November 7, 2023

It’s the anniversary of Manhattan School of Music’s reed-making room, which exists thanks to the generous support of donors

MSM’s new and improved reed room for double reed students was unveiled one year ago in Room 116. Its upgrade is thanks to the generous support of donors, including the Stephen and Elaine Stamas Scholarship Fund and Heather and John Botti. Also central to the initiative have been the efforts of MSM faculty members Sherry Sylar and William Short, as well as the company Reeds ‘n Stuff.

“Making good reeds is critical to performance,” says oboe faculty member Sherry Sylar. “Reed-making makes up approximately 30 to 40 percent of preparation for a performance.”

Bassoon faculty member William Short tells us, “A reed room serves several purposes: as a centralized place to store valuable and useful reed-making machines, almost all of which are new to MSM; as a communal space where students can work on reeds and learn, and occasionally commiserate, together; and as an occasional teaching studio for faculty to work with students on their reeds.”

A reed event was held in Ades Performance Space in September to mark the opening of the newly updated reed room at MSM

Ms. Sylar and Mr. Short share details about the new space.

MSM Faculty Sherry Sylar, Oboe, and William Short, Bassoon

What kinds of improvements have been made in this new space?

Ms. Sylar: Thanks to the largesse of two benefactors, the Elaine and Stephen Stamas Scholarship Fund and Heather and John Botti, we have been able to stock our reed room with new equipment. The room will also have a variety of brands that will give the students valuable opportunities for comparisons.

Mr. Short: In addition to cosmetic improvements, such as paint and lighting, substantial storage has been added for our fleet of reed-making machines, and there are plenty of workstations for multiples students to work on reeds simultaneously.

Why is having this new space special to you and your students?

Mr. Short: Reed-making is fundamental to the education of a double reed student; trying to make great music on a bad reed is like trying to play the snare drum with a wet noodle. This new space gives students a place to refine their craft; it gives them access to reliable, high-quality machines that ensure they’re starting from a consistent place; and having those machines gives them the opportunity to find out what they ultimately would like to purchase themselves as graduating draws closer.

Ms. Sylar: The reed room is a space for sharing ideas, for learning from colleagues. The convivial atmosphere encourages and inspires students to work.

Many people may not be aware of the ongoing extra costs that double reed players incur to purchase expensive machinery for making reeds. By having the equipment installed in our reed room, students will benefit without having to purchase this necessary equipment for themselves.

The reed room should be a great source of pride for the students.

SLIDESHOW: The double reed room at MSM

Tell us about the Double Reed Day that occurred at MSM. What were some highlights?

Ms. Sylar: Some of our equipment was purchased from Reeds ‘n Stuff, a German company owned by Udo Heng. Not only did Mr. Heng give the School a generous discount on the equipment, but he also graciously came to Manhattan School of Music and donated his time to present a Double Reed Day lecture on techniques for using all the Reeds ‘n Stuff machines.

Mr. Short: The wonderful folks from Reeds ‘n Stuff shared their extraordinary lineup of reed-making machines and other equipment with all of us; it was enriching for the students and the faculty. But what might have been most special about it for me was the sense of community – something that I’m excited to build on now that we have this communal space to share.

SLIDESHOW: Students and faculty work with Reeds 'n Stuff at MSM's Double Reed Day.

What are some of the other advantages to studying a double reed instrument at MSM?

Ms. Sylar: If you are interested in studying a double reed instrument at Manhattan School, you will have access to this state-of-the-art reed lab. The oboists have three gougers for both oboe and English horn, pre-gougers, shaper tips, a shaping machine, and several high-grade measuring tools.

Mr. Short: Furthermore, the faculty are drawn from some of the finest chamber ensembles and orchestras in the country, and we all work collaboratively. It’s a remarkable thing!

Can you share any reed-working tips?

Mr. Short: Make more! Quantity begets quality.

“What might have been most special about it for me was the sense of community – something that I’m excited to build on now that we have this communal space to share.”

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