• So You Want to Study Music Abroad

    Throughout this past year, I’ve received many questions about my experience studying clarinet in France. I believe studying abroad (whether it’s music or any other discipline) is a great opportunity to learn about other cultures while creating lifelong friends and memories. I encourage anyone interested in studying abroad to make it happen, and I hope this article helps if you’re considering studying abroad. Below are some of the most common questions I get asked, along with some questions from my Facebook page. Disclaimer: These responses are based on my own experiences and won’t necessarily apply to all study abroad situations. Before moving abroad, do as much research as possible for…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Swab Your Instrument

    This week’s Quick Fix Friday is a public service announcement reminding you to swab your instrument regularly! I’m sure that by now, many of you have seen the report circulating on social media of the man who died from “bagpipe lung.” If you haven’t, you can read the story here. Basically, doctors were unable to determine why an otherwise healthy man was plagued by breathing and lung problems. After his death, they discovered that the bagpipe he played as a hobby contained fungus and bacteria. This isn’t an isolated case – another man with “saxophone lung” didn’t clean his clarinet for over 30 years. Luckily, doctors were able to isolate…

  • Planning Your Junior or Senior Recital: A Timeline and Checklist

    Planning a recital takes a lot of work, both inside and outside the practice room. Expectation and stress levels are high, especially if this is your first recital. Here is my timeline and checklist for planning your recital. You’ll notice that I’ve left out one obvious part – practicing. Practice and prepare as much as possible throughout your recital preparation period. The more prepared you are, the less nervous you will feel on your big day. Keep in mind that these timelines may change depending on your skill level and/or time demands, and some of these suggestions may be optional:   6 months until recital   Pick a date. Confirm…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Clarinet Finger Placement and Position

    I’m a firm believer that most problems on the clarinet are caused by improper use of air. That being said, I believe that the 2nd leading cause of problems on clarinet are due to bad finger placement and positioning. Finger placement is important for all instruments, but especially clarinet because of its open tone holes. The slightest finger movement can cause air leaks, creating the dreaded squeak. Besides squeaking, improper finger position can cause notes to not speak properly and impede technical development. Let’s start with the basics – the six fingers that cover the tone holes on front of the clarinet should begin in “home” position. This is similar to proper typing…

  • Buying Your Child’s First Clarinet: A Guide for New Band Parents

    Congratulations! Your son or daughter has decided to join a school or community band program and has chosen to play the clarinet! Clarinets are obviously the best instrument (although I am a little biased), but it can be overwhelming to purchase a clarinet if you are a first-time band parent. With reeds, mouthpieces, ligatures, mouthpiece caps, swabs, and cork grease, the clarinet has more than its fair share of equipment, which is why I’m here to help. Your main concern is probably the cost of a clarinet, which can range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Band is an investment, and your goal is to find…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Taking Good Breaths

    As wind instrumentalists, our most important tool is our air. I personally believe that air can solve about 90% of the problems we encounter on the clarinet (Note not speaking? More air. Can’t play high notes? Faster air.) Since this is a quick fix Friday post (key word being quick), I won’t go into great detail about the anatomical mechanics of taking a proper breath, but instead wish to address a common issue I see among my students: breathing from the nose or dropping the jaw to take a breath. The most efficient way to take a breath when playing clarinet is through the corners of the mouth. This optimizes…

  • I Got (Better) Rhythm

    Let me begin this post with a potentially controversial statement: rhythm is the most important element of your musical foundation. Hear me out – other musical concepts such as tone, interpretation, and repertoire selection are very subjective and abstract. Even seemingly concrete aspects of pedagogy (embouchure, articulation, fingerings, posture) have fiercely divided and loyal devotees.  Don’t believe me? What syllable should be used for articulation? Dah? Dee? Tah? Tee? Tu? Your answer depends on your musical upbringing and a myriad of other factors. The one unifying element of music is rhythm.  Rhythm is the universal equalizer – musicians and non-musicians alike are capable of keeping a steady beat and recognizing…