Margaret Thornhill’s 2015 Claremont Clarinet Festival

by Wendy Mazon

“A dream come true! Each day more special than the one before!”

-Frances Cohen, Festival Participant

Claremont Clarinet Festival 2015, with guest David Howard
Claremont Clarinet Festival 2015, with guest David Howard (photo by CarolynGailPhotography)

Margaret Thornhill’s Claremont Clarinet Festival was held this year from June 14 to 20 on the beautiful grounds of Pomona College in Claremont, CA. Participants came from across the United States and Canada to partake in the week-long event. The intense schedule consisted of a variety of performance and educational experiences, including private lessons from festival faculty Dr. Margaret Thornhill and Dr. Wendy Mazon, and guest artists Burt Hara and David Howard of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition, everyone took part in rehearsals with the festival collaborative pianists, Twyla Meyer and Stephanie Lovell; daily master classes with Thornhill, Hara, or Howard, small ensemble rehearsals and coachings with Mazon and Christin Hablewitz, and clarinet choir directed by Mazon.

Dr. Wendy Mazon conducted the Festival clarinet choir
Dr. Wendy Mazon conducted the Festival clarinet choir (photo by CarolynGailPhotography)

Though each experience was unique in and of itself, all were focused with the shared goal of three public performances scheduled as the culmination of the week. Various participatory classes were also included, filling the week to the brim. Topics included an introduction to the Alexander technique for clarinetists with Frances Marsden, a workshop on extended techniques led by Ryan Espinosa, morning yoga with Christin Hablewitz and a roundtable discussion on reeds.

Gaining Deeper Understanding

Guest artist Burt Hara coached participant Clarissa Thompson in a masterclass
Guest artist Burt Hara coached participant Clarissa Thompson in a masterclass (photo by CarolynGailPhotography)

Prior to their arrival, participants prepared solo and duo repertoire to perform in both the festival concerts and daily master classes. During the master classes, feedback was shared by both the master teachers and peers on topics such as stage presence, phrasing and timbre. With private lessons, participants continued to gain greater insight as they immersed themselves in their music with the help and guidance of the festival faculty. With this deeper musical understanding, pieces were then polished through rehearsals/coachings with the festival’s experienced collaborative pianists.

Making Connections

In addition to honing soloist skills, participants built friendships and ensemble experience by playing and performing in small ensembles as well as in the festival clarinet choir. Directed by Mazon, the clarinet choir rehearsed and performed a wonderfully varied program including Strange Humors by John Mackey, Mexican Fantasies by Mike Curtis, The Gifts of Kumamoto Folksong by Kazuhiro Morita, and a new arrangement of Ernesto Lecuona’s Y la Negra Bailaba by Christin Hablewitz.

The small ensembles, coached by Mazon and Hablewitz, performed Variations on Colonel Bogey by Ian Holloway, Blue Skies by Irving Berlin (arranged by R. Percival), A Klezmer Wedding by Mike Curtis, and Divertimento by Alfred Uhl.

Recipe for Success

After an intense five days of success in sharing and gaining knowledge, participants performed their now polished pieces in three public performances held in the beautiful Bridges Hall of Music and Lyman Recital Hall. The ensemble performances on Thursday were a thrill to hear and left people wanting more. This was granted in the form of two more recital concerts over the course of the next two days.

It was truly amazing to hear the progression of artistic expression that each participant gained during the course of the week. All performances were well received with audience members excited to see the products of next year’s workshop.

The festival dates for the Claremont Clarinet Festival are set for June 12-18, 2016 at Pomona College with the application available online in September. Please visit for more information.

Claremont Clarinet Festival 2015, with guest Burt Hara
Claremont Clarinet Festival 2015, with guest Burt Hara (photo by CarolynGailPhotography)

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