How did you discover your instrument?
In the 5th grade, when I was 10 years old, my teachers offered the chance to join band, which would meet during social studies. The chance of missing class sounded exciting, so I signed up. Upon going downstairs, we were greeted with a bunch of instruments on a table and asked to pick one. Clarinet was the shiniest and coolest looking, so I picked it. The rest is history.
I started practicing a storm, my parents hired a private teacher, and then things just started moving forward! But the original story goes like that; nothing romantic or profound: just a shiny set of metal keys that caught a 10-year-old’s eye!
When did you know that you wanted to be a professional musician?
When I was just finishing up middle school (around the age of 13/14), I was invited to play a concerto with The Louisville Orchestra for a special gala event. The concept of receiving money for playing my clarinet was foreign to me, so I played, rehearsed, prepared, and did everything without thinking about compensation or anything. Then the performance came, and it was exhilarating, exciting, intense, and just about the coolest evening I’d ever done in my whole life so far. Afterwards, my parents explained that I was to be paid an amount of money that I couldn’t even comprehend (it wasn’t so much, but for a kid, it was a massive amount).
The idea of getting paid to do something which I had enjoyed so much (and never even thought about money) made an impression on me. I remember going afterwards to get my first remote-control toy truck. That whole process made me think (as a kid): well, if I can get paid to do this, why on Earth not! This is amazing.
Things became more complex as I got older, but that initial joy of playing without thinking of money never left me. I almost keep them completely separate.
What would be your advice for music students (college/university level)?
Find a place, way, and system for private, healthy practicing that you can continue for years. This includes everything from how you practice, to the room, and your environment (obviously this will change, but find an inspiring / comfortable space), and make sure you stay true to yourself. Yes of course: listen to your mentors and follow your role models, but also ask yourself how you want to do things.
This practice space will keep you grounded and allow you the necessary work ethic to continue improving and working. If you don’t love when you practice, why would ever practice??
And even if the outside world changes, relationships change, or things happen, you will always be able to return to that same personal practice space (physical and mental) and be confident with the music and sounds that you create (well…we can’t always be confident, but at least we can be confident with the work we are putting in). This will translate to so many other parts of your career and your life, and it will always keep you centered and prepared!
Which piece would you bring to a deserted island?
Mozart C minor Great Mass, K. 427. I remember hearing this for the first time and absolutely freezing my entire body. It was played in a classroom with great speakers, and the sound took me over completely. Nothing else existed except for that sound…that opening line…and then when the chorus enters…my goodness!