Q&A with Sean Perrin of Clarineat

If you haven’t heard of Clarineat by now, you’ve probably been locked in a practice room for way too long. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Clarineat, it’s “the podcast and blog for clarinetists. Features interviews with today’s leading artists and manufacturers, videos, news, giveaways, articles, and a store.”
Essentially, it’s a mecca for clari-nerds.
I first met Sean Perrin, the host and founder of Clarineat, last year at ClarinetFest in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to the amazing content he produces, he is also a talented clarinetist and all-around interesting person. I invite my readers to get to know the man behind “all that’s new a neat for the clarinet” a little better in this Q & A.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Clarineat, please tell us about it.

Clarineat.com is a website that I started in January 2016. It features “All that’s new and neat for clarinet” in the form of a weekly podcast with over 50 episodes, a blog, product reviews, videos, and a store! Prominent guests to be featured include Martin Fröst, Michael Lowenstern, Lori Freedman, Morrie Backun, and many more.

What inspired you to create Clarineat?

I have always liked listening to podcasts, but had started to become bored with my current rotation of shows. So I started searching for a clarinet podcast, but was disappointed that I couldn’t find anything available on iTunes. I’d check back every month or so for quite some time, and curiosity turned to frustration. “Why wasn’t anyone doing this,” I thought. Then one day it hit me I realized that knew exactly what I want to hear, I had a passion for the clarinet, and an understanding of the technological skills required to pull it off. And so I started. I figured there were enough people like me in the world that I’d find an audience, and luckily I was right!

You’ve gained quite a following since you launched Clarineat in January 2016! What’s your secret to success?

Honestly if I knew what the secret was, I would focus all my energy there. But the truth is that it’s incredibly hard to know what works and what doesn’t online. I take branding very seriously, and I try to get better every day at producing the content to the best of my ability.  I think that I hit on something the clarinet community needed, and they say that the best ideas come from solving a problem or “scratching your own itch,” so to speak. So I suppose in a way that’s the secret? You’ve got to do something that others are interested in or can get value from, I think. Before Clarineat I had many other online blog attempts over the years, all which were miserable failures because I didn’t identify an audience.

If you could interview any non-living musicians, composers, or other icons, who would they be and why?

I know he’s not a clarinetist but I would have loved to speak with Glenn Gould. His pioneering career, unique eccentricities, and unbridled artistry make him infinitely interesting to me. His recorded career, I believe, is one of the most incredible artistic achievements of all time.

How many hours each week do you typically spend working on Clarineat?

This may come as a surprise to many, but the podcast takes an incredible amount of time to complete. Each episode takes 20-40 hours or more from start to finish including seeking and booking guests, researching, conducting the interview itself, editing and mixing the show, doing show notes pages, sending giveaways, composing emails, etc. etc. I’m working full-time as a freelancer and teacher in my community, so I’ve had to kind of make the time to work on it. It’s a lot of late nights and long days. But it has all been worth it and I want to take it as far as I can.

What have been the biggest “pinch-me” moments you’ve had since starting Clarineat? 

This is a great question! The most surreal moment was when I was giving out pamphlets at ClarinetFest 2016 in Kansas. I was getting a bit frustrated because it seemed most people had already heard about the show and weren’t that interested in the flyer. One lady was even listening to Clarineat on her iPhone when I ran into her! How bizarre it seemed to travel half way across the continent to spread the word only to find it had done a good enough job spreading itself. Very surreal indeed.
Of course, I get weekly “pinch-me” moments every time I get to speak to a new guest. I can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to have such involved conversations with so many great artists and manufacturers. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Besides your phone auto-correcting “clarinet” to “clarineat” all the time, what are the biggest challenges of running Clarineat?

It’s funny you mention this. I don’t use auto-correct so this has never been a problem for me! (An interesting moment related to this, though, was when Google stopped defaulting searches for “Clarineat” to “Clarinet.” At first it thought my crafty name was just a typo! They weren’t wrong, though. Originally there were just a dozen results for the word, almost all of which were typos, but now the word is not only recognized but generates almost 4000 search results. Amazing!)
Anyways, the biggest challenge so far was finding my voice as a podcast host. At first I tried to emulate other types of interview and hosting styles but was not happy with the results. I also worried somewhat what people would think about the things I said (and how I said them) at first. But there was no time for this! The weekly pace I’d set for myself meant I had to learn, move on, accept imperfection, and stop doubting myself. I find looking back that by around Episode 20 I started to really feel comfortable and now the entire process feels completely natural from start to finish. It was an interesting learning experience and a huge lesson in getting comfortable just “being yourself,” as they say. It’s a lot harder than it might seem!

I love your “5 Hilarious Clarinet Stock Photos”! What are your biggest pet peeves about how non-musicians view clarinetists? 

My biggest musical pet peeve is that since musicians are “doing something they love” they should for some reason volunteer their time and passion more than other professionals. I don’t know why society has gotten to this point but it’s simply amazing to me that people don’t seem to understand that musicians have bills and life needs like every other person.
I don’t have any specific pet peeves about how other musicians view clarinetists, though I suppose I don’t like when people think that playing clarinet is just “pushing buttons” or that because clarinet looks like a recorder it is “easy.”

What can the Clarineat audience look forward to in 2017?

There’s a lot coming up! I’ve taken a special interest in health, well-being, and injury prevention since my accident which badly damaged my hand in January 2017. So expect to see some conversations about physical fitness, hearing protection, and injury prevention products and services in the near future. I’ve been in conversation (not yet confirmed so don’t hold me to it!) with some big name orchestral players such as Anthony McGill, Frank Cohen, and Ricardo Morales. I also hope to expand into some genres that I don’t know as much about, such as klezmer and choro music, in an effort to cover the clarinet as completely as possible and expand my own knowledge at the same time. I’m also working on getting Martin Fröst, Michael Norsworthy, Michael Lowenstern, and many others back for a round two conversation. Lots of conversations to look forward to… and I can’t wait!

Obligatory clarinet question: What equipment do you use?

The past year I’ve been back and forth between a ton of various equipment due to the product reviews I’ve been doing for the website. Unfortunately I’m really behind on these because they are so time consuming, but you should expect to see a lot of them coming out eventually. Traditionally, though, I play on a Buffet Festival clarinet with Vandoren BD5 mouthpiece, Legere Euro Signature V21 or Reserve Classic Reeds, Peter Spriggs Ligature, and Clark W. Fobes barrels. My number one recommendation for all clarinetists regardless of what instrument or setup they use would have to be the Ton Kooiman Thumb rest. So comfortable and fantastic. A great invention.

Favorite clarinet repertoire?

I have a propensity towards newer repertoire for the instrument. Some of my favorite pieces include New York Counterpoint, Premiere Rhapsody, and chamber music such as the Quartet for the End of Time. And, of course, the Brahms Sonatas.

What’s your current warm-up routine?

A cup of coffee and then long tones and scales.

Best musical advice you ever received?

I think that the best advice I ever received came from my music history professor in university. He made me realize that it’s ok not to know things, so long as you care to find the answer. These aren’t his exact words, but up until this point I had always felt like education (especially music university) was sort of about proving what you know to those around you through performance and exams, and being a bit embarrassed of your areas of ignorance. This shift allowed me to see that university was more about learning how to learn rather than just mindlessly absorbing a ton of information. It helps you become an intelligent, responsible person, and that the most intelligent people understand that they can’t possibly know everything. This was a huge shift in thinking for me and it sticks with me to this day.

Advice for other clarinetists?

You need to find what YOU want to do, not what you think your teacher or some other person wants you to do. I don’t claim to have found exactly what I want, but I have figured out a lot of what I don’t want, and this is equally important, if not more so.

Favorite musical quote?

“In art anything is possible, but all that is made is not necessary.” – Arvo Pärt

Besides clarinet, what other hobbies or interests do you have?

Hmm… does bass clarinet count? All kidding aside, I also play percussion professionally, like to dabble in guitar, bass, piano, and sometimes even the saxophone (don’t tell anyone!). I don’t do a lot of things outside of music, but I keep fish, like to read, and am very interested in technology. My favourite band outside of the classical realm is Radiohead, and my favorite album of all time is “Kid A.” I’m looking forward to seeing them for the sixth time in Seattle this April.

Describe the clarinet in 3 words:

Warm. Versatile. Neat.

If you’re interested in learning more about Clarineat, please visit www.clarineat.com

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