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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview with clarinetist, Timothy Phillips


Happy New Year, Clarineticus Readers! 

It has been awhile since my last posting, and I am coming back with an interview of one of my favorite people to follow on Facebook. I have never met Timothy Phillips in person, but we are friends on Facebook and we share a love of good articulation. Dr. Phillips is a professor, performer, clinician, radio show host, Facebook aficionado, and father. With so many hats to wear, I was curious about his thoughts on a few topics that I haven't covered in clarinetist interviews before. 

Interspersed throughout the posting are flyers for clarinet days the Dr. Phillips will be a part of. I hope some Clarineticus readers live nearby and can catch one of these great events!


Thanks Dr. Phillips!!



Timothy Phillips is Associate Professor of Clarinet at the John M. Long School of Music at Troy University in Troy, Alabama. Since joining the Troy University faculty in 2006, he founded Troy University Clarinet Day, which brings high school, college, and professional clarinetists together at the John M. Long School of Music for performances and master classes each spring. Timothy is also creator and host of a weekly program on Troy University Public Radio WTSU called “Clarinet Corner,” Social Media Editor of the International Clarinet Association, and a Buffet Group USA Performing Artist.
Timothy has served as President of the Higher Education Division of the Alabama Music Educators Association and he has performed at previous AMEA Conferences. He performed at ClarinetFest® 2011 in Los Angeles, California, ClarinetFest® 2010 in Austin, Texas, and ClarinetFest® 2008 in Kansas City, Missouri. He presented his paper, “The Longing Voice: Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” at ClarinetFest® 2004 in College Park, Maryland. He also performed at the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors National Conference in Gainesville, Florida in 2011 and the College Music Society National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in 2008. As soloist, he has performed with Concerto Avenna in Warsaw, Poland and with the Troy University Symphony Band, Troy University Concert Chorale, Troy University Percussion Ensemble, University of Illinois Symphonic Band, and University of Illinois Summer Band. In 2011, he premiered works as soloist with the International Clarinet Choir, organized by the Träumerei Clarinet Ensemble in New York City and with the Troy University Symphony Band on their first-ever international tour in Vancouver and Whistler, Canada. Timothy is former principal clarinetist of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and he has performed with Sinfonia da Camera in Illinois. An active proponent of music by living composers, he has commissioned works from Jorge Montilla, Jeff Brooks, James David, Scott McAllister, and Bill Douglas, and he has premiered works by Alain Mayrand, Traci Mendel, Don Bowyer, and Carl Vollrath.
In 2011 and 2009, he performed and taught at Clarimania, a bi-annual event held at the Karol Lipinski Academy of Music in Wrocław, Poland. In 2013, he will return to this event to teach a master class and to present a lecture-recital entitled “American Works for Clarinet and Percussion” with his colleague T. Adam Blackstock. In 2010, Timothy served on the jury for the International Woodwind Instruments Clarinet Competition in Warsaw, Poland with clarinetists Florent Héau, Ludmila Peterkova, and Nicolas Fargeix. Timothy has also served as a judge for the University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium Young Artists Competition in 2010 and the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra Guild Concerto Competition in 2008 and 2006.

Timothy completed the Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in clarinet performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds the Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His principal teachers included: J. David Harris, Daniel Silver, Bil Jackson, and Philip Aaholm. Timothy received the Phi Kappa Phi Artist Award from the Troy University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi and the Albert Austin Harding Award from the University of Illinois Bands.

Timothy lives in Troy, Alabama with his wife Katrina, daughter Violet, white fluffy dog Kaspar, and fat cat Benny.


KM: How do you balance your life when you have varied responsibilities and goals?

TP: Good question. It has never been easy. And I’d say I’ve done it differently in different stages of my life. When I was an undergraduate, a very wise clarinet professor told me that if I don’t make clarinet practicing a top priority, academic paperwork could easily take over my life. He suggested setting time aside for practicing everyday, no matter what. This was brilliant advice… because it’s true: academic paperwork can really consume your life if you let it.

When I was a graduate student, and at the very start of my career, I think my life was somewhat unbalanced in that I let work be my top priority, always. Luckily for me, I have a wife who is also a clarinetist, so she was very understanding during those times. And she was always there for me when it was time for the work to stop. It helped that she was inside her own tornado of work too.

Now that we have a child, family time has become totally nonnegotiable. I take care of my school/teaching work during the day as much as possible, and I’m not nearly as available in the early evenings. And I have cut back on some playing gigs. For example, my wife and I left our positions as co-principal clarinetists of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra during her pregnancy. (You must understand, to play in that orchestra required a two-hour drive, one-way just to get to rehearsal. That was an eight-hour commitment after school ended on weekdays. After a day of teaching, it could be very taxing. And now with a child at home, there’s no way we can do it.) So, now all my performing focus is on my recitals and other periodic concerts. I wouldn’t trade the time with my daughter for anything, so this was definitely the right decision for us.

But, now as it has always been, I have to make time to maintain and improve my own playing. Usually I can work that into my schedule in the morning or during the day. And occasionally I can practice after the little one has gone to sleep in the evening. I know it will only get more challenging to maintain this balance.


KM: How do you prioritize "marketing yourself" with practice time, performing, and your full time job as a professor of clarinet?

TP: Well, luckily the university I work for does a very nice job of marketing for me. We have honor band festivals where I can teach and perform and I am frequently given the opportunity to travel to do these things as well. And my part-time responsibility of hosting “Clarinet Corner” on Troy University Public Radio helps me to stay connected with the clarinet world. I have also found that Facebook can be a very useful tool for connecting with colleagues and students. The best part about Facebook is letting others see that you’re a normal person, that you have flaws, and that your entire life isn’t about the clarinet. Of course, they get to hear about my clarinet adventures too. But, I think it’s nice to be able to show people that at the end of the day, we’re all faced with a similar set of human circumstances.


KM: Do you think that more should be done in music schools to prepare students for what their life as a musician might be like? 

TP: That would be a good idea, but I know in actuality, students are already so busy preparing themselves musically; it could be difficult to add more to the curriculum. Probably a time when I learned most about what life as a musician would be like was when I was in graduate school. I had some excellent assistantships and other jobs that helped me to learn about how to survive.

Honestly, I think the biggest problem perhaps is the fact that universities and conservatories are graduating far more people each year than the job market can handle. So, there are many, many qualified musicians who never get the jobs they were wanting. Many people hoping to go into academia can’t even get interviews. Therefore, it’s important for people to be flexible with their goals, willing to teach, and creative when it comes to making performance opportunities for themselves.


KM: Do you have any advice for clarinetists searching for faculty positions?

TP: For tenure track faculty positions, most schools are looking for someone who has completed their doctorate. And they want candidates who have received good grades in school. Beyond that, they’re looking for excellent players who have made the most of their surroundings. As a music faculty member who plays the clarinet, there are so many things one might be asked to do: teaching a theory class maybe, going into schools to recruit, serving on committees, organizing events, maybe even reorganizing curriculums. Universities are looking for smart, optimistic people who have lots to offer outside the clarinet studio.


KM: How did you become a Buffet Artist?

TP: I think for me, becoming a Buffet Artist had a lot to do with Troy University Clarinet Day. I began this event six years ago and it has grown steadily every year. It has been common for me to invite Buffet Artists as my guest artists. Because of this artist connection, the fact that I play Buffet clarinets, and the fact that I’ve often asked Buffet to bring clarinets to my event for people to try, many Buffet Artists suggested to both me and Buffet that I should be a Buffet Artist. Luckily, the Buffet Group USA agreed.


KM: Do you have any projects coming up?

TP: Always! This spring, I will be rehearsing for my recital (American Works for Clarinet and Percussion) at Clarimania 2013 in Wrocław, Poland. This is an excellent bi-annual clarinet festival that features many of the world’s finest clarinetists and clarinet teachers. This year, I will be there with Florent Héau, his great French clarinet quartet Les Bons Becs, Isralei clarinetist Shirley Brill, festival coordinator, conductor, and clarinetist Jan Jakub Bokun, and many others. I’m also hoping to do a few other concerts in Europe while I’m there, but I’m still working on those plans. Also, this spring I will be a guest artist for Tennessee Tech’s Clarinet Day and I will host Troy University Clarinet Day. And I’m in the initial planning stages for my recital at ClarinetFest 2013 in Assisi, Italy this summer. Additionally, I have many guests and shows planned for upcoming episodes of “Clarinet Corner” including Wenzel Fuchs, Joe Eller, Julian Bliss, and Rachel Yoder, just to name a few.


KM: What kind of reeds do you like to play?

TP: I find that different reeds tend to work best with different mouthpiece/ligature combinations. In the past, I have played Vandoren V12 reeds. For a while I played Gonzalez reeds. At the moment, I play Rico Reserve Classic reeds. They seem to work best with my current set-up.




KM: What is your favorite color of plastic clarinet?

TP: Definitely red, because variations of red and black are the colors for both Troy University and my high school. But I’ve always liked a clear clarinet. It’s a special kind of exotic mixed with disgusting.



KM: What are you listening to now?

TP: At this moment, I’m listening to film scores on Pandora. Don’t you just love internet radio? My office is conveniently located near the practice rooms at Troy University, so I often use my Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling headphones and calm, yet inspiring film scores from Pandora to help me to focus on non-clarinet playing tasks. Outside of this moment, lately I’ve been listening to Robert Spring’s new CD “Dry Heat” (which I’ll feature on the radio just before Troy University’s Clarinet Day this spring), Evan Christopher’s most recent “Clarinet Road” CD… I think it’s Volume 3, and when I’m driving my car, I listen to everything from country music, to Kelly Clarkson, to Snoop Dogg, to oldies.


KM: If you could wake up and play any kind of music at the highest level, what would you play?

TP: I think I’d play jazz on the piano. Wouldn’t that be cool? 


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