Bob Hubbard's high school and early college studies were with Raymond Dusté, a Tabuteau student who would later hold the English Horn chair in the San Francisco Symphony and Opera. It was during this time that he got his most intense exposure to reed making, working for a local reed maker and earning enough money over an 18 month period to buy his first Lorée oboe.
In his early 20’s, Bob Hubbard spent three years in US Army bands, then freelanced when he came home to California. He took his formal training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1968 and 1969 with John-Louis LeRoux. As well, he studied and played professionally with Marc Lifschey from 1968 to 1972. At the time, LeRoux and Lifschey were co-principals of the San Francisco Symphony. “This was the most instructive period of my life,” says Hubbard. “I played a season in the San Francisco Opera and substituted regularly with the San Francisco Symphony. I got to play alongside Lifschey, Dusté, LeRoux, and another colleague, James Matheson. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.”
In 1972, Bob won the second oboe seat in the San Jose Symphony and settled in the south bay. In 1974, he co-founded the Midsummer Mozart Festival—along with Music Director George Cleve and French Horn player Wendell Rider—where he was both producer and principal oboe for seven years. At the same time, he continued working freelance and maintained a teaching studio. An unfortunate accident ended Bob’s playing career in 1998 when a cannon blast during the 1812 Overture damaged his hearing sufficiently to force an early retirement. Nevertheless, Bob remains an active member of the community today. He teaches on the faculty of the Stanford University music department and runs Westwind Double Reed.
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Prior to entering the conservatory, Bob Hubbard began a course of study in science and engineering, but eventually let it go to pursue his greater passion for music. “My early intentions to enter scientific engineering are reflected in my analytical attitude toward many of the things I do,” says Hubbard. “I have always felt that most aspects of cane preparation and reed making can be approached in a systematic manner. Reducing the complexities, by identifying and isolating the variables makes it easier to change only one thing at a time and perfect our reeds.”
In the 1980’s, Bob apprenticed himself in an instrument repair shop learning brass and woodwind repair. Instrument repair tools in those days were not very well made though, so he went to the local community college and completed a course in machine tools technology, learning the skills a machinist needs to make his own tools. This was followed by a job offer to work in a local Tool and Die shop where he made custom fixtures for 5 years.
It was there that he thought of his first Westwind product. Using the precision techniques he had learned in the machining trade, he realized that he could solve one of the most annoying of reed making tool dilemmas: shaper tip inconsistency. Furthermore, many of the respected tip manufacturers had retired, and the “classic” tips that had worked so well for so long were no longer available. From this idea, Westwind was born. Bob borrowed multiple copies of shaper tips from dozens of professional oboists, measured them on an extremely precise gauging system, analyzed them, and reproduced them. He started with replicas of the classic Brannen X and Pfieffer/Mack oboe tips, but it didn’t take long before he received requests to create other products and reproduce other great tips. And the rest, as they say, is history.