I am excited to announce that for the first time in my career, I officially became an "artist" of some sort! Partnering with Buffet Group USA, the North American Division of the famous Buffet-Crampon Paris, I am invited to join a handful of remarkable clarinetists and colleagues in the company's artist roster. It is a great privilege to be associated with this prestigious company dating back to 1825.
My first clarinet was Buffet B-12, a friendly horn made of plastic (or ABS resin, to be more precise) purchased by my parents when we were in Korea. Those were the times when I used to leave the instrument on top of my shelf fully assembled until the next time I had to use it. Each time I picked it up, I could see a clear circle on the shelf free from dust accumulated over many weeks. That instrument served me well for years to come all the way through the marching band years in high school. After graduating high school, it went to a friend of our family whose son just began to learn the clarinet. I wish I still had it...
When I came to the US with my family, I started playing in a public high school band program with great enthusiasm. I soon met my first teacher, Ken Lee, renowned for his successful private studio in Northern Virginia. With the clarinet becoming increasingly important part of my life, we both agreed that I needed a professional level instrument. Under Lee's guidance, I ended up getting a Buffet Festival and soon purchased an A clarinet, too (also Festival). Those remarkable horns made it so easy for me to explore clarinet's incredible range of dynamic and color and helped me to discover my life-long passion for music. While it took many more years until I decided to pursue a musical career, they certainly provided the foundation for my future path.
When I came to the UNC-Chapel Hill as a Freshman, one of the first things that my teacher Donald Oehler did for me was to draw the "Clarinet Family Tree" (shown above). Oehler explained that our modern clarinet came into existence as a result of the collaboration among Theobald Boehm, Hyacinth Klosé, and Louis-Auguste Buffet. We (like the vast majority of American clarinetists) use the "Boehm" system, study Klosé's Méthod, and play Buffet clarinets everyday (Ironically Oehler plays Selmer clarinets). This left me with a deep impression, and my faith in Buffet's legacy and instruments was permanently engraved.
There are extensive resources about the early endeavors and patents available now, and I wanted to share the following excerpts from Eric Hoeprich's The Clarinet (p. 172):
"Here Buffet allows us an insight into the concerns of a modern instrument-maker, reflecting the needs of clarinet players at the mid-nineteenth century. An absolute evenness of scale, perfect intonation, and a lack of technical difficulties were the qualities sought after by the modern instrument makers and clarinetists by the 1840s. There can be no doubt this is exactly what Buffet achieved. In creating his clarinet á annex mobiles Buffet vastly improved Müller's instrument, and it was not without a certain, possibly justifiable, arrogance, that he wrote:
"This invention does not consist only of the addition of rings but also of the manner and orderliness of the design, for a small change is enough to create an instrument that is superior to the old one, but it would still be inferior to mine."
I now play exclusively on one of Buffet's newest inventions, Tosca Green Line. I purchased the set while at graduate school studying with Frank Kowalsky. At certain point, I knew this is what I really wanted to do, and I spontaneously drove to Jacksonville Buffet Factory to choose my new instruments out of about 15 pairs. The improved key work, intonation, and durable material base makes the instrument an ideal companion for my daily musical adventures. I feel completely dependable and feel a degree of pride in carrying out this great tradition since the time of Buffet and Klosé.