By Hali Alex, Tedie Cahill, Devyn Mulkey, Caleb Provencher, and Kayla Ramos – clarinet students at Louisiana State University
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of musicians across the globe have been altered tremendously. This has created a significant difference in the learning and performing experience for musicians. The Louisiana State University clarinet studio continues to look for the shining light at the end of the tunnel as we navigate our college experience mostly in a virtual format during the 2020-2021 academic year. Caleb Provencher, a music education major in our studio, notices that his “mindset has been transformed thanks to the multitude of opportunities” that have been granted to him in his first year of college. He further explains that not only have these opportunities come from being under the guidance of Dr. Cecilia Kang in the clarinet studio, “but the entire LSU School of Music faculty and staff who are striving to give us a once in a lifetime opportunity to directly engage with many performing artists that may have been more difficult to do in other circumstances.” Another member of our studio, Hali Alex, believes our program has “made the adjustment to online and socially distance learning interesting and captivating by providing PPE for musicians and glass dividers in large rehearsal spaces that allow students some normalcy through performing in ensembles and other chamber groups.” The online learning modality also has its own set of challenges, however. Devyn Mulkey, a freshman music education major, shares that while she loves being able to take lessons through the pandemic, she looks forward to the day she doesn’t have to worry so much about her mic levels or the internet connection during lessons. Alex admits that the pandemic has pushed her to become much more comfortable with technology.
With limited face-to-face contact, members of our studio have been able to recognize the transformative steps the rest of the world is taking. In connecting with over twenty guest artists from around the world over Zoom during the academic year, the LSU clarinet studio is tapping into different facets of the clarinet world and beyond. We are able to gain insight as to how other musicians are making the most of this time, learn from their experiences and their wealth of knowledge about being successful performers, educators, scholars, advocates and entrepreneurs and then apply what we have learned to our own career trajectories. Despite learning mostly in the virtual format, members of our studio have gained profound knowledge of the clarinet and the musician we want to become. We are trying to take advantage of the online resources and experiences ranging from concerts, panel discussions to international conferences and much more. Kayla Ramos, a freshman music education major, reminisces on her experiences being able to partake in the Midwest Clinic, the Woodwind Fest, the ICA Plays On!, and even being named one of the recipients of the 2021 President’s Innovation Award from the NAMM Foundation over the past few months.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been able to concentrate on making more personal improvements. As we spend more time by ourselves, we can put more energy into expanding our understanding of vital clarinet elements such as reed care, score studying, and efficient practicing strategies among many others. Taking the time to discover the importance of a focused mindset, develop a meditation routine, and foster our inner creativity have been rewarding to many of us. At LSU, Tedie Cahill is particularly grateful that she has already “formed friendships that will last a lifetime and the pandemic has not stopped Dr. Kang from preparing her students for a successful career.” For the 2021 spring semester, each clarinetist in the studio has the choice to engage in a creative project such as learning about world music through preparing a clarinet duet inspired by “non-Western music,” examining the clarinet sonatas of Johannes Brahms in collaboration with Paula G. Manship Associate Professor of Music Theory Dr. Inessa Bazayev at LSU or presenting on a topic of interest relating to music education. The LSU Clarinet Studio Practice Club is well underway, and we are excited to prepare for our very own clarinet studio recital this April. Just as the virtual clarinet lessons and studio classes last fall have brought immeasurable inspirations and insightful knowledge, we are even more eager to learn from our guest artists this semester. For the LSU clarinet studio, some of the most meaningful life lessons we are taking away from this unforgettable chapter in our lives are realizing the importance of growth from adversity and taking proactive steps toward a brighter future we envision for ourselves.