Tag Archives: clarinet


Well, here we are folks…the “final” year of my doctorate. The end of my professional career as a college student.

The year entails many exciting (and stressful) events and adventures. Numerous recording projects coming up. I’ll be making an album of clarinet trios including the Brahms and Beethoven. There is one new work that is currently in the final stages of composition.

The second album will be a collection of new works for clarinet. It’s in conjunction with some up and coming composers.

Later this Fall I have been invited to give a couple masterclasses. Which I’m looking forward to!

There’s a possibility that I may have signed too many contracts for solo performances this Fall…and likely will be going PSYCHO by the end of December. It’d be one thing to repeat rep, but most are different works every single time. Oy!

Livin’ the life!

I’m slowly working on my calendar, as soon as its up I will be posting it here!

Exciting time!

Off to practice.

Remember: Breathe, Listen, and Make Music!

Artistry of Delusion

In today’s society, pursuing a career in music is extremely difficult and often times disparaging. There are a lot, and by a lot I mean a majority, of musicians that have fostered quite a few delusions about being a musician. There is this glamour and enchantment that often surrounds the world of music. I have seen many good musicians change their life paths and pursue other endeavors.

Of course, these problems that plague the career of musicians, that sense of delusion, can be corrected or more importantly prevented.

How can it prevented, how can we insure amateur musicians of today that, while you cannot avoid some struggle as there is with any field, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will find a sense of security.

The impetus behind this subject is the result of many years of seeing friends and colleagues who pursue degrees, often in higher ed, that – and I hate to say this – have no business doing so. Nothing frustrates me more than someone who pursues a doctoral degree in music with the intention of only winning an orchestra job. After letting my frustrating go from a boil to a simmer, I started looking at the situation and problems related to music as a whole. I have observed college student after college student graduate without the necessary skills to be successful.

More often than not, it’s not realized until they’re knee deep in debt.

As I mentioned early, that sense of delusion can be avoid. How? It can be prevented at the very very beginning by showing our younger students the necessity of growth, the importance of being multifaceted, and that there are more jobs available other than playing in an Orchestra. There are music educators, private teachers, there are college positions…but what else? Pursuing a chamber career is not viable…or is it? Why yes, yes it is! And it’s easy to accomplish. You establish yourself, or group, as a nonprofit organization and you’ve just open the doors to millions and millions of dollars in grant funding.

What about starting a music school of your own? Again, work with a few people, establish nonprofit status, write some grants and you could potentially have more than 20k dollars in start-up funds.

It all revolves around this concept of being an entrepreneur. I wrote an article a long time ago about the evolution of the musician. The key points were that the musicians of yesterday are becoming more and more of a rare breed in this industry. There are only a small handful of successful soloists, a career that is only offered to the lucky few, the ones that are really and truly a virtuoso.

How many orchestras and symphonies in this country are fiscally stable? Not to mention that there are immense problems rooted in the business structure of orchestras across the country. Notably, orchestra musicians feel that they can be both performer and administrator. You can, but your orchestra will struggle in a lot of areas. The level of expertise and training that goes into marketing, PR, and advertising is stifling – and at this point, orchestras need the most well equipped and experienced marketing specialists to ensure survival. But that comes at an expense, because those upper level executives in marketing are getting paid big bucks at big companies.

I could go on and on regarding the issues revolving around all the orchestra debacles, I’ll save that for a later date.

Musicians of today and tomorrow are not only great instrumentalists, they are great writers, great teachers, critics, clinicians, and entrepreneurs.  Musicians know how to manage their own performing careers, how to recruit students, how to communicate with their community, and how to live.

If they don’t have all or some of these skills, then they will likely struggle to survive.

These are this skills WE should be teaching our students, these are the concepts we should be emphasizing. Not to mention that, as musicians and teachers, we should be STRONGLY encouraging our students to go out in the community and play…everywhere. It’s one things to have the skills to succeed, it’s another to not contribute to building and fostering the audience necessary to support your career.

There’s no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t change.

How many orchestral musicians do you know that are working with public schools? And I’m talking about the orchestra where musicians are full-time, not per service, and make enough to survive. I know only a few.

It’s time to change. 

Feel as Fine as a Frog’s Hair

Today was the day….after more than 60 hours of writing, editing, re-writing, and more editing…I submitted my curriculum vita and cover letter for a particular job at a certain college somewhere on the East Coast.

Yes, I’m still being secretive about it. I think that might be best until there is something absolutely concrete. It’s not really a big secret, I just happen to know how competitive this job market is and people get a little weird about things. Especially considering my entire experience with applying for this job.

I had four different professors from four different colleges contacted both the head of the department and the chair of the search committee. I had briefly written an email to the person that’s chairing the committee to thank that person. I have never gotten an email response so quick before.

I’m trying not to read into it too much, as I often have done in the past. Even when I try to dispute the positive signs, I still feel really good about it.

On to a less narcissistic topic… it’s sort of funny, but interesting, that after spend a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks constantly writing…that once I’ve completed my project, all I want to do is write. It’s like a drug.

Unfortunately, for me, my writing isn’t always that good…so it’s really like doing a hardcore drug that just screws up your life.

Remember, crack is whack.

ADHD, really need to get that under control.

The exciting part about wanting to write, and sort of having the time to do it, I can finally start EFFECTIVELY researching material to write about. Look, I know as well as the next person that vomit of the mouth is fun for a short time, but only gets you but so far. So I’m going to try and approach my writing in two different ways. Every night or day, I will write some haphazard blog about nothing, full of run-on sentences, and fragments ..and twice a week, I will submit two articles I’ve researched on….my eyes may be bigger than my stomach here….Yeah, I guess it’s okay to be ambitious.

My ambitious list of things I’m planning on writing soon:

  • Approach to articulation (only because this professor somewhere recently wrote and article that I plan on disputing, point by point)
  • Higher Education and the Arts – The credibility crisis of the D.M.A. (Doctorate of Musical Arts)
  • Ready to start your own studio? The critical points everyone should know in developing a studio and effective methods of recruitment (just didn’t a lecture on this)
  • Fundamentals of the Embouchure; Taking the myth out of the mystery.

There are a bunch more, but my hand is starting to get tired from typing.

Remember: Live, Breathe, and Play.

Challenge This!

It’s been a while.

Okay, it’s been more than a while. But I’m back, never fear, I can’t stay away THAT long…maybe only 3 or 4 months.

Things have been pleasantly busy. Frankly, I don’t remember the last time I’ve been in such a great mood.

Just got back from a long performance tour which I called the “5 states, 5 days tour.” Performed at East Tennessee State University, Virginia Tech, and University of North Carolina Greensboro. It was part of the College Band Directors National Association conference. I had a blast.


Even though it does sort of sound like a big geek-fest – it was a wonderful experience. Especially for networking.

While at the conference, I had one of those rare moments where ALL of my major musical influences and mentors were in one place…at one time. My band directors from high school, undergrad, masters, and doctorate – SO rare! It was great! I smiled a lot and got to play catch-up with some whom I haven’t seen in over 10 years!

And I slept a lot too, oddly enough.

Some things are in the works…CVs are flying, cover letters are hot off the presses…and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Had a great introduction to someone that could potentially be a future colleague at a University somewhere. I’m going try to keep it quite as long as a can, even though I often fail at secrets.

I don’t want to count all my eggs in one basket JUST yet.

Associate Professor of Clarinet does have an awful nice ring to it.

Professor Butalewicz ….

Oye, no…it will definitely have to be Professor B, or Dr. B. I’ve had enough early child hood trauma. Trust me, anything you think of…I’ve heard. Well, there was this one girl who came up with something…but it’s not really appropriate to repeat in a public forum.

Regardless…this is my 30 day CHALLENGE BLOG.  My goal, or as some would call it soon to be failed hopes and dreams (but in the nicest and most sarcastic way possible), is to write a blog everyday, for 30 days.30 day challenge

Not matter how short, inconsequential, stupid, or ridiculous that blog may be…I’m going to write it.

My writing, as you can see from the latter paragraphs, has suffered tremendously. I’ve noticed a sharp decline in my ability to wordsmith beautiful and lyrical prose, even though I was never really good at it in the first place. I’m finding it more difficult to construct even the simplest emails, memos, agendas, and…in some extreme cases…random drunk text messages?!?

Don’t ask.challenge accepted

So…I’ve allotted 10 minutes (really more like 5 minutes since I’m always running late to something or another) to speed blog writing. Topics I intend to cover…likely something trivial or boring.

i catch a grenadeStay with me though…I’m hoping that by the end of my 30 days of forced blogging, I will magically blossom into a blog writing savant, writing beautiful posts about social and political events, musical misnomers, experimenting in various tenses and experimenting with my satirical and scholarly styles and voice….etc. etc.

Who am I kidding?

Blog post 1 of 30 – COMPLETE!

Dulcet Two Hour Tones

I just lost two hours practicing long tones. Okay, I didn’t LOSE two hours…more I gained two hours of invaluable practice working on fundamentals.

Sheesh…I’m usually much better at keeping track of time while practicing. I will definitely NOT say that it was a waste of time, actually the transverse. I really focused on just beautiful and solid playing…liquid fingers, fast and consistent air, free motion.

My hands feel great – like after you’ve stretched before going on a run. I’m relaxed.

I take notes throughout my practice session, particularly when working on one set of exercises and notice something else that I need to work on…e.g. C#/G# and intervals in keys with more than 4 sharps. Regardless, that two hours I just spent on long tones brought a lot of other issues to the surface…consistent starts/stops of sound, legato, consistency of air.

The list goes into more detail that I refuse to write out again because it makes me realize I should have started my practice session at 6am instead of 8am.

On to articulation studies….

Sale of The Year

Went and visited my old professor from undergrad today, Dr. Charles West. I still refer to him as Dr. West even though I’m technically a doctor. He is helping me sell my back-up A clarinet; I really don’t see much need for holding on to it and need the money more than I need the back-up. It’s a Festival, plays beautifully, just needs a little work. Unfortunately it just doesn’t fit my needs as far as tone and sound anymore – I can’t project in a big hall or cut through an orchestra. I had some wonderful years with that instrument, won many competitions on it, performed around the world on it – but it’s time. The R-13’s have always been the right fit for me…and boy can I wail in a concert hall if I wanted too!!! We settled on an asking price of around $1,200…which I think is pretty fair. comes with two barrels and I’m throwing in a $500.00 BAM case as well. It does need an overhaul, otherwise I’d sell it for a lot more…I just don’t have the time or funds to send it off right now.

I will, however, hold on to my B-flat…it needs some serious work and I’ll likely take it to Jacobi and drop a $1,000 bucks…but I’m more concerned about having a sold backup B-flat than an A.

But back to my visit.

It was soo great talking clarinet shop again…mouthpieces, players, pedagogy! I forget just how lucky I was to be one of his pupils…I learned a great deal from him: how to network, research, how to teach, rep, and really how to be a total musician. Something I find very few professors teaching their students these days.

He insisted I come and do a masterclass at the University…and I was utterly flattered. That was the ultimate compliment, knowing that he respects both my playing and teaching as a professional clarinetist to invite me as an artist. I’ve given masterclasses all over the US and throughout Europe…those were great opportunities…but something about this invitation seems all more special. Coming back to my roots, no longer as a student, but as a professional clarinetist.

Life is good. Now if I can just figure out how to play this instrument…it would be much better.

Doctor Who and The Articulation Aliens

I originally wrote a fantastic blog on restaurant etiquette and the differences between dining styles…but am too lazy to turn the computer back on and edit it for posting.

Instead, I’m updating from my iPhone while watching Doctor Who at a point in my practice where my body has finally screamed…”PUT THE INSTRUMENT DOWN AND BREATH.”

I just spent the last three hours practicing fundamentals: long tones with tuner and drone, scales, arpeggios, articulation, etc. A majority of that time was spent on articulation – something I never felt much need to work on because I have been blessed with a fast tongue. However, the past few months my embouchure has seen extensive changes, all in an effort to loosen up the sound and let more harmonics run in the tone. As a result of this change, my articulation is not so great and need to re-learn it.

Unfortunately, I’m a biter (as are a majority of clarinet players). It’s a result of playing 8 to 9 hours a day going from one rehearsal/performance to the next. When you go go go all the time, you never really stop and take care of the fundamentals – especially when you have a stack of orchestra music to learn and three concertos to memorize. Needless to say, I regret not taking the time and am a little perturbed with myself for taking on too many projects keeping me from taking care of the basics. And moving on from that random non-sequitur…

The embouchure change has made tonguing a little difficult…instead of a light articulation, my tongue is now a jack hammer against the reed.

Add the fact that my embouchure still isn’t really stable…and it’s a receipt for chaos and utter disharmony. Today, though, I think we’re getting back on the right track. There’s still some instability in the embouchure…by that’s going to take time, the muscles need to rebuild. My voicing is getting better…but have to be super careful not to think about that too much. More often than not, thinking about voicing screws everything up and I strongly stand by the theory that if the air is right and the embouchure is right, then the voicing is (generally) right.

Off to practice some Mozart and Brahms and watch ANOTHER fantastic episode of Doctor Who!

Here’s a nice picture of the view we had today while out for Thanksgiving Dinner…though the restaurant sucked, the view of the James river was quite stunning!


The Small Things

Life is made infinitely better by the small things. For example, after a long evening of practicing and just as I’m about to crash from exhaustion I find this…

…nestled inside my clarinet case.

I may have squealed…or something to that effect.

Love those practice session where you completely lose track of time and what seems like only an hour or so is actually 4. I had no intention of staying at the conservatory until 2am…and it’s not pleasant walk home when all the campus lights are off.

Regardless – it was an excerpt night. I’ve just about finished up putting together my audition book for the Dallas Symphony orchestra, just need to hunt down a few second clarinet parts.

Things were gelling tonight – sound production was good, articulation was beastly, and consistency is slowly become a stronger and stronger trait of my playing (versus the catastrophe it was 2 years ago).

Of course the night didn’t start like this, I’d only be so lucky. After changing my embouchure a month or so ago, I realize that it hasn’t quite settled in yet and I’m not quite at the point where I can not practice without having to check-in and make sure all is gravy. Tonight, I noticed that my facial muscles keep moving around like a squirrel frantically searching for its acorns after a long winter.

It’s funny because you never really notice JUST how much the muscles move if you’re not paying attention to them. And you really can’t always feel them moving either – it’s not until you look in a mirror and realize to your horror that nothing is staying still. Then you have the epiphany and finally understand why NOTHING is working or feeling right. As soon as that was locked down…everything seemed effortless, or at least it felt effortless. Of course, it could have just been the fact that my bottom lip was numb after 4 hours of playing with a relatively short break to respond to emails.

I made some landmark progress tonight. It is the first time in…oh…20,000 years that I am content with the exposition of the Mozart Concerto. Even after playing with three different orchestras around the globe – and a few high school bands (it was for the kiddies) – I have never been satisfied or happy. I still haven’t listened to those recordings…and doubt I will – actually, they’re likely lost on the shelf of “things to be filed away” (after fours years, you’d think that I would have gone through that shelf by now…)

3:25am and I’m up at 7am for two quintet rehearsals, a slew of lessons, and a recording session.

Off to dream about Fingal’s Cave and why Mendelssohn hated the clarinet.


Articulate Adventures

Articulation is such a funny little thing and always appears much easier than it actually is. I’ve spent a large amount of time these past few days thinking about articulation, how to practice it, manipulate it, as well as how to teach it.

My pedagogical theory that “one size does not fit all” is just as applicable to articulation as it is to embouchure, voicing, and fundamental techniques. Now, many years and teachers later, I find that my theory on tonguing and articulation has changed … significantly.

Articulation should neither hinder the air nor the voicing in all ranges of the instrument. In order to make sure these two are not affected by articulation we must first make sure that the voicing and tongue placement in the mouth is also correct.

Voicing is an article in and of itself – but through my studies, research, and work I’ve come to learn that the voicing should actually be high and forward in the mouth. If anything, one should think of raising the middle of the tongue versus the back of the tongue. It should follow the contour of the persons mouth – you’re creating a ventricular passage-way by using the tongue and the roof of the mouth. It’s like the water hose effect, the pressure is changed by the thumb just as the water is exiting the hose, you wouldn’t get the same effect if the pressure was changed farther back . Same concept with the air in the mouth, the shape of the air is changed just before it enters the mouthpiece.

Raising the tongue really high in the back of the mouth forces the muscle down into the throat and pulls the tip farther away from the reed and mouthpiece. This causes a snow ball effect in regards to back pressure and the throat starts dong weird things in order to control the air to compensate for lack of air pressure in the front of the mouth. Further more, this forces the player to bite to get the resistance the want. Of course, this changes from mouthpiece to mouthpiece…a story for another day.

Okay – so that being said – tip of the tongue to the tip of the reed works with a higher voicing in the back of the throat only. This effect often times produces thuds, grunts, and unclean attacks. Not to mention a variety of embouchure issues. By putting the tongue more forward in the mouth the throat can rest in its natural position. This changes how one articulates and can vary from one person to the next depending on length of tongue and size of aural cavity. For me, because I have a larger tongue than most, articulate farther up on the tongue than others with shorter tongues. That contact point on the tongue ensures that I’m not affecting the voicing or the air flow while articulating.

And I can still articulate the Mendelssohn scherzo at a quarter note equals 94 cleanly (I’m a freak of nature, I know) and have no issues single tonguing the Nielsen Concerto in that nasty section on the bottom of the third page where it’s marked at 144. In many cases, it’s actually easier for me. It just took some time getting used to the change…or well…still is. I often find myself wanting to revert to my old habits which just means I need to be a bit more diligent about my warm-ups.

I’ll explain in more detail at another point – just turning my thoughts into words and figuring out the layout for the chapter in my book. I should probably draw some pictures or something…but that requires more work and I’m tired.

It’s so interesting to see how everything is inter-connected when it comes to playing, particularly in regards to one’s aural cavity and embouchure formation.

Present Arms. Ready. Aim. F@#$^%@# REEDS!

This is my quick post while I wait for my pot of coffee to finish so I can scamper off to the studio and practice for a few hours.

Don’t be fooled by the title, I actually don’t hate reeds…I find them more fascinating than anything else. The title echos the sentiments of my students and many of my peers.

I’m actually in the process of breaking in 14,530 new boxes (approximate number). The weathers changing and how you break in your reeds now will either help or hinder your mood in the coming onslaught of winter. In other words, break them in slowly, SLOWLY, and make sure they’re stored in a humidity controlled thingy – whatever that storage be is up to you, as long as it’s air tight.

At some point, when time permits, I’ll give my reed break in secrets.

Well, they’re not really secrets – I just like to think they are.

I’ve recently broken in another box of the Rico Reserve Classics, in an attempt to like them…again. I like the fact that every single one plays great out of the box, as opposed to the V12’s I get. But, when I find a GREAT V12…it sure makes life pretty amazing. 

For me, and I repeat, FOR ME, I want more cane in the heart and tip of the reed. For those with smaller lips, this is no problem for you and the Reserves probably are gorgeous for you – but I got big lips – and I need something a little more substantial.

I’ll elaborate on this point in a later post – coffee is just finishing up.

Maybe that means I need to jump up another strength to 4+’s.

I want to talk about this more…but my coffee is done and I have a stack of music to learn.