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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

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.

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