Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 3: education and training

More results from the Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011. Enjoy!

Education and training

Q: Which of these have been part of your education on woodwind instruments?

Out of 187 total respondents, every one answered this question. The complete wording of the possible responses was as follows:

  • school band/orchestra program (high school or younger)
  • private lessons outside of school
  • summer camps, workshops, or other formal programs outside of school
  • university band/orchestra program
  • university/conservatory bachelors degree with concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds
  • university/conservatory bachelors degree with single-instrument or other music concentration
  • university/conservatory masters degree with concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds
  • university/conservatory masters degree with single-instrument or other music concentration
  • university/conservatory doctoral degree with concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds
  • university/conservatory doctoral degree with single-instrument or other music concentration
  • other university/conservatory music degree or certification
  • self-taught on one or more instruments

The biggest surprise to me was the number claiming bachelors degrees in multiple woodwinds. I assume that many of these must be double majors or other oddities, since there are very few true bachelors degree programs in multiple woodwinds available.

Q: How did you get involved in woodwind doubling?

I wanted the responses to this question to be free-form, since I anticipated a wide variety of answers. Most of the answers, however, fell into some broad categories. Below is a chart of the most common answers, based on my own loose interpretation of them. Many of the answers represented more than one category.

A little explanation:

  • Interest: Many respondents indicated that plain and simple interest in multiple instruments was a factor in their choice to start doubling.
  • Jazz, musical theater, concert band/orchestra, marching band: Many respondents listed jazz playing, especially big band playing, as a primary reason for doubling. Some of these were saxophonists who branched out to double on flute and/or clarinet, but some were non-saxophonists who took up the saxophone for jazz-playing opportunities. A large number mentioned musical theater as a motivator. Some also picked up a secondary instrument (or more) because of a desire to play in a concert band, orchestra, or marching band in which they couldn’t play their primary instrument.
  • Employability: I’ve only counted those answers that mentioned employability or gigs explicitly, although this factor is probably implicit in a majority of the responses.
  • Ensemble need: Some respondents learned to play additional instruments due to needs of ensembles in which they were already members (“My school band needed a bassoonist…”).

I’m including all the responses below. They are unedited except that I have removed names of people and some places and institutions (my edits are in [square brackets]). The order is random since I couldn’t come up with a reasonable way of organizing them; I found them to be an interesting read anyway.

  • required at my university.
  • I have a reputation, and I don’t let people down.
  • necessity
  • My woodwind teacher who also doubled started me doubling on clarinet, flute and saxophone at the age of 12.
  • Someone who knew me as a sax player found out I could play clarinet
  • urged to by professors while playing in [university] lab bands (jazz big band)
  • Self taught flute and clarinet, then oboe, sax and bassoon. Started playing in shows at age of 12. Went on from there. Now mostly concentrate on oboe, english horn, oboe d’amore and contra bassoon.
  • I was offered a gig involving more than my primary instrument.
  • Picked up my friend’s sax one day to check for a leaky pad
  • In high school I played mostly saxophones, and come musical time I wanted to play in the pit. I sat playing tenor and clarinet while an oboist had sat next to me for the entire show to play about 4 songs and a few incidental parts. I figured out then, I’d like to be able to cover entire books by myself. Picked up flute over the next few years with a private teacher, and would basically cover a lot of the low reed books, and did that well enough that I got called to do more than just my own school.
    Since then I’ve played a variety of community musicals, helped with school musicals. I now also play in a variety of groups that appreciate the change in sound by putting down the sax and playing flute.
  • During High School, I played bassoon in concert band and saxophone in marching and jazz.
  • Just happened…played clarinet in the school band, and sax in the jazz band…
  • I playked in my community theater, and soon realized that the clarinet was almost always required. (in my first show, Guys and Dolls, I had to transpose some of the bass clarinet parts to tenor sax). So I bought a clarinet , even though I hadn’t played in over 30 years, got a good teacher and have played in about16 shows since. I now also play bass clarinet.
  • High school musicals
  • I really wanted to play pit in high school and needed to double to do so.
  • Played saxophone and clarinet from almost the same time—in HS played both in ensembles. At the Conservatory, played both in classical and jazz ensembles and giged on flute—became serious about flute in my late 20s.
  • the first show i did was guys and dolls when i was 16 on tenor and clarinet.
  • I wanted to play in my school’s musicals, and to be able to cover my book indepentently and competently. I also really wanted to pursue the oboe, which I have brought up to about the same skill level as my primary instrument, the clarinet
  • Started out on Clarinet and dropped it when I began clarinet. Picked up the clarinet many 6 or so years later and began dabbling with it.
  • It started out in junior high for me a friend wanted to learn how to play flute and I wanted to learn how to play oboe. The next thing I knew I was playing clarinet in high school and picked up saxophone in my first year of undergraduate study and I continue to do so today. I think it started as feeling like I hit a brick wall in my primary instrumental work and needed something to get my drive back again or a challenge really to prove I could play another.
  • Big Bands when I was in High School. The need for a strong player on multiple instruments (also in High School)
  • In grade school, I found myself more interested in other woodwind instruments, so I began to teach myself to keep myself entertained.
  • Jazz band in high school.
  • I’ve always wanted to play multiple instruments but never had the resources. I am in a position now to do so and have spent the last ten years indulging myself.
  • When there was some instrument I wanted to learn as a kid, I annoyed those in charge until they let me try.
  • Wanted to play more than one instrument
  • From my private music teacher growing up – she suggested that I add and ‘switch’ instruments along the way.
  • Love to blow.
  • Boredom through high school actually. I started my musical career as a violinist throughout middle (and high-) school. Got to high school and decided I wanted to learn another instrument after already having learned all the string instruments. The oboe chose me, and from there I learned a new instrument each year.
  • Had some teachers who were doublers.
  • after playing saxes for a few years, I decided to take up clarinet playing so that I could play in an orchestra. There have been various times when I have played both in the same gig, mainly in the pit orchestra of school productions and when big band parts call for something other than sax.
  • Started on clarinet. In HS, bought a saxophone from someone who was upgrading.
  • My youth orchestra needed a bass clarinetist, so I learnt it, and then I wanted to play saxophone in my high school’s sax ensemble, so I taught myself.
  • I couldn’t play bassoon in marching band during high school and didn’t want to play percussion, so I learned the saxophone. As I started doing jazz band in high school, I needed to learn clarinet for some pieces.
  • Father’s advice at first (he was also a doubler (violin/reeds). Paid my way through school playing in an R&B band, and in folkie coffee houses.
  • My band had too many flutes for graduation, so he put me on alto saxophone. After that I learned oboe and have played mostly oboe and some flute.
  • I was fortunate enough to get a lot of pit orchestra work in undergrad. That inspired me to take secondary lessons and eventually a second degree. It just seemed appropriate to continue in the same direction.
  • high school marching band, dance band gigs
  • As an over-achieving band geek in high school.
  • through the army, and contacts from fellow musicians
  • It was suggested that I would be more likely to get a teaching job if I played clarinet. Once I started on that, I tried saxophone, then thought I’d give oboe a go, then moved to bassoon.
  • My band teacher asked me in 7th grade if I’d be interested in playing saxophone in the jazz band the following year after I had demonstrated my ability on flute. I picked up saxophone over the summer and joined the following year. I had to KEEP adding to my arsenal and the following summer picked up clarinet (and trumpet) and the rest is history.
  • Big Band section playing and pit work
  • taught myself bassoon to be in the pitt orchestra for our high schools production of into the woods and alto saxophone to be in the schools jazz band
  • At Interlochen Music Camp in the mid 1950s as a student. For a scholarship, they offered Bass Clarinet & Contra in the Band for a partial tuition.
  • Started on clarinet in 5th grade, added alto sax in 7th to play in jazz ensemble. Pretty much dropped clarinet in 9th, but took serious sax lessons from one of the great doublers in town. He got me back playing clarinet and flute. Learned bassoon in college as part of doubling program.
  • Wanted to play with my kids, who were string players. Couldn’t do that with a sax, so I took up the flute.
  • My teacher insisted
  • I never liked quitting things, so after I took flute lessons for a few years, I started playing oboe, too. Then, I realized when I started playing in high school musicals that there were more options for shows if I played MORE instruments. Thus, the obsession was born.
  • I started on sax in 4th grade and eventually picked up clarinet in high school because it seemed like a good thing to do. My first doubling gig was “Bye Bye, Birdie” my sophomore year. I then learned about how valuable it is to know at least sax/clar/flute, so I picked up flute. The other woodwinds naturally followed after that.
  • Needed wife the clarinetist to play sax so agreed to learn clarinet. She has made way more progress than I have.
  • I started on clarinet (actually piano before that). A local musician who worked with my father on his day gig, but a bug in his ear that I should learn to play saxophone when I was in 8th grade. I picked tenor, but later on I missed out on some jobs because I didn’t have an alto, so that’s when I realized that more instruments meant I could play more jobs.
  • I began playing my second family of instruments (saxophones) in order to join Jazz Band in middle school, and later extended to bass clarinet and flute in order to be able to perform as many musicals as I could.
  • I was given a bass clarinet part to play in orchestra in graduate school, so I had to learn! Thankfully I love playing auxiliaries!
  • My primary saxophone teacher was a woodwind player.
  • I was called to do a show by someone who had casual knowledge of my playing.
  • After 3 years of playing saxophone, a clarinet player was needed in my church orchestra, and the director let me borrow his clarinet and taught me a little bit. I got interested enough that I kept playing it. Eventually I had to learn flute in college as a jazz saxophone player.
  • My private teacher had a flute class in the summer that I took. I didn’t know any better — he just said that we were going to learn flute, so I followed directions!
  • I started alto sax in 3rd grade and really liked it. I’d heard my uncle playing English horn and I wanted to play that too, so i started oboe in 4th grade. I tried clarinet in 4th grade too, but my fingers were too short to reach the keys. in 6th grade, i was so bored with the middle school band that I didn’t want to play either the oboe or sax parts in it. so I volunteered to play bassoon just to entertain myself.
  • self interest
  • College teachers who were all pros explained how important it was to double.
  • Interest in playing saxophone after long period of clarinet playing – mainly to explore jazz styles more
  • playing my first show as a senior in HS
  • Around 7th grade I wanted to switch from clarinet to obe. My band director asked if I wouldn;t rather play the bassoon – I said “sure, what’s a bassoon?” So I stared playing it in 7th grade. In my sophmore yeard of High School, I wanted to play something other than clarinet, so I pick up bari sax for marching and jazz band.
  • Job requiremet
  • I began playing the clarinet when I was in sixth grade, and decided I wanted to play everything else, too, after my grandmother bought me a Time Life set of classical music tapes, so the next year in 7th grade, when I moved to a school district with a GREAT music program and owned double reeds, I took out an oboe and a bassoon, bought a flute, and started learning everything. Sax, ironically, came last (and is still the instrument I care about the least.)
  • For teaching
  • i wanted to play more instruments
  • I played saxophone in band in high school and wanted to get involved in the orchestra. Because of the lack of saxophone parts in orchestral literature, I picked up bassoon so I could participate.
  • When I started flute, my friend was playing clarinet so while practicing we would sometimes switch instruments. That got me hooked. I started staying after school and trying all the instruments that were available. I picked up sax the next year for jazz band. Played my first musical “Two by Two” a year or two after that where I had to double flute, piccolo, and clarinet. (I also played several brass instruments well…euphonium, trombone, and french horn. Didn’t continue with anything but woodwinds and french horn after high school though.)
  • There was a need for more clarinets in the band program where I am at. So, I filled the need.
  • I went back to school to study jazz saxophone. My instructor(s) all told me I needed to play all the flutes/clarinets in order to get work. So I took a flute lesson for two semesters to get started there (self taught since then), and I bought a clarinet (on which I’ve never had a lesson). Things went downhill from there (ha ha) and I now own/play all 4 major saxes, clarinet/bass clarinet, flute/piccolo, and now an oboe. I am now enrolled in a masters program called Woodwind Performance & Pedagogy, which will require sax/flute/clarinet/oboe/bassoon study. I’m just finishing my first term on oboe. Great axe. Fun to play.
  • spur of the moment decision to add a saxophone and then flute when I decided that I wanted to work towards becoming a woodwind teacher.
  • I played around with different instruments in high school but I really became serious about doubling in college when I transferred to a new university and the sax prof wouldn’t let me in as a saxophone major. So I decided to be a flute major instead. After college, my first professional gigs were in musical theatre and thus it begun.
  • In high school, to prepare for a degree in jazz saxophone, I was told I should learn flute and clarinet as well.
  • It really started with wanting to become a band director. I figured I could teach the reeds better if I learned at least one other. Then I joined the Navy band program when I was 20. I already doubled on sax and flute, but my recruiter told me all the flute billets had been filled. If I wanted to enlist as a musician, I would have to audition on clarinet. She was wrong, but I picked up a clarinet anyway and after 3 months of practice I was able to pass an audition. While in the Navy, I picked up bassoon to help fill out the reed section and oboe came sometime later when I was told I could pick up more gigs in [city].
  • I started playing some other woodwinds just for fun in middle school and high school and really enjoyed it, so I continued playing and studying the various instruments.
  • High school jazz band needed an alto sax player ASAP, so I picked it up in a week or two. Flute was self-taught, and has been a long, slow process.
  • Liked bass clarinet in middle school, then bassoon. It was all downhill after that…
  • Introduced by a friend from a Jazz band to a local show that needed a Tenor sax/clarinet doubler.
  • General insterest
  • I started playing doubles in high school because I knew I would need them for jazz band in college. When I was in college, I knew I would need doubles to put food on the table working as a professional musician.
  • Highschool musical theatre, jazz band doubling.
  • Musical shows
  • I started branching out from sax in high school, and played musicals that required doubling. In college I played oboe in the concert band, sax in the jazz band, and flute in the marching band. Once I graduated from college, I started working at local theaters.
  • In high school, I decided I wanted to play in the jazz band, so I started playing the tenor sax, then I started playing in pit orchestras, which I loved and had a ‘small’ goal of being able to play a whole book myself, so I started trying to learn the clarinet.
  • Musicals and jazz band in high school
  • Flute part in a jazz band chart in high school.
  • I played alto saxophone in middle school and when I got to high school we needed more bassoonists so I volunteered. In the jazz bands I switched to larger saxophones and needed to learn some clarinet.
  • First double was the bassoon, which I took up in high school. Clarinet and flute were added because of personal interest.
  • My college instructor started giving me his jobs as he started slowing down
  • I began bassoon lessons during the second year of my master’s degree program because I wanted to be eligible to apply for double reeds teaching positions in academia after completion of my doctorate.
  • I first became involved when I wanted to be heard in my high school pep band. The obvious solution was to play baritone sax instead of clarinet. I also wanted to play jazz, which meant I needed to play more saxophone. Throughout my undergrad, I added more horns to the mix. I was a clarinet major who played sax, then added flute, bassoon, and oboe. My private sax teacher is also a woodwind specialist and he has been a huge role model for me. I just love all the woodwinds, so it’s hard for me to even imagine giving up one.
  • Playing and conducting musicals!
  • Started playing “pit” shows in High School.
  • Music Education degree
  • I was bored in HS music class.
  • I thought all reed players were suppose to double…?
  • I switched from clarinet to saxophone my freshman year in high school (mainly because the sax players got more attention than clarinet players), but always enjoyed the clarinet as much as sax. also back when I was in high school, the ‘in’ thing was to play soprano sax and flute.
  • Necessity
  • My very first private teacher encouraged me to learn the flute and clarinet.
  • My dream as a child was to play flute, but 4 out of 5 girls from my solfege class in the music school wanted to learn flute and because I was stubborn, I chose the clarinet. When I started having doubts about the clarinet at the age of 15, I started with flute lessons (which eventually I liked less, but it made me realise again how much I love clarinet). I started playing saxophone when we had one laying around in the rehearsal room of my town’s wind band, and soprano and alto recorder when I started to teach formal music education in a school which uses the Kodaly system (part of the lessons is playing recorder and Orff-instruments). In the future I would like to perfect my flute and saxophone playing, buy a saxophone and an Eb-clarinet, and therefore become a semi-profesional woodwind doubler (unfortunately in Europe we don’t have degrees for doubling).
  • As a saxophone player I wanted to become more marketable.
  • Started playing bass clarinet (instead of oboe) for marching band in HS, switched to tenor sax and then bari. Focused on oboe for college but after it seemed like people wanted me to play additional things all the time, so I complied.
  • Big band rehearsals started to have music written for multiple instruments. I had to play them to stay afloat
  • Played with many bands and found it a requirement. The other reason was I was just interested in doing it.
  • I had a reed book for a show thrust into my hands and it included clarinet, bass clarinet, and some baritone sax. I had two months to get up to speed on the sax.
  • Love clarinet and love playing in shows – The clarinet is the backbone of the reed parts but you need more to be usefull and in demand.
  • Simply decided to act on a life-long passion and began playing 19 years ago as an adult.
  • [Teacher] at [university] inspired me to take doubling seriously and provided me with a solid foundation for all the woodwinds via his methods class. Even though I was not required to take it as part of my performance degree, I felt that was one of the most valuable courses I could have taken.
  • I played clarinet, my brother played sax, I took some time to learn how to play, followed by the flute and bassoon while in high school.
  • By pure chance – played in a show as a teenage, noticed how the parts had lots of instruments, started learning the flute for fun.
  • my grandfather was a studio musician/woodwind player
  • I started playing bassoon, self taught in high school, then played in community band. Later I took a single reeds course designed to gain basic facility on sax/clarinet in order to teach it. Shortly after that I started playing musicals which was a sort of full-immersion learning experience.
  • Sax in big band to flute and clarinet. I played oboe in HS, but didn’t touch one for over 30 years until my wife dragged me into a symphonic band.
  • I began on clarinet, and my first major teacher (a [university] doubler himself) told me my hands were to big. He switched me to bassoon. It went all down the drain from there. ;)
  • Played oboe for show that had barely any oboe at all! (Throughly Modern Millie – Reed 3)
    Inspired me to learn tenor, clarinet, and soprano. Then my adventures started from there.
  • Jazz band required some clarinet in addition to saxophone. So I picked up the clarinet after a few years hiatus
  • playing with rock bands
  • Playing shows.
  • Through education and having to teach other instruments. When I was in undergrad, though my major was musicology, I was involved in a lot of teaching, which required me to get comfortable on the entire set.
  • When studying with [instructor], he made it clear that if I wanted to eat as a woodwind player, I should start working on my doubles right away.
  • Picked up the oboe one day and haven’t stoped
  • HS band teacher was seeking oboe players and I (a flute player) was adventurous. I love the sound of oboe and have returned to it as an adult.
  • playing in stage band and band in jr. hi and hi school
  • While working on a Clarinet Performance Undergraduate degree, I learned to play a modicum of Saxophone one afternoon to sub for a Saxophone player at a dance gig that same evening (paid $15, a not inconsiderable amount of $ to a poor college student in late 1960s). Later I was chosen to play Bassoon, and in 6 weeks learned to play well enoiugh to be invited to play in local semi-professional Orchestra (Brahms 3rd Symphony was my Baptism by fire), and picked up Flute when my Woodwind Doubler/Clarinet Professor took a year sabbatical to finish his Doctorate in WW Doubling ([university]) as a Flute teacher was hired to teach at the small college I was attending. I then took oboe lessons as a secondary elective during Master Degree study.
  • Jazz Band
  • out of need for money….
  • The need for doubling in musical theater books.
  • My first double was clarinet. My teacher suggested that I should learn a transcription of a romantic era clarinet sonata in our saxophone lessons. I decided to learn it on clarinet in addition to saxophone as a challenge to myself. I also began to learn flute and oboe out of necessity as a middle school band director, and continued to practice these instruments in graduate school.
  • My private teacher in college emphasized the importance of professional sax players to be able to double.
  • School wanted a sax player, then picked up sister’s old flute. Then school wanted piccolo player. Found out there were shows where people actually played them all and kept at it.
  • Productions in college that used my ability to play multiple instruments.
  • I was always drawn to it.
    In highschool, I played tenor and bari sax in the jazz band. I randomly picked up clarinet when a concert band I played in had no clarinets so I learned it on the fly. I also had to play alto sax and tenor sax in band class because we had no saxes but me.
    In university, I showed up with the mission to get really serious about doubling and learn all I could. I studied with several of the top professional doublers in the city and played 9 instruments in 15 ensembles during my 4 year degree. I enjoy doubling and I want to play professional music theatre/big band etc. so I made that my “thing” in university.
  • My high school and college teachers encouraged me to take up the saxophone and flute to perform in jazz ensembles and pit orchestras.
  • Church orchestra needed an oboist. I jumped at the opportunity.
  • at first it was to play clarinet as “straight” only and sax as “jazz” only in H.S. After graduation and finding out I enjoyed pits, I picked up more instruments to get more pit gigs.
  • My band teacher in high school asked when I was still in middle school if I wanted to play bassoon along with clarinet, to which I eagerly agreed. Then a couple years later he convinced me to take up tenor sax for jazz band.
  • listening to Benny Goodman at age 11 – started on sax, soon added clarinet
  • Through my band director, he wanted me in his symphonic band and then his jazz band; to be his lead alto.
  • I really wanted to play in my middle school jazz band when I started playing the saxophone, and the director made a comment that the best big band saxophonists also play clarinet and flute. I think he was trying to encourage some of the (too many) saxophonists to switch to clarinet, which there weren’t enough of in the band program. But, I took it to heart, and within the year took up flute and clarinet just as seriously as saxophone. My sister played oboe, and I did not want to compete with her, so I didn’t take that up until much later, when she quit playing.
  • Started playing flute when my younger sister did. Played for fun and then in college played one Sondheim show doubling flute/clarinet. Clarinet has been primary. Started adding sax (alto and soprano) about 5 years ago when we needed a tarogato sound for an ethnic performance. I play mainly Balkan music so alto sax is a great double.
    I also play whistles and a tiny amount of duduk.
  • I started clarinet in sixth grade; in ninth grade, my band director handed me an alto sax so I could play in the school “dance band” – a big band which had to be, according to official school policy, all male except for the singer! I started fiddling with flute in college so I could try to play the flute doubles in the stage band bari sax book (and to try to wheeze and sputter through “Color My World” with the rock band I was playing keyboards and tenor with!). Then, in the Air Force, I took up bassoon with the help of a very capable doubler in the band whose principal instrument was bassoon, and I actually took over the bassoon slot in the band when he was discharged. (I still couldn’t play anywhere near as well as he did, but it was a terrific experience!) The ethnic woodwinds came much later, when my brother-in-law gave me a pennywhistle (a Mel Bay!) for Christmas and then my cousin brought me a Xun back from China. And so it goes…most recent additions: a quena and quenacho, courtesy of the same cousin and his South American trip!
  • Initially played brass (trumpet/flugelhorn) until I split my lip in high school. Took up the flute (self taught) while waiting for the lip to heal and never left it. Continued brass (plus the woodwinds) for awhile but decided to focus exclusively on woodwinds about 10 years ago (after 35+ years of brass playing).
  • Professional gigging. 20+ years in the USAF bands.
  • broadway professors
  • I realized that I could play other instruments well enough to cover the multi-woodwind parts in local high school musicals. I then began to develop these skills more until I felt that I was able to market myself as a doubler.
  • It arose out of necessity.
  • Seemed like a good idea
  • jazz band in high school
  • I was made section leader of clarinet for marching band, and I was a saxophone player. I bought a clarinet and decided to learn. As performances with strange instrumentation would come up, I decided to give each instrument a shot. My teachers thought I showed some sort of natural talent for picking up new instruments and maintaining proficiency on them, and pushed me in that direction. I also fell in love with the unique challenges of doubling.
  • Through adult community banda when opportunities arise
  • I played clarinet/bass clarinet in Junior High, and the jazz band director asked me to be a part of the jazz ensemble on baritone saxophone the next year in school – which lead me to take lessons on saxophone and jazz over the summer, both classical and improvisation. This would be my second family of instruments. Then, in high school, my band director suggested I learn bassoon, and had me study with one of the NY area’s greatest lower woodwind doublers. Finally, I began to dabble in flute in college and am working hard to get good enough to become more fluent in flute performance.
  • friends
    opportunities to play
  • My goal has been to teach both bassoon and oboe at the college level, to give students opportunities I did not have (at a small school, my bassoon teacher was a clarinetist). It has been extremely satisfying performing at a high level on both horns, and only occassionally terrifying!
  • private teacher in high school got me started on flute and clarinet

Coming soon…

More results on the way, including your reports on your local gig scene, your biggest doubling challenges, and your best doubling tips.


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