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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000200.txt from 2001/05

From: rgarrett@-----.edu
Subj: Re: [kl] RE: Clarinetfest 2001 ... a few comments
Date: Mon, 7 May 2001 10:15:06 -0400

At 11:42 PM 05/06/2001 -0500, you wrote:
>.............I'm frequently bothered that the Clarinet Festivals in past
>years have been centered around certain people, i.e. Morales, Daniels,
>Combs, Sabine Meyer, etc... These are certainly GREAT players and I
>respect them all VERY much, but I think that there are a LOT more clarinet
>players out there who would love the opportunity to play at some of these
>and I feel that they're not really given the chance because of the
>preoccupation with these few great players.

Michael,

You just said enough to endanger any hope that you will ever become
President of the ICA!! LOL.

You know, if you have ever attended CBDNA (college band directors national
association) conferences, they are similar to the ICA conferences in that
the same people/performers/etc. are always featured. The same folks always
do the panel discussions, and the philosophy of what is programmed is
always similar. Change takes place gradually - very slowly - often over
several decades. In my opinion, ICA (and most music organizations in fact)
are very much the same. As you mention later in your email, there are
several that are not this way - the flute and saxophone groups - and that
is a feather in each of their caps!

In any organization there is political heirarchy - that is - you do for me,
and I do for you. Much in the same way, performers are chosen - although
some of the top performers you have mentioned are simply wonderful players
that should always be asked to play. Regarding the "little guys" - it
seems that whoever hires the performers for the ICA conventions is
preoccupied with finding well-known, tried and trued performers - often in
the most visible performance careers. There is less "risk" if they hire
these people to perform. There is also more conversation if one of them
fails to perform well - and I've heard that from some of the ICA reps at
these conferences.

It was only a couple of years ago that I recall inquiring about performing
at one of the conventions - one full year in advance. The response was a
luke-warm, "send information in and we'll see" kind of answer - this was
before participation on Klarinet as well (!) It was fairly evident then,
as I am sure it is now, that there seemed to be a preferred membership -
unsaid in the standard membership. Is this normal? Sure. That's human
behavior. I'll give you an example locally of how this kind of behavior is
common:

This year I took the IWU clarinet choir to our IMEA (Illinois Music
Educators Association) Convention for a lecture/performance. The
performance included some good clarinet choir pieces and the lecture
focused on sound production for the entire clarinet family - entitled,
"Extra Credit for Squeaks." The lecture/performance was well-received, and
the clarinet students were thrilled to be featured. We packed a small room
on the late Saturday morning slot we were given. I suppose I was a risk -
having never been asked to perform or lecture, but I felt fortunate to be
allowed to do so upon application. That we were given a small room at a
lousy time during the convention was a small price to pay for breaking in
to the "good ol' boy system." I expect that the next time I want to
perform with a group, I'll be given a slightly better slot and will have a
larger room. Will I do it? Yes - my school really needs me to be active
in this way. Do I have to do it to "notch my gun?" No - I have enough
satisfaction in my job and family as it is.

I asked my wife why she didn't take her unusually good, well-in-tune jr.
high string orchestra (good, balanced instrumentation) to the convention as
an example of what a good jr. high group is capable of, and she told me,
"No way. I'm not opening myself up to be picked apart." Thinking back to
my CBDNA days, I have to agree that this is one behavior that is common at
these conventions. After arriving at school the next working day following
IMEA, a colleague told me that our lecture/performance was well-received -
that there was only good "gossip" going on about the performance. He had
taken a performing ensemble only a year earlier and considered himself a
"survivor." I found the entire idea amusing - and I realized that I was
somewhat naive in my perspective.

Back to ICA - was I miffed when given the cold shoulder for performing at
this event? Not really. I would say disappointed in the reasons for
having to jump through so many hoops to be allowed the opportunity to
perform - but understanding of why it is the way it is. Is it something I
personally covet as proof of success in my career as a university clarinet
teacher/performer and conductor? I don't think so. We all like to feel
that what we have to offer musically is of worth to others. But my
experience has been that we live in a world of competition - and that there
can only be so many performers at a convention. Why give the little guy
the opportunity when there are safer, tried and trued routes to
follow? Don't forget Michael, what do you do if you are in charge of
hiring performers for the ICA convention and the same people ask you if
they can play? Do you turn Morales, Daniels, Combs, Sabine Meyer, etc...
down? I'm not sure I would turn them down. I certainly wouldn't
relegate them to one little piece on a shared recital!!! What exactly does
it mean if you are only allowed to play one piece on a shared recital? On
a personal note - should I be given the opportunity to play at ICA? All
things being reasonably equal - as long as the current President likes me
personally - or that the person holding the convention knows and likes me
(which is often what it takes). However, from my perspecitve, as long as I
see the success in what I do - both with my students and my personal
achievements - I don't need the notch in the gun others so desire.

There is another viewpoint - work hard and long hours and you can achieve
what you want. Given this approach, I or anyone else who plays well enough
probably could covet a slot in the program - again, depending on the
president and the location. But it would involve a lot of schmoozing,
quite a bit of hard work and long hours that might not benefit my personal
goals very much, and a willingness to spend time doing that at the expense
of NOT going on the scouting overnight with one boy, doing a swim workout
with the other, spending mornings and evenings with my family, etc. It's a
trade-off for the "little guy." This is what makes him a lesser
known. The less well-known performer chooses a path that is not in the
limelight. It is likely this kind of person may never be asked to play at
ICA. They certainly are not going to make the personal sacrifices required
to get the higher ups to allow them to play at such a convention (what
would the benefit be beyond notching the gun and building a rep?). Is it
worth the loss of time in other areas? It really depends on what is at
stake. For many of these kinds of performers, what is at stake is plain,
simple recognition. They need it - either for themselves or for their
current positions. Non-tenured clarinet professors need tenure - and this
kind of performance looks good. Tenured professors may want promotion -
and this is what is necessary for promotion. Symphony performers may want
the added recognition - or the opportunity to test their solo/chamber music
"powers" with a tough audience. Or maybe, they just want more exposure to
sell more CDs. Who really knows? It is possible they just like performing
music. If the "little guy" is not in need of any of these things, the only
way he will end up playing is to be asked. Humility is important with some
of these people - so they don't self-promote.

So - when you say, "I think that there are a LOT more clarinet players out
there who would love the opportunity to play at some of these and I feel
that they're not really given the chance because of the preoccupation with
these few great players," now you have one viewpoint for why many of these
players are not asked or even allowed to play - or why they don't work
harder to be allowed to play.

It is positive change/leadership and guidance that leads to the next
evolutionary step of an organization. ICA will eventually do this, but it
will require some risky and innovative planning and leadership that
attempts to move forward in a way that tests untested waters. That
requires quite a personality at the helm - one that can avoid the fallout
if a newer path is chosen. This kind of a leader is rare.

>Just a few thoughts and all said IMHO. I don't mean to offend anyone, but
>nothing gets done by closing your mouth.
>
>--Michael

All well thought out Michael - I wonder if anyone is listening? Everyone
has an agenda - if you are in the way with what you say, it can get in the
way of progress. Is it fair? I don't think so. Is it
normal? Unfortuantely, yes.

Best wishes,
Roger Garrett

Roger Garrett
Clarinet Professor
Director, Symphonic Winds
Illinois Wesleyan University
School of Music
Bloomington, IL 61702-2900
Phone: (309) 556-3268
Fax: (309) 556-3121

"A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes
another's."
Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)

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