CMU Resources Instrumental to Musician/Entrepreneur – News


March 08, 2021

Oboe reeds can be a challenge for new and experienced musicians alike. The oboe is a double reed instrument whose sound is produced by two pieces of cane vibrating against each other, which can easily break or change their playability based on humidity and other factors. Manufactured cane reeds start at $15-$20, but might crack after just a few hours of playing or last little more than a month. Professional handmade reeds cost even more — or, if musicians make their own, reeds can take hours of work.

The frustration of crafting reeds led Camille Strahl to envision creating an affordable and reliable alternative.

“The technology that we use to make oboe reeds moves at a snail’s pace — much the same as it was 100 years ago” said Strahl, an oboe performance graduate student in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music and former music teacher. “I still use a razorblade to shape my material.”

Last fall, Strahl took the class Business of Music, taught by Lance LaDuke. The course is part of CMU’s Music Entrepreneurship program.

“I’ve joked for a long time about making synthetic reeds if I met an oboist who had an interest in engineering,” she said. The appeal of reeds made out of plastic would make the product have more consistent playability, she said. “After taking the course I realized that even if I’m not an engineer, nobody at a company does all the things.”

LaDuke, the freshman adviser and coordinator of special and creative projects for the School of Music, said that the Music Entrepreneurship program helps students identify new performance and business opportunities and act on them.

“Some are using their skills to develop solo careers or small music groups. Others are setting up teaching studios and a handful of them are looking for ways to create not-for-profit community organizations,” LaDuke said. “The most unique aspect of what Camille is developing is that it is a physical product. We have lots of folks developing service-based ideas but to have someone who needs to deal with prototyping, inventory and order fulfillment adds a great dimension.”

Camille coined her company, Synthody, a mashup of synthetic and melody. Since then, she’s written a business plan, conducted market research studies and started networking within and outside of the CMU community.

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