trumpets saxophones: Now presenting the Queen of saxophone professors, Her Royal Majesty, Bobbi Thompson! Presiding over her subjects—saxophone majors—with an aura of competence and kindness, this beloved teacher leads the largest saxophone studio in Canada at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University. Friends, Romans, countrymen: She owns this role, going above and beyond in every way for her students, exemplifying a professionalism to which many aspire. Today, in honour of UNESCO World Teachers’ Day, Robert, Jonathan, Marcia, Daniel, Matt, Lacie, Andy, Jamie, Jennifer and Laura offer why Bobbi Thompson embodies what it means to be a great teacher. Long may she reign.
Special thanks to Laura Kerslake for her help in putting together this tribute.
Bobbi was a true inspiration from the day I met her. She was there for me through all the hard auditions, and even after I left her studio. She continues to be a mentor and sounding board. Bobbi was an inspiration and a role model because she was actively trying to better herself through education and activism in the saxophone community.
Robert Hess is a saxophone and woodwinds teacher based in Aurora, Ontario.
During my time at the University of Western Ontario I got the opportunity to study with Dr. Thompson. She was incredibly kind and generous, always doing everything she could for her students to be successful. Her door was always open to talk if you needed help, and she was always available to geek out over anything saxophone related. Our lessons were always a highlight of my week, and I would walk away from each one feeling like there were countless things for me to explore and work on.
She would go above and beyond, providing amazing opportunities for her students to attend concerts or perform in masterclasses and competitions. She even sent us information about opportunities for paid work in the field of music. But more than anything, she always pushed us so we could find the potential she saw in us.
She was an absolutely amazing mentor to all of us at Western and quickly became the saxophone mom we all know and love. I’m incredibly grateful for the time I got to spend studying with her. I can’t say enough good things about her and the experience I had at Western under her tutelage.
Jonathan Bouchard is a freelance jazz and classical saxophonist, performer, and educator currently residing in the Greater Toronto Area.
One of the things that I admire about Bobbi is that she always demonstrates a love for learning and continued growth. Leading by example, she encourages her students to do the same. She always provided opportunities that enriched our experience by, for example, bringing in guests or by seeking out opportunities for students to extend their learning. I have very fond memories of one of those experiences during my undergrad and that was attending the Single Reed Summit. Although the conference was great, there were lots of great memories created on the drive to Ohio and in the time that we spent together in the large cabin that Bobbi found for us all to stay. Looking back at that experience, I’m not sure I would have offered to stay in the same cabin with my students, but she really saw her students as equals in the learning journey. She is a beautiful human and is so patient and generous.
Marcia Connolly studied with Bobbi Thompson at Western University from 2006-2009. After her undergrad, Marcia went on to teachers college at Althouse. Marcia’s first teaching job was teaching music at St. John’s Kilmarnock Private School and she is currently teaching secondary music at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener, ON.
I didn’t study with Bobbi but I have sent her numerous high school students over the years. In 2009, she generously hosted me as a guest artist at the University of Western Ontario. I loved coaching her large and enthusiastic saxophone class and I felt that we were actually trading ideas off of each other in a beautifully collegial way.
She is always open to new ideas and I applaud her serious commitment to the instrument. Not many musicians would go the US, mid-career, and submit themselves to a gruelling course of graduate saxophone study and come out the other side.
Bravo, Bobbi, you are an amazing inspiration as a teacher, performer and forever lover of the saxophone!
Dr. Daniel Rubinoff has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in France, Canada and the United States. His discography includes The Old Castle, Daniel Rubinoff Plays the Music of Srul Glick, The Canada Song, The Dance of the Blessed Spirits, and Daniel Rubinoff Plays Denis Bédard. Rubinoff has wide experience as a saxophone teacher at university, college and high school levels, and is in demand as a music festival adjudicator of bands, choirs and orchestras. He is the founder of the Applewood Music School (applewoodmusicschool.com)
I had the pleasure of being one of Bobbi’s saxophone students at Western from 2003-2005, and again from 2006-2007. She always challenged me to reach my full potential and is one of the kindest and most genuine people I know.
Prior to Bobbi, I was content with being told what I needed to work on from my music teachers rather than actively listening to myself play and analyzing my next steps. I remember her prompts such as, “Okay Mr. future educator, if you were in my position, what do you think needs the most work in the part you just played?” The first few times, I was like a deer in the headlights and my answers were not insightful at all. Bobbi remained kind but persisted with similar questions in future lessons which helped to develop my listening skills. This not only matured my own playing and growth as a musician, but gave me important tools to use when I became a classroom teacher and a private lesson teacher.
I remember in my fourth year of undergrad chatting with one of my sax friends, who was also in fourth year. He saw me holding one of my study books and asked, “What’s that?” He looked through it and was like, “Wow, that looks really tough, I’m glad that I don’t have to play that!” And I was like, “Aren’t we all using this study book?” It turned out that Bobbi saw the potential in me, and pushed me through a more challenging method book so I could be my best. I am grateful for her persistence and for guiding me to hit my full potential.
Bobbi was a steady rock in lessons but also made sure to be there for her students. Undergrad is a transition point in people’s lives and she cared how we were doing in life. She would always open each lesson by asking how my week was and how I was doing. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but she took the time to get to know me as a person and was actually concerned if I was going through anything. Now looking back, I see how she helped support me not only as a sax student, but as a person.
Bobbi brought us together through the weekly sax masterclasses where she urged all of her students to actively participate each week by playing and/or giving comments. This further encouraged me to actively listen and to make connections to prior knowledge/lessons learned. This provided feedback to the other students, but also helped develop my active listening skills. Through the masterclasses, her kindness and love of music brought us together and each week felt like spending time with family.
I owe a lot to Bobbi and appreciate all the hard work and dedication that she puts into her saxophone students to help them reach their full potential. Words cannot express my gratitude for her support. Thank you Bobbi for being such a wonderful and caring person!
Matt Peter is a graduate of Western University (B. Mus. Hon. in Music Education), University of Toronto (B. Ed., York University (MA.), and also holds an Honour Specialist, Music (OISE/UT). He currently teaches in the York Region District School Board. Matt is an inductee of the prestigious Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters’ Fraternity, and is on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Band Association as Director of the annual York University / OBA Wind Conductors’ Symposium. He has conducted many workshops/clinics around the GTA, at elementary and high schools, at the Ontario Music Educators’ Association annual conference, York University, and the Sunderland Lions Music Festival. He is a recipient of the Excellence in Band Development Award from the Ontario Band Association.
Bobbi took me in as a transfer student at Western University where I completed years three and four of my bachelor’s degree. I am thankful for her guidance throughout the two years I studied with her. I have carried many of her values and teachings with me throughout my life both as an educator and performer. She helped me find the art of patience: in learning, while performing, and with my body when I began to experience physical fatigue with graduate audition preparations. Bobbi is an incredibly strong female role model, and exudes both strength and kindness on and off stage.
She always expected a level of respect and commitment from her students, and was sure to give the same in return. She never wavered from her role as an educator, even when she was completing her own studies. I remember her traveling between Bowling Green State University and Western University. She was a student and a teacher at the same time, and had the highest level of commitment to both roles. Despite this heavy travel and work schedule, Bobbi always had the patience to present herself with compassion and willingly provided guidance to her students. This was especially true for me, as someone who was cracking under the pressure of their own studies and graduate audition preparations.
She always went above and beyond, presenting new learning opportunities that encouraged further exploration. She did this by encouraging master class participation, facilitating guest performers and by assigning listening and saxophone related pedagogical research. She introduced the North American Saxophone Alliance Conference experience to many. This sparked a fire inside some students, even in their first year, to strive to perform and present at future conferences. She was the perfect balance of humor and reality check in a day of study, and I am beyond thankful to have had the opportunity to study with her. Though she may still think I come from a family of potato farmers, I would never hold that against her!
Lacie Marchand, B.MusA (Western University)/ M. Mus (University of Calgary), has performed and toured across Canada with a number of ensembles including the Calgary Wind Symphony, Alberta Winds, the Calgary Jazz Orchestra, and was a featured soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Within Ontario she performs with the Baytowne Big Band and the Skyliners Big Band in Simcoe County. Lacie returned to Ontario in 2019 and continues to teach privately. She is also serving as the Music Specialist for Tiny Forest Academy (forest and nature school) and is launching an early music education program, BayBay Beats for ages 0-36 months.
Bobbi opened my eyes to how big the saxophone world really is. Coming from a small town, I had no idea what was out there, or what the possibilities were. She introduced me to so many artists, recordings, and teachings that my little world view just exploded. Without her instruction I would have never realized my full potential. There was always something new to listen to, a different piece to play, or something interesting to read.
In lessons, Bobbi would be incredibly kind, but also ruthless (in a very sweet sort of way). Wrong rhythms were not tolerated. Rushing was immediately pointed out. A lapse in tone or tuning resulted in you stopping and playing it again. She helped me develop the analytical skills I needed to push my playing to the next level. She saw the potential in me and refused to let it go to waste. She did all of this with incredible kindness, patience, and a true love for the music and the saxophone. I love playing through old pieces and études and finding her little notes or comments written on the page. It’s an amazing reminder of the help Bobbi gave me, and still continues to provide to this day.
I can’t thank Bobbi enough for all her help and guidance. It was essential as I figured out my place in the bigger saxophone world.
Andy Braet lives in the United Kingdom where he is currently the Principal Saxophone of the Royal Air Force College Band. He was previously the Principal Saxophone of the Irish Guards Band, Household Division. He obtained his B Mus at Western University in 2007 and his M Mus at Bowling Green State University in 2009.
It was almost ten years ago that I first became a part of the Western University Saxophone Studio. It was the first time I was ever in a room with so many skilled saxophonists, and for a young freshman, it was a little nerve wracking to say the least! Each week during our studio masterclass, Bobbi would coach a few students through their repertoire. During these sessions one thing was made very clear to me—in this studio, the only standard is excellence.
Over the next four years, Bobbi pushed me to be the best musician I could be. No detail was overlooked, and we never settled for “good enough”. Admittedly, I may not have always been the most diligent in the practice room, but Bobbi knew that I had more potential before I believed it myself. For that unfailing support, I am forever grateful.
Post recital celebrations and Hemke hug initiations will always be fond memories, but the lesson I always carry with me is to strive for excellence in every facet of life. Thank you Bobbi, for showing me what excellence looks like!
Jamie Fernandes was awarded his Bachelor of Music from Western University in 2016, and his Bachelor of Education from the University Ottawa in 2018. He is now a private music instructor for youth, teaching both saxophone and piano.
Bobbi Thompson was my saxophone professor when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Western Ontario and has had an immeasurable impact on my career as a saxophonist and musician. I had no idea how lucky I was to study with her when I was at Western, especially as a young woman studying the saxophone. I now know how fortunate I was to have such an incredible female role model.
Bobbi taught me so much about being a thoughtful, curious musician who constantly strives to be a better player. She has also been invested in my life and success well beyond my time studying with her. When I moved to Michigan to pursue my master’s degree, Bobbi drove from London to see my first master’s recital; I will never be able to articulate how much it meant to me to have her in the audience as I took to the stage that day.
As I have built my career as a professional musician, Bobbi has become a trusted confidant who is always available to talk when I need a thoughtful opinion. Bobbi taught me so much of how I teach my own students, and especially how to hold students to high musical standards while staying kind. I am eternally grateful to be able to call her my teacher and friend. Thank you for everything, Bobbi!
Dr Jennifer Blackwell is a Canadian music educator, music researcher, and saxophonist, currently serving as Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is the editor of The Saxophone Symposium for the North American Saxophone Alliance.
I first met Bobbi Thompson in the fall of 2003. I was scared out of my mind. I had only been taking saxophone lessons for about six months and felt completely out of place. I felt behind and lost and not quite sure how I was going to navigate through her big studio of talented artists. Her caring nature and endless patience immediately set me at ease. When I dropped and broke my mouth piece in my first year, I had somehow convinced myself I was going to get kicked out of the studio. But she simply told me how it happens and now was an opportunity to get an even better mouthpiece and likely time to get rid of those plastic reeds I was playing on too!
In my fourth year I received the best advice from Bobbi that not only helped me become a better saxophonist, but really changed the trajectory of my career. After returning from a particularly bad audition experience where I was told to simply, “go teach” because I, “wasn’t good enough for their program,” I was feeling pretty down and unsure of what I should do next. Bobbi’s reaction to my experience was something I still take with me today. She didn’t say, “Yes you could do better, or practice more and play more precisely.” All of which would have been true, however what she did say was, “That was not a normal audition experience and I’m sorry that you had to go through that.” Her empathy and understanding for how defeated I felt by that experience really allowed me to learn from that process. I used it as fuel to practice more and play more precisely so that I could improve and yes go teach, but also perform! Her reaction to this day reminds me how important it is to really listen to your students with empathy. This I believe is the most important thing I have learned from Bobbi and continue to use on a daily basis.
Bobbi, thank you for all that you have done for me! Your continued support has really got me to where I am today, and I’m so grateful that you took a chance on me almost and somehow, twenty years ago. Thank you for your dedication to teaching, and for not only leading your students to become great saxophonists and musicians, but also great humans.
Laura Kerslake is currently the Career Development Officer with the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. She enjoys having the opportunity to work with students to help them discover their career goals and skills through coaching and advising. Laura completed her Doctor of Music in saxophone performance at the University of Alberta, her Master of Music Degree at the University of Florida and her Bachelor of Music Degree and Artist Diploma at the University of Western Ontario. Laura is a Certified Coach Practitioner with the Certified Coaches Federation.