More To The Story: Making Oboe Reeds

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – In the quiet setting of her living room, with her little chihuahua sound asleep on the couch, Jennifer Ownby is working. Applying her craft.

Jennifer is in the world of administration, working from home. But in her spare time, she works with her unique side business. Her “side hustle,” as she calls it.

Making oboe reeds. Not just for herself. But for others. Her customers. All over the USA.

“I do enjoy it. I’m not bad at it. It helps keep my skills up. If I don’t have a lot of gigs, it makes me feel like I’m using my degree.”

Jennifer Ownby has a Masters Degree in Oboe Performance. She’s played the oboe in symphonies from Colorado to Singapore.

She’s been making reeds for others since 2004. By 2010, it was a full-time job. From home. About 20 reeds a day.

Those days are over. The workload was too much. It’s part-time now.

“I just got a little burned out. I was working all the time. Then getting behind. And people were complaining. And then I started hiring out help, and customers could tell the difference. So I would have to do the work again.”

Jennifer, who’s a Tennessee native, has played the oboe for over 30 years. It’s a hard and challenging instrument.

Making reeds all by oneself, alone at home, is just as tough. These reeds are fussy little things.

As Jennifer says, most folks don’t understand!

“I don’t think my family really gets it. I tried to explain it once at a family outing. They’re like ‘what? oboe? why?'”

To relax and stay calm from the intense nature of making reeds, Ownby teaches yoga. One might think reed making and yoga have similar qualities. Jennifer says, well, sometimes……

“Sometimes reed making is meditative. When it’s going well, When it’s NOT going well, it’s not meditative at all!!”

So Jennifer says she’ll keep scraping and twisting and weighing and tying these little pieces of bamboo. Something most of us would never dream of.

But for her……it’s just another day at the office.

Dave Staley, News 12 Now

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