I took a very highly anticipated trip to RDG Woodwinds in Los Angeles last week in order to have all of my oboes professionally looked at for the first time in a year. While always good news to hear that cracks and major malfunctions were not discovered, an unusual culprit was the cause of much distress this visit; mold.
The eastern coast of South Africa, specifically in the KwaZulu-Natal province and right off the Indian Ocean coast, is an obvious vacation destination for many people within the country, and for good reason; it is a beautiful location and the sub-tropical location is incredibly alluring. Of course, having lived there now for a year and a half, we constantly battle to achieve bio-sphere levels of regularity when it comes to the environment inside our flat. The constant moisture in the air, along with something about the hilly area that we are in, results in a perfect combination for mold. While very easy to brush off, there is no surface that it avoids including fabric, wood, tile, paper, etc.; it's all fair game. The only method that prevents the steady accumulation is regular breezes, as in every single day. Instruments that do not get daily use and remain snug in their cases, be at a BAM case or other, will almost certainly succumb to some level of mold resulting in drier wood. Putting in a humidifier theoretically would prevent this from happening, but the catch is that it is also acting as a magnet for mold. This mostly effected my back-up oboe, (not the Loboe), as I had not actually used it consistently in rehearsals. The Loboe actually had a great check-up and because of its regular use, was not really effected by the fiendish mold.
The advice is this for all of you sub-tropical wind players; regular open-air contact (as in keep that case open!) and play the instrument at least once a week if it is not your primary instrument. My strategy is that I will leave the case open on a chair that faces our terrace door since we try to keep it open as much as possible. Keeping doors and windows open is essential since we do not have air conditioning, however, we also have the unique dilemma of potential monkey invasions and yes, I am serious. In Durban, South Africa, vervet monkeys roam the streets with the same frequency as squirrels in the United States. For some illogical reason, screen windows do not exist there, though I am fairly certain the monkeys could figure out a way to get through them. There are also two house cats on the property, Mango and Max, who also frequent our place but they are more likely to be found sleeping on the couch than puttering around a case. So, as long as I am in the room keeping an eye out for unwanted guests, I think my other oboe stands a much better chance for a great check-up next year.