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Monday, February 28, 2011

Excerpts and practice materials from Tom Puwalski's Klezmer Book

Here's what you've all been waiting for!!! Materials from Tom Puwalski to learn Klezmer clarinet styles. If you have trouble viewing the material, send me an email and let me know. Have fun and happy practicing!

Tom's introductory notes:

It was a good day at Kasa Klezmer, Guns and Moses (My "E" band) had a minion, and we recorded a tune, Purim Niggun. Thanks To Jennifer Brenner, who emailed me the C lead sheet, I told her I'd transpose it into Bb for her. She has Andy Statman's wonderful DVD and the music was in C, so just a rundown of the technology that is coming into play. Last night Jen got me the 4 pieces of music that were on the DVD, I printed them out. I went to scan them into Photo Score Ultimate, I scanned one corrected a few of the chords that were miss-read, sent it to sebius (music typesetting program) and printed it to disk. I did learn that Photo score will read PDFs so the other 3 tunes I didn't need to scan hard copy. I leaned something. I then when to Band in the box loaded the chords set it on Stun and Guns and Moses was ready  saved the file to Midi, opened it up in Garage Band recoded the clarinet. I was using my Zoom H2 as the Mic/ interface, Bb Leblanc Symphonie, Vandoren M30(i know how much you clarinet geeks crave such info) and my trusty Legere Student reed.

First, Listen to Tom's interpretation:

Second, try it slowly with Tom's back track:

Finally, play it a tempo with Tom's back track:

Interview with Tom Puwalski, retired Army Field Band clarinetist, clinician and author of "The Clarinetists Guide to Klezmer"

Hi Everyone! I am so thrilled to bring this interview with Tom Puwalski to you. He is an amazing player, and someone who has taken interesting steps in his career. Though I haven't stated it outright in the blog, my real interest in doing interviews with clarinetists is to see what paths they take in their career. There are many ways to go, and Tom is an excellent example of how to make a great career as a clarinetist. I hope you enjoy the interview, and look for the supplemental post that has an excerpt from his Klezmer book! 

Tom is the author of "The Clarinetists Guide to Klezmer" and has conducted workshops and clinics on clarinet performance and klezmer music. In addition to numerous recordings with the U.S. Army Field Band, he has released two recordings with Lox & Vodka. He has arranged and recorded music for two documentaries on Jewish-American Life: "And Half A Day On Sunday" and "The Old Days," as well as recording studio music for commercials, the Discovery Channel, and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. He is a member of the International Clarinet Society and a Backun artist clinician.

K.M. Tom, you have an interesting career! When you were studying, did you think that you would have taken this path?

T.P. Yes and No.  I started playing the clarinet at age 9, by 10 I was playing in the family polka band.  The U.S Army Field band was the next logical gig.

K.M. Speaking of studying, give us a quick run down of where you studied, whom you studied with, and degrees you may have gotten along the way.

T.P.  My first clarinet teacher was Alan Lawson, he made me transcribe solos off of Pete Fountain plays the blues and Rose Etudes. I still work and perform with Al. We’re running the first annual Wind synthposium together. I was a long time student of Ignatius Genussa, I learned a ton from him.  He had the most amazing sound of any clarinetist that I’ve ever heard. In 1979 I received a scholarship to Manhattan School of Music, and I couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan so I joined the 26th Army Band that was stationed on Staten Island, right under the Verrazano Bridge. I got to Study with Leon Russianoff, he taught me one of the most important lessons: how to practice and learn to play just about anything.  I didn’t finish my undergrad and Masters degree until after I retired from the Army.  I got my masters from U of MD where I studied with Loren Kitt.  I was also studying with Cecil Gold on my own since retirement.  He is an amazing clarinetist and teacher.

K.M. Why did you choose to study Klezmer music, and did you have any experience playing in this style before you chose to study it more seriously?

T.P.  When I was stationed in NY I used to go into Manhatten for my lessons with Leon on Thursdays to take my lesson and go and do something else musical like a show or a concert. We used to get a lot of free tickets through the USO.  One night I was walking around Lincoln Center and the there was a lot of Chassidic Jews going into Lincoln Center. I walked up to one man and asked what was going on, to which he replied “tonight the worlds greatest clarinetist was giving a concert” to which I replied, “I study with Leon Russianoff, and if the worlds greatest clarinetist was performing tonight he would have said something”. This man looked at me quizzically and asked, “you really have never heard of Giora Fiedman?” and I said no.  He reached into his pocket and handed me his ticket and said, “you need this more than I do.”  That was the first time I heard klezmer music and the first time I ever hear Giora. That night changed my life. I went across the street to Sam Goody and bought 2 Giora cassette tapes, Jewish Soul Music and Nigun of my People. I started my education in klezmer that night.

(There are some great clips of Tom playing klezmer clarinet along with many other great clips on his YouTube page www.youtube.com/user/klezmertom)

K.M. When you had the idea to write “The Clarinetists Guide to Klezmer” how did you begin the process?

T.P.  What I tried to do in “The Clarinetists Guide to Klezmer” was describe to the reader how those of us that play the music learned how to play it.  Actually it’s how everyone who plays any kind of music really well learns how to do it.  You have to learn music by listening to it and trying to imitate the players who you enjoy listening to.   Clarinetists are too glued to the page these days. I also think that if one really wanted to learn any kind of music, a great teacher and $5000 of Ipod downloads would be a better way to learn music than most college music programs.

K.M. Now that you have completed the book writing process, do you have any “words of wisdom” for blossoming authors out there?

T.P.  I’m currently working on my second klezmer book and it’s going to be very different from my first book.  This is going to be a klezmer play along.  Less words, more music. I’ll send you one track for everyone to play.  I want more people to actually try to play klezmer then read about it. As for writing advice, write from the heart, and hold nothing back.

K.M. Dustbuster, an interesting alias. :) Tell us about your work with Bobby B! (If you haven’t checked out Tom’s YouTube page yet, he performs with guitarist Bobby B in MANY different styles of music.)

T.P. Bob is an amazing guitarist and plays with me on many of my klezmer concerts. I started playing with Bob at a bar on Friday evenings, I was playing Soprano Sax and Flute, just seeing if I could go a gig without schlepping a clarinet along. I had a Yamaha wx7 since it came out in 1987 and I really loved the concept. I play sax, so the idea of a sax that can sound like anything was a cool, but the sounds on those old machines were just terrible.  I started doing some research and found out that the guys in Hollywood were using windsyths for lots of recording soundtracks. I found the synthesizers that they were using and adapted them to wind synth use. I started bringing it on gigs with Bobby and played 4-5 tunes a night on it, and after a few gigs I started playing it the whole evening. After a few months I didn’t bring an “analog” instrument ie. Sax, flute or Clarinet on duo gigs anymore. Plus it’s Purple sparkle, and how cool is that.

K.M. We can’t ignore your tenure in the United States Army Field Band. How long were you in the band, and were you ever in any other military band?

T.P.  I auditioned on Ft. Meade at the (now disbanded) First Army band.  Half way through the audition, the enlisted band leader called over to the Field Band and said they had a clarinetist they needed to listen to.  I turned down the audition; I grew up in Baltimore and wanted to go to NYC.  So I went to basic training, and the Armed Forces School of Music. After I had spent a little over a year in NY I got a phone call from the department of the Army informing me that I was the most “transferable” clarinetist in the Army, and they wanted to transfer me to Korea. 20 minutes later I got a call from the Field Band asking me if “I wanted to take that audition now.” So I returned to Baltimore and spent the next 18 years with the Field Band. One of the best gigs anyone could ever have.

K.M. What would you say the highlights of your career in the Field Band were?

T.P.  Two particularly come to mind. We were in France playing the 45th  anniversary of D day. We did a bunch of gigs on the beach for survivors. We were then scheduled to march a parade through the first French town liberated by the Allies, St. Mare Eglese. The Brits were playing their march, Colonel Bogey, the French band was playing the French National Defelay. The Belgians were doing the Belgian Parachutist.  We were playing Black Horse Troop, a really good Sousa march but not of the same gravitas as the music of the other groups.  We went to the drum major and asked to change it to Stars and Stripes, he asked the commander who told him that he’s in charge on the parade field, so he changed it. Now the Field Band is pretty much a concert band, we very rarely marched, and we ended every concert with Stars and Stripes with a huge ritard in the trio, and it was no different on the street. The next day the French newspapers said that the Field band is the only band they've ever seen actually march a precision ritard.  When we turned the corner onto the main street of that town, the French were waving American flags in each window. I had Goosebumps. My grandfather had marched through the same town 45 years earlier as a trumpet player.

The second happened a few years later. I was doing a solo on a concert and just before the announcer was to introduce me, he went to the mic and said, “ladies and gentlemen we are pleased to announce that as of 1500 hrs Zulu Time, all hostilities in the Gulf have Ceased, the war is over. Please welcome tonight’s soloist Staff Sergeant Tom Puwalski”. To perform a solo after that was truly amazing experience. I was really aware that I got to take a bow for all the men and women who engaged in that conflict. There was electricity in the air after that announcement.

K.M. That sounds amazing! Would you recommend service bands to interested clarinetists?

T.P. I sure would, there a fewer and fewer gigs available to live musicians these days. If I had to do it again, I would in a heartbeat. It’s also hard to find an orchestra gig that pays more than E-8 retirement. But when I was an auditioning clarinetist for the Army, I was very surprised how few who auditioned could really do the gig.

K.M. What is your most memorable basic training memory?

T.P.  Cleaning the grease pit while on KP. I have never been that greasy ever.  It was the worse day I’ve spent on planet earth.

K.M. How do you stay motivated to keep developing your clarinet skills?

T.P.  I was one of the lucky ones who managed to retire from an Army band, and still love to play music. I really have always enjoyed using a very “Zen” approach to playing and staying in the moment. I only remember one night in 20 years where I wasn’t really “there” when we hit Stars and Stripes, the other times I was there for every note.

K.M. What is your most memorable musical moment?

T.P.  I teach a klezmer class where I teach people to play klezmer music, by ear.  No written music. At the 2007 ICA convention in Vancouver, I taught that class to over 100 clarinetists.  By the end of the class everybody in the class was marching around the room playing a klez tune with my band.  Getting students to get outside their “boxes” and learn is a real turn on to me.

K.M. If you could magically wake up and play any kind of music, what would you do?

T.P.  I would have given anything to play in Astor Piazzolla’s band

K.M. What are you listening to now?

K.M. Bonus nerdo question! What is your clarinet set-up right now?

T.P. I’m playing on a new prototype Backun mouthpiece with either Legere signature 3.75 reeds, or gonzolez 3.5 Leblanc By Backun Symphonie Bb and A clarinets, with cocobolo bells and barrels. I’m very anxiously awaiting my new cocobolo with gold keys Backun Clarinet, this clarinet looks even cooler than my windsyths.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Interview with Clarinetist Shawn Herndon of the West Point Band

Master Sergeant Shawn Herndon is an active recitalist, teacher and clinician.  He has appeared as a soloist with theWest Point Concert Band and has given recitals and master classes in the United States and Japan.  He is a clarinetist with the Concert Band and member of the Academy Clarinet Quartet.  He has premiered works by Paul Harvey and Collage by Hudson Valley composer Robert Baksa for clarinet quartet and band.  Recently with the Academy Quartet he performed with Mitchell Estrin, former clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic.  A native of Dallas, Texas, he earned a bachelor's degree in clarinet performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a master's degree, also in performance, from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.  His teachers have included Stephen Girko, former principal clarinetist of the Dallas Symphony, and Ron deKant at the University of Cincinnati.  He has also performed with Albany Pro Musica and the Albany Symphony

1. When did you join the military and where have you been stationed?

I joined the Army in 1996 after being a finalist in an audition for the Army Field Band. I had a choice of any of the regular Army bands since I had been a finalist for that audition. I took a job with the 296th Army Band at Camp Zama Japan just outside of Tokyo and was stationed there for 1.5 years before winning the job with the West Point Band in 1998.

2. Where were you before you came to the military?

Cincinnati, OH. I had finished grad school at CCM in 1995 and taught public school in Dayton, OH for one year before I joined the military.

3. What is your favorite basic training memory?

We had a couple of guys that had been caught goofing off right before we were all marched to dinner. The drill sergeant told them to get down and start doing some exercises as part of their punishment. After eating, we were all giving a head count and were a couple of people short. We all looked up the hill from where we had marched and those 2 guys had stayed through our dinner, working themselves to muscle failure waiting to be released from their punishment so they could go eat! I still remember both of them limping and running the best they could as the drill sergeant screamed for them to get into the dining facility to eat!!

4. What did your family and friends think when you joined the military?

They were happy I could get employed as a musician and proud as my dad had served in the Army and my brother with the Navy.

5. What has been your most memorable clarinet moment in the military?

Sorry, but I have more than one:

Performing with a group of musicians from the Japanese Central Army Band (their version of Pershing's Own) on a chamber recital.

Performing the Artie Shaw clarinet concerto with the West Point Band at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA

Performing with Larry Combs at the 2003 Clarfest as part of the West Point Clarinet Quartet.

Creating the West Point Clarinet Summit in 2006, featuring the section and band.

6. On an average week, what do you do at work?

Rehearse with the Concert Band, organize and manage the clarinet section as the Section Leader (a personnel management position) and work in the operations section for the Concert Band.

7. Would you encourage interested clarinetists to join the military?

Absolutely! It's a great paying gig with excellent benefits and great job security first and foremost. The Army pays student loans off (one of the reasons I was initially interested) and does it within 3 years. So essentially a person could do one hitch in the Army, get out of debt, gain professional experience and move onto something else. Musically, it is a job that will be as much or little one wants to make of it. The musicians in my group are extremely talented.

8. What is the weirdest thing you do at your job?

March halftime shows at the home Army football games as well as the Army/Navy game.

9. What are your after military plans?

That's a good question! I have many interests in addition to playing clarinet and won't limit myself to one career focus my entire life. I know the clarinet will always be a part of what I do in the future.

10. Do you have any regrets about joining the military?

The West Point Band does not have strings and I do miss playing with strings.

11. It seems like everyone was in a military band at some point, and there's always that gossip about which great symphony players were in the military. Who is someone you know that was a military musician at some point?

My teacher and mentor Steve Girko. I studied with him when he was principal with the Dallas Symphony and he really got me thinking about a gig with the military based on his time with the West Point Band. I also became friends with Larry Combs after grad school who was in the West Point Band as well.

12. What is the number one question you get asked by the general public after a concert? (For example: so you are IN the army?)

Usually it's about the uniform. The West Point Band uniforms are different from all the other Army uniforms and specific to our organization.

13. Do you feel any more or less patriotic than you were before being in a military band?

I'd say when I first got into the band, it was more about it just being a gig regardless of the fact that it happened to be a military band. As I've gotten older and the job has turned into a career, I have become quite proud to serve my country in this capacity.

14. What is a question you would ask each other in an interview?

Is having a job as a musician more, less or as you expected it would be?

15. What is your favorite note on the clarinet?

Low E

16. What is your most memorable musical moment?

See answers to #5

17. If you could magically wake up and play any kind of music, what would you do?


18. What are you listening to now?

Rob Zombie, Korn, Three Days Grace, Lacuna Coil.

Nerdo question... What is your clarinet set-up right now?

Buffet R-13 silver keys
Hawkins R facing MP
Vandoren Optimum ligature
Rico Reserve Classic #4+ and #4.5 reeds

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What I am listening to today.... Laço Tayfa

Listening to Choro lately is reminding me of other places where clarinet is super cool. Here is a video of the Turkish group Laço Tayfa, with clarinetist Hüsnü Selendirici. This particular group combines Turkish folk styles with jazz and other world music styles. I hope you enjoy it!!!

In Turkish music, the G clarinet is very common. Reading through some information on the internet, it seems that this clarinet is popular because it is easier to bend notes (it is in Albert System, which most of you know is a favored clarinet for Dixieland clarinetists). I found this cool sight if you are interested in reading more about the clarinet in this style of music. Gypsy Clarinet

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Choro to practice if you're bored with Rose Studies today...

So, It is not easy to read... but if you want a better copy, shoot me an email and I will send you a PDF! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What I'm listening to today!

I received a mysterious package the other day from our good friend Sara Tamburro full of Choro Music! It inspired me to do a little internet snooping for the only group that I know of that plays choro music, The Choro Ensemble (with clarinetist Anat Cohen) which plays in Manhattan. Most clarinetists know of Anat, but if you don't, get on board! She's a great clarinetist and this video is a lot of fun. Wait through the intro, it's worth it!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Interview with Clarinetist Tim Sutfin of Pershing's Own

I know Tim Sutfin because he was in the West Point Band with me for a year. He's now transferred down to the Pershing's Own in D.C. He's one of the best clarinetists I've played with, and I had fun reading his responses! Happy Reading!!!

K.M. When did you join the military and where have you been stationed?

T.S. I enlisted in the Army August 6th, 2008. I was stationed with the band at West Point until April 2010 when I moved to The United States Army Band in Washington DC.

K.M. Where were you before you came to the military?

T.S. Prior to winning the West Point audition, I was second clarinet in the Oklahoma City Philharmonic from 2005-2008. I was also teaching freshman music history at Oklahoma City University.

K.M. What is your favorite basic training memory?

T.S. I don't know if it qualifies as being a favorite memory, but the story I like to tell the most is when I was punched in the face by a Drill Sergeant during Level 1 Modern Army Combatives Certification. Obviously I'm not very good at dodging punches since I was hit right in the nose, briefly blacked out, and came to in a massive pool of blood spilling out of my face. Oh the things you do to play clarinet for a living. . . .

K.M. What did your family and friends think when you joined the military?

T.S. My mom took the news pretty hard, she worries about the smallest things, so obviously watching her son go off to basic training was a big shock. My dad was proud of me for wanting to take on the challenge, but I am convinced both of my parents still have no idea what I actually do for a living. My friends are mostly all musicians, so they all understood exactly how awesome it was to win a job in a premiere military band.

K.M. What has been your most memorable clarinet moment in the military?

T.S. Performing at Avery Fisher Hall to a sold out audience.

K.M. On an average week, what do you do at work?

T.S. The normal week at TUSAB consists of concert band rehearsals/concerts as well as providing extra support for funerals and ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and around the DC area. I am also currently involved with the planning committee of the first annual National Collegiate Solo Competition, be sure to get your application in by March 18th!!

K.M. Would you encourage interested clarinetists to join the military?

T.S. Absolutely. Deciding to audition for the West Point job was the best decision I ever made in my musical career.

K.M. What is the weirdest thing you do at your job?

T.S. Definitely being an observer on the drug tests. There is something very odd about having to watch your coworkers pee in a cup. . .

K.M. What are your after military plans?

T.S. I can't say I have post-Army plans yet, but I can pretty much guarantee they will involve music in some fashion.

K.M. Do you have any regrets about joining the military?

T.S. No. This job has offered me more opportunities than I ever had while I was working in Oklahoma.

K.M. It seems like everyone was in a military band at some point, and there's always that gossip about which great symphony players were in the military. Who is someone you know that was a military musician at some point?

T.S. Larry Combs, Steve Girko. . . I know there are others but my mind is drawing a blank right now.

K.M. What is the number one question you get asked by the general public after a concert? (For example: so you are IN the army?)

T.S. While I was at West Point the number one question always was, "Are you a cadet?" and now in DC I usually get, "Are you in the Old Guard. In case you are wondering, the answer to both questions is no.

K.M. Do you feel any more or less patriotic than you were before being in a military band?

T.S. I feel exponentially more patriotic. After spending 2.5 months in basic training with young kids about to go risk their lives for their country, you can't help but feel more proud to be serving America. Also, seeing the looks on peoples faces when you play Stars and Stripes Forever in front of the Capitol Building, or Washington Monument always gets me a little choked up.

K.M. What is a question you would ask each other in an interview?

T.S. How do you stay motivated to keep developing your clarinet skills?

K.M. What is your favorite note on the clarinet?

T.S. Throat A, with 0xx 0xx +C key for resonance :)

K.M. What is your most memorable musical moment?

T.S. Definitely performing Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time at a rich lawyer's house in Oak Park IL. There were about 200 people crammed into the living room, and after the performance a woman came up to me with a tears in her eyes, grabbed my hand, and just said, "Thank you."

K.M. If you could magically wake up and play any kind of music, what would you do?

T.S. I would be touring with my favorite band Muse.

K.M. What are you listening to now?


K.M. Bonus nerdo question... What is your clarinet set-up right now?

T.S. Buffet R-13 clarinets, Vandoren M30-13 mouthpiece, BG revelation ligature, Vandoren V-12 #4 reeds.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What I am listening to today, Claudia Quintet and Pachora... Clarinetist Chris Speed

I met the guys from Claudia Quintet when I was in undergrad. I went to a very small school, but fortunately had some very hip teachers that brought groups like the Claudia Quintet in to talk to students. Chris Speed is the clarinetist with the group, and he also plays tenor saxophone. He has another group that I really like called Pachora. You've got your own Google machine... so give them a Google when you get a chance. The guys in these bands have tons of projects aside from the two I've just mentioned.

So here's two samples:

1: Claudia Quintet video:

2: Pachora sampler on Amazon (track 2, Paidushko, is my favorite):

Pachora on Amazon

Happy listening!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Interview with Sara Tamburro... Clarinet in Brazilian Music and Music Education

Sara currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA where she is a substitute teacher in several school districts. She also teaches clarinet and music theory lesson privately. Sara is happily married to Brian (former musician gone computer nerd!) and they have two dogs, Rufus and Pnut.

Check out Amigos do Ohio on Facebook! I highly recommend the third video on their page "March Roda de Choro-Carinhoso."
K.L.M. - Where did you go to school, and what degrees did you get?
S.M.T. - Youngstown State University, Bachelors in Music Ed-2002; YSU, M.M. Clarinet Performance-2004, random continuing education classes at Akron and the University of Virginia.
K.L.M. - We have a common teacher, Bob Fitzer. He was such an inspiration to many of his students. Tell me, what is your favorite “Bob moment” musical or non-musical.
S.M.T. - Well, there are many “Bob moments” from which to choose. This is difficult. I suppose one of the most memorable was more of a lesson, rather than a moment. One thing that always sticks with me is that no one can ever take the time spent on honing your clarinet fundamental skills away from you. Even if you don't utilize the skills for 30 years, you will always remember how to do it the right way, you just have to retrain your dumb puppy fingers.
K.L.M. - You have taught a lot since graduating. Give me a run-down of where you’ve taught, and what grade/subject you taught.
S.M.T. - Rundown, check.
2005-Powell Valley Middle/High School, Virginia, 7-12 choir.
2006-MusicAlliance Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, 4-8 band.
2007-2009-Akron Public Schools, Akron, Ohio 6-8, general music & choir.
2010-Gateway School District. Monroeville, PA, K-4 general music, adapted autistic music.
2010-Kiski Area School District, 7-8 chorus, general music, 6th grade elementary chorus.
2009-present-Substitute teacher-pretty much any subject.
K.L.M. - Since I’ve known you, you have played in many different kinds of groups. Most recently you’ve played with Amigos do Ohio Choro Club. Tell me, how did you get involved with this group and what is the music like?
S.M.T. - Yes, the Ohio Choro Club. One of the coolest music projects I've ever been involved in. I have a couple of friends that went to Brazil to study choro music. They came back to Ohio and wanted to start a group. Clarinet and flute are really popular in that style of music, just like music here in America (ha). I heard a couple recordings of the music and agreed to play with them! It is so much fun to play.
K.L.M. - By the way, I just watched one of the Amigos do Ohio Choro Club videos on Facebook, your tone is LOVELY. You were trained by an orchestral clarinetist (a Marcellus trained orchestral clarinetist, none the less). When you play in this group, do you adapt the way you play or is it the same as you would play in a more traditional setting for the clarinet? 
S.M.T. - The clarinet fundamentals are all the same. In fact, I really had to go back to the fundamentals (scales, arpeggios, etc.) to be able to play this music. Apparently the Brazilians like to play in E major a lot. I suppose I take a more “jazzy” approach to the style and I mess around with articulation a lot. It is funny and happy.
K.L.M. - Just for my one or two Brazilian readers out there (Viva!)... are there any actual Brazilians in this Ohio Choro Club? If not, who came up with the idea, and how did you all prepare to play this music?
S.M.T. - No one in the group is Brazilian. Two of the guys (Eric and Jason) studied in Brazil. Eric studies 7-string guitar and Jason studied pandeiro. Eric is pursuing his doctorate in ethnomusicology, and choro music is the focus of his studies. He decided to start a group back in Ohio. Eric brought back a ton of choro music from Brazil so we listened and listened and listened to emulate the style. We also had weekly reading (drinking) sessions and just plowed through charts. Eventually we were able to play a couple tunes. Jon (another original member) plays mandolin and cavaquinho. One of the main features of this style of music is the social aspect. In Brazil, they often have “Roda de Choro”, where musicians gather around a table and play songs, usually from memory. I just learned that the really hard-core choro enthusiasts scoff at players that use charts. Eric started a “Roda de Choro” on the first Tuesday of the month in Kent, OH, and it is still being held every month!
K.L.M. - Okay, so you teach a lot and David Yandl just described some ideas he had about music education. Do you have anything to add to what he said, or any of your own ideas?
S.M.T. - I enjoyed David's thoughts about music education! The only thought I have at this moment is that when you are teaching, never lower your standards. Students will only achieve what you expect them to achieve. If you are lazy, they are lazy. 
K.L.M. - I know you listen to a lot of popular music. Why do you like to listen to it?
S.M.T. - Feel.
K.L.M. - Do you think popular music is a good tool for helping teach music?
S.M.T. - Yes. Popular music can aid in developing a sense of time and tight rhythm. (I love tight rhythm.) Also, I think it is one of the neatest ways to help students recognize harmonic progression. 
K.L.M. - What is your favorite note on the clarinet?
S.M.T. - Probably open g. You can tell a lot by your open g.
K.L.M. - What is your most memorable musical moment?
S.M.T. - I don't think this has happened yet.
K.L.M. - If you could magically wake up and play any kind of music, what would you do?
S.M.T. - I would sing in a killer country group.
K.L.M. - What are you listening to now?

Thanks Sara!!!! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Excellent opportunity for clarinetists! A solo competition for instrumentalists enrolled in college UP TO AGE 27!!


Interview with clarinetist David Yandl

Hi Everyone! Last night I talked with one of my best friends, clarinetist David Yandl. He's got some great ideas about music education, and I feel inspired to improve my own teaching style after talking with him!

An active clarinetist and educator in the Chicago area, David Yandl has performed with the Millennium Chamber Players, Chicago Classical Philharmonic, Concertante di Chicago and Lira Chamber Orchestra. Recent highlights include a live broadcast of Mozart’s “Gran Partita” with the Millennium Chamber Players on 98.7 WFMT and a six-week run as reed soloist in the Jeff Award-winning Chicago premiere of “Tomorrow Morning” at Victory Gardens.  David was also a semi-finalist in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition (2006) as a member of the Simpatico Quartet.  He has served on the faculties of DePaul University, DePaul Community Music, The Latin School of Chicago and St. Edward School, and his students consistently earn competitive chairs in youth orchestras and honor bands throughout the area.

David holds a bachelor’s degree, with high honor, and a master’s degree with distinction from DePaul University, where he studied with Julie DeRoche, Larry Combs, Wagner Campos and John Bruce Yeh.

What David is listening to now:

K.L.M. - Where did you go to school?

D.J.Y. - DePaul BM 05, MM 07

K.L.M. - That is a great school for clarinet (I am biased, of course), who did you study with while you were there?

Julie DeRoche, John Bruce Yeh, Wagner Campos, Larry Combs

K.L.M. - Name one thing you took away from each teacher.

D.J.Y. - Julie DeRoche - Julie taught me how to make a characteristic sound.
John Bruce Yeh - He really made a sense of legato "click" for me by teaching me to emulate singers.
Wagner Campos - It is hard to name just one thing. I always felt really motivated to practice after lessons with Wagner. He was really inspirational.
Larry Combs - Larry definitely refined my sense of rhythm and knows all of the repertoire so well.

K.L.M. - What would you find interesting to learn from other clarinetists?
D.J.Y. - Nothing, other clarinet players are boring. :P

K.L.M. - What do you listen to on the way to work?
D.J.Y - A lot of house music. I also listen to classical music, but I rarely listen to clarinet players on a regular basis.

K.L.M. - House music? That’s interesting... why do you listen to it?
D.J.Y. - It’s definitely fun and high-energy. And I really like music that has a dance feel.

K.L.M. - Do you think that you look for those qualities in classical music too?
D.J.Y. - Definitely. And secretly, I sometimes practice over house music if I think that there’s a track that has a tempo or feel that will help me learn an excerpt.

K.L.M. - example?
D.J.Y. - Sometimes Mozart. Because it has traditional harmonies, it’s easy to play it over pop music. I think Mozart was the pop musician of his day in some ways.

K.L.M. - You are not the first person to tell me that you practice like this. Do you think Generation X’ers and Y’ers plays Mozart differently than the previous generations of clarinetists?
D.J.Y. - Probably, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s just another way to connect with our natural sense of rhythm. I wish I could get my students to connect with their sense of rhythm in the same immediate way when playing the clarinet as they do when they listen to pop music. That was one thing Larry Combs said to me that really made sense.

K.L.M. - You teach a lot, what are some changes you would like to see in music education?
D.J.Y. - I think we can learn from other fields, like visual art. Everyone freely expresses him/herself visually (by drawing and painting) from a very young age. However, people who study arts education have noted that most kids stop drawing when they reach adolescence because they become self-aware. Critical thinking skills start to develop and adolescents begin to realize the art they create doesn’t resemble the real objects they see. Although their artwork is no different than it was before, it now appears childish to their critical adolescent eyes. As a result, most adults simply feel they "can't draw" and often feel self-conscious when asked to do so.
I have observed a similar trend, not often discussed by music educators, among adults who played an instrument when they were younger. Many people played an instrument (clarinet being a popular choice in school band programs), but stopped somewhere around the 7th grade because they felt that they were terrible performers. In reality, they had certainly improved since their first years. However, their adolescent ears, suddenly more critical, made them self-conscious of the squeaks and harsh sounds the clarinet can make.
I teach a lot of beginners, and my hope is that they learn fundamental techniques really early on, so as they grow they will know how to create a mature sound that develops with them (just as their use of spoken language develops with age). I want my students to start off on the right foot but also to feel comfortable using their bodies to try new things without being afraid of looking or sounding foolish; it's better that they get all their squeaks out when they’re young. With fundamental techniques in place during the first few years, they will express themselves confidently as adolescents and adults. We all naturally make this transition to adulthood with language; our ability to express ourselves verbally expands so that we can communicate our adult thoughts. I would like my students to do the same as musicians, unhindered by a lack of technique, bad habits or faulty equipment. 
Growing up I learned many instruments but later set them aside to focus on clarinet. Now when I pick up a violin, I enjoy playing it for a few minutes but get frustrated because although I have a mature appreciation of music, I lack the technique to produce it on a violin. When I pick up my clarinet, I feel like I can express something that reflects me. I think what a lot of adults experience is similar to what I feel when I pick up a violin. As a result, many people assume that the ability to play a musical instrument is an inherent gift because their early musical instruction was lacking.

K.L.M - Can I assume that you really like teaching?
D.J.Y. - Yes, but it’s a lot of work... with younger students, I try to take a look at the bigger picture and consider how what I am doing contributes to their well-being and development.

K.L.M. - Do you have a teacher that really inspired you at an early age
D.J.Y. - I didn’t have a clarinet teacher until I was 17. A lot of what I feel about teaching music comes from my high school art teacher. She had a really great way of delivering constructive criticism, and developed a strong work ethic that translates to being a professional musician.

K.L.M. - You seem like an over-achiever, is that true? :)
D.J.Y. - That seems like a judgmental word.

K.L.M. - Okay, basically all musicians have to be, it’s a tough field. Were you always “gifted and talented” for lack of a better term?
D.J.Y. - Yes I was. I was valedictorian, I loved school and I worked really hard. I am also kind of a perfectionist... and unfortunately for me that sometimes means procrastination. I want my effort to be perfect, and it may not be the perfect time to undertake a project, so it can lead to procrastination

K.L.M. - This is very personal information, but I don’t think anyone that would read this blog would disagree with what you’re saying. Do you find that most musicians follow that pattern?
D.J.Y. - Yes, but I am always surprised by the variety of personalities that are in our business.

K.L.M.- Okay, so what is your favorite note on the clarinet?
D.J.Y. - Clarion C

K.L.M. - What is your most memorable music moment?
D.J.Y. - Probably performing New York Counterpoint on my graduate recital.

K.L.M. - If you could magically wake up and play any kind of music, what would you do?
D.J.Y. - TANGO or something Latin and improvisatory.