November 19, 2019

Sonar's Riddle - In Memory of Dr. Daniel Ross - for Unaccompanied Oboe o...

For about a year back in the early/mid 1990's, I played bassoon in the Arkansas State University Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, and the double reed studio. The exact year escapes me, as most dates do. This escapade was at the behest of then Director of Bands Tom O'Neal, who convinced me to fill in a much needed vacancy in the bassoon section. It was during this time that I came to know Dan Ross.

Oh, I knew Dr. Ross from my previous years as a student at ASU, but I was a saxophone-playing music education major, and only knew him as that weird guy that buzzes around the halls like an airplane. And oh yeah, he's the oboe teacher, right?

After joining the double reed studio, I came to know Dr. Ross more closely, and I can honestly say that I am a better musician and human being for the experience. Regarding musicianship, Dr. Ross taught me that all the finger-wiggling in the world wouldn't make me a successful performer. Now mind you, the fingers have to wiggle at all the right moments, but that's just the beginning of what will become music. In order to cross the threshold from being just sound to becoming something worthy to be called music, the vital ingredient is heart.

Much the same can be said concerning becoming a better human being, as well. See, for Dr. Ross (and no, I really can't bring myself to call him by his first name - out of respect), being a musician was an extension of being human. Any emotion which you wish to produce in your music must first be found within your own heart. Hence, a musician capable of evoking strong emotions must be a person of great character.


All these and more must spring forth from the heart. Mastery of an instrument is, admittedly, a technical art. One might call it a science, for certainly any number of factors affect the acoustical properties of your instrument. Moisture, temperature, humidity, the condition of your lungs, and even the very precise lengths of the tubes of your instrument all contribute to making a good sound. 

And don't forget the reed.

Dear Lord.... reeds!

Dr. Ross was also known for making these really cool machines that helped us make our own reeds. If you're not familiar with what a reed is, it's a little piece of bamboo that you strap onto a mouthpiece and blow into in order to produce a sound. Well, that's for saxophones and clarinets. For oboes and bassoons, you have a double reed, which is two pieces of bamboo slapped together, and producing at least four times the heartache as a single reed.

But I digress.

Dan Ross excelled in all things musical, but more importantly, he was an excellent man. He may well be remembered as a great musician, a great performer and teacher, or as an innovator in the art of reed making. But his true legacy lies in the hearts that he touched and the lives that he molded.

I count myself fortunate to have been one of the many.


The sheet music for this piece will be available soon at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Support Living In The Bible - Your donations help spread God's word to the ends of the Earth!