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 Best Clarinet Mouthpiece Craftsman!
Author: ChristianSchubert 
Date:   2010-10-24 16:51

I recently discovered Ramón Wodkowski, a brilliant, brilliant mouthpiece craftsman, because the Houston Symphony was just on a two week tour in the UK. A colleague in our section had heard very positive reviews about Ramón's work and three of us in the section decided to pack up all of our treasured vintage gear (Kaspars, Chedvilles, Kanters, Selmers, etc.) and take them to London just in case Ramón was as good as people were saying.

All I can say is that we went in with high expectations but were still blown away after working with Ramón because the experience and the results were far beyond what any of us could have imagined. Every single mouthpiece Ramón worked on turned out WAY better. His knowledge about mouthpieces going back decades and decades is vast, his approach is very conservative, being careful to respect the inherent qualities of the practically irreplaceable vintage pieces we were handing across the table one after another after another. His skill and technique is very impressive. He knew what to do with each mouthpiece, brilliantly working in the intended style of each different facing, working in small steps. Watching that progression as my two colleagues were playing the mouthpieces after small adjustments was fascinating. Ramón was not shooting in the dark at all - every adjustment made sense as you heard each piece get better and better. Ramón never went in the WRONG direction. Very impressive.

As far as my own personal experience, I have played James Kanter mouthpieces ever since I was in Junior High school. I have 5 of them, three of which Jim made for me in the 80's. Two of those three I have played for most of my career. Therefore, due to almost 30 years of wear and tear, those two mouthpieces were about ready to have some work done. On his website, Ramón lists Jim Kanter and Everett Matson as his two teachers making me feel extra confident bringing my Kanters to Ramón. After Ramon refaced the first one, I played every concert on our tour on that mouthpiece. It is the best mouthpiece I had ever played (for me, obviously). So at the end of the tour, after having so much luck with the first mouthpiece, I stayed an extra day in London and had Ramón work on three more of my Kanters. I am now in the very lucky situation of having four Kanter mouthpieces that all feel better than they have felt in years, or ever felt. It is hard to decide which one of those four to play they are all so good. Those four mouthpieces also all sound/feel better than my fifth Kanter mouthpiece which I have played for the last seven years. I decided to leave that one untouched until my return to our concert hall here in Houston so I could have a baseline to judge against.

My other two colleagues in the clarinet section are having similar experiences with the Kaspars, H. Chedvilles, C. Chedvilles, Bettoneys and Selmers that Ramón worked on for them. We are back in Houston and all of us are playing on Ramón's work and recommending him to anyone who asks.

Bottom line. If you have nice stuff, it is absolutely worth the effort to take it to Ramón first!! His website is: http://www.ramonwodkowski.com/

Christian Schubert
Clarinetist, Houston Symphony, Texas, USA

Reply To Message
 Re: Best Clarinet Mouthpiece Craftsman!
Author: William 
Date:   2010-10-25 14:49

Lucky you guys. Having your already quality mouthpieces tweeked to your individual specifications by a master craftsman. However, I feel the same about our own Gregory Smith or Walter Grabner, both of whom have done similar work for me, presenting me with "better than before" clarinet mouthpiecies. It's much like having a suite coat altered by a tailor so the fit for you is perfect. In other words, maybe for you, but not for me. No doubt Ramon is a gifted craftsman, but to say he it the "best" is a little overstated for me.

BTW, a couple of years ago, a friend of mine and I had a chance to try a Kaspar mouthpiece that Kantor had worked on. We both played it in a rehearsal and decided that it was not very good. My friend sold it, via the auction site, to another clarinetist in California who couldn't thank him enough for the wonderful mouthpiece. My point--to each his own. For me, I am not going to rush over to the UK to have my Chicago Kaspar tweeked a bit when all I have to do is travel a hundred miles to the Chicago area and visit either Gregory Smith or Walter Grabner--both of whom I consider to be, "the best". Of course, like you, that is only my humble opinion.....cheers.

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 Re: Best Clarinet Mouthpiece Craftsman!
Author: John J. Moses 
Date:   2010-10-25 17:56




Yes, I do play his mouthpieces and use his equipment professionally in NYC.

Légère Artist
Clark W. Fobes Artist

Post Edited (2010-10-25 17:58)

Reply To Message
 Re: Best Clarinet Mouthpiece Craftsman!
Author: sclarinet 
Date:   2010-10-25 23:29

I have to jump in here, since I was there in London with Chris working with Ramon Wodkowski..
For all of you sceptics out there, I wish you would experience what we have witnessed in those couple of days. For anybody who knows even a little about the mouthpieces, it was an absolute dream come true!
What amazed me the most about Ramon's work, is his ability in a very short time to find out what works for You, not David Shifrin or Mark Nuccio and, without pushing any of his personal agenda, duplicate that again and again.
It was remarkable to hear my colleagues sound better and more comfortable with every swipe and playing the rest of the tour with ease and smile.
I, personally had a very good experience with with Brad Behn and Richard Hawkins before, so it is not a miracle to me when Ramon can make an unplayable mouthpiece work great!
However, what is unique about him, is his ambition to demystify " It's not an exact science" attitude, that is very common among many clarinetist.
And having him prove it right in front of you, with three different styles, again and again... Extremely impressive!
You don't have to go to London to see him ( although, it's worth it!), he comes regulary to US. Check him out, decide for yourself.
Sasha Potiomkin.

Reply To Message
 Re: Best Clarinet Mouthpiece Craftsman!
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2010-10-26 12:44

Although my mouthpiece guy may not have anywhere near the skill of the aforementioned refacers/makers, this guy is my personal favorite for the following reasons:

1) He lives in the same house as I do, so he's always available.
2) He knows exactly how I play and what reeds I use.
3) Although he rarely gets it perfect right away, he'll continue to work on a mouthpiece for days, weeks, or even months until it's just the way I like it.
4) He never charges me a cent.

Can't beat that!

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