Archive for October, 2009


I recently had the opportunity to attend a solo recital and master class with an excellent clarinetist, Michael Dean.

The Recital

When I walked into the recital hall and saw Dr. Dean sitting on the stage, readying himself to play, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He seemed a friendly, jovial sort of man, and I was interested to see what he might choose for his repertoire. Instead of the typical classical pieces, he chose upbeat, modern pieces with CD accompaniment, allowing for a diverse range of instrumentation. There were trains, barks, whistles, other instruments, and even frogs! I thought the patterns and unusual sounds that were used in most of the accompaniments were great. At times he was, essentially, playing a duet (or trio) with himself. Probably my two favorite pieces were Andy and Me, a piece commissioned for his dog, complete with Andy barking rhythms in the accompaniment, and Half Moon at Checkerboard Mesa. This was an excellent piece, bringing in the sounds of the open mesa to an indoor stage and creating unique rhythmic patterns that gave the music almost a beat-boxing feel. The frogs and coyotes combined with the sounds of the trickling river and the mellifluous clarinet were astounding and fascinating. A very captivating performance.

The Masterclass

Two days later we had the privilege of having Dr. Michael Dean attend our Clarinet Resources Class at USF. He spoke to us about his experiences as a clarinetist and teacher, and gave tips on practicing and on alleviating performance anxiety. Several of our students had the opportunity to play for him, and he critiqued their excerpt. He said some very important things in this masterclass. One of them was to relax and not be timid when you play; no one wants to hear a careful player. Be confident, don’t worry about what mistakes you might make because they will only last a second. Another important point that so many people miss is that it takes a lot of air to play a clarinet! We need to remember to blow through the notes and use more air, particularly in a moving line (which is common in ensemble music). Dr. Dean was very energetic and enthusiastic, and seemed to love every moment of his musical life. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but I am really very thankful that he was able to come and work with us. He was very encouraging to me as a musician studying to be a music teacher. He encouraged us to stick with music education, to practice hard, and to have fun with the clarinet. I hope he will come back again sometime in the future.


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