This past Monday, Nophachai Cholthitchanta from the University of Arkansas hosted a Clarinet Day for young clarinetists to have the opportunity to take master classes and watch recitals from world-class players. Over 100 students from junior high to college levels came to participate in the event. This years guests were Andrew Simon’s, the Principle Clarinetist of the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Wolfgang Lohf from Lohff & Pfeiffer USA.
The event began with an opening concert performed by Nophachai’s Clarinet Studio and… well me. For our performance we played Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Video is coming soon.
History of Clarinet Lecture
After the studio performance, Nophachai gave a lecture on the history of clarinets. I could write an entire post on his lecture and his collection of over 400 clarinets but to sum it up, we leaned to determine the difference between German, French, and English clarinet models and listened to him play Sonata No. 1 for Clarinet and bass on a 6 key boxwood clarinet:
Andrew Simon’s Recital #1
Andrew Simon blew me away in both of his performances, but I was particularly excited for his first recital because he was playing the International Clarinet Association‘s clarinet competition repertoire(indicated with an *). He and his pianist, Tomaoko Kashiwagi played:
Cantilene for Clarinet and Piano by Louis Cahuzac
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Camile Saint-Saens
II. Allegro animato
IV. Molto allegro- Allegretto
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Francis Poulenc
I. Allegro tristamente
III. Allegro con fuoco
Suit for “Carmen” trans. Richard Stolzman by George Bizet
Each piece was a unique and amazing experience. I am so grateful for the opportunity to listen to him play classical french clarinet repertoire.
After Nophachai’s performance and lecture, everyone divided up to participate in their master classes. Their were master classes for Junior High Students, High School Students, All State Qualifiers, and a master class on customized clarinets led by Wolfgang Lohf. I participated in the All State Qualifiers Master Class led by Nophachai.
In the All State Master Class, we worked on applying different rhythms to better practice our c minor thirds and played our etude. Their were about 25 people in the master class from across Arkansas and each of us played one life of the etude and were given tips on how to better execute the piece. A lot of us got comments on air. With out strong air, you wont sound confident or have a good tone. Confidence and tone are key to a perfect audition.
Andrew Simon’s Master Class
After our lunch break, Andrew Simon gave a series of master classes to University clarinetist from the University of Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas, and Arkansas Tech University.
While watching these master classes I learned a lot about breathing, phrasing, and throat tones. Andrew Simon made lots of comments on the importance of understanding breath marks in reference to rhythms and phrasing. If you breath at the wrong time you can be changing rhythms and breaking up a phrase. I had never really thought about how taking breaths in music can actually change the way it sounds, but through listening to him play the same phrase 3 times and breathing at different spots, I was amazed to hear that ir really did change the feel and phrasing of the excerpt. Throat tones are just another beast all together. I find that no matter what I do, my throat tones never sound they way I want them to. Andrew Simon addressed several things in reference to throat tones. One was to be sure to not over blow the notes in an attempt to correct them because it will have the opposite effect and make the notes sound even worse. He also noted to be sure that you aren’t covering the F key with your left thumb while playing B Flat with the register key because it will affect the pitch. To avoid this, he suggested to exaggerate your fingerings and or get your key rings adjusted. But I think the most important thing he stressed in his master classes was playing your etudes and pieces all the way through at the end of each of your practice sessions. This allows you to find the parts that are still tripping you up so that you know what to practice next time, and makes sure that the first time you play the piece all the way through isn’t the day you are performing it on stage or in the audition room.
Andrew Simon’s Recital #2
At the end of the day, Andrew Simon performed a second recital including:
Introduction, Theme and Variations bu Gioachino Rossini
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Malcolm Arnold
A Set for Clarinet by Donald Martino
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in Eflat by Johannes Brahms
I. Allegro con brio
Diversions on a Familiar Theme by Joseph Horovitz
Andrew Simon never ceased to impress me. But m favorite pieces he played were not in the program. I loved his two encore pieces. He played some classic New York Jazz music for his encore that blew me away. Luckily for you I have uploaded his entire second recital you YouTube that you can watch here or on my videos page.
Overall I had an amazing time performing with the clarinet studio, taking master classes, meeting Andrew Simon, and of course getting out of school. I highly recommend that you look into finding events near you that are free and go learn and have fun. If you are interested in attending Clarinet Day next year, check out the University of Arkansas web page here.