Multi-Instrumentalist Instruction in the United States

Research response to 1997 survey published in “Selected Pedagogical Practices of College Instructors of Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone”:

General Description of Woodwind Instructors
Data were collected with regard to three aspects of the instructors' teaching and performing situations: (a) woodwind instruments taught; (b) the primary instrument of each instructor; and (c) whether or not the instructors specifically teach and/or perform woodwind doubles. Most of the study sample is responsible for flute, clarinet, and saxophone instruction. Given the lower number of responses for teaching oboe and bassoon, it is conceivable that double reed instruction is offered by specialists on these instruments or that there are fewer double reed students at the participating instructors' institutions.

Interestingly, most of the sample started out as either saxophonists or clarinetists and not as flutists, oboists, or bassoonists. In relation to this topic, the study established that several respondents were introduced to woodwind doubling through jazz ensembles or (Broadway) musical orchestras which required the musicians to perform
multiple instruments. In addition, the study observed that more than half (58%) the multiple woodwind instructors regularly perform more than one instrument, while 42% only perform on their primary instrument.

The study sample agreed that the ability to teach and/or perform multiple instruments significantly helped them attain a job in post secondary education. In addition, by observing the positive response (97%) to question 1 h, which asked the instructors whether or not they encourage their students to pursue additional instruments, the study suggests that woodwind doubling is a viable endeavor for woodwind instrumentalists to pursue.

Surprisingly, the woodwind doublers polled did not indicate they have read/studied many articles or books on the topics of woodwind doubling pedagogy and history. It is my conclusion that, although several articles have been written pertaining to these topics, most of them have not been consulted due to lack of availability or because they are either antiquated or, due to their brevity, do not offer much help to woodwind doublers.

A portion of the survey investigated several important concepts and opinions surrounding the art of woodwind doubling. A significant percentage (73%) revealed that the instructors do not feel criticized as professional teachers and performers of multiple woodwind instruments. This response was supported in question 1i which addressed whether or not the ability to perform multiple instruments can be mastered. These positive responses are consoling to the aspiring multi-instrumentalist and suggest that establishing and maintaining a professional career in music as a woodwind doubler is feasible.


Additional research, experiential observations and suggestions:

-woodwind doubling degrees were added to the curricula of several music programs during the mid-1970s

-well-known music schools with either bachelors or graduate programs in woodwind doubling include: Ball State University (Indiana); Boston Conservatory; Bowling Green State University (Ohio); College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio); Eastman School of Music; Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana; University of Miami; Michigan State University; University of Michigan; University of Missouri (Kansas City); University of Nebraska (Lincoln); University of North Texas; Ohio University; Universities of Wisconsin (Madison and Milwaukee)

-although many woodwind doublers begin as saxophonists, many doublers are in agreement that the clarinet provides the best foundation work for overall woodwind doubling success