Farewell: Himie Voxman

Himie Voxman (1912-2011)

Influential music educator and longtime University of Iowa faculty member Himie Voxman has passed away at the age of 99. If you are a woodwind player, you have almost certainly used, at some point in your musical studies, something written or edited by Professor Voxman.

Check out the Iowa City Press-Citizen’s tribute for a nice overview of his life and career.

The woodwind doubler as orchestral utility player

orchestral flutist
Photo, Scott Schram

I got an interesting email recently. I’ve edited it heavily and fictionalized almost all the details, since I’m using it here without permission, but you’ll get the idea:

Dear Bret,

I found your web page through a Google search. My company is presenting a themed cruise for classical music lovers departing from Seattle in February, featuring performances by a full symphony orchestra.

I am looking to hire a woodwind doubler to serve as a sort of human insurance policy, should something happen to one of our woodwind players while we are out to sea. I’m wondering if you know anyone in the area who would be interested. We will rehearse in Seattle before departure. Compensation is room and board on the ship and travel to the Hawaiian islands, plus $50 per service to attend all rehearsals, and $100 per concert if called upon to perform. I need someone who can play flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon, and the repertoire is standard symphonic fare: Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, etc.

Let me know if there’s anyone you could recommend for this. There’s a nearby university with a degree program in multiple woodwinds, so I figure there must be a number of students or graduates who are available. I would like to hire someone in the area, since unfortunately we can’t pay for travel to Seattle.


Eddie Skousen, President

Classical Cruises, Inc.

I’ll confess to being sort of fascinated by the idea of being hired as a kind of utility backup for an orchestral woodwind section. And I did put out a call for some potential hires, but didn’t get any nibbles. It’s a creative idea, but there are a number of practical obstacles: Continue reading “The woodwind doubler as orchestral utility player”

Doubling fees under fire in Denver

oboe and English horn
Photo, quack.a.duck

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, like so many others, is facing a financial crisis that threatens its ability to continue making music. An opinion piece in Sunday’s Denver Post criticizes the Denver Musicians’ Association (AFM Local 20-623) for its unwillingness to budge on certain elements of its agreement with the orchestra.

The issues here are complex, and I hope that the DMA and the CSO will be able to come to a solution that is fair to all involved and that keeps the music alive. But this point in the authors’ list of complaints caught my eye:

Musicians performing on more than one instrument receive “doubling pay.”

I don’t have the full details of the doubling pay currently available to CSO members (though the amount doesn’t appear to be the issue here—it’s the fact that any doubling pay is offered that seems to offend). But a slightly-outdated agreement between the DMA and the Boulder Philharmonic, summarized below, shows a typical doubling pay structure, and it’s a reasonable guess that the CSO’s is identical or very similar:

  • 25% bonus for first double
  • 10% for each additional double
  • B-flat and A clarinets count as one instrument
  • Alto and tenor saxophones count as one instrument
  • Alto and bass clarinets count as one instrument
  • Piccolo, larger flutes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, contrabassoon, soprano saxophone, and saxophones larger than tenor each count as a double, even when used in common combinations (like flute plus piccolo)
Though I am not currently a union member (due to a dearth of union gigs in my area), I frequently ask for doubling fees when negotiating my pay for gigs. Here’s why doubling fees make sense to me as a woodwind player: Continue reading “Doubling fees under fire in Denver”

Still more woodwind blogs you should be reading

In what is turning out to be an approximately biannual roundup, I present the third installment of woodwind-related blogs that I’m enjoying, and you will too. If you’re late to the party, check out episodes 1 and 2. (In each case I picked at least one excellent blog that shortly thereafter stopped publishing new content, so take a look at today’s picks and see if you can guess which is getting the “Bret Pimentel, woodwinds” curse. Bwahahahaha.)

Tammy Evans Yonce

Tammy is a former classmate of mine (go ‘Dawgs), and a flutist and educator to keep an eye on. Her blog, just a few months old, is outstandingly good: important topics, carefully thought out, and clearly and elegantly written. Tammy writes about flute performance and pedagogy, with a special interest in making practice time really effective. A must-read.

Also check out Tammy on Twitter, and at her other new blog, the collaborative Music Collective. Continue reading “Still more woodwind blogs you should be reading”