMPORTANT NOTICE: Our Exchange Policy process has been improved and was implemented on January 6th, 2016. You will still have the same great opportunities as before but the submission process will require you to secure an RMA# (Return Merchandise Authorization) prior to shipping us your reed. This RMA# will be obtainable through our website

Kind Regards,

Julie Vardy


Sunday, January 3, 2016

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

My family enjoyed a trip to Yuma, AZ over the holidays.  This involved approximately 40 hours of drive time through some of the most stunning countryside the intermountain west has to offer.  It also afforded my husband and I ample time to reflect and discuss our family and our professional lives - a fitting and valuable discourse as we welcome a new year.

Of course our conversation strayed to the topic of teaching, which continues to become a more significant part of my career.

I began teaching privately when I was 14 years old.  I taught beginner piano to subsidize the cost of my private studies at Hochstein School of Music and later in the Eastman School of Music community program.  

For me, teaching has often been a means to an end.  A way to earn income to support my greater goals as a performer.  It has ebbed and flowed in size and value for the last 21 years but I have learned to love teaching while also developing into a resourceful educator.

I was asked recently about my teaching  philosophy, a pretty standard question in academic circles.  But not a question I have ever been asked before.  However, I found myself responding with a thoughtful and honest answer: in 21 years of performance based instruction I have learned that I don't desire or intend to make performers; instead, I aspire to mentor young people through the medium of music.  

With this in mind and with my bassoon studio the largest it's ever been, I have identified three things that I most enjoy in my students:
  1. Discipline
  2. Engagement
  3. Preparation

Because the likelihood of me creating a world class performer is realistically very slim, I have come to put very little value in talent.  Talent has a place but it's not necessary nor expected of my students and can even get in the way of productive learning.  

Discipline however is invaluable.  I define discipline as the ability to apply oneself with consistency through setting and achieving short and long term goals i.e. years of applied effort.  The discipline of a student who practices in earnest for 20 minutes, 5 - 7 days a week, does far greater good than the student who logs 2 distracted hours the day before a lesson.

I relish working with a disciplined student.

Engagement to me is the collaborative energy my student brings into a lesson.  No yawning, no excuses, no complaints.  Engage with me!  Be able to articulate what is wrong with your reed, what passages gave you trouble, what pieces you want to play.  There is an endless amount of knowledge I can attempt to shove into your brain, but it is limited by how much you can receive.  This process of giving and receiving knowledge is dynamic and requires an engaged, student-teacher collaboration.

I savor the moments when an engaged student can verbalize their concerns, their goals, and their plans.

Preparation is key!  

Nothing new here.  (Carry on ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing to see here…)

...except to say that preparation to me does NOT mean perfection.  I evaluate preparation through an obvious identification of effort.  If you arrive each week with perfection, bravo, it's time to find a better teacher.


Am I a mind reader?  Do I have hidden cameras in the cases of my students? How do you know if a student has prepared or if they just *can't* do it?  

I know you have prepared when I see effort. For example: you attempt a C major scale in 3 octaves for the first time in our lesson as part of an assignment.  You get to a high A...stop...look at me…” do I finger a high A?”


A prepared student plays a C Major scale in 3 octaves, they get to the high A, they slow down (fine with me), they play the A but hold down the wrong flick keys, they immediately recognize the mistake, slide their thumb up, hit the high A and continue with the turn-around having totally abandoned the metronome for a much slower tempo.

It is not perfect, but I KNOW you prepared.  I also know that you will CONTINUE to prepare and I am confident that it will steadily improve.

It is my distinct pleasure to work with students who are prepared.

It may seem antithetical for a music teacher to disregard talent.  But my philosophy is NOT about cultivating a rare talent; my philosophy is that I can assist you in being a better person, a happier, more successful and valuable member of your family and your community by helping you develop three crucial, life-long skills: discipline, engagement, preparation.

Nobel Winner and student bassoonist: Thomas Sudhof
Nobel Winner and student bassoonist: William Moerner
Rainn Wilson from "The Office"

Also, because I can't think of the phrase "Be prepared!" without my mind straying to this Disney classic:
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