10 Notable Korean Clarinetists by the Popular Korean Clarinet Page "Fall Into the Clarinet"

It appears that my photo was included in a recent post entitled "10 Notable Korean Clarinetists" by the popular Korean Clarinet Page called "Fall into The Clarinet." I am both surprised and honored to find my picture among these incredible players, especially since there are so many phenomenal Korean clarinetists out there! I have only recently began active performance schedule in Korea (mainly in the summer) playing at some notable venues such as the Seoul Arts Center's IBK Hall, and I look forward to expanding my concert, teaching and recruiting activities there in coming years. 

TTU Class of 2016!

I am extremely proud of my first full graduating class at Tech who walked at the ceremony today! They have set such high standards both musically and academically for the clarinet studio, and I look forward following up with their bright future!

Congratulations to the following four students!

  • Michaela Cundari (summa cum laude) will pursue Masters of Music at Middle TN State University on a full assistantship and recently enlisted as a clarinetist of the Air National Guard Band of the South
  • Sarah McMichen (summa cum laude, 4.0 in cursu honorum) will pursue Masters of Music at Michigan State University where she is a recipient of a large scholarship
  • Delaney Naffziger (summa cum laude) will pursue professional teaching opportunities in Nashville Metropolitan Area public school system
  • Anjali Sivaainkaran (summa cum laude, cursu honorum) will pursue Masters of Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a recipient of the second year assistantship

A Very Proud Teacher!

TTU Clarinet Ensemble performing a Mozart Overture at the 2015 Fall Recital

This semester began with a series of recitals and performances for me, I was anxious to get through my high-paced schedule week by week. After our final Cumberland Quintet concert and BSO's production of Barber of Seville, I had a short break from the relentless performing schedule. My schedule then was taken over by my students' performances, all of which they presented with such spectacular results.

My studio gave a terrific studio recital back in October, featuring some very challenging repertoires. I am very happy to see both the continued progress of the students and new standards they set for themselves each day.

Fall 2015 Studio Recital Program

Fall 2015 Studio Recital Program

A student duo, Sarah and Anjali, was invited to present a lecture recital at the 2015 National Collegiate Honors Conference in Chicago. It's been a pleasure to working with them and delve deeply into Poulenc's Sonata for Two Clarinets. At the interview with our university's publicity office, I said "Their performance represented the high quality work we pursue at Tech each day and will continue to set new standards for their colleagues." You can read more about their presentation here.

Sarah and Anjali performing in at NCHC National Conference in Chicago

I am also thrilled to announce that two of my students were recently named Tennessee state winner and alternate of 2015 MTNA Young Artist Competition and Chamber Music Competition, respectively. Sarah, who gave a truly mature and heartfelt performance of Brahms's F Minor Sonata, Op. 120/1 and Donald Martino's virtuosic "A Set for Clarinet" gained the unanimous vote from all judges to be the first place winner. This is Sarah's second time winning MTNA/TN, and she will precede to the Southern Division round in January 2016 in Tampa, FL. Michaela who performed works by Bach/Vivaldi, Ibert, Ligeti, and Arnold as the clarinetist of Peachtree Woodwind Quintet (coached by my colleague Bill Woodworth) placed second in the Chamber Music category. You can view the complete result of the MTNA/TN Competition here.

Sarah with her award certificate - MTSU campus

Michaela with her Peachtree Quintet colleagues

Another Big News (updated on November 23, 2015):

Michaela Cundari just won the Derryberry Concerto Competition held at Tennessee Tech University on Monday, November 23. This is one of the highest honor bestowed upon the entire music student body at TTU. Michaela will perform Copland Clarinet Concerto with BSO on February 14, 2016. Congratulations, Michaela!!

Both Sarah and Michaela played amazing senior recitals this semester:

Michaela's creative Senior Recital poster: Vanhal's Clarinet Sonata, Copland's Clarinet Concerto, and Scott McAllister's "Freebirds."

After Sarah's Senior Recital. Her program: Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Donald Martino's "A Set for Clarinet," and Brahms's Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120/1

Please stay tuned for some other exciting news to come from my studio!

Bringing New Music into Life: Collaboration with the Composer Peter Lieuwen

Peter Lieuwen's Bright River (2014) written for me and Grace will receive its world premiere on July 21st at Lyceum Chamber Music Series in Alexandria, VA. The work will also be performed at ICA's ClarinetFest in Madrid, Spain later in July. 

I first met Peter in 2009 while working on his piece, Gulfstream, as a member of enhake, during our emerging years as graduate students at Florida State University. We were invited to perform Peter’s work at the opening recital of FSU’s biennial New Music Festival, and this very difficult piece prompted us to put an untold amount of time and effort on learning it intimately. In the end, we became personally attached to the work and gave a very satisfying performance. Peter, who were present at the recital, became a good friend of ours. Since then, enhake has given about 15 additional performances of Gulfstream at various places, including Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and Texas A&M University (College Station, where everything from rental car to hotel room seemed to be extra large), where Peter is a faculty member and composer-in-residence. We also recorded the work for our 2011 Naxos album, which was later entitled “Gulfstream”! The CD received number of rave reviews and was selected as recording of the month by major journals such as BBC Music Magazine and MusicWeb International. Now thinking back, it is truly amazing how a serendipitous first meeting can lead to such exciting venture! I always advise my students to cherish every opportunity they get to meet with new colleagues as you never know where it will lead them. 

enhake with Peter Lieuwen during their residency at Texas A&M - College Station, TX in 2009

Few years after I started working at TTU and joined its faculty ensemble, Cumberland Quintet, Peter asked me if we would be interested in looking at his recent woodwind quintet entitled Windjammer. Fortunately, my quintet colleagues are always after exploring new works and agreed to commit to learn and record the piece. The unrelenting pacing of Windjammer demanded utmost stamina from all members of the quintet and posed a myriad of challenges, but the piece really grew on us in the end. Our quintet recorded the piece on August 2013 with the help of Peter and his recording engineer Brad Sayles who works for the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the CD was recently released on MSR Record

Burgess Fall in Cookeville, TN

During Peter and Brad’s visit to Cookeville, I had a chance to take them to nearby Burgess Fall. It is a quite impressive site without being too overwhelming. Peter’s music is often “inspired by nature and legend,” and I particularly enjoyed his reference to water. I asked him if he would be willing to write a clarinet-piano duo for me and my wife, and Peter graciously agreed to move the project forward. 

Peter and Brad enjoying a pool game at my house during their visit to Cookeville

Peter already wrote several works for the clarinet, including a concerto for clarinet and orchestra, “River of Crystal Light,” written for the renowned British clarinetist David Campbell. Below is the YouTube link to Campbell’s recording of "River of Crystal Light":

"River of Crystal Light" (1999) for Clarinet, Harp, Piano and Strings David Campbell, clarinet/Texas Music Festival Orchestra conducted by Franz Anton Krager from Albany TROY928 http://www.albanyrecords.com An attractive array of shimmering, shuddering sonorities. The music of the outstanding American composer Peter Lieuwen has been described by The New York Times as "an attractive array of shimmering, shuddering sonorities."

I was thrilled to receive the final draft of our piece Bright River from Peter last September. This was the most exciting commission for our husband-wife duo to date, and we have been preparing hard since the start of this summer for our upcoming premiere and performances. After several years of ongoing collaboration, I became so familiar with Peter’s musical language and sound world. It helped me greatly in conceptualizing the musical ideas, and I knew exactly how I wanted to bring the score into the performance. As a result, past few weeks of my work has been mainly dealing with various issues on technical execution and acoustic realization.

An example of ever-ascending phrases which require a great deal of tonal and dynamic control

Some passages require extra attention to the acoustics of our instrument: how we want the music to sound versus how it actually sounds

Peter's use of extreme range of the clarinet in some of the most delicate and melodic passages poses many challenges. By taking greater liberty  on dynamic and articulation, I sometimes had to come up with creative ways to produce the desired sound and effect. The piano part also turned out to be quite hard with non-repeating patterns which involve very difficult fingerings. All of these problems are worth overcoming as the piece is completely filled with shimmering beauty, rapturous joy, and scintillating colors. As our ensemble has made a significant progress over the past few weeks, I feel such raw enthusiasm I have not experienced from playing new music in a while. Both I and Grace are truly looking forward to introducing Bright River to our audiences in our upcoming concerts. If you are attending this year's ClarinetFest, please plan on coming to my recital on the 22nd!

Here is the composer's program note:

The inspiration for Bright River (2014) is found in the visual and auditory intricacies of rivers as they evolve from rivulets and continually fluctuate between waterfalls, violent rapids and tranquil pools as the terrain changes.  In Bright River the piano presents a constant flowing motion that is placid and lyrical in some passages while spirited and syncopated in others.  The clarinet presents a bold awakening introductory gesture and weaves in and out of the musical fabric as the piece moves forward.  Drama and tension are enhanced with pandiatonic sections juxtaposed with those employing the diminished (half-step/whole-step) scale.  The melody is often presented  “in harmony” at the interval of the 7th or 9th creating a translucent musical aura.

Bright River was written for and is dedicated to Wonkak Kim and Grace Choi.

 On our recent Facetime "rehearsal" with Peter Lieuwen

On our recent Facetime "rehearsal" with Peter Lieuwen

Vandoren Instagram!

Harlaxton International Music Festival

Harlaxton Music Festival

I am extremely proud of my students, Torey Hart, Sarah McMichen, and Anjali Sivaainkaran, who are accepted to Harlaxton International Music Festival in UK (June 28-July 5) and named recipients of TTU's URECA grant ($2,500 each). They will travel to UK this summer to study with my colleagues from the Larchmere String Quartet and other international faculty members and perform some great chamber music. I will travel to Harlaxton as well during my London residency that week to work with the students at the festival. We spent many hours preparing the application materials for the festival and grants, and I am thrilled that all three will be able to make this work in the end!

Congratulations to my students, Torey, Anjali and Sarah, who will attend the Festival as URECA fellows!


Working with Steve Reich

There are those confusing moments when you get to meet and interact with individuals who you are much more familiar reading from history books and such. It was a remarkably exciting opportunity for me and my students to work with Reich on his New York Counterpoint. My student ensemble has been working on the clarinet choir version of the piece for the past several weeks, and hearing various feedbacks directly from Reich certainly made the experience truly special. 

Rehearsing with Steve Reich

It was an honor to hear from Steve how much he enjoyed hearing our performance. He told me that he usually prefers the Live Solo Clarinet with Recording version. But he gave high compliments about my ensemble's good intonation, rhythmic accuracy, and balance and told us that it was one of the great playing of the NY Counterpoint that he has heard. What a proud moment for me as a teacher!

with Steve Reich (2015)

TTU Clarinet Ensemble performing Steve Reich's NY Counterpoint at TTU Center Stage Concert with the composer in presence