News

Purple border

Billings Symphony players and their Decker oboes

For the Billings Symphony oboists, there’s nothing quite like a Decker oboe. Ken Decker began his career at the age of 13 when he began an apprenticeship with Russell L. Davis, a repairman based in Billings. Davis was one of the first graduates of the C. G. Conn musical instrument company and repair school in Elkhart, Indiana.

Decker’s wife, Sandy Stimson (pictured above at left), is Principal oboe of the Bozeman Symphony and performs on English horn and third oboe with the Billings Symphony. She performs on a rosewood Decker oboe made by her husband.

“The Decker oboes have a pure ringing tonal quality and an even sound throughout the scale,” said Stimson.

And she’s not the only one who performs on these beloved instruments.

Ken Decker. Photo courtesy Sandy Stimson.

Principal oboe Sue Logan (pictured above at right), who has been in her position with the Billings Symphony since 2002, has a Decker oboe made of boxwood, a light golden color, with gold-plated keys.

“The oboists of the Billings Symphony love to play together with their Decker oboes because of the rich matching sounds and the enjoyment of the “bling factor”; those gold keys” Logan said.

Kris Ostwalt (pictured above, center), who started playing in the Billings Symphony in 1998, first on English Horn and later switched to second oboe, performs on a Decker oboe made of rosewood, a beautiful dark striped wood, contrasted with gold-plated keys.

“The sound is as beautiful as the instrument,” said Ostwalt.

Decker’s first experience with woodwinds was the alto saxophone, which he started playing in the 4th grade. By 7th grade, he was encouraged to take up the oboe, and it has been his livelihood ever since. Soon after, he landed the second oboe spot in the Billings Symphony and played in that chair through his senior year of high school. After some meanderings, he ended up playing Principal oboe with the Billings Symphony, ending that position in 1979.

Decker opened his shop, Decker Music Service, in 1973, in Billings, and relocated to Livingston, Montana in June of 2013 where his shop is now in operation.

A CELEBRATION OF IRISH MUSIC AND DANCE: MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR ARKINS, BIGLEY & COULTER: A CELTIC EVENING

February 22, 2024

Billings, February 22, 2024 – Brace yourself for an enchanting evening filled with the captivating sounds of Irish music as Arkins, Bigley & Coulter: A Celtic Evening takes center stage…

Read More

Symphony Sounds: Song for Humanity

February 6, 2024
Read More

Johnny Gandelsman: Grammy-winning artist and Silkroad violinist presents a transformative musical journey at the Billings Depot

February 1, 2024

Billings, February 1, 2024 – We are delighted to introduce Johnny Gandelsman, one of the most revered violinists of our time and a Grammy-winning artist, as he graces both the…

Read More

Renowned Maestro Robert Moody to deliver stupendous performance of Brahms’ “A German Requiem”

January 24, 2024

Billings, Montana – January, 23, 2024 The Billings Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce an exceptional concert with an array of exceptionally talented performers. Scheduled to captivate audiences on February…

Read More

Strings Attached: Ahn Trio will set the stage ablaze with a radiant performance at the Alberta Bair Theater

January 5, 2024

Billings, Montana – January 5, 2024 – The Ahn Trio, critically acclaimed for their innovative performances, is all set to grace the stage of the renowned Alberta Bair Theater on…

Read More

Big Sky Sounds – Free Family Concert: A Puppet’s Plight

January 4, 2024
Read More

Symphony Sounds: Christmas on Broadway with guest conductor Scott Jeppesen

December 11, 2023
Read More

Christmas on Broadway: A magical evening of music, dance, and holiday fun comes to Billings!

December 4, 2023

Billings, MT, December 1, 2023 – The wait is almost over! Get ready for a mesmerizing night of entertainment as Christmas on Broadway makes its grand debut at the Alberta…

Read More

Breathtaking Sonorities: Galvin Cello Quartet to deliver striking harmonies at Billings Symphony’s second Sukin Series Concert

November 29, 2023

BILLINGS, MONTANA, November 29, 2023 – Get ready to embark on a mesmerizing journey as the Galvin Cello Quartet takes center stage at the historic Billings Depot on December 7,…

Read More

Billings Symphony Chorale to Perform at St. Patrick Co-Cathedral

November 2, 2023

St. Patrick Co-Cathedral sanctuary will be echoing with the voices of the Billings Symphony Chorale this Saturday and Sunday. Learn more.    

Read More