Friday, September 14, 2012

Clarinetfest 2012 - High School Solo Competition

With Diane Barger, Artistic Director of Clarinetfest 2012

At the beginning of August, I played in the International Clarinet Association (ICA) High School Solo Competition.  We were to play the Martinu Clarinet Sonata and Kovac's Homage a Debussy.  It was a great experience!  Although I didn't place or perhaps because I didn't place, I learned a lot from the competition.  I was very nervous during the compeition, because the other players were really great players.  The judges sat less than 10 feet from me, which really kind of terrified me.  This anxiety caused me to make mistakes, that I don't think I would have made otherwise.

The other clarinets in the competition were quite good, but I feel that I would have done better if I had played at the level that I wanted to.  Still, it was a good experience for several reasons.  First, it taught me that playing without music can cause me to make more mistakes.  When there is nothing between me and the audience, the experience is more intense.  Playing without the music was not required, but I chose to anyway, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  It does make it a little harder though to have to stare at the judges and watch every move of their pen as they write their criticisms.

Still, I think playing from memory should be done as much as possible.  I think this, because it allows you to detach yourself from the notes and concentrate of the musicality of the piece of music you are interpreting.  Also, without a music stand, you can communicate more with the audience and with your pianist as you perform.

The second thing I learned from the competition is what I do when I feel I am not quite prepared and I get very nervous.  I tend to shake, and I hold notes longer or shorter than their printed value.  My tone and rhythm suffer from these things a lot.  That is a problem.  I really could have used an extra month on these pieces to prepare them properly.

The 2012 ICA High School Soloist Competition Finalists.
The last thing I learned, and the most important thing is that I still have a long way to go in clarinet playing.  Some of the players whom I heard at the competition were amazing.  But I think they play at levels I can reach if I keep a rigorous and effective practice schedule.  I loved playing at the ICA High School Competition, and I hope I can go and try again next year in Italy.  I think I have a shot at winning if I work really hard in between now and then.

I should add that it was an honor and a privilege to be in a competition with such talented young clarinetists.

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