Musicians who play the oboe like to tout that they’ve learned two crafts: playing the woodwind instrument and learning how to make its reeds.
Julia Gjebic, a junior with a double major in physics and music, will explain the science behind the reeds during the annual GVSU Summer Scholars Showcase (see below for details).
Gjebic conducted research with faculty mentors Marlen Vavrikova, associate professor of music, and Karen Gipson, associate professor of physics.
For one week of her Student Summer Scholars project, Gjebic traveled to the Czech Republic to interview oboists who were performing with Vavrikova during a music festival. She is studying the differences between how American and European oboists make their reeds.
“We’re looking at the different scrapes of the reeds in an attempt to correlate the harmonic differences between the reeds and their physical qualities,” Gjebic, a native of Clarkston, said.
Gipson said she’s enjoyed this interdisciplinary research project.
“There were times when Marlen and I have had to define terms for each other to make sure we understood what the other was saying,” Gipson said. “For example, timbre in music relates directly to sound spectrum in physics. As a double major in physics and music, Julia is learning to speak both languages, so she sometimes serves as our interpreter.”
Vavrikova said Gjebic’s research is unique and will be beneficial to musicians.
“Although some studies have been done about oboe cane and various reed-making styles, no scientific study of timbre of American and European reeds exists,” Vavrikova said. “Julia is in a very unique position to use her knowledge of both fields to analyze and interpret differences between these two distinct oboe reed-making traditions.”
Gjebic will be one of 30 students from the Summer Scholars and McNair Scholars programs who will give oral and poster presentations at the showcase, set for August 6, from 4-7 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, Grand River Room. Call the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at (616) 331-8100 for more information.