Visiting Busan

Master Class at Silla University in Busan, South Korea

I had a brief but very memorable trip to Busan, thanks to my wonderful friend and colleague Dr. Useon Bryan Choi who organized a series of master classes for me. I have never visited this incredible city since when I lived in Korea in the 90s and things have changed completely since then. The nighttime scene of the port city was spectacular, and I very much enjoyed the view from my hotel!

A refreshing view from my hotel room

At a famous location for picture taking!

Students were dedicated and hard working. The younger students from the Busan Arts Middle and High schools uniformly had great technique and bought in highly technical works by composers such as Weber and Spohr. While it was impressive to see what these young students could do, I was a bit concerned with their lack of fundamentals and broader understanding of the music they practice so hard. My schedule was very compressed (with some of the most exhausting classes I've ever taught), and I hope the time we spent together was helpful. I was also grateful to many of the local clarinet instructors who came out and introduced themselves. I look forward to our future exchanges, and we already made a plan for me to return next summer. 

Dr. Choi's students at the Silla University also played very well, and I wish them my very best!

More Spohr... 

Silla University Student Master Class

Many thanks to Silverstein Works who sponsored my master class in Busan

A student's parents took me and some of the teachers out to dinner. Super fresh Korea-style sashimi is difficult to describe in words! I also enjoyed various delicacies in Busan with a great company.

Hwal-uh-Hoeh (Korean-style Sashimi)

Mil-myun (flour noodles served cold)

Desert with Ice Coffee

Desert with Ice Coffee

Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto and Tayeon's First Concert!

Getting Ready to Play some Artie Shaw at Cookeville's Dogwood Park

I very much enjoyed working with the Cookeville Community Band and playing Artie Shaw's Clarinet Concerto with them. The group consists of many enthusiastic community musicians as well as several students and teachers from local university, schools, etc. I always admire their effort, which has made the Band a cultural gem of our small town. I finally learned the famous concerto by Artie Shaw when I performed it with the Troy University Clarinet Choir under Dr. Timothy Phillips direction at their Clarinet Day. This time I played with a much louder group at an outdoor setting so I had to rely on a bit of amplification. The concert was fun, and I was only too happy to see my one-month old daughter who attended her daddy's concert for the first time!

Piazzolla CD Released on MSR

I am thrilled to announce the release of enhake's newest CD entitled Prepaárense: The Piazzolla Project on MSR Classic. The recording already has received many positive reviews and turned out quite well, especially considering our highly compressed rehearsal and recording schedule last year. 

We got the following review from Infodad,com with a very well received (++++) rating:

Ástor Piazzolla: Transcriptions and arrangements by M. Brent Williams. enhakē (Wonkak Kim, clarinet; M. Brent Williams, violin; Katherine Decker, cello; Eun-Hee Park, piano). MSR Classics. $12.95.
The MSR Classics project undertaken by a fine chamber ensemble with a deliberately obscure name, enhakē – small first letter, whole word from the Seminole for “sound,” and, really, why? – is to present works by Argentine concert-tango master Ástor Piazzolla in the unusual instrumental combination of clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Violinist M. Brent Williams is responsible for arranging Piazzolla for this recording, and he does so with considerable skill. All nine works here come across with a pleasant mixture of exotic sound, concert-hall solemnity and a kind of “street smarts.” There are some very well-known pieces on the CD, including Primavera Porteña and Libertango, and they have a freshness here, thanks to the unexpected instrumentation, that shows them in a new light and further affirms the appropriateness of their place in “high” music despite the decidedly “low” origin of the tango itself. The Concerto para Quinteto comes across particularly well in this performance – these are musicians who are clearly comfortable with each other as well as with their individual instruments, and there is a relaxed, jazz-ensemble feeling to their performances despite the fact that these are not pieces played extemporaneously. All the works here are worth hearing – the others are Revirado, Escualo, Oblivion, Prepárense, Kicho and Buenos Aires Hora Cero. Williams’ arrangements sometimes try a bit too hard to make sure that each performer gets front-and-center attention and that, when the group plays together, everyone is balanced equally against everyone else. This is excellent camaraderie but can result in arrangements that are a bit too cautious not to overdo the sound of any specific instrument. This is a quibble, though, and some listeners will actually like the disc more because of the neat ensemble balance and the careful way the arrangements make just about equal room for everyone. The CD is short – 47 minutes – but long enough to give listeners a strong sense of the quality of Piazzolla’s music and the effectiveness of hearing it on instruments other than those for which it was originally composed.

Here is some quotes from another review on this CD by Fanfare Magazine:

...positively delightful. ...The sense of ensemble is near-miraculous. ...A most rewarding and enjoyable release. PIazzolla admirers need not hesitate.
— Fanfare

The CD can be directly ordered at this site by visiting here.

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

2016 TTU Clarinet Day

2016 TTU Clarinet Day Group Photo

The following report was written by James Rutledge, my student and a Freshman Clarinet Performance Major at Tennessee Tech University:

On April 23rd, 2016, Tennessee Technological University held its annual Clarinet Day on TTU’s campus in the Bryan Fine Arts Building. The event was hosted by the TTU Clarinet Studio & Society of Clarinet with Dr. Wonkak Kim, Assistant Professor of Clarinet, as the event’s coordinator and leader.

    In years past, Clarinet Day was dedicated to local clarinetists of all aged coming together to participate in clarinet choir ensemble playing. However, in 2011, when Dr. Kim joined the music faculty at Tennessee Tech, Clarinet Day expanded and began to include performances from musical artists from around the country, master classes, recitals, guest conductors, clarinet technitions, and products from well-known clarinet manufacturers and accessory manufacturers. 

World Premiere performance of Jeff Brooks's "Life's A Celebration" by Wonkak Kim and Jeff Brooks, clarinets with Grace Choi, piano

Dr. Jeremy Reynolds Guest Artist Recital

    The event began at 9 AM with a word of welcome from Dr. Kim followed by guest recital given by Dr. Kim and Jeffery Brooks with Dr. Eunhye Grace Choi as their pianist. The trio gave a world premiere performance of Jeffery Brooks’ superb Life’s A Celebration! for two clarinets and piano. The program continued with an exciting performance of Marc Mellits’ Black for Two Bas Clarinets performed by TTUstudents Anjali Sivaainkaran and Nicholas Dickinson. The morning recital concluded with guest artist Dr. Jeremy Reynolds, Professor of Clarinet from the University of Denver by giving a phenomenal performance of Louis Cahuzac’s Cantilene, Bela Kovacs’ Hommage a J. S. Bach, and Malcom Arnold’s Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano.

    After the guest recital, all the participants were assembled in Wattenbarger Auditorium in the Bryan Fine Arts building for a rehearsal with the mass Clarinet Day choir lead by and Dr. Kim, and Ms. RoAnn Romines, clarinet artist from Knoxville, Tennessee.

RoAnn Romines rehearsing the TTU Festival Clarinet Choir

    Following the morning rehearsal, all the participants were dismissed for a brief lunch break, and were given the opportunity to look at and try instruments, accessories, and have instruments serviced by Jonathan Copeland, a specialist from Onks Woodwind Specialists, and Jeremy Brooks, from Brooks Clarinet Servies. 

Exhibition Area

Participating students trying out clarinets

    Following the break, clarinet repair specialist Jonathan Copeland gave a lecture concerting clarinet maintenance and repair. Copeland covered topics from assembling and disassembling the instrument to avoid damage, how to properly swab out and clean the instrument, and the topic of clarinet bore oiling.

Dr. Wonkak Kim Master Class

Dr. Jeremy Reynolds Master Class

    After the lecture, the participants were reconvened into Wattenbarger Auditorium for a master class sponsored by Buffet-Crampon. The master class began with Dr. Kim as clinician. Berean Christian School student Renae Dishman performed Concert Fantasia on Motives from “Rigoletto” composed by Luigi Bassi and Giuseppe Verdi. After Dishman’s performance, Dr. Jeremy Reynolds took the adjudicating position, and listened to TTU students James Rutledge, Dalton Swallows, and Sarah McMichen. Rutledge performed André Messager’s Solo de Concours, Swallows performed orchestral excerpts from Felix Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Johannes Brahms’ Andante from Symphony No. 3, and McMichen performed Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto. After all the participants of the master class gave a spectacular performance of his or her respective pieces, the master class concluded and the mass clarinet choir met again for a final rehearsal joined with the Cookeville Community Band Clarinet Choir. 

Members of Cookeville Community Band Clarinet Choir trying out samples

To finish off the day, the Cookeville Community Band Choir, conducted by Dan Hearn, began the final concert. The community band clarinet choir began the program with the first movement from W. A. Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Edvard Grieg’s Norwegian Dance, Roland Kernen’s Gershwin Favorites, and concluded their program with Paul Harvey’s Happi Jazz. After the community choir’s exciting program, the TTU clarinet choir, directed by Dr. Wonkak Kim, took the stage and performed W. A. Mozart’s Overture to Marriage of Figaro, and Alexis Ciesla’s Fantasia featuring graduating TTU Music Performance senior Sarah McMichen. After the TTU’s clarinet choir’s lively performance, the mass Clarinet Day choir took the stage. The mass choir’s performance began under the direction of Ms. RoAnn Romines with G. F. Handel’s La Rejouissance from the Royal Fireworks Music, and Claude Debussy’s La Fille aux Cheveux de lin. Dr. Kim then took the stage as director for Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, and Clare Grundman’s Caprice for Clarinets

Lena Fomenko, TTU Sophomore Clarinet Major, is awarded the inaugural TTU-Buffet Clarinet Prize!

Following the last piece, the winners of the 2016 Clarinet Day were announced. This year, a silent auction for a Silverstein Cryo4 ligature which was won by Cookeville High School student, Brianna Owens. Also, Buffet-Crampon was generous enough to donate a brand new Buffet-Crampon E12F clarinet. All contestants were to write an essay to be judged by an outside party explaining how this instrument would help him or her in a musical career. The winner of this prestigious award was TTU Music Education freshman, Lena Fomenko.

Final Concert!

Overall, this year’s Clarinet Day was a huge success, and would not have been made possible without the hard work from Dr. Kim, the guest artists, guest technicians, Buffet-Crampon, the participants, and the entire TTU Clarinet Studio & Society of Clarinet.

2016 Troy University Clarinet Day

With Guest Artists of the 2016 Troy University Clarinet Day

Attending Troy University Clarinet Day has become an annual tradition for me and Grace since we were first invited as guest artists two years ago. I love seeing my wonderful colleague and friend Tim as well as his family. It is also a great perk to meet some amazing clarinetists who travel much farther distances than us (we certainly should not complain about our 6-hour drive when we have someone traveling from South Africa!). This year, it was particularly nice to catch up with Raphael Sanders from SUNY Potsdam and Maria Du Toit, the clarinetist from South Africa who now resides in Netherlands. I also had a great pleasure of finally meeting the renowned studio artist and master mouthpiece craftsman, James Kanter! It was very humbling to hear some very nice compliments from Jim, and I got a very precious mouthpiece that he recently crafted. 

Many thanks to Dr. Phillips for inviting me to play Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto with Troy University Clarinet Choir, which was actually the North American Premiere of this particular arrangement by Guy Dangain. Thanks to Dr. Benjamin Fraley for his fabulous drum solo in the concerto and making the performance so much fun!

Matt Vance, a wonderful friend, from Buffet Crampon

With Jim Kanter

University of Northern Iowa Reed Day

I had my first visit to Iowa, being a part of the University of Northern Iowa Reed Day. Kudos to Dr. Amanda McCandless and her wonderful students for organizing such excellent event. I enjoyed working with her clarinet studio and playing a guest recital with my wonderful pianist friend, Esther Park, who jumped in at the last minute, playing some Verdi/Bassi, Debussy, and Cahuzac with me. What an impressive facilities they have! It was also great pleasure to meet guests for other studios and their teachers. Returning home much inspired!

UNI Music Building

Post Recital Dinner with other Guest Artists

Studio Trip to NYC

TTU Clarinet Studio at Lincoln Center

I worked very hard with some of my exceptional students and officers of the TTU Clarinet Studio to plan for our 3-day trip to New York City during the spring break of 2015. Our proposal for TTU's URECA Grant was approved, and we received $5,000 to cover our students' airfare, hotel lodging and other expenses. In addition, our students successfully carried out various successful fund-raising campaigns, virtually making the trip fully funded. In the end, twelve students from TTU Clarinet Studio joined in the trip, made of whom have never been to NYC. Thanks to additional sponsorship and support by my colleagues at Buffet Crampon and Vandoren, our students had some tremendous musical opportunities during their stay. 

Freshman Clarinet Quartet performing at the Buffet Showroom NYC

Boris Allakhverdyan Master Class

Listening to a presentation by David Gould

Vandoren Musician's Advisory Studio

Boris Allakhverdyan, the principal clarinetist of Met Opera and newly appointed principal clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, spent two hours with several of our students giving master classes and coaching at the Buffet Crampon Showroom NYC. Not only we enjoyed many insights Boris shared with us, our students were thrilled to hear him later that evening at Met Opera's production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. I also took the studio to Vandoren's Studio on the 54th St., where students got to learn a great deal about the production process of reeds and mouthpieces and try them out. The final evening was spent on attending NY Philharmonic concert where they performed Brahms's German Requiem. What a musically enriching spring break for everyone it was!

A short stop by at Carnegie Hall

Students getting ready to see Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at Met

Our students after NY Phil Concert at David Geffen Hall

In numerous occasions, I served as a tour guide to our students, taking them to various landmarks of NYC and fun. More importantly, we ventured into some of my favorite stops to eat in Manhattan, including Shake Shack and Totto Ramen. 

Being happy at Shake Shack!

Some struggle in using chopsticks at Totto Ramen where they don't have forks, etc.

TTU Clarinet Studio's last minute lunch together in NYC before heading back to La Guardia