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."