Thursday, December 18, 2014

Clarinet Crowdfunding (December 2014 column)

In recent years, a new model has emerged for artists and entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their projects. Crowdfunding, in which the Internet is used as a resource for fundraising small amounts of money from a large number of people, has revolutionized the way many musicians approach recording projects. is the most popular platform for this type of fundraising, so in this column we’ll explore several recent Kickstarter campaigns by clarinetists.

David Gould
In May of 2013, clarinetist David Gould finished fundraising for his project The Forgotten Clarinet, a recording of lesser-known French works for clarinet and piano. Currently bass clarinetist for the American Ballet Theater Orchestra in New York City, Gould recorded more familiar works like Raymond Gallois-Montbrun’s Concertstucke and Marc Delmas’ Fantaisie Italienne, along with obscure works such as Paul Ladmirault’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano and Rene de Boisdeffre’s Three Pieces. Using a common tactic for Kickstarter campaigns for recording projects, Gould offered a copy of the completed CD as a reward for donating at least $20 -- allowing the campaign to function as a preorder for the CD. Funding obtained from Kickstarter covered Gould’s costs for recording, mastering, and production of the recording, which is now available for purchase.

Paul Cantrell
Composer Paul Cantrell used Kickstarter back in September of 2012 to help fund the manufacture and publicity of his work The Broken Mirror of Memory for bass clarinet and piano. Receiving first prize in the 2012 I.C.A. Composition Competition, the work was premiered at ClarinetFest in Lincoln, Nebraska with great success, and with the help of supporters through donations on Kickstarter, Cantrell was able to print and distribute recordings and scores. Exceeding his initial fundraising goals, he was able to provide additional promotion of his work with the extra funds. Originally conceived as a piece for piano and cello, Cantrell worked with bass clarinetist Pat O’Keefe to breathe new life into the piece. Commentary by Cantrell and snippets of the piece can be heard on the video posted on his Kickstarter page.

Michael Lowenstern
Michael Lowenstern’s unique Kickstarter project funded a set of recordings of each work in the popular Rubank Concert & Contest Collection book of solos for bass clarinet. Unlike many musicians who use Kickstarter to raise funds to create a recording for commercial release, Lowenstern’s goal was to provide these recordings for download online for free as a resource for bass clarinetists. In July 2013 he met his $4,500 goal to cover the recording costs, and the tracks are now available on his website at

The most recent project we took a closer look at was a CD and method book project by GremlinsDuo (Tim Fitzgerald and Jonathan Goodman). The clarinet/bass clarinet duo raised $1,700 this past August to release a CD of commissioned works and publish their two new method books, the first focusing on quarter-tone exercises and the second comprising a “Buddy System” warm-up book. As with many of the other campaigns, the finished products are offered as rewards at various levels of backer support.

Among the other Kickstarter campaigns to reach their fundraising goal are projects by clarinetists Laura Carmichael, Jorge Variego, Andrew DeBoer, Gleb Kanasevich and the Sqwonk Duo, to name a few. Visit to explore these successful campaigns and learn more about this method of fundraising. You might just be inspired to become a backer yourself!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Guide to Bass Clarinet on the Web (Sept. 2014 column)

For this special bass clarinet-themed issue of The Clarinet, we created an annotated guide to some of the best online bass clarinet resources.

International Bass Clarinet Research Center
One of the most exciting bass clarinet projects on the web today is the International Bass Clarinet Research Center (Centro Internazionale di Ricerca sul Clarinetto Basso, or CIRCB). This website essentially attempts to gather any and all information relating to the bass clarinet and make it accessible to users in an easily searchable and sortable database of annotated listings and primary sources. There are versions in English, French, German and Italian.

The project’s stated goals are to increase insight into the history and the evolution of the bass clarinet and to stimulate biographical and historical study of players and their works. To that end, the contributors have created a database with more than 7,300 compositions and more than 100 recordings. The catalog of repertoire is easily searchable and includes a discography and publisher for each work. There is also an annotated bibliography of bass clarinet books sortable by subject, as well as dissertations, full-text articles, and scans of original manuscripts for older works featuring the bass clarinet like Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, with much of this material available for download. At CIRCB you can even find information about patents relating to the bass clarinet and a catalog of early models of the bass clarinet. And if you’re not looking for something specific, the homepage includes featured recordings and videos so you can start exploring.

Italian clarinetists Stefano Cardo, Elisa Marchetti, Alessandro Monitillo and Roberto Bocchio launched CIRCB in 2010, and it has since gained contributors like Albert Rice and Keith Bowen, and a video endorsement by Harry Spaarnay. These individuals are to be commended for creating a website that is not only an invaluable resource, but also aesthetically pleasing and well-organized. The sheer wealth of information and ease of use only makes us wish for a similar website for the soprano clarinet.

Jason Alder
Jason Alder’s personal website,, has a snazzy interface that first greets viewers with layered tracks of bass clarinet sounds, and with the option to view the site with a high or low-speed connection. Alder is an American clarinetist and bass clarinetist residing in Amsterdam and specializing in new and contemporary music. He has created an extensive quarter-tone fingering chart for Buffet instruments available in PDF format. Multiple links to his videos and recordings on his homepage include music from several ensembles that he collaborates with, including the group Payazen!, a “psychedelic klezmer-jazz band,” where you can hear him wail on the bass clarinet. Alder’s blog is full of helpful, in-depth information including updates about his current projects and reviews of technical gear such as clip microphones. Alder has a knack for writing and his blog narratives are a pleasure to read.

Sauro Berti 
Sauro Berti, bass clarinetist of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, has a commendable website at with downloadable files of bass clarinet sheet music, as well as audio and video files of Berti performing on soprano clarinet, bass clarinet, and basset horn. In the “downloads” section you can find the introductory page and first etude of his book, Venti studi, which contains exercises tailored to the specific needs of the bass clarinet and basset horn that other standard method books fail to address. His links to both a reed strength chart and a bass clarinet mouthpiece comparison chart prove helpful in comparing commercial reed strength variances and in corresponding facing measurements of many factory-made and handcrafted mouthpieces. For full access to all of the components on Berti’s website, viewers can register on the site for free. And for readers not fluent in Italian, we recommend using an Internet browser that easily allows translation of websites, such as Google Chrome. Although activity on his website and blog has remained dormant for the past few years, we hope that Berti will continue to add more valuable content in the near future.

Michael Lowenstern
We reviewed Michael Lowenstern’s website at back in our December 2008 column, but a lot has changed since then -- and we would expect nothing less from Lowenstern, whose talent at the bass clarinet is equaled only by his talent for web design. He recently recorded the classic Voxman bass clarinet solo book, the Rubank Concert & Contest Collection, and made the recordings available for free download from his website. Registering to the site for free also allows access to download PDF scores and MP3s of music by Lowenstern and others. He also has a great blog, and bass clarinetists owe it to themselves to explore Lowenstern’s YouTube channel, with about 2,000 subscribers and 40 videos in his “So You Want to Be a Bass Clarinet Player” series.

Edward S. Palanker
Edward S. Palanker, bass clarinetist with the Baltimore Symphony and retired from teaching at the Peabody Conservatory, has written many articles for The Clarinet over the years. He has made these articles available on his website, where his section on bass clarinet includes some great information about orchestral excerpts for bass and what can be expected at a bass clarinet orchestra audition.

The [Bass] Clarinet of the 21st Century 
E. Michael Richards’ book The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century, mentioned in our March 2012 column on contemporary clarinet resources, is available online and has a chapter focusing on the bass clarinet. Richards discusses at length the acoustics of the instrument and its extended techniques, with accompanying spectrograms. The chapter includes fingering charts for altissimo, quarter-tones and multiphonics, with examples from contemporary music.

Aber/Lerstad Altissimo Fingerings
Another resource for bass and contrabass clarinet altissimo fingerings is a website with articles and charts by Thomas Aber and Terje Lerstad. Aber’s bass clarinet chart encompasses fingerings from C-sharp3 to C5; Lerstad’s contrabass chart ranges from C-sharp3 to an impressive G6. Both charts indicate which fingerings work best on different makes of low clarinets.

The Woodwind Fingering Guide 
Timothy Reichard’s altissimo Boehm-system finger chart for alto, bass, and contrabass clarinets at is easy to read, with commentary on pitch tendencies. Although Reichard’s chart does not reach as high as Aber and Lerstad’s fingering charts, the layout and clean format of the chart makes it a go-to resource for players and teachers alike.

Alea Publishing
Alea Publishing at is a company that specializes in bass clarinet sheet music. Created by the group “Duo Alea,” bass clarinetist Michael Davenport and pianist Kimberly Davenport, the website contains a large inventory of bass clarinet music available for purchase. In 1998 they began to compile what is now an extensive bibliography of bass clarinet compositions of solo works, chamber ensembles, concertos, and duet arrangements, with newer works continuously added. An impressive number of entries listed under the “Bass clarinet with tape/electronics” section illustrates how popular this genre of instrumentation was three or four decades ago, with the main group of compositions dating back to the last quarter of the twentieth century. One great feature of the bibliography is the option to purchase music directly from Alea Publishing within the entries (when applicable). Another useful component is the classified section, a wonderful platform for those wanting to buy or sell bass clarinet-related items.

IMSLP is always a great resource for public domain sheet music, and it has a mixture of newer original works for bass clarinet and and older transcriptions. Just look under “Instrumentation/Genre” and find the bass clarinet category under “Featured Instruments.” 
The Octocontrabass page at Grant D. Green's fascinating site has a collection of information on the lowest of the low wind instruments.

All you need is a Yahoo! login to join a fairly active Yahoo! group called “NewBassClarinetGroup” with many knowledgeable contributors.

Let us know if we missed any important bass clarinet website and we'll add them to the list.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Clarinet Social Media Roundup (June 2014 column)

Since the Clarinet Cache column began in 2008, social media has in a few short years become one of the primary ways that many people communicate and share information with others. By now most of you are aware that you can connect with your favorite performers and ensembles online; these days everyone from your local clarinet repair technician to the U.S. Navy Band is on Facebook, with more and more joining Twitter all the time.  Here are a few of our favorites on Facebook and Twitter:

First, all of our readers will want to make sure they’ve connected with the International Clarinet Association Facebook page. Previously, the International Clarinet Association had a “group,” which still exists and is very active with members posting often. But as Facebook evolved, they introduced the concept of “pages” designed for organizations and businesses, and the I.C.A. decided to take advantage of the new format. Timothy Phillips, professor of clarinet at Troy University, set up this page in February 2013 and continues to do a great job maintaining it on behalf of the I.C.A. “Like” the I.C.A. page for information about clarinet workshops, competitions, clarinet news, and announcements from the I.C.A. -- and look out for photos and reviews from the upcoming ClarinetFest in Baton Rouge!

All the way back in September 2008, our column published an interview with James Zimmerman about his new Facebook group, Clarinet Jobs.  Like the I.C.A., Zimmerman decided to migrate activity to a “Page” which has more than 4600 likes.  This page has really become the place to go for news about upcoming auditions and audition winners.

On the Clarinet Corner Facebook page, Timothy Phillips lets you know what interviews and music he has coming up on his radio show Clarinet Corner, which you can listen to online.

Denise Razzouk created the Clarinet Jazz Point page in 2009 and continues to actively post videos and news about jazz clarinet. The page has nearly 4,000 fans who also share their own links and projects.

We’ve blogged a couple times about the Clarinets for Conservation organization, which combines sustainability efforts and musical instruction in a unique way: they support efforts to protect and plant the mpingo tree from which clarinets are made, while also offering free clarinet instruction for the communities in which these trees grow. Stay in touch with this group’s efforts via their Facebook page, where you can learn about ongoing fundraising efforts and volunteer opportunities.

For the younger crowd, the Clarinet Memes page shares clarinet-related memes including quite a few Spongebob references!
Photo: So true for clarinet players....

Twitter is a great way to keep up with the latest news and find links to clarinet content of interest.  Here are some of our favorite performers on Twitter:
@JBlissClarinet [edit: handle changed to @Julian__Bliss] Julian Bliss, British clarinetist
@earspasm - Michael Lowenstern, NYC-based bass clarinetist
@requinta - Wesley Ferreira, professor at Colorado State University
@multiphonic - Gregory Oakes, professor at Iowa State University
@ThiagoTavares - Thiago Tavares, Brazilian Symphony Orchestra
@ThomasPiercy - Thomas Piercy, artistic director and clarinetist of the Gotham ensemble in NYC

Here are some of our other favorite feeds:
@woodwindninja - Bret Pimentel’s educational feed about all things woodwind.
@ClarinetJobs - Clarinet Jobs feed about audition postings and winners
@CClarinetist - Curious Clarinetist shares posts from their blog on a variety of clarinet-related topics
@ClarinetNow - Account associated with the Clarinet-Now website, run by West Point Band clarinetist Chris Jones
@ClariperuNews - Clarinet news from South America via Marco Mazzini

Of course, on Twitter you can also find many clarinet-related businesses like @VandorenUSA, @LegereReeds, @BackunMusical, and Phil Muncy of Muncy Winds (@klarinut). Check out everyone we’re following on Twitter by looking us up at @ClarinetCache.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Website Watch (March 2014 column)

The Vintage Clarinet Doctor
Jeremy Soule runs a vintage clarinet repair business out of Staunton, Virginia, and his website is a great resource for lovers of vintage horns. offers information on vintage instrument history, makers, different fingering systems, and historical background on obscure instrument brands.  An overview of the different types of systems is a great tool for understanding the evolution and innovations made to the clarinet over the decades. High-quality photographs accompany the various systems listed and make it easy to visualize and compare the differences between each type of key system.  

You can also purchase vintage clarinets and mouthpieces directly on Soule’s site or send in your antique instrument for repair. The “before and after” pictures offer a close-up view of rare instruments and reveal how the instruments are brought back to life after being overhauled. The instruments pictured include a rare piccolo clarinet in A-flat and a 1928 Kohlert silver sax oboe.

For those interested in the restoration, construction, or the technical side of instrument repair be sure to visit Soule’s blog, The Licorice Shtick Blog, accessible through the home page. Here Soule covers general topics as well as matters pertinent to instrument repair. The entry on swedging and countersinking is particularly enlightening to those interested in the mechanics of woodwind repair.

The Discerning Clarinetist is a newly designed website by Tyler Zey where you can purchase and sell lightly-used clarinet equipment at discounted prices. Products for sale include mouthpieces, cases, instruments, and barrels with a return policy that gives customers a trial period to test out equipment. Similar to the return policies of larger commercial retailers, returned merchandise is accepted with a return shipping fee and restocking fee paid by the customer. In each product entry, Zey includes a brief description of the product with multiple close-up photographs for closer inspection. All mouthpieces sold on the website have undergone a screening process to ensure that they play well.

An additional component to the site is an active blog with daily entries, many of which center around mouthpieces. Here, you can find useful information on mouthpiece resurfacing, blanks, how to select a mouthpiece, and even a link to a comprehensive article written by Clark Fobes comparing molded mouthpieces to rod rubber mouthpieces.

This winter, Zey offered a clarinet mouthpiece grant to students age 16-25 in need of a new mouthpiece. The grant application required applicants to submit a YouTube video of their playing, along with a recommendation letter and personal statement regarding their goals as a clarinetist. The winner chooses from a handful a mouthpieces shipped to them, or in the event no mouthpiece is selected, they are awarded a cash prize of $125. We hope to see more innovative grant programs like this in the future from!

Robert Marcellus Master Class Files

*** Since the March 2014 Clarinet Cache column has gone to print, we have received notification that some of the information taken from the web regarding this project and the performers involved are incorrect. We thank Steve Cohen, associate professor of clarinet at Northwestern, for bringing this to our attention and for giving us with background information on the project.***

As we posted in an October 2013 Clarinet Cache blog entry, access to hundreds of hours of master classes taught by legendary clarinetist Robert Marcellus is now open to the public through the Northwestern University's Audio + Video Repository which is powered by Avalon Media System, found at Formerly Variations on Video, Avalon Media System is an open source project that Northwestern, in partnership with Indiana University and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is developing to manage large university collections of digital audio and video files. The system is slated to be in production as early as Spring 2014.

Sixty-four different recordings of his master classes from 1977 to 1990 are now cataloged on this website. In these master classes, Marcellus coaches various students on fundamentals such as phrasing, air support, and voicing, and imparts his pedagogical wisdom in discussion of repertoire and sequencing of study materials. These newly released archived recordings allow modern-day students and teachers to continue learning from one of the greatest and most influential clarinet teachers of all time.