band clarinet midwest

Midwest Clinic

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Chicago and attending the Midwest Clinic to play a concert with the Virginia Wind Symphony.  I have never been to the conference, and playing there was on my bucket list, for sure.  The conference is mostly geared towards the music educator/band director type, which I am definitely not.  But, I used the opportunity to visit the exhibits and be a clarinet nerd.  All the major clarinet brands were there, in addition to Rico and Vandoren.

I really wanted to try the new Rico Reserve mouthpiece, which I had heard so much about from the ICA convention this summer.  I tried the more open one first (X5), even though I knew I liked the close facing better in general.  I tried it with my own reed.  It was ok, not something I would want to play on.  Then I tried the X0, which is their close facing.  Really nice!  I tried it with both my reed and one of their reeds.  I actually liked it better with their reed…I wonder if they planned that, ha!  It had a clarity of sound that I enjoy with the closer facing, but had a little more depth of tone than my Vandoren M15, but still not as good as my Hawkins R.  Anyways, my final verdict is that the Rico Reserve X0 is a great mouthpiece for the money ($80-$100).  So if you want something with a little more finesse than the Vandoren, but don’t want to spend $300 on a Zinner blank, this is the way to go!  I may even have the Navy buy me one to go with my Prestige…

I also came across something called a Reedgeek.  The demo was amazing!  So amazing, in fact that I actually bought one.  I haven’t had much of a chance to use it, but from what I can see, it will replace all of my reed tools (AND it can go on airplane carry-on).  I plan on devoting a blog post to review this thing once I figure out how exactly to use it.  I really geeked out on this one.  (you see what I did there?)

They had many music publishers there, and I was able to find a new student duet book, which is always good.  I need some fresh duets (I’ve been playing the same couple books with my students for a few years now).

I wanted to devote some time to trying clarinets.  Not that I’m in the market right now, I just am very curious.  I haven’t tried clarinets since I bought my last pair almost 9 years ago!  I stopped first at the Buffet booth and tried their new Bb clarinet, the Divine (they didn’t have an A to try).  It was pretty nice, very smooth.  I liked how it felt in my hands, which is important to me since I have small hands.  I tried all the usual suspects also, including the Tosca, Tosca Greenline, Vintage, Prestige, Festival, and of course the R-13.  They only had A Toscas, no Bb, unfortunately, but all the others had matching pairs.  My favorite by far was the Festival.  It was the smoothest sound, and the darkest, which is what I prefer.  I was suprised that I didn’t like the Tosca at all!  From what I have heard, it is the most similar to my Concertos.  I had wished I brought my Eb mouthpiece, they had some to try, but I just didn’t think of it when I was packing for the trip!

Next stop was Conn-Selmer.  I tried the Recital series, and the Signature series.  They had A/Bb pair for both models.  I fell in love with the Recital series!  So smooth and sweet sounding.  I especially liked the A clarinet.  Now this is a clarinet I could buy!  The only weird thing is that the Recital is visibly larger in diameter – it looks like a fat clarinet!  Unfortunately, the only Leblancs they had were student models, including the “Bliss”.  Didn’t try them!

I went to the Yamaha booth, on recommendation from a Depaul student that I chatted with a little bit at the Conn-Selmer booth, to try their new clarinet.  I cannot remember what the exact model number was…but it was nice.  Very Yamaha-ish.  It was weird because it had an alternate low F (like what the Buffet Tosca and the Buffet Divine have), but instead of the key being just below the regular F key, it was a thumb key on the back of the instrument, much like you find on low C basses.  It was odd because the placement of this key was much lower than where the thumb rested underneath the thumbrest.  It wasn’t just a thumb size thing…I had to actually remove my thumb from under the thumbrest and move it down an inch or so to use this key.  My hands are not THAT small!  So in order to use this key, one has to wear a neckstrap or have giant thumbs.

Most of my time at the Clinic was taken up by playing with the Virginia Wind Symphony.  We played a concert on Friday afternoon, and then participated in a clinic by Colonel John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.) on Saturday morning.  Thursday evening we had our rehearsal to prepare for the concert and Saturday morning’s clinic.  The rehearsal was supposed to be from 3:45-6:00, but we didn’t get done until almost 7!  And we didn’t have a break; it was really rough towards the end.  I haven’t been that consistent this month with my practicing, so my endurance wasn’t all that great.  But we had so many guest conductors and other players that hadn’t rehearsed with us yet, so we had to go through every piece on the program, including several marches for Saturday morning’s clinic.  It was very tiring.  Also, almost all the composers were present at the rehearsal!

Program for the concert with all the guest conductors!
Program for the concert with all the guest conductors!

The concert went very well, probably the best we’ve played our program ever.  We priemeiered a piece by Julie Giroux and our soloist was Pat Sheridan, which my husband is chums with – he tried to study with him at UCLA for a doctorate, but was unable to due to all the red tape (aka the school didn’t have funding for a tuba DMA).  He’s an amazing player!  It was very inspiring.   I was able to see some familiar faces from CSU after the concert, which was great!  I also got to finally meet a fellow Fort Collins native who teaches clarinet up at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.  I definitely want to try to make it up to Richmond sometime to talk some clarinet!

Saturday morning’s clinic was fun; as I mentioned before, we played a wide variety of marches, as that was what the clinic was about.  Colonel Bourgeois is an amazing conductor – he’s very picky about the small details, which I like.  All the marches we played were edited by him, of course!  I remember playing under Colonel Bourgeois in 2000 at the CSU Music Camp, right before my senior year of high school.  I remember it to be amazing, and I actually practiced my music that year, ha ha.  I didn’t do much practicing before college…

After the clinic was over, my husband and I had the entire rest of the day to see Chicago.  We had driven from Virginia (!) and we weren’t planning on starting the drive back until Sunday morning.  We walked around Millenium park and saw some of the sights.

Walking to Millenium park
Walking to Millenium park
Cloud gate
Cloud gate
Cool building
Cool building

What a fun trip!  Luckily we missed all the crazy weather driving to and from Chicago.  We had a little snow while we were there which was nice.  Also, it was refreshing to feel real cold again!  It doesn’t get cold like that in Virginia, that’s for sure.

I’m taking a break from practicing until I’m officially back to work on the 7th.  Its nice to take some time off every once in awhile.  I’m trying to keep busy practicing excerpts, but it is hard when you don’t have much to practice for.  I’m hoping to get a recording done for the ICA Orchestral Audition competition this spring, I’ll keep you all up to date (hopefully).

I’m thinking about going to the Saxophone Symposium in DC next weekend…not sure though.  The Chicago trip pretty much drained my savings, so I don’t have much even for gas money up to DC.  But if I can make it happen, I think I’ll try to go up for Saturdays stuff at least.


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