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Below are loving tributes to Harry Shulman.

If you would like to share your memories of Mr. Shulman or your comments on his playing or music, please e-mail them to obocanreed@aol.com, and we will post them here.


tributes from ...
Wayne Miller
Jackie Kovach
Bob Salzman
Stuart Dunkel

Robert Weiner


Wayne Miller, oboist, Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra
As a budding oboe player in 1960, I had no concept of the oboe until I bought the lovely "Music for Oboe and Orchestra" album featuring Harry Shulman, oboist. This recording literally changed my life. I was so mesmerized by his magnificent sound that I practiced two to five hours a day trying to emulate that beautiful tone.

I earned a scholarship on the oboe in 1963 to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Although I never met Mr. Shulman, I owe this scholarship to his influence on my oboe playing.

In 1971, I called Mr. Shulman while he was teaching at the Oberlin Conservatory shortly before he passed away and thanked him for his marvelous influence on my life. He was literally speechless because he had never met me. I will never forget him telling me that the Kapp recording was made in one take with no editing. I didn't realize how significant this was back then, but now I stand more in awe of this great oboist who so greatly influenced my life.

Even to this day after forty-three years of oboe playing, I have heard no finer oboist than Mr. Harry Shulman. His influence will be forever in my heart and playing.


Jackie Kovach, oboist, Temple University Music Prep Faculty
I was fortunate to have a year of study with Harry Shulman during one season, 1962-63. He was principal oboe with the Pittsburgh Symphony, William Steinberg, conductor. I was a very raw freshman, never having heard a full orchestra live, let alone having had consistent lessons with a "real" oboist. But, I had an insatiable desire. Along with all of that, I had a hidden secret: Harry Shulman had grown up in my hometown of Rochester, NY, and was close friends with a cousin of mine, also an oboist. As my aunt put it, to allay my fears of starting my true studies, "Harry Shulman ate enough of my chocolate cake!", said with a delightful smile. This familial background I took pains to not inform Mr. Shulman of until much later in the second semester, because I wanted to be my own person to him, no favors, no considerations. I also came with an almost unusable Cabart that insisted on living a life of its own, going out of adjustment ...

Harry Shulman appeared to me to be the ideal of a gentleman. His dress, his mannerisms, his speech, his genteelness. For the first in my life, I had met somebody who actually used the word "behooves" in language! His eyes twinkled, his nature was kind and gentle. He never got angry, but never backed away from his ideals. He treated me with as much consideration and attention as if I were a major player already.

We worked on the basics: scales, long tones, intervals, Barret. And just because it makes me feel secure, I still refer to all of his markings. I still have every little piece of scratch paper he wrote for me...

In March 1963, Charles Munch came to Pittsburgh to guest conduct an all-French program. Mr. Shulman was practically dancing with glee and anticipation. "An all French program with a French conductor!" He was almost childlike in his pleasure. Another time, he and Arthur Kubey, Pittsburgh's principle bassoonist had performed Alex Haieff' Three Bagatelles and, as a favor, had allowed me to record it in a practice room on my portable Webcor tape recorder. ...The tape became tangled, turned, and ruined! I went to these gentlemen, so ashamed and fearful, to explain what had happened. I could tell they were not happy, but they agreed to record it again, with much teasing towards me, but NEVER any sharp or unkind words.

Harry Shulman was a man of ethics and morality of the highest order. After he left Pittsburgh, I was having terrible reed problems, but too young and naive to know that, for double reeders, that was a way of life. I called him a couple of years later to beg him to sell me a few reeds that I could play on and try to emulate. He turned me down, gently, saying that it would be unethical towards my present teacher to do something like that. But, after I was no longer studying with somebody, I could always turn to him. He was right and he was true to his word.

...I've quoted him so often to my own students, particularly his remark that, "If we want to play something 90% well, we must know it 120%," said with an almost gleeful challenge. Those of us whose lives he touched, he did so in more than just how to blow, what scales to play. He brought us to the oboe - to the music - with such sensitivity as he treated us. He taught that the oboe was the means to the end, which was the music. I've missed him since May of 1963. That will never change.


Bob Salzman, Retired School District Director of Music and High School Orchestra and Chorus Director currently on the faculty of Westfield State College, Massachusetts.
I studied with Harry for only one year, from October 1959 to May, 1960. I was referred to him by Robert Bloom, for whom I played and he decided I wasn't ready for him. Harry was teaching at the Dalcroze School on Manhattan's upper east side, which was a 1 1/2 hour subway ride from my home. I had studied with a local teacher who played the oboe, french horn, and was a junior high band director. Just prior to my first lesson with Harry I had successfully auditioned for the New York All-City Orchestra. He congratulated me and asked me to resign, because I was to play long tones for at least three or four months and learn to FOCUS my sound. I was taken aback by this, having been the only student from my high school in twelve years to be accepted into the All-City Orchestra. I did stay in the orchestra and saw my sound become richer and more focused.

I also remember being told to practice in front of my bed, so in the case that I became dizzy, I had something to fall back on.

One evening after our lesson I went ice skating in Central Park, was mugged, and my oboe stolen. Harry aranged for a loaner instrument and a few weeks later met me at Alfred Laubin's shop to select a new instrument. He tried at least five before he declared that this is the one for me. It was a wonderful instrument (AL232), and if anyone knows its whereabouts I would be very curious.

It was in 1960 that Harry moved to Pittsburgh and I lost my greatest oboe teacher, a man of compassion, understanding, and a kind of gentle firmness. Stuart's account of his first lessons brought back many fond memories and I deeply thank him for it.


Stuart Dunkel
At age 15, I was lucky enough to have heard Harry's "Music for Oboe and Orchestra." I recognized that this was the way the oboe should sound.

When I read that he lived on Long Island, I called all the Harry Shulmans in the book until I found him. He set up a lesson with me in the Carnegie Hall Studio. My first six lessons consisted of playing one note - a middle of the staff C#. Each week, I came to my lesson and played that one note, trusting that he knew what he was doing. At age 15, all I wanted to do was play fast! He said that we wouldn't progress until I learned how to hold a note for 15 seconds without it wavering.

He patiently explained the fundamentals of oboe playing in those first six lessons - how to warm up and why, how to play low and high, soft and loud, and how to start the note predictably so that the conductor wouldn't fire me.

My bus rides to NYC became a safe haven. I had my mentor, someone I wanted to emulate. He treated me with a respect that I had never known before. For the first time in my life, I was doing something I loved. I was "on track," as Mr. Shulman would say to me.

By the sixth lesson I had the ability to hold a tone straight, start it when I was supposed to, and I knew how the embouchure worked. The seventh lesson he made a reed for me and let me play it. I wish I could have seen the expression on my face then. Playing his reed was like playing a recorder, it was so easy! Yet it could play loud and soft with a chocolatey-velvet tone built into it. I remember all this so vividly to this day 33 years later. On that bus ride home, writing in my small notebook with the teddy bear on front, I felt like the meaning of life was given to me.

Soon we were working on cycles: playing that C# very loud and then slowing diminuendoing to a whisper and holding it angelically pure. Then on to intervals. He would play a G and I would match it, then slur up a perfect 5th until it was perfectly in tune, then slur back down to match the G he was holding. Then we did it on an F on the upper staff, slurring to a high C.

He was very patient with me. He put me on a “sound diet,” only listening to those oboe tones that I liked. After a few months we started our typical lesson format: long tones on C#, cycles, intervals, scales, Barret Oboe method, a solo, then an excerpt. I still teach my students this same way.

Yet the dearest part of his teaching, and I still hear his voice over my shoulder, was when he used the word “focus”. He would say focus the tone, center that note, find that pure center to the sound. Perhaps it was in the way he said it that gave it the impact that it did, as if there was something under the surface that wasn't being revealed yet. He used that word every lesson, until it became a mystical key to the meaning of the oboe. It wasn’t until the jolt of his death that I realized that it was also the key to living. That word became a mantra for me for living my life. He taught me not just music, but translated music to life, the concept of performing music crossed over to performing life.

I can’t imagine what my life would be like if Mr. Shulman didn’t “focus” me.


Robert Weiner - Professor of Oboe, University of Miami
After reading the tributes to Mr. Shulman on this page, I found myself wanting to share in the expression of his influence on me. I’ve known Stu Dunkel for many years and through Stu’s generosity I listened to many hours of Shulman performances. I’ve read Jackie Kovach’s writings through the IDRS. I believe I met Wayne Miller in New York back in the 70’s or 80’s. Bob Salzman was my first Oboe teacher. Anyone who has ever taught or studied knows the impact made by the initial teacher. Hey Bob, it’s what I’ve done with my life. Seeing his words here after so many years brings forth thoughts from the start of a journey that will never end. The common thread here is Harry Shulman, so here’s to Harry Shulman.

Harry Shulman's was a voice that penetrated Oboe souls so completely that it defined the sound of the instrument for many of us. No mere beautiful tone. His recording, "Music for Oboe and Orchestra", has remained a favorite of mine ever since my first teacher, Bob Salzman (contributor to this same page), first loaned it to me so I could hear this special sound. Through my years of study with some of the really great Oboists in this country I always retained this sound in my head. His place as a major Oboist grew for me as I heard more of his solo recordings and performance tapes from Aspen and the Pittsburgh Symphony. The combination of wood and chocolate was always in perfect balance - pure focused tone - regardless of register or dynamic. Never a sagging note. Remarkable, too, is the fact that everyone who ever spoke to me about Harry Shulman had only the highest respect and affection for him, and this included a few very jaded, cynical characters. Although I never met him I have to say that he has influenced me greatly through the example of his recorded performance. So, when I say, "that sounds like an Oboe to me", you know what my standard is. It was defined by a quality that settled in my Oboe soul a long time ago.

 


 
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