What advice do you have for students?
One of the first things that I tell my students is that we have to understand a couple of things about what we do. Number one is that rejection is commonplace, and you can’t take it personally. What it means is that you’re not the right fit at the moment, but keep working because I think there’s room for all of us, and it’s just a matter of finding our spot.
The second bit of advice that I give every one of my students is not to expect instant gratification. That comes mainly because we work so hard to do something in a specific way, and then the next day, when we put our instrument together, it’s not there anymore, and we feel like we’re starting at square one. I try to explain to them that they’re not starting at ground zero; they have developed some; it’s just not the final product, so we just need to do it again. Sometimes it might take a couple of days, weeks, months, or even a year to master something. But then, once you do, it opens new horizons on other techniques that maybe you were struggling with. The more time you take on each of these items to perfect it, the more attainable each subsequent one is. That’s essentially my advice.
And the other thing is, what we do, we tend to have kind of a love-hate relationship at times because we get frustrated that things aren’t happening perfectly all of the time. I always advise my students to think about what their frustration is versus just how they’re feeling. Maybe those negative associations might make them decide, but that isn’t truly representative of how they think. I always tell them that what we do is physical and psychological, and I understand that not every day will be a dream come true. You can’t let it feel like that’s a setback you’re not going to overcome.
That’s probably more advice from the preliminaries, and then finding their niche in our career field is vital; we can’t all be performers, and we all can’t just be teachers. Some of us can do a little bit of everything; we can maybe open a business and repair instruments and still play on the side and feel fulfilled. Challenge themselves to find what they love to do the most and determine how playing the clarinet can fit into that if it’s not just performance-oriented.
What advice do you have for teachers?
When I first moved to New York, I had never been there before and had never been around the people who are long-time or original New Yorkers, and I got quite a wake-up call with how to get things done. You did it yesterday. There’s no time just to fool around and decide what it is that’s going on. You have to produce great results immediately. What I learned from that and how I shaped my advice to myself as a teacher: to fix a problem, I have to identify what that really is and not just try to treat a symptom. Getting to the root of what’s causing any particular issue is the most important thing for a teacher.
When I’m teaching, I try to assess where the struggle is coming from and what we can do to work around it or eliminate that particular issue. Sometimes it’s not exactly what I think. Still, it requires knowing exactly how the body works, intending to be the most natural we can be while performing and playing — that’s how we’re going to eliminate problems, whether it be arm tension, jaw tension, or improper placement. I try to instil in my students who will be teachers to treat the problem, not the symptom. I tell my students who will be teachers to ask their students, “What is the real problem? Why is this happening?” Sometimes it’s physical; sometimes it’s external; sometimes the instrument is in horrible shape. We have to be investigators to isolate and identify the real issue to take the proper steps to remedy it.
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Accompanying pianist. Copywriter.