In his room cluttered with colored string, blades and discarded reeds, senior oboist Anish Raj Pandit grabs a razor blade and quickly splits a piece of cane in half.
“You’re crafting your voice,” he said. “It’s like you’re creating your vocal chords.”
IU's Jacobs School of Music oboists spend 10 to 15 hours of their week making reeds for their instruments. Beginning oboists buy their reeds online or in music stores, but when they come to IU, they are expected to make their own.
“I feel like you can kind of develop a lot more control over your instrument through making reeds,” sophomore Libby Ryan said.
After years of classes, some oboists like Pandit are so skilled at the craft that they make and sell reeds to beginners to supplement the cost of buying cane. A one-pound bag of raw cane costs upward of $100.
To make a reed, oboists first buy cane and sort through it to find pieces that are not curved. After selecting the best pieces, they go through a long process of cutting, scraping, bending, tying and testing before they can finally play on them.
“It can drive me insane sometimes, and other times it can be really enjoyable,” Pandit said.