by Michael Webster
Clarinet students from all over the country attended the seventh annual Clarinetopia at Michigan State University June 3-8, 2015. With Michael Webster and Guy Yehuda serving as co-directors, Clarinetopia offered its usual blend of faculty and student recitals, master classes and faculty presentations. Other faculty members included Charles Neidich, Ayako Oshima, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, Tasha Warren-Yehuda, and self-professed “token flutist” Leone Buyse.
4th row: Hild Piersen, David Yandl, Nikhil Bartolomeo, Catherine Hungerford, Pin-Wei Yu, Rebecca Deller, Alyssa Kenney
3rd row: Michelle Myers, Nicole Marek, Andrew Mahonen, Genadi Zagor, Sangmi Lim, Ian McEdwards, Charles Neidich
2nd row: Ben Baldwin, Emma Gregory, Patrick Hickey, Hakeem Davidson, Sam Davies, Ayako Oshima
1st row: Guy Yehuda, Tasha Warren-Yehuda, Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, Wesley Warnhoff, Diana Moisejenkaite, Michael Webster
Not pictured: Leone Buyse, Lisa Szymenko, Katelyn LaPrairie, David Brown, Susan Hanline, Holly Kinsey, Yunhong Chi, Edisher Savitsky
The three faculty recitals all featured married couples: Michael and Leone; Guy and Tasha; Charlie and Ayako. Their repertoire ranged from the traditional (Bassi, Poulenc, Martinu) through twentieth-century classics (Berg, Carter) and newer works (Yoshimatsu, Miyoshi) to transcriptions (Fauré-Neidich Violin Sonata, Debussy-Webster Petite Suite and Bizet-Webster Children’s Games for flute, clarinet, and piano). Sangmi Lim of the MSU piano faculty and Genadi Zagor, a DMA student in piano performance at MSU, supplied expert collaboration for the faculty recitals as well as the master classes and student recitals.
Another treat was a daytime recital by the VCP International Trio: Wesley Warnhoff, clarinet; Diana Moisenjenkaite, violin; Edisher Savitsky, piano. They reprised the 40-year history of Verdehr Trio commissions with a selection of eleven short pieces and individual movements such as Jennifer Higdon’s Dash, Sebastian Currier’s Verge, Kevin Puts’s Nocturnes, and Peter Sculthorpe’s From Nourlangie. Elsa supplied commentary in the form of videos of interactions between the Verdehr Trio and other composers such as Gian Carlo Menotti and Robert Mann. Elsa has officially retired from playing, but she still participated by giving an insightful master class. Wes Warnhoff, by the way, has just been named Assistant Professor of Clarinet at the University of Wisconsin, so congratulations are in order.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday began with Michael leading a yoga and breathing session, stressing how various yoga postures help the practitioner to isolate muscle groups for deeper, more comfortable breathing. Next on the agenda was a daily warmup, led by respectively by Ayako, Guy, and Michael, each of whom offered tips on starting the day with tonal, fingering, focusing, and mental exercises. Charlie presented “Charlie’s Choice,” which has become an annual favorite. This year he covered subjects ranging from finger technique being “serial” to finding high partials on different areas of the reed to the genesis and text of the Nielsen Concerto. Leone gave a class on Mozart style for which two of the students played the first and second movements of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. A flutist’s viewpoint proved to be enlightening. Each performing student received a minimum of 45 minutes master class time, presenting mostly standard repertoire ranging from Mozart, Weber, and Burgmüller to Poulenc, Bernstein, and Muczynski. Two student recitals allowed each performer to absorb and incorporate master class information on stage. As in previous years, student comments stressed how valuable it is to have different viewpoints from each faculty member, shared in a knowledgeable and supportive manner.
Meanwhile, a new aspect was added this year at the MSU Community Music School on Saturday, June 6, running simultaneously with Clarinetopia events. Younger students and adult amateurs spent the afternoon participating in a variety of events organized by Tasha. Students played alone and in a small clarinet choir, practicing fundamental skills such as tone production, rhythm, finger and tongue technique, and sight-reading. Building upon this initial success, Clarinetopia plans to expand Clarinet Day for 2016 and advertise it more widely. Clarinetopia 2016 will take place with the same faculty returning from June 1 to 5 at MSU with Clarinet Day on Saturday, June 4. For the most up-to-date information, visit clarinetopia.com.