Monday, August 13, 2012

Pedagogy 2.0

As promised, here is our presentation and handout from our presentation at ClarinetFest on Sunday, August 5, 2012. It covers the internet as a resource for teaching clarinet, and ways to incorporate technology such as mobile applications into clarinet pedagogy. A more detailed discussion of our presentation content will be published in our December 2012 column in The Clarinet and here on our blog.


Here is our handout from the presentation, with a list of resources in printable format and clickable links:

Pedagogy 2.0 Handout


Sunday, August 12, 2012

ClarinetFest Day 5

The last day of ClarinetFest was a busy one for us, as we gave our presentation and also performed with the contra clarinet ensemble.  After getting our equipment set up, we went to Adam Ballif's lecture: "Incorporating Technology in the Clarinet Studio." Adam demonstrated the use of SmartMusic to assign and grade technical exercises, how to create custom metronomes with Pro Tools, and talked about iOS music apps like Notion (a version of Finale) and Pianist Pro.  

Ballif's lecture was a great complement to ours, as we each investigated different technologies and techniques for incorporating them into clarinet pedagogy.  Our presentation, "Pedagogy 2.0: An Exploration of 21st-Century Innovations in Clarinet Teaching," centered on online resources we've discovered in the course of writing the Clarinet Cache column, as well as mobile applications.  We spent a lot of time demonstrating how to teach using the TonalEnergy app for iOS -- many thanks to Lucas Willsie for serving as our guinea pig!  Look for our full presentation and handout to be posted here soon.

Kellie and Rachel demonstrating TonalEnergy with Lucas Willsie

We had an enjoyable lunch at the Embassy Hotel restaurant with our teacher, Dr. James Gillespie, and former UNT students Malena McLaren and Chastine Hofmeister.  One of the best things about ClarinetFest is that each time we go, we have more friends and colleagues to catch up with.

Lunch with Dr. Gillespie and UNT alumni

Interesting sculptures on UNLV campus

After lunch, it was time to warm up the contras!  The warm-up room was filled with contras of all shapes and sizes, being played by everyone from undergraduate students to current and past presidents of the I.C.A.!

Dueling contras

John Scott, Gary Whitman, and Keith Koons preparing with intensity!
The contra ensemble (dubbed "A Legal Contraband" by Mary Alice Druhan) then took the stage to perform Ben Stonaker's piece 44 Contras.  From our point of view, it was an interesting and memorable performance.  Stonaker used the full range of the contrabass and contraalto clarinets, from altissimo into the extended low range, to create an unforgettable aleatoric sound sculpture.  One section sounded, in Stonaker's words, like "a flock of angry geese," while another consisted of a swelling, undulating 44-note cluster.  Audience reactions ranged from glee to complete disgust - always the sign of a good piece!

A Legal Contraband

Finally, it was time to pack up all the contras and head home.  We got to chat with conference organizer Diane Barger one last time on our way out.  She seemed happy and relieved -- as she should be after putting in so much work to make ClarinetFest 2012 a great success!  Thanks Diane!

Diane Barger

Saturday, August 11, 2012

ClarinetFest Day 4

At this point in the festival it becomes harder to wake up early to make it to the first concert of the day.  Taking the morning off from recitals, I (Kellie) went to visit the exhibitions to peruse some of the vendors selling sheet music.   Then we spent some time working on our presentation for Sunday - more info coming about that in the Day 5 recap!

Many clarinetists are familiar with the music of Scott McAllister, so there was a good turnout for the performance of his new seven-movement Epic Concerto, played by three different artists.  The piece began with SSgt Timothy Sutfin performing the first three movements: "Warm-up," "Walking with Benny," and "Prodigy."  The first movement incorporated warm-up materials and patterns from the Klose book; however, the tempos were definitely faster than the typical warm-up speeds!  McAllister was inspired by the Copland and Benny Goodman, and the second movement reflects a slow walk with the great composer and player, evoking the beautiful opening of the Copland Concerto.  The next movement was inspired by past and present prodigies, including the music of Michael Jackson, where Sutfin's clarinet playing emulated the spirit and energy of the late pop star.  

Switching artists, the fourth movement was performed by Peggy Dees Moseley, who was also the commission coordinator of the work.  This movement, "Epic," is the longest movement in the piece and McAllister dedicated it to his mentor Frank Kowalsky and his wife Helen Earl.  

Rounding out the last portion of this 45-minute concerto, Kimberly Cole Luevano played the last three movements: "Schizo Scherzo," "Gone," and "High Flyin' Bird."  With a big bright sound, Luevano jumped right into "Schizo Scherzo," one of the more effective movements of the piece.  This movement was dedicated to the memory of Robert Marcellus, one of the three teachers and pedagogues to whom the festival paid tribute this year.  Similar to Berio's Mahler "remix" in the third movement of his Sinfonia, McAllister made a rousing scherzo out of a mashup of the third movement of Brahms' Sonata in F Minor together with several of the most famous orchestral excerpts for clarinet (Daphnis, Mendelssohn, Gershwin, etc.).  

The penultimate movement "Gone" centers on McAllister's emotional response to the loss of his playing career after a car accident. The long, static sotto voce tones placed under the sound of the piano must have been difficult to pull off, especially after such an energetic movement, but Luevano's stamina and control allowed her to reflect the composer's process of healing after such a life-changing event.   The final movement called "High Flyin' Bird" was inspired by a song by Richie Havens and it energetically closed the entire composition.  After all three clarinetist returned to the stage for another round of applause, McAllister joined the trio of performers in acknowledgment of superbly performance of his epic piece.

Kimberly Cole Luevano, Peggy Dees Moseley, SSgt Timothy Sutfin, and Scott McAllister
Those familiar with McAllister's music will find in the Epic Concerto elements familiar from his other works: floating upper clarion notes, extreme altissimo, angular leaps, glissando, rips up and down the instrument, and syncopated rhythms.  What sets Epic Concerto apart is that it is such an intensely personal tour of McAllister's own life as a clarinetist, making this work above all the others a "clarinetist's" clarinet piece.  Its "epic" nature and technical demands make it difficult to program on a recital, but each movement is self-contained enough to stand on its own if taken out of context.

I (Rachel) came in late to the I.C.A. Competition Winner's Recital on Saturday afternoon but managed to hear most of Paul Cantrell's beautiful work The Broken Mirror of Memory, for bass clarinet and piano.  The committed performance by Pat O'Keefe should inspire others to check out this winning piece from the Composition Competition.  

I had a special interest in the next piece, the winning work from the Joint Wind Quintet Project, as I performed in the first two premieres of the piece with the Madera Wind Quintet at the conferences of the International Horn Society and International Double Reed Society.  Lansing McLoskey was awarded the commission from the group, and composed Hardwood with inspiration from hardwood trees, leaves and branches he came across in the woods of New Hampshire.  With my extensive knowledge of the score, I can safely state that clarinetist Tod Kerstetter and the Konza Wind Quintet did a fine job of navigating the difficult rhythmic terrain and infusing the piece with lots of musicality.

The evening concert on Saturday was much more polished than Friday's concert of duos with wind ensemble, but it was still a bit underwhelming.  Greg Smith's performance of the Première Rhapsodie by Debussy was refined and light on its feet, but his delicate tone was completely overpowered by the orchestra at times.  We started wondering if the clarinetists were in a dead spot onstage when Jessica Phillips Rieske had similar problems being heard in the Mozart Concerto.  She made some interesting choices about octave transpositions from the basset clarinet original, but the performance overall seemed a bit "safe" -- perhaps owing to the fact that the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra conductor didn't seem to be paying much attention to his soloists.  

Eddy Vanoosthuyse gave a rousing performance of McAllister's X with a powerful sound compared to the other two performers, perhaps owing in part to standing at a different angle onstage.  Capturing the spirit of the piece, the orchestra was alternately brooding and explosive.  With the exception of a little bit of reed trouble, Vanoosthuyse's performance was effective and engaging.

Scott McAllister and Eddy Vanoosthuyse

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ClarinetFest Day 3

Rachel here.  I got up early on Friday at ClarinetFest to hear the recital of music for clarinet and electronics.  Stephan Vermeerch performed two pieces by Jane Brockman along with one of his own that utilized sensors.  After a couple pieces for clarinet and CD by Christy Banks and Gail Zugger, Matthew Miracle performed two interactive works for bass clarinet and computer.  Shovelhead by Steven Snowden was a definite highlight, with volume-sensitive effects triggered by the bass clarinet, and sounds such as a woman laughing and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle integrated in intriguing ways.

I then went to hear Dennis Nygren and John Weigand speak about the teaching of Robert Marcellus.  The discussion was interspersed with fascinating audio samples of Marcellus himself teaching, though they were hard to understand at times and a transcription would have been nice.  During the presentation it was noted that Northwestern plans to make these recordings publicly available on its website in the future -- we'll let you know as soon as they do!

Marcellus Lecture

One of the more interesting parts of the discussion centered on Marcellus' teaching of the "prepared fingers" or "legato fingers" technique.  With audience members contributing information, it was concluded that while Marcellus initially taught that you should straighten the finger and raise it very high before slowly bringing it down (the way Bonade taught it), at some point he decided it was better to keep the finger curved and began to teach it that way.

After enjoying breakfast and coffee at the complementary breakfast bar generously offered by the Embassy Hotel, I (Kellie) headed over to the 10:30am morning recital entitled "Dreaming, Dancing, Delighting."  The program featured works that evoked moods or musical styles that played off of the program's title.  Running a little late due to my leisurely breakfast, I entered the Kimball Recital Hall just in time to hear the third piece on the program, Richard Rodney Bennett's Ballad in Memory of Shirley Horn, and I was glad that I had the chance to hear Steven Becraft perform this sensitive and lyrical composition.

Next up was Elizabeth Gunlogson's performance of Don Freund's unaccompanied piece Daydream in A-flat.  Although I (Kellie) was not particularly fond of the piece, Gunlogson demonstrated excellent control in all of the registers despite the gurgling of water caught in a tone hole. Unfortunately, Gunlogson had an extreme case of excess water due the cold temperature of the hall and had to blow out the water multiple times, almost to the point of severe distraction.  The next two performers, Martin Castillos (recently appointed as the ICA National Chairperson for Uruguay) and Rebecca Rischin both played separate Fantasia pieces by Carlos Estrada and Ramon Carnicer y Batlle, respectfully. 

Rebecca Rischin

Malena McLaren performance of Miguel Yuste's Leyenda, danza y lamento, Op.72, took the mood from the light and capricious nature of the Fantasias to a more dreamy-like state.  McLaren's expressiveness and warm tone brought life and excitement to the piece.
Malena McLaren

Sometimes during public performances, musicians experience technical difficulties out of their control.  During his performance of Michael Finnissy's unaccompanied piece Uzundara, clarinetist Gregory Oakes's music was blown off the stands and fell to the floor.  Oakes was forced to set down his instrument on the piano and quickly gathered the handful of pages scattered across the floor. Once all of the music was put back in order, Oakes picked up right where he left off playing in the music, unfazed by technical mishap.  This contemporary pieces requires ultimate control of pitch, especially in the altissimo register and Oakes did a superb job of playing these passages at the softest dynamics possible.

One of highlights of the morning recital (and of the festival overall) was the performance of two pieces given by the Ironwood Trio with Jana Starling on E-flat, Leslie Moreau on B-flat, and Anne Watson on bass clarinet.  Starting with David Snow's Hasana Tanz, the group felt right at home with the Klezmer elements of the piece right up until the end of the composition where the cutesy ending incited a few giggles from the audience. Not only did this trio get the audience's feet tapping to some of the latin and tropical beats in the second piece by Jorge Montilla, but they also wowed everyone with their ensemble precision.  They definitely looked like they were having fun and the audience felt it too!  With their music selections and their dazzling performance, the Ironwood Trio brings a vitality and freshness often missing from performances of new music.  We look forward to hearing more from them in the future!

Ironwood Trio: Jana Starling, Leslie Moreau, and Anne Watson

The afternoon recital "Low, Lyrical, and Luscious" was a program dedicated solely to the bass clarinet repertoire.  The recital had a nice mixture of contemporary and classical compositions. Steve Hanusofski's performance of Derek Bermel's Sonata Humana was touching, followed by Anthony J. Costa's wonderful performance of AS IF by Patrice Sciortino.

Anthony J. Costa

The recital concluded with the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk (Jeff Anderle and Jonathan Russell) performing Ryan Brown's Knee Gas (On) and Russell's own arrangement of J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.  Not only did the duo play with impeccable attention to intonation in both pieces, but they also were able to transform their timbre to sound like a real organ during the Bach arrangement. Regularly-scheduled artists at ClarinetFests of years past, these two performers are familiar faces to concert goers and also to Clarinet Cache, where they are featured in our blog post from 2008.  This concert was the second of three great performances that the two men were featured in during the festival.  Immediately after the concert, audience members lined up outside to talk with the duo and purchase T-shirts and CDs.

Sqwonk Bass Clarinet Duo: Jonathan Russell and Jeff Anderle
Sqwonk Bass Clarinet Duo outside Kimball Recital Hall

The afternoon master class was presented by Jessica Phillips Rieske, Acting Principal of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.  Here, she listened to four very talented young players giving them advice on finger motion and pressure; articulation changes to facilitate the musical flow of passages; using imagery to help understand the music better; and to add variations to repeated passages to help break up monotony within phrases.  At the beginning of the master class, one audience member brought attention to a slight buzzing sound of someone's metronome going off in the background. Unfortunately, the source of the sound could not be located and we had to disregard and tune out the distracting noise. 

Jessica Phillips Rieske Master Class

The theme of the Friday evening concert was that of various duos accompanied by the Omaha Symphonic Winds.  Unfortunately, the level of playing of the band was not up to par, and many of the featured soloists had a hard time keeping up with the conductor's fluctuating tempi and overall pitch problems.  First on the program was Mendelssohn's Concertpiece No.2 in D minor played by MUC Laura Grantier on clarinet and TSgt J. Blake Arrington on basset horn.  Although Arrington had to contend with a problem with his instrument while on stage, he nonetheless kept playing through the technical glitch and both musicians managed to play their best despite the circumstances.

Next, Robert Spring and bassoonist Albie Micklich performed Damian Montano's Double Concerto. Although the ensemble seemed to fit better within the interplays between the two soloists in the music, the inadequate musicianship of the group downplayed what would have been an otherwise good performance.

Clarinetist SFC Cheryl Ani and her sister MU1 Cindy Wolverton then played Amilcare Ponchielli's Il Convegno: Divertimento.  This well-known piece is a great work highlighting the virtuosity of both clarinetists; however, the audience could sense the unease of the soloists as they tried to interact with the conductor of band. 

Soloists SFC Cheryl Ani and MU1 Cindy Wolverton
The program continued with the Sqwonk Bass Clarinet Duo presenting a world premiere of the wind ensemble arrangement of Sqwonk member Jonathan Russell's Bass Clarinet Double Concerto.  It is a testament to Russell's writing and the assertive playing of the duo that this work was the most successful on the program.  The work showcased the talent of the Omaha Symphonic Winds percussion section and utilized the darker colors of the group to complement the soloists.

Finally, the program ended with SSgt Christopher Grant on E-flat clarinet and GySgt Michelle Urzynicok on clarinet performing Luigi Bassi's Gran Duetto Concertante.  After finishing an excellent performance of such a technically challenging piece, the two soloists exited the stage only to be followed back on stage by all of performers to play an encore.  It was a great sight to see all of the military and professional clarinetists unite for an encore performance of Flight of the Bumblebee, and brought back memories of ClarinetFest 2012 in Los Angeles when Alcides Rodriguez, Stanley Drucker, and others performed a group rendition of the piece.

GySft Michelle Urzynicok and SSgt Christopher Grant
Encore performance by all of the soloists

Friday, August 3, 2012

Clarinet Fest Day 2

The second day of the festival started bright and early at 8:30am with a Horizon Highlights recital featuring music for clarinet and percussion.  The program began with clarinetist Karem J. Simon's energetic flourishes in Alexina Louie's four-movement work Cadenzas, followed by John Allemeier's Like Gravity, a piece written for clarinet, violin, cello, and marimba.  Faculty members and clarinetist Jesse Krebs from Truman State University immediately slowed the pace of the program with their wonderful performance of this dark and sonorous piece.  The recital ended with David Carter performing works with marimba on both soprano and bass clarinet.  Although we left before his final piece, Carter and percussionist Ricardo Coelho de Souza demonstrated impeccable ensemble precision, which is always a challenge in this type of ensemble.

Larry Guy's lecture about Daniel Bonade was a fascinating tour of Bonade's most important contributions to clarinet pedagogy.  Guy discussed Bonade's concepts of tone production, embouchure support, legato fingers, and phrasing in great detail.  He also had audio examples of Bonade performing with the Philadelphia Orchestra, illustrating each concept with the playing of the master himself.

In a subsequent platform dedicated to Bonade, Shannon Thompson's presentation on the evolution and attainment of Bonade's signature sound traced the orchestral aesthetics established with his appointment to the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Thompson covered equipment Bonade used over the years and his influence and control on his students' own setup.  After following the evolution of mouthpiece and barrel modifications, she also addressed how Robert Marcellus carried on Bonade's teaching legacy through his own teaching philosophy.  Thompson's wonderfully edited power point presentation included rare video footage of Marcellus giving master classes.  Although the audio was a bit hard to hear at times, it was a real treat to see and hear him teach!

The pedagogy round table with Deborah Chodacki, Denise Gainey, Larry Guy, and Richard MacDowell continued the discussion of the legacy of teachers of Bonade's generation.  The conversation began with anecdotes about the confrontational teaching style of oboist Marcel Tabuteau, professor of woodwinds at Curtis, and Kalmen Opperman.  Gainey related what Opperman said to her in her first lesson: "You don't know a g-d damn thing about the clarinet!"

Pedagogy round table
 Other stories involved Tabuteau and teachers trained by him who would purposely smash students' reeds, saying "I built my career on my second-best reed!"  This approach of belittlement and emotional manipulation was experienced by many students of that generation of teachers, but the panel agreed that it is no longer acceptable to teach that way today, even if you wanted to.  Chodacki summed things up on that topic by saying that even though these famous teachers conveyed valuable concepts, it was possible to teach these concepts effectively without the fear.

The discussion also touched on how involved teachers should be in their students' lives, from addressing psychological problems to being friends on Facebook. The audience had quite a laugh when Chodacki attempted to imagine what Robert Marcellus' Facebook page would look like!

One of the afternoon concerts featured french clarinetist Sabrina Moulai performing standard pieces by Francaix, Schumann, and Rossini.  Dazzling the audience with her velvety tone and flawless technique, Moulai's musical sensibilities and subtle rubatos made every phrase come alive.

Sabrina Moulai

On a separate program, Czech clarinetist Karel Dohnal brought house down with his performance Karlheinz Stockhausen's Harlekin for Solo Clarinet.  For almost forty-five minutes, Karel captivated the audience with his choreographed acrobatic moves, hilarious facial expressions, and his everlasting stamina-all while playing the clarinet!

Karel Dohnal
 We're both playing in Ben Stonaker's piece 44 Contras on Sunday, so we then headed to a very interesting first rehearsal for that piece!

44 Contras rehearsal
Next, we took advantage of the nightly manager's reception at the Embassy Suites, where people mingled and talked while groups comprised of clarinet enthusiasts performed in the beautiful atrium.

Manager's reception
In the evening, we heard Corrado Giuffredi and friends perform an unusual and delightful program.  Accordionist Cesare Chiacchiaretta stole the show with his animated, virtuosic accordion playing.  The duo of Giuffredi and Chiacchiaretta performed pieces by Rota, Piazzola and others, captivating the audience with moments of great restraint alternating with great passion.  Morales joined them for a sparkling performance of Mendelssohn's Concertpiece No. 2, and the program ended with two pieces played by the ClarinetFest Bass Clarinet Ensemble, with Klezmer soloist, David Krakauer.  Just as the performers were exiting the stage and the audience was ready to leave, Chiacchiaretta re-enters the stage with his accordion followed by Guiffredi for an encore.  As a second encore, Krakauer joins the duo on stage and the two clarinetists begin to duel.  Only after countless wailings of high notes thrown back and forth between the two players does the night finish with a (second) standing ovation.
ClarinetFest Bass Clarinet Ensemble

Thursday, August 2, 2012

ClarinetFest: Day 1

ClarinetFest 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska has begun! 

We both arrived Wednesday evening, so if you have comments about activities earlier in the day feel free to comment below.  And if you see us around the festival, we hope you'll come up and say hi!  Here's a picture of us outside one of the venues on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

 I (Rachel) arrived just in time for the nightly reception at the Embassy Suites.  The hotel is kind enough to provide a free reception with drinks and snacks for all ClarinetFest goers, not just those staying in their hotel.  I had a chance to catch up with some old friend from Michigan State, and make some new ones too!

The evening concert I attended featured the Italian clarinetist Antonio Tinelli, whose program included pieces by Nino Rota as well as an arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue for clarinet and piano.  He won the crowd over with his commentary in between pieces, starting off by saying in his thick Italian accent: "My American is terrible... my English... also terrible!"

Tinelli had a beautiful pianissimo sound, though it was drowned out by the piano at times.  Aside from a few intonation issues in the altissimo register, Tinelli's performance was charming and full of personality.  In the Gershwin, which was arranged by Timofei Dokshizer, these Italian players played in a confident, bluesy American style.

I ran into conference host Diane Barger and her artistic team (pictured below) at the concert.  If you see them, be sure to thank them for organizing what is turning out to be an incredibly successful and enjoyable ClarinetFest!

Check back for more daily updates.  For live information updated throughout the day, follow us on Twitter: @clarinetcache.