Book List For High School Clarinetists (and two videos)

Clarinet, Clarinet Books and Articles, Classical clarinetists-female, Classical clarinetists-male, Recordings, Teaching, Uncategorized

I’ve never seen a classical music book list for high school clarinet students. Rather than waste time looking through the bottomless Google pit, I decided to ask my book-reading, fun-loving music friends what they might suggest for eager young students. My buddies did not disappoint! Below find a wide-ranging selection from colleagues in orchestras, at universities, who have private teaching studios and from several conservatory students. I will add any books that look interesting and appropriate for high school readers, so feel free to present your ideas in the comments.

Note to teachers: vet these books carefully! I have not read everything on this list. If you notice a book that is inappropriate with foul language or other issues, let me know ASAP.


“Marsalis On Music” by Wynton Marsalis

“Lessons From A Street-Wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn At Most Music Schools” by Ramon Ricker *

“The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle

“Women Composers: The Lost Tradition Found” by Diane Peacock Jezic

“Joys and Sorrows” by Pablo Casals

“The Time of Our Singing” by Richard Powers

“Gentlemen, More Dolce Please!: An Irreverent Memoir of Thirty Years in the Boston Symphony Orchestra” by Harry Ellis Dickson

“Women In Music: Source Readings From the Middle Ages to the Present” by Carol Neuls-Bates

“The Rest Is Noise” by Alex Ross *

“My Young Years” by Arthur Rubenstein *

“Moving To Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life” by Wynton Marsalis

“The Mastery of Music” by Barry Green *

“Benny Goodman and the Swing Era” by James Lincoln Collier

“For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet” by Rebecca Rischin *

“With Louis and the Duke: The Autobiography of a Jazz Clarinetist” by Barney Bigard

“The Soloist” by Steve Lopez *

“Jacqueline du Pré: A Biography” by Carol Easton *

“Famous Female Clarinetists Throughout History” – a blog article by Jenny Maclay —many women are missing from this list, but it is a beginning. Click here:  Jenny Maclay, Clarinet

“A Soprano On Her Head” by Eloise Ristad *

“The Inner Game of Music” by Barry Greene *

“Art of the Possibility” by Ben Zander

“Gentle Genius: Story of Felix Mendelssohn” by George Richard Marek

“What To Listen For In Music” by Aaron Copland *

“The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten

“Indivisible By Four” by Arnold Steinhardt *

“Afternoon of a Faun: How Debussy Created a New Music for the Modern World”    by Harvey Lee Snyder


“American Masters: Itzhak” — full-length feature film about Itzhak Perlman. Find more information here:

Victor Borge —with the recorder phenomenon Michala Petri. Listeners should be aware that Borge did not share his antics with performers until the performance. His improv skills were unmatched. This made for many moments of genuine laughter. Watch as Petri tries valiantly to hold it together as ‘the straight man’ while Borge, who obviously has great admiration for her, clowns around. Amazing!



Preventing Injury In Clarinet Students – Five Guidelines For Private Teachers and School Conductors

Clarinet, Injury - Musician, Orchestra, Practicing, Teaching, Uncategorized

Several high school students recently came to me with tension, muscle weakness, pain, numbness or tingling. This was largely due to overuse, poor muscle tone and poor body positioning. The students were afraid to tell anyone, and they thought it was ok to continue playing through the pain. Mostly they didn’t want to let their band director down, whom they adore. This is not uncommon, but as a teacher it is difficult and time-consuming to unravel the problems.

Dr. Lynnette Khoo-Summers , Associate Professor in Physical Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis (and my own physical therapist) says, “Some injuries for young teen clarinetists happen when changing from a plastic to wood clarinet. There is an inability to hold the added weight, especially if thumbs and wrists are weak. Older teen players often have poor posture and muscle tone in general. This can translate to playing issues over time. Finally, students these days have a lot of homework in addition to band/orchestra rehearsals and practicing. It’s a lot to expect! Getting seven to eight hours of sleep becomes important to muscle recovery and maintaining good health.”

With all we must accomplish in our jobs, how can we as teachers and conductors work with students to prevent injury?

Here are five simple guidelines:

1) Remind students to tell you if they are experiencing pain, numbness or tingling. Instruct them to stop playing if in pain and come to you for assistance. I highly recommend that suffering students see their physician and ask for a referral to a good physical therapist.

Once a month I ask students, “are you feeling any pain, numbness or tingling in your neck, arms, jaw, wrists, fingers, and back?” and “Are you getting enough sleep?”

2) Check that students are physically set up well, with proper posture in relaxed and supported fashion. Make sure chairs are the correct size. Encourage students to live an active lifestyle. If you are a teacher who uses neck straps, try fitting your student carefully to take pressure off the right hand, thumb and wrist. If there are weaknesses in muscles or if finger joints are collapsing, do not hesitate to reach out for help from sports or arts physicians and physical therapists. Teachers and band/orchestra directors cannot specialize in everything! It truly takes a village.

3) Allow increases of practice time by 10% per week ONLY. If students are practicing 60 minutes and the teacher wishes to increase the total to 120 minutes, it will take approximately eight weeks to reach the goal. Sudden increases in practice time cause stress on muscles and joints. Bodies need time to adjust!

4) Cell phone and computer usage can contribute to overuse injuries on the clarinet. Encourage students to straighten their arms often to offset hours of bending the elbows. When you see students sitting at a computer, ask them if their neck is thrust too far forward and if they are maintaining good back posture.

5) Backpacks should weigh no more than 10% to 15% of child’s body weight. I had a 17-year old female student complain of neck pain, only to find out her backpack weighed over 30 pounds! With the lack of physical conditioning prevalent today, heavy backpacks are a recipe for disaster. Be sure to encourage students to leave unnecessary materials in the band room or locker. Remind students to distribute backpack weight by using BOTH straps.

Injuries in young music students are on the rise. Simple preventative measures can help prevent serious problems later on. Students will enjoy playing more if they are not in pain.

Questions or comments? Respond below.


Clarinet, Classical clarinetists-female, Practicing, Teaching, Uncategorized

In practicing, students usually fall into one of two groups. Using highly technical terms (not), I call these groups:

1) Detailers

2) Play-throughers

‘Detailers’ enjoy the process and can get lost in musical minutiae, forgetting that time exists. An hour later they may have completed work on two measures.

‘PlayThroughers’ enjoy running music from start to finish without stopping.  Boom – they are done. Then they go walk their dog or text their friends.

Truth is, we need a balance between being a Detailer and Play-Througher in our daily practice.

Below is a formula for practicing that includes time for detail work and time for performance. I’ve put everything in percentages that can easily be changed into number of minutes. Use a timer. Note: there is no magic in this formula. As I always say, make my ideas work for YOU. I have shown two options only as a starting point. Be creative!


Geneva Competition – Repertoire

Clarinet, Clarinet compositions, Competitions, Teaching

Competitions are a good resource for new or lesser-performed works. I’m always curious.  Repertoire for the 2018 Concours de Genève International Music Competition (Clarinet) may be found on p. 10 and 11.

In the B Recital I list below, new to me was “Bug” by Bruno Mantovani.

B. Recital I:

Robert Schumann: Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano (12′)
One of the following pieces at choice:

F. Donatoni: “Clair” (1st mvt) for clarinet solo (4′)
H. Holliger “Rechant” for clarinet solo (6′)
M. Jarrell: “Assonance” for clarinet solo (9′)
Mantovani: “Bug” for clarinet solo (6′)
J. Widmann: “Fantaisie” for clarinet solo (7′)
K. Stockhausen: « der kleine Harlekin » for clarinet solo (9’) o E. Denisov: Sonata for clarinet solo (8’)

Mantovani writes: ‘[“Bug”] is a musical metaphor of the disarray caused by an imaginary computer break-down (fortunately not predicting what might have happened on 31 December 1999).’

Teaching Philosophies

Clarinet, Orchestra, Teaching

I’m transfering my website materials to a new website called DianaHaskellClarinet. It’s up and running!  Which has meant updating/enhancing/dictionary-ing/thesaurus-izing/and so on. It’s tear-my-heart-out slow. Arduous. Worse than practicing long tones. I’d rather rearrange my sock drawer. And so on.


It’s actually been a thoughtful process of updating my philosophy statements for all age groups. Why three? 1) college 2) high school and 3) beginner/intermediate. I need slightly different focal points for each.

Here is a sample from my overall statement:

Diana Haskell strives to uncover, cultivate, strengthen, and support the creative talent in each clarinetist. Artistry is always the highest objective. In teaching she guides students to become the best musical version of themselves. Work is done together to develop and improve all aspects of playing: technique, musicianship, tone, and performing — in order that students may reach their highest potential, no matter their chosen field. 

The goal of a teaching philosophy statement is to give the reader an overview of the teacher’s vision and process. Though time-consuming, writing a teaching philosophy statement has helped clarify and distill my approach to learning and teaching.

Do you have a statement? Please feel free to share your ideas below.

The Modified Box Breath

Clarinet, Teaching

I was taught this wind version of the Box Breath by Laura Dwyer, a fabulous flutist in the St. Louis area. Also known as the Navy Seal breathing technique, the Box Breath is calming and energizing at the same time. Students who try it find it effective in calming nerves before tests or auditions. Practice the Box Breath as part of a daily practice routine for 10-15 minutes. It really works!

The wind version includes a quick inhale followed by a slower exhale. It may take a while to learn to pace the exhale. Be sure to visualize the rectangle. Unlike the original box breath, I go immediately from inhale to exhale without a pause or ‘catch’ in the throat.


Tips For Better Performances

Clarinet, Clarinet Reeds, Recital Prep, Teaching

No one can take away our musicality. Reeds may fail. Technical slip-ups are common. We might trip. Distractions are everywhere! 

But musicality is internal. So focus on musicality. No one can mess with musicality. Pour over and study harmony. Practice shaping every phrase. Be concerned with beauty and artistry.


1) preparation – Be thorough and wise in preparation. Leave no stone unturned.

2) air leak – Just don’t.

3) excessive bell motion – Keep bell motion to a minimum. Too much leads to distortion in sound and pitch.

4) stage presence – Even if it’s an act, be confident. It helps us play with more conviction.

5) warm up onstage – Keep warmups soft and slow – not loud, fast, and high.

6) good rhythm – ‘Nuff said.

7) realistic self talk – Be accepting of performance and of self in the moment. Repeat TRUTHS. “I’m doing the best I can. My desire is to share music with the audience rather than playing perfectly. Excellence in artistry is my goal. I’m trusting in the work I have done and am letting go of the rest. I’m focused on excellence, not perfection. I’m focused on serving the music, not me.”

8) caffeine and sugar consumption – Limit stimulants, especially beginning three days prior to performance.

9) what we listen to while waiting to perform – Choose inspiring or calming music.

10) sleep/water consumption/healthy eating/exercise.


1) good reed prep – Have different types of reeds on hand that are well broken-in to allow for more options. Reeds must be worked daily.

2) technical playing – Prepare well by utilizing practice patterns, intelligent slow practice, and by recording often.

3) nervousness – Try the Box Breath for five minutes before practice every day. Repeat before performance. (But not while onstage-this might lead to passing out!) Studies show that accepting nerves, rather than fighting them, may also reduce anxiety. Reframe the word ‘nerves’ into the word ‘excitement’. Be sure to incorporate mock performances into any preparation.


1) reeds in the moment – Diligent students will have several reeds ready to go. But ultimately we must work with what we have – the show must go on.

2) what others think – Focus instead on excellence, artistry and process. Play for your audience, not critics.

Practice intelligently, perform often, and on the day of the audition, play with peace and joy!