Author: Tom Puwalski
Date: 2005-12-23 12:34
> Would you advise someone who wished to play classical music but
> whose sightreading and/or technique was not up to snuff, not at
> the level of a pro, not to bother?
> Post Edited (2005-12-23 07:47)
No, I would advise, and hunt down some pieces that were well within their level of proficiency. The trouble is clarinet doesn't seem to have very good repertoire that progresses from beginner to advanced, as does piano and violin. Let's take something like the Neilsen concerto, if I had an adult walk into thier first lesson with a copy of the Concerto and tell me "this is what I want to play," I'd ask kind of similar questions. The first being, have you heard this piece, second what other pieces have you studied, thirdly how much have you, or do you intend to practice. The last question I would ask is WHY? For fun, because the community orchestra this person plays for asked them and has a concert date in mind, they won't be motivated without one hell of a challenge? Then I'd listen to them play, since they came in for a lesson I'd assume they would be interested in my assessment and then I'd come up with a plan. I've had older students who learning the Neilson was a realistic goal, and I've had some that advances in human life expectancy haven't occurred yet.
Me for instance, I'm 46 years old, except for the 6 months I worked in a deli in down town Baltimore, have earned my living as a clarinetist. I've really never spent a lot of time working on the Neilson concerto. Recently I've started working on the Martino set, a piece I think is actually harder than the Neilson. My motivation, it's hard as hell, cool as crap, and if I can learn it I can play it on concerts and recitals. It's for clarinet alone. The Neilson, I will spend a few months next year getting it in the ball park of performance ready but not much more than that. Why? because unless you're a principal clarinetist with a major orchestra, Richard stoltzman, Dave Schriffran or Julian Bliss, you will never perform it with an orchestra. For me I have a hard time spending lots of time on something I'm not going to get to use.
How does this relate to klezmer? maybe as players have to constantly be working on our skill set. I have a few kids, who study with me from a middle school that is a very "Jewish" school. I have a very difficult time getting them to do basic clarinet work. They are convinced that you don't need a polished technique and controllable tone or the ability to read music. They're caught up in the music, these kids need some musical discipline. I can't tell you how many times a CD has been brought to a lesson with the guise of learning Dave Tarras's licks, and then one of them proceeds to "Jam" along with the CD. Not caring in the least what Dave actually played. Oh yea, skill set. If you feel that you don't have an ear, than you must come up with a plan to develop one. There really aren't bad ears, just undeveloped ones. If you can't transpose, at all, you got to find out how, and start. If you don't know what the scales and modes are in klezmer, you need to find out, and practice them. Actually not all of them, just D Phrygish, E phrygish on the Bb clarinet. I'm only kidding learn them all. It doesn't matter if your goal is to become a gigging clarinetist or just do a respectable performance of the Dreidle song at the holiday office party, the better you can play, the less stress the performance will cause.
It's about having a dream, a goal and a real good plan.
Tom Puwalski, former soloist with the US Army Field Band, Clarinetist with Lox&Vodka, and Author of "The Clarinetist's Guide to Klezmer"and most recently by the order of the wizard of Oz, for supreme intelligence, a Masters in Clarinet performance