Ken Decker, Oboe Specialist

I began my career at the age of 13 by apprenticeship with a repairman in Billings, MT named Russell L. Davis. Russ was one of the first graduates of the Conn repair school in Elkhart, IN.  I have his original notes and notebooks from that era.

My first experience with woodwinds was the alto saxophone, which I started playing in the 4th grade. By the 7th grade, I was encouraged to take up the oboe and it has been my livelihood ever since. Soon after, I landed the second oboe spot in the Billings Symphony Orchestra and was in that chair until a senior in high school. After some meanderings, I ended up playing Principal oboe with the Billings Symphony Orchestra, four or five years later, ending that position in 1979.

My oboe teachers included Rex Sutherland, Forest Cornwell (both of Billings, MT), Holly Gornik of the Utah Symphony, and a workshop or two with Richard Killmer and Ray Still.

I began calling my shop Decker Music Service in 1973 with residence in Billings, MT . I  have also worked in Salt Lake City, Utah for one year and Fort Wayne, Indiana for six years.  I relocated to Livingston, MT in June of 2013 where my shop is now in operation.

In the early 1980’s, I began to specialize in oboe repair and the manufacture of the Decker Oboe. My first oboe was made of boxwood, which was finished in 1984, with the serial #05-84. The previous numbers 1-4 were upper joints only. To this date, I have made about 25 oboes. They are mostly of boxwood, rosewood and one grenadilla. All of my oboes, except the first two boxwoods, have upper joint sleeves, which I have also put into existing oboes as a repair for the oversize bores or very bad cracking.

Decker Boxwood Oboe #05-84
Photo credit: Phil Bell

  • overhauls and make plays (minor adjustments)
  • crack repair (pinning and inserts)
  • left f, Philadelphia key and other additions
  • tuning
  • f#  key extensions
  • broken tenons

Repairs on oboes, English horns and clarinets:

Ken Decker
209 South B Street
Livingston, Mt 59047
(406) 222-5529