Clarinet Cache: An Interview with Wesley Ferreira
by Kellie Lignitz-Hahn and Bret Pimentel
In this issue we present an interview with clarinetist and teacher Wesley Ferreira about his online presence and interaction with the clarinet community on social media.
Wesley Ferreira has an active and diverse career performing worldwide as a solo, orchestral and chamber musician. Born in Canada to parents of Portuguese heritage, he received his musical training at the University of Western Ontario (B.M.) and Arizona State University (M.M. and D.M.A.) studying with Robert Riseling and Robert Spring, respectively. In 2011, he joined the faculty at Colorado State University where he maintains a thriving clarinet studio as associate professor. Ferreira also has a personal website at www.wesleyferreira.com and has developed a breath support training program called Air Revelation which includes video lessons that can be streamed or downloaded.
Clarinet Cache: As a collegiate teacher, in what ways do you incorporate technology into your studio?
Wesley Ferreira: Our students have grown up in a time of incredible technological advances. They are the first generation to have been raised with personal computers and smartphones. Everything is now available quickly and often at your fingertips. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be at odds with an art form where development can’t be rushed. As a collegiate teacher, we have a greater responsibility now more than ever to help guide our students through the noise. We can use technology to our advantage in the studio.
I have my students submit videos of their practice sessions via YouTube each month. This gives me an opportunity to comment directly on their practice habits and techniques. I have also had my students on occasion view each other’s practice videos and offer comments both positive and constructive on practice habits and techniques. This allows students to learn from one another.
I have also had my students use time-tracking software on their smartphones, tablets or laptops to analyze their practice sessions. I am able to review their practice logs each week and discuss with them any trends or issues that I can see.
Of course, students now have access to many audio and video examples of great clarinet playing. They also have access to examples of poor playing. I feel that it is important for the teacher to direct students towards which examples demonstrate the type of qualities that they should be striving for.
CC: In the past you broadcasted an interactive streaming recital program. Can you tell us more about this program and the inspiration behind it?
WF: The interactive streaming recital occurred in the early days of web streaming before Facebook Live or Periscope made this common. I encouraged the public to select my recital repertoire by voting online. The works mainly consisted of the masterworks of our clarinet repertoire. I left it completely up to them up until the concert date. Additionally, I encouraged audience viewers present in the concert hall and those watching all over the world to communicate and connect via Facebook and Twitter using a common hashtag. I projected these moderated comments live onstage while performing. I titled the recital “Clarinet in the Digital Age.” I knew that I was taking a chance in some regards, but I was very interested (and still am) in how the current technology of our day can be used to bring people together; to appreciate music in new ways.
CC: Your interest in new music has led to commissions of new works. What compositions have you been involved with, and how did you forge those connections?
WF: My interest in new music comes from a desire to be a part of a living process. Performing contemporary music is about being an active participant in the evolution and sometimes revolution of classical or western art music. I have been involved in the sole commissioning of and consortium projects for some really fantastic new works for the clarinet. I’m also interested in performing newer works that I feel deserve exposure or which have been lost in time. My first solo recording, Madison Avenue, was an example of all this. It included works such as James M. David’s Auto ’66 clarinet concerto with wind band, Without Further Ado for two clarinets and piano by Alasdair MacLean, and Nikola Resanovic’s Clarinet Sonata. Other works that I’ve been involved in commissioning recently include Clarimba for clarinet and marimba by Jorge Montilla, Calcipher for E-flat clarinet and piano by Theresa Martin, Quelques Fleurs for Clarinet, Cello and Piano by Karim Al-Zand, and the Clarinet Concerto with wind band by David Maslanka.
One of the benefits of performing new music is that it gives composers or other new music performers a sense of confidence that you will be receptive to them if they approach you with an idea for a new composition or commissioning project. I find that composers are generally very enthusiastic when you contact them to begin a dialogue on a new project.
CC: Do you have any new projects lined up?
WF: The most immediate project that I’m working on is a new recording which advances my doctoral research project. I’ve commissioned prominent Portuguese composers to create works that feature the clarinet and which exhibit Portuguese folk elements.
CC: You have a strong presence on the web within the clarinet community. What platforms or techniques do you apply to reach out to people?
WF: I feel that social media is an extension of one’s everyday life. It’s a way to build, maintain and foster a sense of community across wide distances and with people you would normally not get to see in person. I consider postings on social media to be the telling of a story. Whether intentional or not, the collection of any person’s posts describes who they are, what they feel is important, their general attitudes about life and work, their sense of humor, etc. Much has been discussed and written on the negative aspects of social media, but I aim to use social media for the forces of good. I hope that my postings always reflect this. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Each social media platform has a unique way of connecting with people and each has a different set of users.
Kellie Lignitz-Hahn is assistant professor of clarinet at Texas A&M University-Kingsville where she teaches applied lessons and directs the TAMUK Clarinet Choir. She received both her D.M.A. and M.M. degrees in clarinet performance from the University of North Texas and her BM from Washburn University. Her primary teachers include James Gillespie and Kirt Saville. Kellie is an active clinician and chamber musician, and frequently plays in the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. She is also a Regional Artist for Vandoren.
Bret Pimentel is an associate professor of music at Delta State University (Mississippi), where he teaches clarinet, oboe, bassoon and saxophone and directs the Jazz Ensemble. He is an active performer in a variety of musical settings. Bret is the author of Woodwind Basics: Core concepts for playing and teaching flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone. He received D.M.A. and M.M. degrees in multiple woodwinds performance from the University of Georgia and Indiana University respectively, and a B.M. in saxophone performance from Brigham Young University. His clarinet teachers have included D. Ray McClellan, Guy Yehuda, Daron Bradford and Heather Rodriguez. Bret blogs at bretpimentel.com.