Meet the Ensemble: Roadkill Clarinet Quintet
by Pam Smith Kelly
The Roadkill Clarinet Quintet – if they don’t get it the first time, they back up and run over it again – was established by five clarinet performers/music educators with over 200 combined years of teaching experience at the university and public-school level. The ensemble consists of four B-flat clarinets and a bass clarinet and was formed in 1998 while attending the Missouri Music Educators Association Annual Conference/Clinic. The group has presented performances at the University of Oklahoma University Clarinet Symposium, Iowa Bandmasters Association State Convention, Arkansas Clarinet Day, Missouri Bandmasters Association Conference, at seven universities and colleges, various schools and for numerous community concert programs.
The majority of the arrangements performed by the group were written by principal clarinetist Russell Coleman, Ph.D., who was inspired by a series of quintets written for that instrumentation in the 1950s by Matt Betton, founder of the NAJE. Betton was a dance band leader and owner of a music store in Manhattan, Kansas. His reasoning was two-fold. Five parts allows for a solo line, a bass line and three harmony lines, allowing the arranger more freedom to create a fuller sound with the small instrumentation. While many clarinet quintets include the use of the Alto Clarinet, it is often not available. The clarinet’s wide range contributes to this full ensemble sound. Because of the musical and technical proficiency of the members of the Roadkill Quintet, the arrangements have been written to provide solo and leadership opportunities in each part. For more information on the Roadkill Clarinet Quintet, please visit www.sekelsky.com/Gai/Roadkill.
In creating the arrangements, the public domain music of the 18th and 19th centuries provide a wide amount of quality compositions available for use. The musical works of Mozart, Bach, Weber, Debussy, Bizet and others are easily adaptable. The addition of folk music and other public domain selections help balance performances. Several of these arrangements are now published by Claude T. Smith Publications and distributed by C. L. Barnhouse Publishing Company. Many of these arrangements are included on high school state contest performance lists.
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