Through weekly lessons and master classes, clarinetists at Ohio University learn to become the best musicians that they can be. Students learn to become self-sufficient through analysis and utilization of various practice techniques that they can apply to every note they play. They learn principles that help them not only in playing the clarinet but also in teaching the instrument and in becoming better overall musicians. They learn to analyze their own playing and to give constructive criticism to their peers. They learn to blend in a section and to shine as soloists; to read a piece at sight and to dissect it into a million pieces; to rattle off a run and to interpret a phrase; to exercise discipline and to play with professionalism. And to have fun-to express love for and through the clarinet, an instrument that since its birth less than 300 years ago has spawned a repertoire from Classical to Klezmer, with as many moods and personalities as the human voice itself.
I like lessons to serve as a condensed model for a regular practice routine-consisting of scales, etudes, solo repertoire, orchestral excerpts, ensemble literature, and sight reading-incorporating conscientious listening and various exercises to develop all aspects of clarinet technique: breathing, embouchure, tone production, intonation, rhythm, finger technique, articulation, and interpretation. I play for and with my students to demonstrate for and inspire them. I find that communication and positive reinforcement are key in helping students become the best clarinetists and overall musicians that they can be, and that progress occurs quicker when we do not dwell on how far we have to go, but when we remember how far we have come.
One of my favorite topics is interpretation. We gain interpretative insights at our own performances and at those of others, learning at lessons, rehearsals, and master classes how to become better musicians. Sometimes-during a casual conversation, a walk outside, a daydream, or a frantic rush to get something more important done-we get what we call a flash of inspiration. Unfortunately, these moments are fleeting, and interpretation is a life-long study. So I teach students how to achieve a more musical, compelling, informed, educated, and tasteful interpretation through implementation of numerous principles governing form, phrasing, dynamics, color, articulation, rhythm, meter, pitch relationships, and ornamentation. I employ these same principles when I coach chamber music, in which issues of interpretation and musicianship are central to achieving good ensemble. Critical listening, reading, and research, along with self-discipline, self-respect, curiosity, professionalism, and the cultivation of high standards, are universal requirements for creating beautiful music on any instrument.
Like any pleasurable activity, playing an instrument can become positively addictive. When today you sound better than you did yesterday, and tomorrow you aim to sound better than you did today, you know that you are on the road to progress. As one of my favorite teachers once said, "Practicing is like candy." You taste one piece, and you crave another.
© 2001 Rebecca Rischin
Last updated on September 6, 2014.
Designed by Elizabeth Aleksander.
Maintained by Rebecca Rischin.