Christian Tran and Faculty Mentor: Geralyn Giovannetti, Woodwind Performance
Music has always been an important part of Vietnamese culture. The many traditional music
styles dotting the coastal country have remained stamps of cultural authenticity and a source of
pride to the natives of each region. As the country was occupied by France, and later Russia,
Japan, and the United States, Western classical music became common in Vietnam’s large cities.
Each country brought its own traditions of pedagogy, interpretation, and repertoire. With this,
Western classical music instruction began. My ORCA project was to analyze the state of
Western classical music in Vietnam with regards to oboe instruction, performance, and
repertoire. I spent one month in Hanoi, Vietnam at the Vietnam National Academy of Music
shadowing professors, gathering music, teaching lessons, and giving performances.
Months before arriving in Vietnam, I began researching pedagogical traditions across the globe
and influential teachers. Among the teachers studied, I read the pedagogical ideas of Dorothy
Delay, Martin Schuring, Kato Havas, and Marcel Tabuteau. I started keeping a journal of lessons
I taught to see how these ideas worked in real lessons. Simultaneously, I began my research of
Vietnamese traditional music and prominent Vietnamese composers. I contacted many living
Vietnamese composers to start gathering oboe repertoire.
In June 2017, I travelled to Hanoi. For one month, I shadowed two oboe professors as they
taught, met and observed other professors at the school, attended student and professional
performances, observed juried recitals, and gave performances. I also met composers, such as Do
Hong Quan, and talked to them about their compositions.
Upon returning to the United States, I analyzed the oboe repertoire I had gathered and prepared a
lecture recital on the Vietnamese perspective of oboe playing.
In gathering repertoire, I acquired nine pieces from seven different prominent composers.
Though some composers draw heavily from European/Germanic composition traditions, all
composers pay homage to their Vietnamese roots. This is often done through quotation of
Vietnamese folk song and through use of various pentatonic scales. Often, Vietnamese music
would be reimagined in European forms. For example, a pentatonic melody with traditional
embellishments was imagined as an introduction and allegro or theme and variations. Some
composers used solely European techniques of composition, but they based the concept of their
pieces on Vietnamese ideas, such as Ton-That Tiet’s “Hy Vong 267.” Other pieces blended these
two styles seamlessly.
In observing lessons, a large range of pedagogical styles were employed. The training of the
oboe instructors at the Vietnam Academy of Music spanned three continents and drew mainly
from German and American teaching styles. Because Vietnam has never had a set Western
Classical music tradition to follow, there exists a large range of acceptable interpretations of
music. Even in reed making, no one tradition reigns supreme as one teacher teaches the North
American Long scrape style of oboe reeds and one professor teaches the European short scrape
style of oboe reeds.
Oboists in Vietnam are given ample opportunities for performances. In addition to studying the
“standard repertoire,” oboists will often perform works by Vietnamese composers and
arrangements of Vietnamese folk songs during classical music performances.
The range of ideas and mixing of traditions in Vietnam’s oboe playing is both thought-provoking
and astounding. As classical music has become more of an international exchange of ideas, some
have feared that competing traditions of classical music will encroach on one another and cause
an overall negative effect. Vietnam proves how many classical music traditions can coexist and
benefit from one another while not crowding out local perspectives, tastes, and ideas. I hope to
continue to research what has made Vietnam successful in integrating these ideas and interacting
with them in the future. I also hope to continue my study of oboe repertoire by Vietnamese
composers to understand how they attempt to balance Eastern and Western culture. I hope to
help bring these pieces into more common knowledge and acceptance among oboists and
Ultimately, I found my research in Vietnam to have reshaped my understand of music processes,
classical music traditions, and the oboe.