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The original founder of Arundo Reeds, Mark Eubanks, sold the company to Janice Richardson. Janice was his chief reed maker before he sold it to her.

"Other than performing music, I've always thought it might be fun to be a Botanist. " My college professor, Arthur Kruckeberg (author of "Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest"), also was a bassoonist. I have loved plants and gardening since a child and have grown reed cane (Arundo donax) in Oregon since 1980. Mark Eubanks founder of Arundo Reeds, Oregon Symphony Member and Instructor of Bassoon at Lewis and Clark College.
  founder Eubanks

When not making music with reeds, Mark works with them. He grows arundo donax (reed cane); managed a reed manufacturing company that he started in 1972 and continues to do research through his company, Arundo Research Company. He has published educational material focusing on reed making and adjustment and has become an expert in tuning and voicing of bassoon acoustics.

Music grows in Mark Eubanks’ garden.
The principal bassoon player for the Oregon Symphony coaxes sweet notes out of a large grass known as an ornamental (or, in California, as an invasive). Eubanks harvests canes from Arundo donax to make into reeds for bassoons.

"I harvest the tall ones in the winter of their second growth," he says, running a hand along the dramatic canes that sway near the entrance to his Southwest Portland home. Eubanks also grows arundo on a quarter acre of farmland in Yamhill County.

Every woodwind instrument in the world requires a reed, Eubanks explains, and traditionally they are made of arundo, a very strong but resilient cane. "Bamboo is too hard," he says. Professional players of oboes and bassoons often make their own reeds because they want to control the design, which affects musicality. Eubanks, who is also leader of the Bassoon Brothers quartet, says he has to pick through 100 to 150 reeds to find the 30 to 40 he uses in a concert season.

"Reeds are such a huge part of bassoonists' playing," says Kirsten Boldt, a former student of Eubanks who is working in Colorado on a doctorate in bassoon performance. Inspired by Eubanks, she is growing a 10-by-10-foot patch of arundo in Ashland on her parents' property. "A lot of bassoonists make their own reeds -- not many of them grow their own."

Most bassoonists make their reeds from cured arundo canes they buy in bulk from sources in France, Argentina, China or Australia. They search for the elusive perfect partnership of instrument, player and reed to obtain optimal performance. Some musicians grow the canes in California, where it once was used for erosion control until it escaped into the wild.

Eubanks 59, decided early on to get to the source of the reed. In fact, he remembers dreaming about living in Oregon and growing cane when he was in his first professional orchestra, the Seattle Symphony. Three years after he joined the Oregon Symphony in 1978, a reed-maker friend from Napa, Calif., gave him some arundo rhizomes. The rhizomes came from mother stock in Var, France, long known as the prime reed-growing area.

He has since discovered that the upper Willamette Valley is a marginal area for growing arundo because of winter and spring freezes. Arundo freezes at 10 degrees, but it can be damaged by drying winds or ground freezes.

Places where wine grapes -- red wine grapes -- grow well generally are where canes grow well, Boldt says.