Friday, June 19, 2009

World Clarinet Alliance

The World Clarinet Alliance (WKA) is website dedicated to connecting the clarinet community on a global scale. Created by Mike Getzin in 2000, this site serves as a bulletin board to share, promote, and chronicle clarinet-related news and events. The site is comprised of several pages, but the core of WKA is the home page where current events are announced. Highly infused with photographs, the home page does take a few moments to load, requiring a bit of patience when first opening.

WKA is a great source for information and details on workshops, conferences, and festivals--Getzin has conveniently organized a cumulative listing of all past, present and future events. Check out the "Hot News" section where you can quickly scan current (and older) news and headlines to keep up with events across the world. Other pages on the site direct you to clarinet premieres, music industry links, and clarinet choir news. In remembrance of those who have passed away, the "In Memoriam" section pays tribute to performers, teachers, and composers who will be sorely missed in the clarinet world. For those experiencing problems with accessing pages due to Java problems, Getzin constructed a Website Directory that allows viewers to bypass the technical interference. WKA contains a large amount of content and is frequently updated, so check back often to keep informed!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Clarinet Equipment (June 2009 column)

In this column, we decided to explore resources on the Internet dealing with clarinet equipment. With a seemingly insurmountable number of web sites selling every type of mouthpiece, barrel, and clarinet imaginable, it can be hard to find honest information that will help you to make an informed decision. We have compiled a list of sites that offer more than just a selection of merchandise. Specific web addresses can be found at the end of this column.

Finding the right mouthpiece to match your setup can be quite challenging. The mouthpiece alone greatly affects sound quality and effort needed to produce optimal results. Some of us look for a mouthpiece that lends flexibility while retaining resonance, while another player searches for the one that will let the sound soar over the orchestra. Choosing the right mouthpiece is not a simple process, and several web sites can help you understand which make and model best suit your needs.
Although we do not wish to endorse any particular manufacturer, several expert craftsmen have gone above and beyond by using their websites to share knowledge about mouthpiece acoustics and design. Brad Behn's site discusses mouthpiece nomenclature and selection, the manufacturing process, and the specific qualities which made Chedeville and Kaspar models so highly sought after. Information on Clark Fobes' site includes articles on Frank Kaspar, intonation, and mouthpiece nomenclature. For a comparison of Chedeville-style mouthpieces, visit Terry Sterkel's personal site, and for an extensive list of links to tip opening charts, check out the "Keepers" thread at listed below.

Several sites deal with the selection of a clarinet and its subsequent care and maintenance.'s "Equipment" section, accessible from the homepage, is a great starting point for advice about care and maintenance, with information about cleaning clarinets, oiling the bore, and basic repair. The "How old is my..." section contains lists from a variety of sources that can help to determine the manufacture date and other information about a clarinet using the serial number (particularly useful when buying used instruments). Clicking on "Has anyone heard of..." takes you to an extensive listing of trade names that may be found on clarinets, matching them with their parent companies. "What to buy a Beginner?" is a section devoted to answering that very question, with input from several professional clarinetists.

Several other sites provide information about older clarinets. Nophachai Cholthitchanta, professor of clarinet at the University of Arkansas, is a collector and researcher of 18th and 19th-century clarinets and has a website detailing the contents of his collection. Here, you will also find links to replica period clarinet makers and major clarinet collection museums. Sherman Friedland frequently answers questions on his blog from readers looking for answers about a clarinet they have found. And on the personal pages of Bill Fogle, you can find excellent photos of vintage clarinet advertising artwork and manufacturing marks.

Repair technician Steve Sklar's is a wide-ranging, detailed site that encompasses nearly every subject related to clarinet equipment. The site has pages about serial number identification, mouthpiece specifications, care and maintenance, and much more.

Tom Ridenour is another expert who has contributed articles and videos about clarinet equipment. His articles include "How to Select a New Clarinet" (a fantastic article for first-time buyers), "The Grenadilla Myth" (about the advantages and disadvantages of various woods and hard rubber clarinets), and "You Picked it, You Play it" (about the importance of having the right equipment in combination with the right playing techniques). His YouTube channel features videos about clarinet lubrication, noise reduction, mouthpieces, and standards for testing clarinet equipment. Ridenour's quirky and informative videos are especially relevant for anyone who does work on their own clarinet, or wants to learn repair basics.

This list of equipment resources is just a beginning. If you know of a site that should be included in this list, please e-mail us as we will be continuing to add to this work in progress.

Brad Behn

Nophachai Cholthitchanta's Clarinet Collection

Clark Fobes Articles Page

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stanley Drucker Retires from NY Philharmonic

This has been the week to recognize the incredible career of Stanley Drucker as he makes his last solo appearance with the New York Philharmonic performing the Copland Concerto. Drucker's accomplishments include being appointed principal clarinetist of the Indianapolis Symphony at the age of 16, two Grammy nominations, the premiere of the Corigliano Concerto, 59 performances of the Copland Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, and being named Musical America’s 1998 Instrumentalist of the Year. He will retire after this season at the age of 80.

In addition to the AP video above, Drucker's retirement has received quite a bit of media coverage, so we'll try to sum it up here:

  • A fantastic June 4 New York Times article discusses the life and accomplishments of Drucker, noting that he has performed with the ensemble for 60 years (longer than any other musician in the history of the ensemble), nearly 50 of them as principal clarinetist.
  • A June 5 NY Times review of the farewell concert mentions that Drucker has set a record for "longest career as a clarinetist," as he has been performing professionally for over 62 years.
  • A fascinating June 2 radio piece on NPR's Morning Edition features clips of Drucker's playing, and thoughts from Drucker, Mark Nuccio, John Corigliano. At over 7 minutes, this is a must listen for clarinetists! The page also includes several audio selections of Drucker performing with the New York Philharmonic: The Copland Concerto in 1989 (selection ends after the cadenza), the Corigliano Concerto (first movement) from 1977, and the Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie from 1961.
  • A May 31 AP article includes comments from interviews with Drucker and Zubin Mehta.
  • A May 26 Wall Street Journal article covers the upcoming concert and Drucker's life and career. Drucker reflects on the various conductors he has worked with, and the early years when the orchestra was all-male and "like a private club backstage," complete with poker and cigars.
  • Stanley Drucker by the Numbers has statistics about Drucker's career.
  • The NY Philharmonic site includes a biography and and interview with Drucker from 2002.
  • Drucker's most popular video on YouTube is a live telecast of Drucker playing the Weber Concertino with the New York Philharmonic in 1989 (and the rather awkward Hugh Downs interview with Drucker afterwards!)
And finally, here is a video of Drucker discussing the Copland Concerto, posted on the New York Philharmonic's YouTube channel.