Character Traits of Great Clarinet Students…and Musings On Ego

Clarinet, Clarinet Tips, Clarinet Wholistic, Classical clarinetists-female, Classical clarinetists-male, Practicing, Teaching, Uncategorized

One of the greatest teachers of young clarinetists today, and someone I greatly admire, Eva Wasserman-Margolis,  recently wrote a profound statement: ‘The quality of music is of utmost importance …. but it is really about the human being behind the music that is most important to me’. I have maintained that in teaching, the heart of a student is more important than their playing ability. In a very real sense we educate hearts in lessons, instilling compassion for music, for others, and for ourselves.

After reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, I decided to create a document for college and high school students. My ‘Characteristics of A Great Musician’ is given to all of my students. You will find the document at the end of this post or it may be downloaded from my website here.

I asked several students to expand upon my ‘Character Traits’ definitions. It will come as no surprise that they gave terrific answers. What you read in the document below, then, is a list of character traits developed from my own experience, from information online, and partly defined by students.

Note: Students are most curious about humbleness as it applies to music. I find humility is often thought of as a negative concept. Students think it means lack of ego, self-deprecation, shaming self or others, low self-esteem….or worse, that it means allowing others to abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like to use this quote to define humbleness: ‘True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.’

Indeed, that quote might lead to a fun discussion. What is ego, and is ego good, bad, or neither? What part does ego play in performing?  Is it possible to play in humbleness? What might that look like? How might humility help or hurt performance? Hmmmm…….

Enjoy!

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Teaching Philosophy Statement Is Up On My Website

Clarinet, Classical clarinetists-female, Classical clarinetists-male, Orchestra, Teaching, Uncategorized

‘Done is better than perfect.’ This is my motto for Clarinet Divas, my website and life. Flylady gets the credit for this great motto. This motto especially applies to the writing of a Teaching Philosophy Statement!

It took me a few weeks, but my Teaching Philosophy Statement is now up on my website HERE.

It is also copied and pasted below. Enjoy!

My goal is to discover, nurture, strengthen and encourage the creative talent within each clarinetist while always making artistry the highest objective. My teaching endeavors to guide students towards becoming the best musical version of themselves by developing all aspects of playing — musicianship, tone, technique and performance skills — in order to reach their highest potential, whatever their goals.

My experience as a professional performer, educator, soloist, and chamber musician informs my teaching practice and philosophy.

I employ a pedagogical approach that is rooted in a deep understanding of clarinet fundamentals and musicianship helping students to gain the skills necessary to succeed. Students study standard and contemporary works at their level. Discussion of phrasing and style in the manner of D. Stanley Hasty and Mitchell Lurie is ongoing. Joe Allard’s attention to releasing excess tension was the foundation for my study of the body. Because tightness can affect the ease of performance, I address tension issues and quickly find solutions. Students receive a thorough foundation for becoming outstanding clarinetists and exceptional musicians. This includes learning how to read pop and jazz charts, working on opera music, preparing for any type of audition, and reviewing strategies for starting teaching studios in urban centers.

When recruiting, I look for students who not only are superb musicians with keen rhythm, excellent tonguing and facile technique, but those who are patient with themselves, creative, kind, eager and engaged in the process of learning.

In addition, my studio is:

Results-oriented

The ultimate objective is to prepare students musically and technically for future aspirations, whatever they may be. Mastery of the clarinet will be accomplished by the study of etudes, methods, excerpts and repertoire, appropriate for each level.

Customized

Lessons are adapted to the individual’s needs and abilities. I am not interested in clarinet clones, but rather am passionate about guiding students to be the best versions of themselves as musicians. In short, I will strive to help students find their own unique ‘clarinet voice’.

Supportive in problem-solving

Issues and challenges of playing will be identified and solutions introduced in music being studied. If necessary, exercises specific to the problem will be given.

Thorough in studying best practice techniques

Intelligent practice is an art that must be learned in order to excel. In high school and college I largely sight-read music because no one showed me how to practice. My effective practice strategies only came about by playing weekly orchestra concerts, where large amounts of music must be learned quickly and thoroughly. This was trial by fire and nerve-wracking. Therefore strategies I have learned for efficient, intelligent practice will be shared in lessons. Based on years of teaching and performing, these methods are effective.

In closing:

The real challenge of the clarinet is as much about creativity, good phrasing, color in the sound and style as it is about brilliant technique. I believe that performing is not about our egos or how many notes we can play; it is truly about singing through the clarinet, serving the composer, and connecting with our audience.

 

 

Book List For Advanced 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.

BOOKS

“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

BONUS — VIDEOS

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

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/itzhak-full-film/10786

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.

PRACTICE TIME IN PERCENTAGES FORMAT

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) those who get lost in details (detail-ers)

2) those who run through material without much attention (runners)

‘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.

‘Runners enjoy playing music from start to finish without stopping. They rarely listen well or fix issues. Then they go walk their dog or text their friends.b

Truth is, we need a balance between being a Detailer and a Runner 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!

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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.

Kidding.

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.