Jonathan has mentored dozens of oboe students in a long teaching career. He has taught the oboe at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester since 1991, and recently received his silver long service award.
Many of Jonathan's students have gone on to secure careers and positions in orchestras in the UK and abroad. They include:
Jennifer Galloway - principal oboe, BBC Philharmonic.
Rachael Pankhurst - cor anglais, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Timothy Rundle - second oboe, Philharmonia Orchestra
Ruth Davies - Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Sarah-Jayne Porsmoguer - cor anglais, BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
In 2001 Jonathan was first invited to China to give masterclasses and recitals. He was soon appointed Guest Professor of Oboe at Beijing Central Conservatory and has made regular visits to Beijing and other major conservatories in China since. Several Chinese oboists have gained their Master's Degree at RNCM studying with Jonathan: these include:
Professor Wei Weidong, Central Conservatory, Beijing
Professor Fang Hengjian, Central Conservatory, Beijing
Teacher Sun Chu, Shenzhen Arts School
Teacher Cao Yi, Wuhan Conservatory
Liu Xiaodi - Houston Symphony and University of North Florida, USA
Prior to 1991 he taught oboe students at the University of Liverpool, and he has taught privately for many years, his pupils invariably obtaining distinction at ABRSM grade exams
Jonathan writes about his approach to teaching the oboe:
"I've been teaching the oboe for as long as I can remember, certainly since I was at school when I had my first couple of pupils, who were probably only three or four years younger than me, but that's a lot at that time of life.
In developing my own approach to teaching the oboe I'd have to say that I do emphasise many of the things that I learned from my own teacher (see below), drawing further upon my own personal experience, and with my own added areas of interest and matters that I perceive as important. First and foremost, I think it’s important to say that the main reason I teach is that I do get tremendous pleasure from seeing a student develop as much as he or she can, and that helping them makes me a better musician. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to stop and think while teaching, and find a verbal explanation for something that I, and I’d guess many other musicians, have taken for granted, or done perhaps instinctively, without thinking about it very much. I would certainly say that if we want to explain to a young musician why we play a phrase a certain way, why we hold the instrument just so, why we articulate a passage in a certain way, then we have to understand the answer to that ourselves, and be able to explain it logically and clearly.
I do perhaps have an analytical turn of mind, and I apply this rigorously to as many aspects of playing the oboe as possible, technical, musical, in terms of reeds and so on.
Naturally as a wind player everything comes from breath support and control. This is the foundation of any oboist's playing and so it will always be the first thing we'll work on. Our playing must live on the breath.
I came to regard the technique of playing the oboe technique as being rather like a Venn diagram: overlapping circles at the core of which is always breathing and blowing properly. We cannot articulate (tongue) properly without the proper air flow to go with it, for example.
Most of all I try to impress upon the undergraduate and post graduate oboist that her best teacher will always be herself. The student has to be guided by the teacher but must ultimately decide for herself how she wants to play the oboe and what she wants to say with it.
So I seek to train without being didactic, to nurture and draw out a musical personality, to express original ideas as much as possible but always with a keen ear on style and musical integrity. I do try to encourage my students to think way beyond the oboe, to learn what we can about music from other instrumentalists and of course singers, conductors too, to become the finest musician we can be, who happens to play the oboe.
Most of all I seek always to take a positive and encouraging approach."
About my own teacher: at the Royal College of Music I learned so much - not only about the oboe and playing it - but also about teaching from my own wonderful teacher, Michael Winfield, who sadly passed away in the last year (2017). These days so much seems to depend upon having obtained teaching qualifications and degrees, especially in the USA, but in those days, and perhaps still today in the UK the top instrumental teachers were and are largely synonymous with the top performing musicians.
Michael's whole approach was to train the best orchestral players. He emphasised good tone, intonation, sound finger and tonguing technique, musical phrasing most of all in which he had been personally coached as a young oboist by Sir John Barbirolli, who had recruited the 17-year old Michael Winfield to the Hallé. Michael especially worked on orchestral repertoire, having a huge library of parts for many works, quite beyond what was available at the time in excerpt study books.
It was once commented to me that Michael's students all had a good sound, but that we didn't sound alike. This I think is the key - the oboe is a highly individual instrument, and no two oboists can possibly play it quite the same way. This individuality is of course what composers seek to employ when they write for the oboe. From a teaching point of view it seems to me that encouraging that individuality is paramount, to stimulate each student to search for their own sound, to conceive it in the mind's ear and find it in their instrument and their reeds.
Michael also taught solo repertoire although I always felt that his heart was much more in the orchestra. He was also a fabulous cor anglais player, one of the most sought-after in London at the time and so we were also well-schooled on this instrument as well. Michael's success as an oboe teacher could be judged by the number of his students who gained positions in orchestras all over the UK. We used to imagine that he had a wall chart with every orchestra's oboe positions plotted, and an increasing sea of checks in the relevant boxes. Well, Michael, I'm very proud to have been able to check a couple of those boxes for you myself, and quite a few more with your grand-students!"