I have been playing oboe for 1 year now and I am in the top band at my school. How come I can't do anything right. I feel like a total failure and not confident in myself. I feel as though I can't face my band anymore after what happened yesterday. The band director said I was messing up the whole band when I couldn't play my solo right. I don't know what to do my brain is in whirl how can I face my bandmates when I feel like this?

  • 10
    With a timbre comprised almost entirely of upper harmonics, it can cut over other instruments in the orchestra like a knife. I recently listened to a 30 year old recording of our school band, and more than any other instrument, I could hear myself hitting bum notes on my oboe! It's the toughest woodwind to master, and it effectively makes you the "tallest person in the classroom" (i.e. the one who gets noticed when things go wrong... as a 6"4' 13 year old, this was literally true too). I always viewed this as a good thing as it really encouraged me to up my game.
    – spender
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 12:49
  • 19
    I second what @Bob said below; no director / manager / leader should ever create an environment where somebody is made to feel like this. Ever. That goes double for teachers who are supposedly "trained" for this. Your bandmates saw what happened, they know you are doing your best, and at some level they know that the director's behavior is totally not fair. I would encourage you to find one or two good friends in the band and open up to them. You will find that you are not alone! Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:49
  • 3
    OK, sometimes you get people who say really (and I mean really) mean things to you but you just can't let it get to you mate. You need to hold your head high and remember that as long as you're trying hard then you're doing something right. Now I don't mean to offend you or your teacher mate, but your teacher isn't doing his / her job right simply because he / she isn't giving you the support you need as their student. As @MikeOunsworth said: no director / manager / leader should ever create an environment where somebody is made to feel like this. So this isn't really your fault mate.
    – user36607
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 16:26
  • Your teacher is either competent or incompetent; if the latter, then you have nothing to worry about. If the former, then consider the following: your instructor knows that your perceived failures are more so a reflection of HIS (or HER) ability to teach than any limitations on your end. As long as you're sincerely (and effectively) practicing, there's nothing more you can do; it's not like you're being paid to perform for the CSO or London Philharmonic. If your instructor doesn't understand this, then he/she should probably find another job.
    – daOnlyBG
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 23:07
  • 3
    1. He shouldn't yell at you. 2. You're in the band => you're not a failure. 3. Enduring conductor tantrums is part of the job, but it's up to him to keep it professional. If he can't, that's his problem, not yours. Quite possibly it reflects on his poor conducting, or teaching, and quite possibly he knows that at some level. The best conductors generally don't do this, although there are certainly a number of prominent screaming-skull exceptions. The main thing is to take it professionally and not personally. He need you as much as you need him.
    – user207421
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 9:37

11 Answers 11


If your band leader/conductor/teacher is yelling at you then there's only one failure in the room, and it's not you. Whether you're leading complete beginners or seasoned performers, yelling and belittling people who are struggling is never productive, and in a school setting it's downright unprofessional.

Unless none of your bandmates has ever made a mistake, chances are they're much more sympathetic to your situation than you think. If they've ever been on the receiving end of his/her yelling then doubly so. Sure, it's annoying if someone in the band makes a mistake, but anyone who isn't perfect (and that's everyone) has been there themselves, and they're much more likely to want to help you out than to run you down.

Is your director approachable enough for you to ask for help practising your solo? I'm guessing maybe not. If you can't get help from him/her, why not see if you can get together with some of your bandmates outside rehearsals to go through the bits you find difficult?

  • 5
    Even when I was playing in a professional concert band, where you are expected to play perfectly every time, I've never seen a director openly ridicule a player. Probably because it's incredibly ineffective at getting the result and is downright mean.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 4:32
  • I didn't get along with my highschool orchestra teacher for other reasons, so I quit. I still took private lessons, still played cello in college, and the immediate result of quitting was gaining a second study hall where I could go home and practice on my own. Granted I had the help of flexible administrators, but overall it was a huge improvement to high school orchestra class.
    – aaaaaa
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 15:51

Oboe is a hard instrument. 1 year and in top band? You must be doing something right. I presume that you have had significant exposure to music (choir?) previous to starting on oboe or you would hardly be where you are now with the instrument.

However, that experience is likely from different music styles and orchestra practices than your band is doing, and you are supposed to play a solo, and a solo usually involves keeping your own swing and be in control of the swing in relation to the rest of the band.

That requires confidence and sovereignty and routine. You are not working with band and instrument long enough for that, so you have to substitute with luck, guesswork, and feeling the music. That's a bit hit and miss.

See if you can find a recording suitable for practising with/over. The main thing is that once band and you are trying to resynchronize to each other, stuff falls apart. It's particularly the band's job to stay rock steady during a solo: that gives the soloist the freedom to time stuff expressively.

At any rate, it isn't your fault once you do all you can do work up to expectations but that of the expectations. It then is the task of the director to decide how he is going to deal with the situation, either by choosing a different soloist or a different piece or by biting the bullet and practising your solo with you or by investing band time for it.

Once you are doing all you can, that's as much as can be asked of you.

1 year of oboe. Mutter mutter mutter. Seriously, your director needs to get a grip.

  • 3
    How I love to hate school art directors: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petty_tyranny
    – Yorik
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 21:37
  • 6
    1 year and in top band? You must be doing something right. Or the director murdered the last oboe!
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 1:36

Good musicians can be bad teachers: they have a tendency to demand incredibly high standards from themselves and from everyone else, and they sometimes have an "artistic temperament" that leads them to express their frustration when it's unproductive to do so. Sometimes they are only teaching because they can't get the work they would prefer, of performing, and so they take it out on their pupils.

General advice for all aspects of life, not just playing the oboe: when you are criticized, try to avoid taking it personally. Even if it was expressed in a personal way, what the guy was criticizing was not you as a person, it was the performance you gave on that particular day. Which almost certainly can be improved, because we are all capable of improving. They did it all wrong, because they de-motivated you, but try to turn it around: they think you are capable of doing better, and that means they have confidence in your potential.


There is a good chance that the band director is trying to get the best performance they can out of you. They must have some confidence in your ability or you wouldn't be playing a solo in the top band in the first place.

It is entirely possible that in the heat of the moment they got a bit carried away with what was intend to be useful advice. Misunderstandings are always possible especially in this sort of situation when people are under pressure to give their best performance.

Having said that the director obviously got it wrong to put you under that much pressure.

My advice is to try to take this sort of criticism as a positive as it means that the person giving it believes that you can do better, even if they way that is was delivered was counter-productive.

Equally the best of us has bad days and that is exactly when you should talk to your friend and band-mates for support and advice.


Perhaps he'd had a bad day. Perhaps an attempt at humour misfired. Whatever. Don't overthink this. You're the best oboist they've got. Amaze them all by playing it SO well next time!


You're the Oboist in the top band, even though you've only been playing for a year. Nobody else in the band has that solo, so even with mistakes you're playing it better than anyone else. It's not the directors fault that he has absolutely no social skills, but don't let it get you down.

Maybe have a meeting with the band director, tell him that you felt bad after his criticism, and then ask what you could do better, and how to improve. Trust me - the band will be a lot worse off without an oboist.

similar note: I play various instruments in rock bands, depending on who else shows up. I don't worry about mistakes at all - even when I'm playing lead guitar (badly). But when someone in the audience comes up and says that they could do better, my standard response is, "And where did you play on stage tonight?"; I've got the gig, they haven't. I'm being paid to play, and they're the ones paying me.

  • "You're the Oboist in the top band, even though you've only been playing for a year." Not quite so amazing if you played something else before. It's not uncommon to suggest that a talented clarinet player takes a shot at the rarer and harder instrument. (And you should hear the BOTTOM band :-)
    – Laurence
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 17:10

You seems to be a sensitive person, and it's a good artistic trait, so make him understand that'll be better for yourself if he isn't yelling, it has an opposite effect on your work. (circle of influence)

Demand your space as an oboeist, it's something you're good at, and you're always interested to be better! Lack of self confidence is temporary. Several years later it'll disappear without you knowing that, you have always been that good, even when everything going wrong. lol, don't ask me how I know. :)

Maybe it's best to bite right back at the moment he's yelling? Play high, peoples with low selfconfidence are always playing low. (that's what I am by work, but still not personally/socially) Learn to trust yourself and your own guts - it's the best way to resolve problems, and don't give up by the first failure.

Call him out or arrange a meeting - tell him how you're feeling and ask him why. If he's brushing you off or shows no understanding of your feeling or effort of work, ask youself why you're putting yourself at this place whith that emotional burden. A good leader should be able to be constructive, and have some skills to be supportive. (positive force)

Look forward and focus on your own goals, what do you really gain from being in a orchestra like that?


As someone who switched from flute to oboe in high school, I can sympathize. Yes, what everyone has said here. Oboe is the hardest woodwind. You've taken on a difficult task, and there's no call for anyone to be yelling at you.

  • 3
    Oboe: 'An ill wind that nobody plays good'.
    – Laurence
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 13:29
  • @LaurencePayne Actually that applies to the soprano sax, of which it is certainly true. There are far to many great oboists for it to possibly apply to the oboe.
    – user207421
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 9:42

I am sorry for what happened to you. I would take it away from you and put it on myself, if that were possible.

I was belittled back in my high school days. I was a geek, and in 1987, it wasn't cool to be a geek. I was small in stature, intelligent and awkward. Other students would pick on me. I also had a science teacher that would tease me in class, in front of other students. He was a popular teacher. I'm older now, and still a geek. However, this is what I learned. It was wrong for them to tease me, especially the teacher. I have forgiven them, to a person. If a memory comes come, I let it hurt me, I grieve, and I choose to forgive them. I am a person, therefore, I have infinite worth, and they do, too. Forgiveness doesn't excuse their behavior, nor does it say it was okay, nor does it mean I suppress it or ignore the hurt. It means I accept what happened, and I am choosing to unhook myself from the combination of them and what they did. If you choose not to forgive them, you stay attached to that combination. Take time to process everything in your mind, heart and life, and I hope you choose to forgive them, as I have.


everyone at a time in his or her life faces a teacher/ director like that. you'll be downcast because you feel embarrassed when it happens. take the positives out of it and try to note when he yells at you and improve those stages. behind the meanness, he wants you to succeed, to perfect your skill.


I can sympathise with you, but I'm not going to. It's just possible he's awful/had a bad day/is ignorant, in which case, it's a situation not of your making. However, if you didn't get it right, then you didn't get it right!

Maybe you're the only oboist in the band, in which case, he's possible cutting his nose off to spite his face. Maybe he feels that you need a bit of a butt kick, and he felt that was the most effective way. It's worked for me from both angles as teacher and student- but sometimes it hasn't! I've played for best part of 55 yrs, and still had a kick in the butt last week at a rehearsal. What did I do? Sorted the piece out, played it perfectly, and really enjoyed the surprised look on the bandleader's face next time. I just shrugged my shoulders, I guess he knew what I was thinking.

Of course, another way is to say to him, innocently, 'Please come and show us what you want', at which point (hopefully) he'll admit he can't do it...

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.