Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Website Watch (March 2011 column)

We are constantly discovering more website that offer interesting resources for the clarinetist.  Here are a few of our favorites we've come across recently.  
Richie Hawley
Immediately upon visiting the personal web site of Richie Hawley the ears are treated to the sounds of his beautiful and exquisite tone.  Recently appointed professor of clarinet at Rice University, Hawley has been principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony since the age of 23.  His site includes not only an impressive biography and calendar of scheduled performances on his site, but also an assortment of audio clips and videos.  The selection of audio files highlights various excerpts from the standard orchestral repertory as well as some solo chamber works.  Although they are not complete in performance, they nonetheless showcase Hawley’s lush sound and impeccable intonation, and would be a great reference recordings for for use in study of orchestral excerpts.  

In his interviews in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra “Prelude Videos,” Hawley discusses the roles and significance given to the clarinet in pieces such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  Offering the insight of an accomplished orchestral player, these interviews are enlightening and interesting to listen to.  Another component of the web site worthy of mention is his blog -- unfortunately there are only three entries listed for the year but hopefully he will continue to add to the roster with future posts.  Check out his posts on an insider’s survey on orchestral etiquette and advice on how to prepare for an audition.  His words of wisdom apply to anyone pursuing orchestral positions or taking auditions.  

Phil Pedler
Phil Pedler’s Clarinet Pages is a remarkable collection of information about different makes and models of clarinets.  Pedler (who holds an M.M. in clarinet performance from the New England Conservatory) repairs and sells clarinets, posting an entry on his website about each new model of clarinet he encounters.  The result is a treasure trove of information on about one hundred different makes and models of clarinets, including close-up photos of mechanisms, serial numbers, intonation tendencies, bore measurements, and more.  He often gives recommendations on whether certain models would be most appropriate for beginners, intermediate players, professionals, or whether they should be avoided altogether.

Pedler has compiled several other reference pages, such as his “Clarinet Shopping Advice” page instructing parents on which brands of clarinet not to buy for their son or daughter, with advice about Ebay scams.  He often makes external references to support and augment his information, linking to resources by Tom Ridenour, Sherman Friedland, and threads at  These notes, along with the absence of commercial advertising, make Clarinet Pages a clear cut above most websites about buying and selling clarinets.  Pedler works on clarinets as a hobby, and so his site focuses on answering questions and educating the public.  The only real advertising on this site can be found in his entertaining photo albums of vintage advertisements for mouthpieces and reeds!

John Robert Brown
On the “other side of the pond,” we find the web site of John Robert Brown, chairman of the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain.  John Robert Brown’s site is an extensive resource with a large section of articles devoted solely to the clarinet.  With a seemingly endless supply of articles and topics that apply to all types of musicians, an entire day is necessary to browse through all of the content on his site; here, we will take a closer look at some of the clarinet-related materials.  

With focus on English clarinetists, the diverse list of articles covers topics ranging from career decisions to the life achievements of Stanley Drucker.  Also included are interviews with the likes of Morrie Backun, about the development of his business, and Victoria Soames Samek, about managing the Clarinet Classics recording label.  Brown is also familiar with the jazz scene (he wrote the chapter on Jazz Clarinet in The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet), and there are more jewels to be found in the “jazz” section with articles on artists such as Artie Shaw and others top players from the Swing era in Britain.  

There is also a good read on the woodwind ensemble London Winds, featuring clarinetist Michael Collins, who gives a candid view on the life of an internationally-travelling musician and recording artist.  In the interest of improving and discovering new materials used for pads on woodwind instruments, check out the article on Eddie Ashton’s new type of black plastic pads.   Whether you are looking for information on a particular British artist or just looking for a good read, John Robert Brown’s web site is a great source for all single-reed players.

As always, we welcome recommendations of others websites we should know about!