ClarinetFest® 2023 in Review
ClarinetFest® 2023 Day 4
The First Denver Clarinet Conferences – Celebratory Session
by Charlotte MacDonald
Despite the early hour, on July 8th Salon D at the Denver Marriott Westminster echoed with chatter and laughter as friends old and new caught up before the presentation began. The morning’s presentation The First Denver Clarinet Conferences was an opportunity for those who were present in the earliest years of the Denver clarinet conventions to share stories, reconnect with the clarinet community’s roots, and to pass on the lessons and history of the earliest conventions. The panel leading the discussion consisted of those who were present at the earliest conventions or were otherwise connected to them: Ramon Kireilis, James Schoepflin, Bil Jaxson, Philip Aaholm, Robert Riseling, Charles West, F. Gerard Errante, and Michael Webster. John Scott and James Gillespie were both unable to attend, but remarks from both were read to the room sharing their joy and gratitude for the clarinet community over the last 50 years.
The discussion was moderated by Dan Silver, Professor of Clarinet at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The discussion began by reflecting on the earliest years of the clarinet conventions in Denver, reflecting on the struggles and joys of the earliest years. Silver reminded the room that the first clarinet convention occurred during the same year as the Watergate scandal, prompting laughter and sighs from around the room. Kireilis led the discussion of the earliest years of the convention, discussing its origins in the National Clarinet Clinics, begun in 1964 by Ralph Strouph at the University of Denver. When Strouph left the university in 1967, the clinics were taken up by the new professor, Ramon Kireilis. Five years later, the first ever National Clarinet Competition was held; this competition would later become the High School competition and the Young Artist competition.
The next year, 1973, would be the year that established the clarinet convention as we know it today; meeting at the University of Denver, a group of 20 to 30 clarinetists met and established the International Clarinet Society, with Ramon Kireilis as its first president. The newly formed society adopted a mission statement and resolved to publish a quarterly journal, The Clarinet. Kireilis acknowledged how many of the clarinetists in the room had been among that small first group, as well as how many clarinetists there at the founding are no longer with us.
The discussion then moved to each of the other members of the panel, reflecting upon their early experiences with the Denver conventions, as well as later conventions as the meeting moved to new cities and campuses. Many of those present in the audience had also been present in these early years, and the environment had soon transformed into a lively atmosphere of mutual story-sharing and reminiscing. Another element that was a particular favorite of those in attendance was the copies of the programs from the earliest clarinet conventions that had been distributed throughout the room. Members throughout the room flipped through them throughout the session, pointing out familiar faces and memorable events from years ago.
The warm, lively discussion was the perfect event to celebrate 50 years of clarinet conventions, both for those who attended the earliest conventions and for those who plan to attend them for the next 50 years to come.