Oboist crafts his own sound

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Oboist crafts his own sound

Trevor Stamp

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Jason Kennedy, 20, a junior wind performance major, is one of the few performing Oboist at CSUN. Aside from practicing his Oboe, Kennedy makes his own reeds almost every day. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

Jason Kennedy, 20, a junior wind performance major, is one of the few performing oboist at CSUN. Aside from practicing his oboe, Kennedy makes his own reeds almost every day. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

The sound from his oboe is too bright, Jason Kennedy, 20, determines after testing a reed he just made. He makes some final adjustments, and places the reed back into his oboe. Kennedy stands up and tests the reed by playing a short melody. The sound is crisp and dark. It leaves a warm sound in the classroom he enclosed himself in on a Saturday afternoon in late September.

“Nice, this will be a good reed,” he said with a warm smile on his face.

Kennedy, a wind performance major in his junior year at CSUN, is one of the few performing oboists on campus. However, when he started college, he intended to get into the Jazz studies program and play piano.

“That didn’t happen because I was practicing oboe more than I was jazz studies,” Kennedy said. “For some reason my mind was more attracted to doing work for oboe.”

He started playing music in elementary school with the clarinet, but he wasn’t very interested in music at first.

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Kennedy trains classmate Shaniee Parker, 21, a Clarinetist and junior wind performance and music education major, on how to play the oboe. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

“I goofed around in class,” Kennedy said. “He [Kennedy’s teacher] had me play my part in front of everybody, and I couldn’t do it.” Kennedy felt embarrassed, and went home and practiced. He ended being the best kid in class.

Kennedy chose the oboe because he heard people talking about the instrument.

“My interest built up over time through hearing about it,” he said. “I can’t get over the sound.”

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Kennedy uses a razor blade to shape the cane, which is shipped from southern France, into an oboe reed. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

Kennedy makes his own reeds from cane, which is grown in southern France. After getting the cane, Kennedy shapes it with various tools to get the sound he needs. He then ties the reed to make sure no air passes through it as he plays.

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Kennedy ties his reed together with string after he shapes it. The string keeps air from leaking out of the reed as he plays. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

Not every reed is the same, so Kennedy is constantly working to craft his sound after every reed he makes.

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Kennedy said he’s made over one hundred oboe reeds while at CSUN. He makes his own reeds in order to craft his desired sound for his oboe. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

“It’s the whole, ‘life is a box of chocolates,’” Kennedy said. “My life is full of reeds that haven’t been made yet, and don’t know which one is going to be good and which one is going to be bad.”

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Kennedy presents two reeds he recently made for his oboe. The 20-year-old oboist makes his own reeds in order to achieve his desired sound for his instrument. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

Kennedy is clearly pleased with the reed he just made. The sound rings out through the classroom, ready to burst through the second floor of Cypress Hall where Kennedy spends most of his time.  It’s a moment that brings a smile to his face, because he found a good reed.

Kennedy rehearses with the CSUN wind ensemble on Sept. 26 in Cypress Hall. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

Kennedy rehearses with the CSUN wind ensemble on Sept. 26 in Cypress Hall. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

He slides the reed into a special case for good reeds.

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In between his music practices, Kennedy makes reeds for his oboe and attends classes and rehearsals. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

“Now I got to put this baby away,” Kennedy said casually.

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Kennedy often practices from the Vade Mecum of the oboist book. The book is a collection of technical studies and exercises for oboe players. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

He then gets to work on his next reed. Rinse and repeat. Whatever it takes to craft his sound.

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Kennedy hopes to continue his music career by engaging audiences with his oboe either in a professional orchestra, or a military band. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial