Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clarinet Corner (June 2012 column)

Clarinet Corner is a unique radio program dedicated solely to the promotion of clarinet music (not to be confused with Sherman Friedland’s clarinet advice web site Clarinet Corner--featured in our March 2009 column). Broadcast on Troy University Public Radio, each week host Timothy Phillips plays recordings by various clarinetists, occasionally incorporating interviews with the featured artists. Phillips also has a Facebook page which lists past guest artists and recordings played. To find a sampling of past broadcasts, visit the social sound platform SoundCloud where Phillips has uploaded several episodes of Clarinet Corner.  In our interview with Phillips, he talks more about his show and what’s in store for future broadcasts.

Clarinet Cache: What inspired you to start a radio show about the clarinet?

Timothy Phillips: Well, first of all, I should make it clear that I’m not really a radio personality by trade and this is actually my first time doing anything like this. When I was hired as the clarinet professor at Troy University several years ago, I noticed that some of my music colleagues had radio shows. Their shows were quite different from each other too; one of them was called Band World and featured concert band music, and the other was called Opus 3 and featured more traditional art music. When Band World stopped being produced, there became a desire for another good local program.

One of my colleagues is a composer who loves the clarinet and whose work I have played at International ClarinetFests® in the past. His name is Carl Vollrath, and he comes to my office all the time to ask me what I’ve been listening to. He’s always interested in hearing what’s new in the world of clarinet music and recordings. I think some of these new sounds often lead him into his own compositional process. Anyway, Carl knows I have many, many clarinet CDs and he was the one who suggested to me that I should replace Band World with my own show. I approached the public radio station here about doing that and they were open to the idea.

At first, I joked that I was the worst radio personality ever, but that the music was good enough to balance it out! I think I’ve improved a little bit when it comes to being a radio host; but, I’m consistently happy with the music I play. I try to touch on all areas of clarinet playing, from chamber music, to solo
repertoire, to jazz. The clarinet is such a versatile instrument, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of fascinating material. Perhaps most, I’ve been happy to see the surprise of the radio station directors, who probably didn’t realize that the clarinet could “hold its own” as the focus of a weekly show. Now, I hope I’m gaining clarinet fans not only in Alabama, but around the world as well because you can listen to the show online in HD (high definition).

CC: How long has the program been on the air?

TP: Clarinet Corner started in the fall of 2010, not even two full years yet. But in that short time, I’ve played over 100 clarinetists and composers, and I’ve interviewed some of my favorite people in the clarinet world. And perhaps my favorite thing about Clarinet Corner is it allows me to introduce new music and personalities to my listeners. I promise you that next year’s Clarinet Corner will feature music that hasn’t even been recorded yet. That makes it very exciting for me because I love hearing new things. I also like to pay tribute to great clarinetists of the past sometimes too.

CC: How do you decide on your topics for each week?

TP: It depends. Sometimes I play recordings I love that I just haven’t had a chance to play yet. Sometimes I play something one of my students is working on and I give them a shout out, and suggest that they practice! And often, I get new recordings from the artists themselves and I either play their music for the entire show, or I do a combination of music clips and an interview. No matter what, I try to vary the content of the show from week to week, from jazz, to Baroque music, etc. I’m always looking for new ideas though. So, if anyone would like to have their music considered for Clarinet Corner, please send me a CD at: Timothy Phillips, 227 Smith Hall, University Avenue, Troy University, Troy, Alabama 36082.

CC: Do your interviews require any preparation?

TP: Yes. Although many of my interviewees are friends and I have followed their careers carefully, I always want to make sure I get all the facts right before I start asking questions. Oftentimes newly recorded music is brand new to me too. I often read biographies of the composers, the performers, and I research the type of music being played before I do the interview. The show is short: only 24 and a half minutes each week. Yet, I think I do about an hour of preparation for each show.

CC: Are all of the past episodes of Clarinet Corner available online in podcast form?

TP: They are not, yet. There have been some questions about the legality of doing that because most of the recordings I play are copyrighted and available for purchase. If I were to allow them to be heard at any time, I’m not sure if that would be a violation. Although, I know that it’s possible to hear all kinds of music on YouTube all the time. It would be great if I could talk to someone who could guide me down the path to providing a podcast for the show. I know I have many interested listeners around the world. And as it is now, the only way to listen is to tune in to Troy University Public Radio here in Alabama or online at 5:35pm Central time on Sundays. I have a Facebook page with information about the show where I provide weekly updates about what I’ll play. Also, I have a gallery featuring pictures of every clarinetist I’ve played, including some prominent non-clarinetists who are well-known in the clarinet world, such as pianist extraordinaire Gail Novak and composer and ClarinetFest regular Howard Buss. Marie Ross recently provided me with a great photo gallery of historical clarinets for the Facebook page to accompany my shows featuring her.

CC: Do you have any memorable moments from the show that you would like to share?

TP: When I started Clarinet Corner I thought it was a show that had many possibilities, but I hadn’t clearly determined where I wanted to go with it yet. I think options are still open, as I find myself playing all types of music and focusing on great performers from several areas. Some memorable moments have been: my interview with Anthony McGill when we talked about his new CD and his performance at Obama’s Inauguration, my first overseas telephone interview where I interviewed Florent Héau from Paris, and my first in-studio interview with Steven Cohen and his son Jonathan. Perhaps my favorite thing about the show is playing new CDs and recordings that are not published. There are many great clarinetists who do not have published CDs. And listening to live recordings is something I really enjoy. They’re imperfect, yet that makes them perfect to me, in a way. Also, following the careers and music of so many in the clarinet world keeps me musically inspired and makes me want to work harder on my own clarinet playing.

CC: Do you have any future plans for Clarinet Corner?

TP: As I look at my pile of new CDs here and consider what will be on in the coming months, I see Wonkak Kim’s new recording of Devienne Sonatas that has been released by Naxos, Shirley Brill’s new recording of Françaix and Prokofiev with the National Radio Orchestra of Romania, and Sergio Bosi’s recording called Italian Clarinet Gems. I also have plans to do a show featuring the artistry of Don Byron. But, there are so many weeks in a year and so much musical ground that is possible to cover. So, send me suggestions and recordings, clarinet world! I’d love to hear from you.

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