Mr. Gray was appointed Full Professor in Clarinet in the UCLA Music Department in 1993 where he also teaches the Woodwind Chamber Ensemble class. He has a Clarinet studio of 12-15 private students each year, and his students perform regularly in the UCLA Philharmonia, UCLA Wind Ensemble, Woodwind Chamber Ensembles, Collaborative Piano Chamber class...plus their individual Junior, Senior and Graduate Recitals.

During the course of his teaching, it often becomes necessary to include career counseling, i.e. suggesting "combination careers" to include teaching, playing, music management, etc., in order to increase the students' options after graduation. The importance of learning all the instruments in the clarinet family is also stressed. For those students interested in studio work, he often takes them to sessions with him so that they can observe first hand what takes place. The strong emphasis on accurate sight reading in such work points out the need for students to be thoroughly versed in scale and chord patterns, to recognize phrase groupings and to practice sight-reading new material non-stop.

In a profile on Gray by Richard Ginell in Windplayer Magazine, Gray comments,

"I see part of my teaching mission as helping expose my students to what is going on in the whole musical world, rather than just what they might be studying on clarinet at that time, and if at all possible, get them off campus to hear the great live music made by local and visiting artists in Los Angeles. I also encourage them to play with groups off campus and to take advantage of Los Angeles for the music center that it is."

As for orchestra auditions, he continues,

"Students of mine who have done well on auditions have usually done many of them in a row. A former student of mine, John Bruce Yeh, now in the Chicago Symphony, won that position after coming close in two prior auditions that same year."

Gary's air clarinet Gary's UCLA class with David Singer Gary with Jim Gillespie and John Scott University of North Texas Masters Class clarinet students garyvalentine grayandgrayseattle heilmairgray michaelgrego michelezukovsky montclairstateu thornhillmasterclass

Undergraduate Counselor
Al Bradley
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Graduate Counselor
Sandra McKerroll
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For possible Master Classes or Clinics outside of UCLA, contact Mr. Gray's personal managers:
Valerie Bernstein and/or Ina Scheid
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vandoren_logo_smGary Gray has been officially added to the Vandoren Artist Roster! Vandoren is the top manufacturer of clarinet reeds and mouthpieces in the world. Be sure to congratulate Gary on his acceptance. 


Clarinet Playing, Teaching and Music in General

Simply put, I try to help my clarinet students become the best musicians they can be...whatever their career objectives. If the learning process is correctly defined as "guided growth," I try to guide well and stay out of the way when possible. After the first year or two, I think the teacher-student relationship, especially in the area of private lessons is one of gradually letting go and motivating the young instrumentalist to become a more and more independent artist/scholar. Of course the rate of letting go depends very much on the talent and progress of the individual student. Although each student has unique qualities, both as a musician and a person, I've developed certain common concepts and techniques which apply to all. To begin, I've included a brief description of how I have my students organize their practice time and approach making music on their own instrument.

To get maximum benefit from limited practice time, organize time available into three segments, usually of equal duration. (Depending on the needs of the moment, i.e., just prior to a Recital, repertoire comes first.)




Major, minor scales, chords, etc.

Long tone studies

Staccato studies

Rhythm studies

Klose Method

Baermann Part 3, etc.

Opperman Daily Studies

Etude books which put scales, chords, etc. to good use - help solve technical problems, train musicality, etc.

Rose 40 Studies, Books I & II

Rose 32 Studies chamber orchestral excerpts

David Hite - Melodious Studies

Baermann, Jean-Jean, Cavallini

Harold Owen contemporary Etudes

Mozart Concerto

Brahms Sonatas

Weber Concerti & Grand Duo

Bartok, Stravinsky, Arnold, Copland, etc.

All sonata, concerto, chamber music, etc.

Orchestral excerpts

As can be observed from the arrangement of scales, then etudes, then repertoire, each of the three areas is inter-related, and one leads to the next, from left to right. This organizing plan helps the student discipline his approach to the instrument, learn new music, and use practice time efficiently. Also important in this context of how to practice, is the technique of actual problem solving of a mechanical difficulty (i.e., a continual missed note, a wrong rhythm), the student is guided to take the problem out of context and work at it at a much slower tempo; fingering is absolutely solid, then add the articulation to that more secure foundation. In other words, a complex technical passage is simplified to its basic elements, then one factor at a time is added to build technical security. This idea of building on a more secure foundation includes the addition of dynamics and phrasing, which can only be successfully executed after the basic rhythm and articulation are solid.

I have students decide how the music should be phrased as soon as possible and then execute accordingly. we use aslurto show the phrase (a slur sometimes contains the same material as a phrase, but often is only a part of the total phrase). Breath points and phrase endings usually coincide.

A clarinet teacher is often like a doctor whose most important functions are:

1) Diagnosis of the problem;

2) Cure of the problem, i.e., unevennotes4passage - to "even" it up, try same note arrangement in different rhythmsnotes2_2- etc.

This type of approach of problem recognition and solution, should be balanced with positive reinforcement of present strengths and improvements, i.e., praising good habits, sincere effort and musicality, etc. A problem can be called a challenge rather than a problem, etc. One further tip; on a "re-run" lesson, that is, one to be reassigned, have the student write his/her own constructive advice at the top of the etude - it usually works better than the teacher's words saying the same thing. Attitude is critical in teaching, in practice, and in performance. If the student practices with a positive attitude, it will carry over into performance, by "acting"confident, he/she will become more confident, enjoy making music, etc.

I demonstrate for my clarinet students, because I think it's important to hear the concepts we're working on, and I keep a reserve CD collection in the record library in the Music Department, so they can keep an ideal concept of sound, style, etc. in mind as they go back and forth in the practice room. The fundamentals of breath support, embouchure, and hand position are emphasized, and in the case of the the Music Education Specialists, I have them teach me, as if I'm a beginner, and then critique their efforts.

I encourage all my students to get as much performance experience, at UCLA and elsewhere, as possible. Private lessons remain abstract and unrealistic unless put to good use in orchestra, wind ensemble, chamber ensembles, etc.

Most clarinetists will have to take orchestral auditions during their school and professional careers, so we study the orchestral excerpts and how to handle that situation. I often invite clarinet students along to a studio recording date or orchestral rehearsals or concert in which I am performing, to see what the professional world is really like. This can clarify their pre-conceptions about the music world outside UCLA, and help focus their own musical goals.

In closing, I would like to repeat a brief statement of mine included in a recent Student Guide to UCLA Professors.

"In a world of ugly politics, dehumanization, and ecological problems, the arts can be a beautifying factor in our lives. Music particularly can raise our spirits, stir our imaginations and give us a specific raison d´être. By developing our performance ability, our unique communication skill enables musicians to pass on a message of individual artistic expression to our audience. I try to guide my students on this path of artistic perfection."

Often, parents and students ask about my former students. Here is a partial list of some of my former students and their many accomplishments:

  • John Bruce Yeh: Asst. 1st and Eb Clarinetist of the Chicago Symphony
  • Bil Jackson: 1st Clarinetist of the Colorado Philharmonic
  • Ixi Chen: 2nd Clarinetist of the Cincinnati Symphony
  • Gary Bovyer: 1st Clarinetist of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony
  • Kathryn Taylor: Clarinetist of the Borealis Woodwind Quintet
  • Amanda Walker: Clarinet Professor at UC Irvine & member of "Vclarbo Quartet" MM/UCLA
  • Helen Goode: Clarinet Professor at Cal. State Los Angeles & substitute with the LA Philharmonic MM/UCLA
  • Lea Steffens: Bass Clarinetist of the Fresno Philharmonic and LA studio player  DMA/UCLA
  • Barbel Heilmair: Professor at Portland State University
  • David Beaudry: Clarinetist/Bass Clarinetist of the Pasadena Pops Orchestra DMA/UCLA
  • Bret Hembd: BA/UCLA and MM/USC in clarinet
  • Jeff Anderle: BA/UCLA and MM/San Francisco Conservatory in clarinet
  • Robert Zumwalt: BA/UCLA and MM/San Francisco Conservatory in clarinet

Gary Gray and UCLA clarinet students at the end-of-year party at Palamino Resturant in Westwood on June 13, 2007 Gary coaching a student in a masters class at the West Coast Clarinet Congress at Cal State University - Fresno Teaching a masters class in Fresno at the International Chamber Music Workshop July, 2005


The Windplayer Magazine - February 1994

I was giving a master class and the students played well. But when I asked, "What did you have in mind for the phrasing of this?" —most of them had very little in mind. And if they did, it wasn't coming out of the clarinet. It didn't sound sincere. It's so tempting to concentrate on the fingering, that's all some students think about.

Well, that's like going to the one-yard line (in football) and not going over. Learning to phrase in a convincing way is crucial. Otherwise, the audience is not getting anything personal from you and you're not getting the benefit of the art form. If I sit through a whole evening listening to someone playing a master's recital, and at the end I feel I don't know their insides at all, it's been a waste of time.

I have my students decide how the music should be phrased as soon as possible. Sometimes, to make the point, I tease them. I'll ask, "When you go to the ballpark, have you ever heard any singer do this, where they go 'Oh, say can you (long pause). See by the dawn's (gasp) ear—r—rly...' " Of course, the younger students giggle and say, "Nobody does that." I say, "Well, you just did that on the clarinet." You lose the meaning when you chop things up in the wrong places. The structure has to be logical."

A great book to practice phrasing is the Rose "32 Etudes" book. It's almost completely blank of phrase markings and dynamics, so it's like working with a chalkboard. On general hint is that you lead a phrase upward toward its highest point with a crescendo. Phrases are tapered They start softer, grow toward the middle and refine themselves toward the end, taking on a diamond shape. Of course, not every phrase is like this.

gg_closeupIf you're uncertain about a piece, take the clarinet out of our mouth and sing it. The natural way to phrase it is already in your consciousness. We forget we've been listening to music since mother sent us to church or synagogue. I've always found that when I'm really getting a reaction out of people, I've stayed the simplest, the purest and I'm really going back to my roots singing in a church choir and phrasing according to how the voice would do it.

Another thing the voice does naturally is linger on certain words or important notes. That's called rubato. It is what Pavarotti does when he get to a high note or he gets to the important note leading to it. We talked about crescendos into the middle of the phrase. That's where you're going to end up taking a little more time. Arthur Rubenstein, the pianist, was a master of that with Chopin. He would break your heart with that lingering on certain notes.

A student will ask me, "When do I do that?" Well, it gets to be a matter of taste. If you linger too long, it sounds distorted, like you're not respecting Mr. Chopin at all. You have to learn how much.

Now you may think, "What if I play Tchaikovsky; he's got everything written in. It should be easy for me to do it, just filling in what he said to do." Then it's more subtle. Then its how much crescendo do you do? He didn't give you the exact decibel to go to did he? He just said piano to mezzo forte. That's where your experience of knowing Tchaikovsky comes in. In fact, as soon as you get the style in mind, whether the Romantic period, 20th century or whatever, you should be able to tell from the first three intervals. You start to adjust accordingly. The trick is to make it yours, while staying true to the piece.

For more on phrasing, you can also check "The Art of Clarinet Playing" by Keith Stein. I still have not seen any book that's a better how-to. Jack Brymer has also put out a new video. These are two world class experts and both get to talking about how to phrase music. •••

Gary Gray manages to keep active with record, TV and film projects in addition to teaching clarinet at UCLA and playing principal clarinet for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. You can hear him on "The Simpsons," Murder, She Wrote," and in the feature film "Paradise." Next on his calendar is a recording session with jazz great Clare Fischer.

He plays the new silver-key Buffet R-13 B-flat and A clarinets. His mouthpiece is a Borbeck, refaced by Evertt Matson. He also uses Vandoren #5 reeds though, "I'm toying with the new Vandoren V12 #4 1/2."


From an article in Clarinet/Saxophone Journal of Great Britain

by Laurence of Mar- September 1989

Gary Gray, one of the leading American clarinettists, was in England a few weeks ago, and although the pleasure felt on learning that he was to give a workshop at the Royal College of Music was tempered by my failure to dodge official duties on that day, I was delighted that we would be able to have a few hours together during the following week. Even this prospect was threatened, by floodwater on the Bath-London line, but eventually we surmounted all difficulties, having first discovered that where there's a will there may be a permanent way.

Gary is a tall, impressive, not forceful, man, with a deep, rich, Brymerian voice, and even when dressed casually he is discreetly immaculate. There is nothing stiff or pompous about him: like certain other great players he is genuinely modest and is inclined whilst expressing opinions to hesitate to ask if you agree; moreover, he really listens to what you have to say. In his conversation, as in his letters, there is that courtesy and elegance characteristic of earlier days. When he speaks about his teaching there is the unmistakable impression that here is a man who teaches not merely to supplement his income but to share his knowledge and love of music with others. He keeps in touch with his former students, and whilst he is clearly proud of their progress in the profession he gives no hint of feeling proud of his own contribution to their success. He wants the clarinet to the heard, whether or not he is the player. 'The important thing is to keep the clarinet in the forefront.' I was struck by his knowledge of clarinettists from all over the world: he listens to others whenever possible (this, I think, is rather unusual) and he is penetrating but tactful in his assessment of them.

Apart from other commitments, some of which are mentioned below, he is principal clarinet with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, a faculty member of the Aspen Music Festival and a member of staff at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), an institution of some 35,000 students, with about 45 staff in the music faculty.

Gary was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 16 December 1939, the 169th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven. His fathers's family were originally from Britain, as his surname indicates, and his mother's family (Kreis) from Germany. His father was interested in jazz and popular music; his paternal grandfather was a jazz guitar player. On his mother's side the tradition was classical and his maternal uncle, who played clarinet and saxophone, was a great help to the young Gary.

At the age of eleven he began on a Penzel-Mueller clarinet given him by a friend and fell in love with it, which is most refreshing to hear when you consider how many clarinettists took up the instrument because it was the only thing left in the school cupboard. Rosemary Lang taught him very successfully on clarinet whilst he picked up jazz on the saxophone by himself. He plays down his prowess as a schoolboy player but he must have been reasonably accomplished, as he was invited to play the Debussy Rhaposodie 'before I realized how difficult it was.' This invitation turned his thoughts to a career in music, which he studied at Indiana University School of Music. For three years he studied with Henry Gulik before studying with Robert McGinnis, 'a tough, not overly sympathetic teacher, but this made me more resolute, and I am grateful to him. Whenever I need control and technique I always think back to him, and I pass on what he gave me. He has been a big influence on me.'

After taking his bachelor's and master's degrees, in woodwinds, not only single-reeds, he spent a year as assistant clarinet and bass clarinet with the Kansas City Philharmonic, after which he became E-flat, bass and assistant principal (with some saxophone, too) in the St. Louis Symphony. In 1966 he moved to Los Angeles with the idea of working for a PhD but playing took over, and about a year after this move he won UCLA's first Frank Sinatra Musical Performance Award. Sinatra telephoned a Warner Bros. music contractor and told the man to hire him. Gary's first of many films was Bonnie and Clyde. At UCLA, were he took over the jazz ensemble, he became in 1972 that university's first full-time saxophone teacher - 'after all, the saxophone had only been invented about a hundred and thirty years earlier'. He was also to become some years later the first UCLA music faculty member to perform in Royce Hall's chamber music series.

Gary has also been a soloist with, among other orchestras, The San Francisco Symphony, The Indianapolis Symphony, The Kansas City Philharmonic and the Aspen Chamber Symphony; musicians he has worked with include Barbirolli, Bernstein, Levine, Marriner, Mehta, Previn, Schwarz; and he has recorded for such labels as Nonesuch, RCA, Vox and Laurel. In 1986 he recorded with the Royal Philharmonic for Unicorn-Kanchana (DKP CD 9066- compact disc or cassette), this superb recording winning acclaim in many countries. In this journal, Vol 12/4, Michael Bryant described him as a 'first-rate player' and spoke of his 'exemplary performance' of the Rossini Variations in C. The Los Angeles Times critic thought the recording 'terrific...Gray's tender and varied version of the Copland Concerto gives equal prominence to the work's lyric spans and its more obvious jazz elements.' Dennis Morrier in Kiapason wrote of his 'suave harmonies' and

'sensuality that is unequalled...A gifted colourist, he exhibits with rare intelligence his instrument's large palette of sonorities, using startling contrasts, particularly in Lutoslawski's Dance Preludes...Even in the Rossini work...he manages to create an elegiac atmosphere, at times letting certain dramatism brutally erupt in a score where one least expects it. Gary Gray is a musician who deserves our special attention.'

In Which Compact Disc he was said to play

'accurately and without exaggeration. This is what all these intimate works need, the jazzy wit of Copland and the urbane good humour of Arnold benefiting from Gray's subtle artistry. Balance and recording (enhance) the effect of...cultured entertainment.'

This recording was nominated for a 1988 Grammy Award in the category Best Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra - only the second time in Grammy history that a clarinet album has been nominated. His distinguished fellow nominees were Yo-Yo Ma, Itzak Perlman, Vladimir Horowitz and Wynton Marsalis.

His ability to contrast and his remarkable control lead me frequently to turn to this recording. He stresses that 'control is much more important than having the fastest fingers of all time.' There is vague talk of another recording on the Unicorn-Kanchana label and I hope that developments are swift, because there is still much fine music for clarinet, some of it far from widely known, that needs to be freshly recorded on compact disc. At present we are not too badly off for Mozart, Weber and Brahms, and though we should hate to be without them perhaps the time has come for a respite; no matter how keen we are to hear yet more versions of, say, the Brahms sonatas, some of us would prefer to spend our money on something that isn't already on our shelves in a dozen versions. What about Reicha's opp 89 and 107 for clarinet and string quartet?

Apart from his major commitment to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Gary performs with the California Chamber Virtuosi and the Bravura Trio, the other members of the Trio being Milton Thomas on viola and Brooks Smith on piano. 'I was playing the Saint-Saëns with Brooks and he said “You know, Kell didn't play it with me like this.” I thought “God, he played with Kell!” I was taken aback.' It is remarkable how often Kell's name crops up in conversation with clarinettists and we can only wonder how enormous his influence, extensive as it is, might have become had he withdrawn from the scene much later than he did.

'Yes, he has been a great influence on me. I admired him as a man and as a player. Some thought him a bit odd, and I suppose he was unusual in some ways, but I found him to be a man of integrity - and he was very supportive, too. I played the Mozart Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and he undertook a two-hour drive to come and listen to me. I feel I had something in common with him. We got on well and I shared his interest in art. He produced many fine pictures, one of which I have at home.'

Gary naturally strives constantly for the highest standards, but there is nothing contemptuous about his attitude towards amateurs.

'I did the Mozart Quintet recently with an amateur string quartet and although not note perfect it was a very good performance. They brought something special to the music, they responded to me and, you know, we had the audience eating out of the palms of our hands. I really enjoy playing with strings - perhaps I enjoy that the most; good string playing inspires me. I also did The Shepherd on the Rock with an amateur, a singer, but she projected too much; she wouldn't come down. There was no encouragement to the audience to listen keenly for the phrases, because there was just too much volume.'

He wants the audience to be involved: it is not enough that they listen passively.

'Listening can be truly creative. Making music before an audience is for me a three-way affair; I like to relate to the music, the people I'm playing with and the audience. I went to see Ayckbourn's Henceforward in London the other day. The audience were good receivers. I thought, This audience is what we need! It was highly receptive and responsive.'

Did he ever slip into neutral?

'No! That's too dangerous. I like to be comfortable with the music so that I don't have to think about such things as technical difficulties when I'm performing, because I want the music to absorb me; but I look at the other players and at the audience at moments when it seems appropriate - I'm conscious of them as part of the process. But so far as the actual playing goes - no, the auto pilot never takes over!'

Frequently members of an audience will come up to him after a performance and say that he looked as if he had really enjoyed playing. 'I do enjoy playing, and not just the happy music; there's a sense in which it is quite proper to enjoy the darker moments, don't you think?'

His musical tastes are wide. He is an experienced jazz player (a great admirer of Phil Woods and Paul Desmond), enjoys playing music for television and films - 'I wish some of the better film composers wrote for us.' - and enjoys a wide range of classical music. However, he finds it easy to curb his enthusiasm for the serialists and minimalists. Not surprisingly, his students are encouraged to develop their talents along various lines.

'Music can be a tough business and I like to think that if one door is closed to a student then another may be opened. Sometimes, of course, you have to bang hard on the doors - generally they don't open by themselves! If a student is leaning heavily towards classical music I'll encourage him to tackle jazz as well; if jazz is the main interest then I'll encourage him to tackle classical. I think it's good to be as versatile as possible. I encourage my students to improve their sight-reading; some of them are none too keen on it, but I refuse to let them opt out. I want my students to have a career in music even if they can't, for instance, secure an orchestral position, and so I really believe in getting my students to diversify.'

In a hand-out used on his RCM visit he wrote: 'Simply put, I try to help my clarinet students become the best musicians they can be - whatever their career objectives. If the learning process is correctly defined as Guided Growth I try to guide well and stay out of the way when possible.' His positive and enthusiastic approach to teaching clearly brings rewards: Juliette, his wife, who comes from England, says that he can go into a teaching seminar looking tired and emerge looking refreshed.

I was interested to discover that he often used double-lip.

'Well, I sort of go back and forth but I probably play more double-lip than single-lip these days. Using double-lip encourages you to hold rather than bite. Biters find that double-lip helps them to loosen up. I suppose it's fair to say than when you first adopt it the higher notes can be more elusive.'

Gary plays on Buffet R13s (not Prestige), although he said that he had a high regard for the Selmer 10G, which he though 'one of the best clarinets Selmer made. I don't think it's available nowadays. The people in charge ought to consult the players before going too far.' He uses a Robert Borbeck mouthpiece, with modifications by Everett Matson, who does the facings for Harold Wright; he has used this mouthpiece for fourteen years and compares it to a 5RV Lyre. His reeds are Vandoren 5s, 'but I have to touch them up a bit'.

Gary Gray is aware of life beyond music and tries to arrange his work so that he and Juliette can have as much time as possible together, whether or not he is indulging his interest in art and architecture - 'she is usually very patient when I'm taking a lot of time over churches and other buildings.' Juliette works in the film industry and so has some insight into the fast and ruthless sides of modern life but, like Gary, she brings a thoughtful and sensitive approach to a wide range of topics. It was wonderfully refreshing to spend an entire afternoon with such civilized people, whom I hope to see back here before long.