By Erik Franklin
Every time Novacane begins to search for new music to play, I have to resist the urge to whine about the lack of quality music out there for our group. I think this is something we pick up in school - people always whine about clarinet trios, quartets, choir, etc. because there is “no good music out there”. Quartets in school tend to play the same pieces - Uhl, Summertime, Clarinet Polka, Licorice Sticks, you know the ones. This certainly doesn’t help the quartet image...Ever striving to play new things and spread the word about clarinet quartet, Novacane finds music from all kinds of places. I hope that by sharing these, this post can help quartets find music to play for all sorts of occasions.
By Sammy Johnson
I had the unique opportunity to experience two auditions in two days, but in two ways. The first audition, I was on the panel as a principal woodwind and was responsible for listening and ultimately deciding who would be joining the ensemble. The second audition I switched roles and become the musician who was auditioning for the coveted spot of a principal woodwind. This was an interesting experience for me because I had taken many auditions prior to sitting on a panel for the first time, but the mindset of a panelist was fresh in my mind by the time I took my next audition, a mere one day later.
I took note of three important points during my time as a panelist and turned them into advice to help me (and you!) in future auditions.
by Erik Franklin
As we have travelled the country giving concerts and clinics, we have met several heavy-hitters in the clarinet world. One of the first awesome people we met was Rose Sperrazza. Rose is the clarinet professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and the founder of the Chicago Clarinet Ensemble. We admire her work as a teacher and ensemble director. We asked her a few questions, and her answers are below.
If you are anywhere near Chicago, check out the Chicago Clarinet Symposium on May 12-13. There will be some awesome clarinet-ing happening there, with John Yeh, Mike Lowenstern, Jorge Montilla, and the CCE!
by Keith Northover
Arranging and transcribing pieces for the Novacane Quartet has been quite fun! Because I like and specialize on the Tenor Clarinets (Basset Horn and Alto Clarinet), I love to play pieces that are just as challenging and fun as the rest of the parts. However due to many reasons including pedagogical, publishing optimization, and less than adequate instruments, the current repertoire catalog featuring these tenor instruments is often boring, a “chop buster”, or not idiomatic. Thus, every time I write for Novacane, I try to incorporate the Tenor clarinet in a unique and challenging way.
by Kylie Stultz-Dessent
Starting a clarinet choir is a great way for young clarinet students to develop a wide range of valuable musical skills. It offers clarinet students a unique performing experience that exposes them to new knowledge, new music, and new instruments. Not only is this ensemble beneficial to your students’ musical progress, but their band directors will also benefit by hosting this type of ensemble at their schools! And they will LOVE you for even suggesting it! Starting up this type of ensemble takes a lot of recruiting and let’s be honest…bribing with cookies. However, once they are hooked, your students will be reminding YOU about upcoming rehearsals and performances!
One of the unique and special elements of the Novacane Quartet is that we have access to a full complement of auxiliary clarinets. Not only are we fully skilled on the regular Bb soprano clarinet but we all have mastery on all instruments within the clarinet family. This includes every type of clarinet from the tiniest Ab-sopranino to the deep Contrabass clarinet in Bb.
Auxiliary clarinets need not be confused with the term “auxiliary” or lessor. The history of the nomenclature originates from these extra clarinets being used as a supplement, specialized, or “extra” in comparison to the normal soprano Bb clarinet that every clarinetist uses as a primary instrument.
by Erik Franklin
When I first won the position with the US Army Field Band, I was apprehensive about shipping off to Basic Combat Training for 10 weeks! Forget apprehensive, I was just plain scared. I wasn’t in the best shape physically, and I certainly did not want to spend all that time away from my instrument getting yelled at with a bunch of total strangers!
by Sammy Johnson
After returning to graduate school to pursue my Doctorate, I forgot how easy it is to get lazy during summer/winter breaks if you are not actively participating in festivals and performances. To keep myself busy and engaged with the clarinet, I started creating ‘projects’ for myself. I not only wanted these projects to be fun, but I wanted them to further my study of the clarinet to help prepare me for qualifying exams for my degree. Here are four ongoing projects that are enjoyable and useful when I find myself in a performance lull.
by Erik Franklin
Since we started rehearsing together as the Novacane Quartet, we have been trying to improve our rehearsal etiquette, making our time together more efficient and productive. Finding the perfect group dynamic is hard, and it’s always changing. Every group works differently, because individual personalities really influence the group dynamic. In his book Indivisible by Four: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony (1998), Arnold Steinhardt writes about the unique qualities of the Guarneri Quartet. This is a fascinating look at how an ensemble can work together, achieving so much over an impressive 45-year journey together.
A unique and defining quality of the Guarneri quartet was that the first violinist was not the leader of the ensemble. The group operated democratically—all decisions were to be made by the group as a whole. John Dalley (2nd violinist) explained how this operated:
“You have to be able to bend or give up some of your ideas. If you don't compensate and give in and compromise, you just don't get along. I think we had four strong personalities, and that's good. It's one way for a quartet to mature. The other way is to have a dictator who rules over the other three. That's the way it was in Europe, but Americans don't like that. It works faster, but the democratic way is more satisfying. “ (Reel, James (2009). "Guarneri Quartet Takes a Final Bow". All Things Strings)
In Novacane, we also operate democratically. We change parts depending on the piece, and everyone contributes musically and logistically. We find that, like Mr. Dalley and the Guarneri Quartet, we prefer the democratic way to the dictatorship, even though it does indeed take longer. As we grow together, we come up with “rules” to govern how we work. We have even written them down to make a handbook of sorts.
I thought I would share with you a few of our most basic rules to have a good rehearsal. If you are just starting a group, use these as a guideline to get you started with productive, satisfying rehearsals.
by Kylie Stultz-Dessent
While many of us have learned how to teach a private lesson through our own personal experience and classes in music school, the logistical side of running and maintaining a private studio is something that is often overlooked. Music and teaching are two of my greatest passions in life and I always look forward to private lessons with my clarinet students. When I first started teaching, it was easy to manage and remember the 4-5 lessons I taught each week. However, once my studio started growing, I quickly learned that I needed to create a system to keep myself organized.