Professor James Caldwell

Oboist and early music champion

Earle Dumler, principal oboe of the Los Angeles Opera, describes James Caldwell as "the greatest American oboist of my generation . . . Not only was his playing wonderfully elegant, he was truly a class act." Caldwell was also, from 1971, a Professor of Oboe at Oberlin College in Ohio, where he trained many leading oboists.

His interest in his art extended well beyond the traditional boundaries. It was in the late Sixties, while he was principal oboist at the National Symphony Orchestra, that Caldwell and his wife, the cellist Catharina Meints, became interested in the Baroque era and, although both had been trained on modern instruments, in their spare time learned to play the period equivalents. Caldwell had taken up the viola da gamba and with his wife went to Basle in Switzerland to study with August Wenzinger, one of the most celebrated teachers of the instrument. The couple began to collect period instruments.

In 1971, they moved to Ohio, where Caldwell was appointed Professor of Oboe and Meints joined the Cleveland Orchestra, and the following summer, at Oberlin, they founded the Baroque Performance Institute (BPI), the first American summer school for singers and instrumentalists to study and perform early music on period instruments. They invited Wenzinger to direct the three-week programme - which is now in its 34th year.

Caldwell was born in 1938 in Gladewater, East Texas, the son of a stationmaster. He showed very early musical ability and had his first lessons on the piano. He also possessed a fine voice and sang as a treble soloist. At 13 he had his first lessons on the oboe and decided that this was to be his instrument.

He was educated at Gladewater High School and during the summer holidays attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. In 1957 Caldwell entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with John de Lancic, principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Caldwell went on to serve as principal oboist of the National Symphony Orchestra, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia. He was also oboist and soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, soloist with the Casals Festival Orchestra and the Chicago Little Symphony. He gave recitals at Carnegie Hall and the Town Hall in New York. He was a fine chamber music player, performing with groups including the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble, the Oberlin Woodwind Quintet and the Soni Ventorum Quintet. He frequently gave concerts at the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Aston Magna, a foundation dedicated to early music and its cultural context.

At Oberlin, such was his reputation as a teacher that, from the time when he took up his appointment on the faculty in 1971, there was a threefold increase in the number of prospective oboe students. He was admired by his colleagues for his extraordinary musicianship and range of artistic expertise. The gamba player Mary Anne Ballard says:

He built a master harpsichord of three keyboards while living in the Puerto Rican jungle and playing oboe with the Casals Festival. He amassed and oversaw the meticulous restoration of perhaps the greatest collection of violas da gamba, carving bridges and performing other maintenance tasks himself, as well as becoming a quietly virtuoso player and performing as continuo accompanist and duet partner with his wife.

Jim Caldwell was also an avid collector of art nouveau glass and furniture, was skilled in stained glass, jewellery-making and bonsai cultivation, and became an expert on computer art and musical composition using synthesisers. He was passionate about everything he did, from playing Liverpool Rummy - which became an almost violent experience with him at the table - to crafting the finest oboe reeds.

Caldwell's discography includes orchestral recordings on RCA and Columbia Records and chamber music recordings for the Lyrichord, Desto, Cambridge, Phoenix, Gasparo, Vox and Smithsonian labels. A reissue of recordings he made throughout the last 40 years, on modern as well as baroque oboe, comes this year on Boston Records - Building Castles in the Sky.

Margaret Campbell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there