Eugene Cook began freelancing for New York newspapers while still in high school. His first position was with the Camden (N.J.) Courier Post followed by stints at the Philadelphia Record and the Chicago Sun. Time Inc. then engaged him as chief of the Chicago bureau of Life Magazine where he produced major photo essays. Later heading the Los Angeles bureau, he left Life in 1959 to pursue a career as a freelance photographer based in New York, traveling to several parts of Europe on assignments for a variety of clients including CBS. While at Life, he interviewed a violinist who was developing a concert and opera career. The young woman was Phyllis Curtin, who became a renowned soprano. The interview led to romance and marriage. Cook taught at Yale and was director of the Yale School of Music’s press and concert office. In 1982, he was appointed a professor of photojournalism at Boston University. He also was director of public affairs and special projects at the Boston University School for the Arts.
EC (Eugene Cook): Your career has been so rich and so full, so rewarding to you and to your audiences, has anything in these long years changed in the approaches, in the teachings, or in the standards of your instrument?
RB (Robert Bloom): Quite definitely. When I was studying the oboe with my great teacher, Marcel Tabuteau in Philadelphia, there were perhaps two or three really fine oboists in this country. And the difference between those two or three and the next level was extreme. When I came along, by the way, I was not an oboist; I was a cellist.
EC I didn’t realize that.
RB: I didn’t start the oboe until I was 19. Three years after that, I was in the Philadelphia Orchestra. I had a wonderful teacher and was in a wonderful atmosphere at Curtis and in Philadelphia, plus a certain natural talent for the instrument. If I had to buck some of the competition that I see today, my career might not be what it has been. Tabuteau taught me, I taught other students and he, of course, had other students who were very good and they taught other students. So now what we are getting are grand-students of Tabuteau.
We have each added to this school and have evolved and “standardized” it. We learned something about cause and effect. If you do certain things, certain things are going to happen. There is always room at the top for a few outstanding oboists. The greatest goal of a wind player was to get a job in a good orchestra. Unless it was the Philadelphia Orchestra where we played a lot of contemporary works, the orchestras played the good old meat-and-potatoes-Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Wagner. But now, an awful lot more is required. Contemporary composers have enlarged the scope of the instrument. They have made demands that in my day would have been called outlandish. But now these things have to be done. The players have developed techniques that allow them to do these things and so it is an ever-expanding field.