If music is your passion and you would love to actually have a career as a musician but are afraid it's too risky, I'm here to tell you that it's absolutely possible and, in fact, is the path to pursue if your heart is speaking to you. You can make a living and whole worlds you never knew about will open up to you.
First, get really really good at playing your instrument. That's actually the easy part. Then, realize that wherever you are--in a small or medium-sized town, small or large city--there is a need for musicians. I'll say it again. There is a need for musicians. Everywhere. Here is just a short list:
1. Community/Regional Orchestras - contact the conductor and play for him/her. If there's a formal audition, take it. Even if you don't win you will get your name out there.
2. Orchestra Personnel Managing or Librarian--if you're in a regional orchestra this is an extra way to make money to supplement your instrumental playing wages.
3. Choral Societies - they usually give a concert once or twice a year with small orchestra or chamber group.
4. College Theater Productions - often need "ringers" for their musical productions. Contact the music/theater department at your local college and get to know the faculty.
5. Adjunct Teaching at the College Level - you don't need a doctorate to teach as an adjunct. And you'd be amazed at how easily teaching music appreciation or music theory comes to you even with just a Bachelor's degree in music. Lecturing in front of a class is very much like performing. in fact, it is performing.
6. Weddings - let hotels, bridal shops, churches and synagogues know of you. Form a small ensemble and put together a book of easy repertoire. Be ready to be flexible in every way and figure out ways to accommodate most musical requests.
7. Church or Synagogue Music Director--even if you have no background in choral music you can figure out how to rehearse and conduct a choir, choose appropriate music and participate in services.
8. Private Lessons - you can do this out of your home, out of a local music store, or at a local college.
9. Concertize Locally - writing grants is not that difficult (although it can be time consuming). Find out what grants are available through your local arts council (or through a college if you're affiliated with one) and use the money to fund a solo or chamber performance. You'll quickly learn all the basics, such as sending in press releases and how to handle ticket sales.
None of what I've written here breaks new ground. And all of the above are just ways to get started at a local level. From there, the sky's the limit because you'llrealize that it's all possible. For example, once you've auditioned for a local orchestra it's not a big leap to audition for a regional orchestra; once you've written a grant to self-fund a local performance of your ensemble you can write a grant to fund a tour for your ensemble.....you get the idea. Is it hard work? Yes. Does it require a tremendous amount of self-motivation? Yes. But I guarantee you will never be bored, you will never ever feel like you're in a mind-numbing, soul-depleting job situation and you will never be "waiting to retire" in order to pursue your dream. You will be living your dream.
All clarinetists know the high G's in Beethoven's 8th Symphony. Those notes are challenging not just because they're in the high register but because they're exposed and must be played with great control and refinement. However, the clarinet can actually play up to a fourth or even a fifth higher than those notorious G's. Check out my tutorial that gives tips as well as fingerings to get up to a double high C.
You will probably need to take in a bit more mouthpiece than usual and use a slightly harder than you may be used to. If you can get up to a double C and want to go even higher (!) you can play a double high C# and a double high D simply by overblowing the usual fingerings for those notes. Seems crazy but those notes are there. (You will have to take in LOTS of mouthpiece for those). The first time I was ever required to try and execute those notes in a piece--and "execute" might be right term here :) -- was when I was a student at Tanglewood. The year was 1980 and Gunther Schuller was the director. Towards the end of every summer there was something called the Fromm Festival--a weeklong celebration of contemporary music. I was assigned the clarinet part in Ralph Shapey's Woodwind Quintet and when I saw those double high C#'s and D's I panicked. Fortunately, however, my teacher from NEC, Peter Hadcock, was right there as a member of the Boston Symphony and gave me a quick lesson on how to meet this challenge. In his very matter-of-fact way he told me to find an incredibly hard reed, take a huge amount of mouthpiece, and basically blow the bejesus out of those notes. Which I did. And still do.
After 32 summers of playing principal clarinet in the Glimmerglass Opera Festival near Cooperstown NY I recently decided to step down--a hard decision but the right one at the right time. One of the many good things to have come from that choice was the opportunity to attend the annual International Clarinet Association's annual conference--since they're scheduled to take place during the summer months I had never been able to go. Although I have been a member of ICA for many years I really had no idea what to expect at the convention and thought that, at best, I would tire of it rather quickly and wind up making forays into the downtown district to get away from the intensity of All-Clarinet-All-The-Time. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. I absolutely loved it. The International Clarinet Association Convention, aka ClarinetFest, was held this year at the Universitiy of Kansas, August 3-7. What struck memost was how everyone--amateurs, beginner students, advanced students, professionals--was welcomed as equals, and how the structure of the overall event supported and encouraged this sense of equality. There were clarinet choirs in which everyone could participate as well as lectures and recitals to meet everyone's particular musical/technical interest.
Most memorable for me, however, were the evening concerts. I consider myself something of a hardened professional but I was completely and utterly blown away by the playing of Ricardo Morales, Benjamin Lulich (whose rendition of Weber's Eb Concerto was absolutely astonishing) and Jonathan Gunn. At the master class given by Oberlin's Richard Hawkins I was reminded of how great teachers can really connect with students and alter their playing for the better with just one perfectly phrased suggestion.
Last but not least were the exhibition rooms. Display upon display contained every conceivable piece of equipment from the top of the line clarinet to the tiniest accessory. Buffet, Bakun, D'Addario, and Vandoren representatives were all there as well as smaller independent dealers. The cacophony of orchestral excerpts, Mozart concerto phrases, and "noodling" created a (surprisingly) not unpleasant sheet of white noise that only ceased when those rooms closed down for the night.
I saw old friends and made new friends. And at next year's convention I will know just what to expect. Maybe I'll see you there?
Have you ever wanted to learn multiphonics on the clarinet? Is there a contemporary piece you'd like to play but it requires multiple tones at once? I was afraid of all but the simplest multiphonics for the longest time but once I got the hang of them they were a blast. This video shows you the fingerings for the four easiest multiphonics on the clarinet. In addition to the fingerings you may need a soft reed at first, a somewhat loose embouchure, and steady--but not forced--air. The notion of playing chords on a single melody-line instrument may seem counter-intuitive but is totally mainstream these days. Check out "Song for Timisoara" (below) by Carlos Delgado to see how musically expressive multiphonics (and other contemporary techniques on the clarinet) can be when written into in a composition. In the next few months I will be posting more complete tutorials on extended clarinet techniques which will include fingering charts and step-by-step suggestions on how to achieve these techniques. For now, though, I hope this introduction will be useful to you (or at least pique your interest!).
Yes they can! Clarinetists are often required to play quarter-tones in contemporary music and I've developed a fingering system to make this possible. My Dad was a composer who was very active in the New York Microtonal Society--among other things--and I've adapted and codified his fingering and notational system for a 24-tone scale on the clarinet. It does not require additional keys on the instrument--your regular clarinet can do it all! Watch the video and see and hear the possibilities. If you're interested in learning the fingerings or purchasing my quarter-tone fingering chart contact me through my website and I'll be happy to help.
In addition to contemporary music, quarter-tones are often used in different types of ethnic music, notably Arabic and other Middle Eastern styles. However, I've found that those usually sound more stylistically appropriate if they're achieved by adjustments from the embouchure and throat rather than fingerings on the clarinet. Having said that, though, I've written and recorded a Klezmer Freylekh -- a typical klezmer dance tune -- that uses quarter tones. You can listen to it here, recorded by my klezmer band, Big Galut(e). So, yes, quarter-tones ARE fun.