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Curtis Institute of Music severs ties with oboe star Richard Woodhams after 3½ decades

Woodhams began teaching at the Philadelphia school in 1985, taking over from John de Lancie.

Richard Woodhams and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Verizon Hall in 2017.
Richard Woodhams and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Verizon Hall in 2017.Read moreDavid DeBalko

The Curtis Institute of Music has ended its relationship with one of its star faculty members, oboist Richard Woodhams. The longtime, now-retired principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra was informed by the school earlier this month that it would not be renewing his contract, he said.

Woodhams — a 1968 graduate of the school on Rittenhouse Square — said that he was baffled by the move, and that no one from the famed music conservatory explained to him the reasons behind the decision.

“My recurring question is why,” he said.

He said he had never perceived tension or disagreements between himself and the school.

“There were a couple of changes made to my schedule rather autocratically many years ago,” he said. “But I thought we’ve always had a cordial relationship. I thought things went pretty smoothly and I always had a very good rapport with my students.”

A Curtis spokesperson said no one from the school would be commenting on the decision.

In an email from a school official, the oboist was told that the decision was final.

“Curtis has decided to move in a different direction,” wrote Kimberly I. Gould, Curtis’ Title IX coordinator and director of human resources and equal opportunity.

Woodhams began teaching at Curtis in 1985, taking over from his teacher, John de Lancie (who had also served as the Philadelphia Orchestra’s principal oboist). He has appeared as soloist with the Curtis Orchestra, and at one time sat on the Curtis board. His students have gone on to positions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Metropolitan Opera, among others. He retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2018 after four decades.

Curtis plans to use various oboe instructors throughout the year, said school spokesperson Patricia K. Johnson.