Since I moved to Toronto, I've felt like I was sometimes at war with my oboe. I questioned if I could make reeds, play music, play the oboe well enough to even continue, let alone improve. And yet I kept playing, kept accepting more opportunities to play, forced my reeds to squeeze themselves into pitch, because I love playing the oboe...but I wasn't loving it.

I was hating myself after each performance, even when things went acceptably, because I felt it shouldn't be this painful just to play in tune, never mind musically. I wanted to do so much more than I was able to do with the music.

The only time I felt like I could be musical was when I switched to english horn.

I brought my instrument in for crack after crack, sometimes I would have a brief moment of joy when it played well in a rehearsal, but the next day it would be hard to get the low notes out, or none of my reeds would sound, or none of my reeds had any tone and sounded like kazoos. Resistant, blatty, stubborn kazoos!

In a convergence of oboist vs ice injuries, I ended up playing 1st oboe in Stravinsky's Pulcinella suite and Debussy's Petite Suite and playing in a run of Don Giovanni. My oboe cracked sneakily but very uncomfortably through a tone hole the week before a spate of performances. I felt like I was going to lose my mind and my stress/tense practicing/playing got so bad I gave myself a shoulder injury that made it nearly impossible to play without a neck strap.

In desperation I called Jim to ask him if he would lend me an oboe to play over the weekend - preferably a lined one (I was NOT going to crack a loaner oboe) I was honest about the fact that I wasn't strictly speaking looking to buy, but was up the creek without a paddle and knew he had some used oboes that would be in better adjustment than L&M's. Amazingly, he not only agreed to lend me an oboe, he lent me SEVERAL oboes; a lined yamaha, a loree Royal with a plastic top joint, and a Howarth that I really, really wanted to like.

After making it through my performances, but feeling intensely weird on the new oboes (having only played one oboe for 10+ years will do that) I decided I would buy a new oboe after all - a LINED oboe! Long story slightly shorter, I tried in vain to fall in love with any brand other than the yamaha, but despite the keywork feeling strange, it stayed with me no matter what other oboes I tried, and I ended up buying "Hammy the Yammy" as he has now been affectionately named.

It took some time to feel comfortable on the new oboe, and initially I would go back and forth between the Loree and the Yamaha, but once I stopped, I didn't look back. My reeds have stabilized, coming out consistently and in tune, I've started to be able to just play again, and have been feeling tentatively relieved. I feel as though I've come out of a long, dark winter, and maybe things will grow again.