Listen to – and Learn From -Experienced Musicians

Articulation, bassoon, Clarinet, Clarinet Tips, Clarinet Wholistic, Orchestra, Practicing, Teaching, Uncategorized

Last year a friend of mine offered a really great idea to help our orchestra. This person is a long-time member of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. When I suggested this person talk with our management, the response was “No, no one wants to hear from someone my age.” I was taken aback and saddened by this comment from someone who has done fine work in the SLSO. Others in previous orchestras I’ve performed with have expressed similar sentiments.

This is not unique to orchestras. It’s part of life in many fields, and frankly, I believe it is short-sighted. I dare say it is even disrespectful, as those who go before us pave the path that we are lucky enough to walk upon. In the case of orchestras, past musicians fought for better working conditions and better salaries. I am thankful for every one of them.

Before rehearsal one day with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, veteran principal bassoonist Nelson Dayton was warming up and talking about changes in his playing as he grew older. I asked him what had changed the most in his playing. “Tonguing!” he almost shouted. He went on to talk about how much harder he had to work as he aged in order to achieve the same results. He gave me tips on how to work. As a 27-year old who could tongue easily I didn’t understand, but I filed it away. Now that I am in my fifties I totally get it and am grateful for his insights. Nelson was a gracious, caring man who became a mentor to me. If I had not asked for his advice or had neglected listening to him, I would have lost valuable information….and lost an opportunity to be friends with a fine musician.

I would like to suggest that we buck the trend of ignoring older musicians. Go to players outside your circle of friends and age group. Ask questions about their families and about their approach to music. Ask them to tell stories about weird conductors or tour mishaps.

But go even deeper: respect them and BE THEIR FRIEND. You will learn many valuable musical…and life…lessons.

Thank you, Nelson Dayton, for your mentoring and friendship.





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:


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.


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.



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.

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 Most Important Aspect of Playing In An Orchestra

Classical clarinetists-female, Orchestra, Teaching

I work with some of the finest colleagues anywhere. St. Louis Symphony musicians are known for graciousness towards visiting conductors, a high level of passion and musicality, and friendliness.

I thought it might be fun to ask some of these wonderful musicians what they think is the most important part of playing in an orchestra. I’ve divided responses by number of years of service but have left answers anonymous. Some remarks are quite elegant; some poignant and others humorous. I may add a second list later on, as musicians love to share what they know. Enjoy!

String– over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Teamwork; must be a good ensemble player. Must submerge a bit of your personality to create a unified sound for the section and the orchestra.
  • Actually, the answer to that question has changed over time for me. Early on I wanted to be a part of the social life of the orchestra. Then I WAS part of the social life. At the end of my career I feel separated again. It used to be that musicians wanted to be accepted by the older players, but this is no longer the case.
  • Another important thing is to realize that we are part of an institution that has a long and rich past.

String – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Equal parts of self-awareness and collaboration are needed. In order to collaborate you have to be aware of yourself and others around you.

Brass – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Being sensitive to people around you, both musically and personally.

Woodwind – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Refuse to gossip and criticize a colleague. Realize that when you do this, you are tearing down a valued person and our great institution. Eventually it might affect our music-making. Also, it will come back to bite you.
  • Especially avoid gossip with management, something that sadly goes on here too much.
  • Wear deodorant. Under no circumstances, take garlic pills.

String – over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Take a shower!
  • Flexibility – ability to collaborate with colleagues onstage

Woodwind – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Intonation: never think you are right. Work together and keep the insecurity and ego out of tuning. There is no ‘right’, there is only compromise and working together.

Brass – less than 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Keep the music alive. Pass on what you know and keep classical music relevant to future generations.

String – over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Listen to the orchestra as much, or more than, watching the conductor.
  • Learn from experienced players by asking them questions and working with them.

Percussion – over 20 years of service in the SLSO

  • Learn when to lead and when to submit.

Woodwind – under 20 years of service

  • Be passionate when playing, even small pieces (pops, for example). Make it meaningful.
  • Be supportive of your colleagues. Stop tearing down colleagues!

String – over 40 years of service in the SLSO

  • Going home. 🙂