I was recently asked to answer a few questions over email by a student at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY. It occurred to me that more people might be interested in the answers, so here they are.
Q. I am currently preparing the bass clarinet excerpt from Daphnis and
Chloe. How would you go about preparing such a difficult excerpt?
A. Very slowly. Make no mistakes in your practice, no matter how slowly you must play in order to do so. Speed will come.
Q. How do you practice?
A. Slowly, and usually very early in the morning. It's tough to get any effective practice done after 3-6 hours of band and chamber music rehearsal.
Q. How did you get to where you are now?
A. I practiced a lot, and worked on staying calm in auditions. At the time I won my audition, I was doing zen meditation as part of my practice. I found it really helped me focus.
Q. How do you remain calm during an audition?
A. The only time I am nervous during auditions is when I am unprepared. I recently took an audition right after my second daughter was born. Needless to say, I was unprepared. It was the most nervous I have ever been in an audition.
Q. What steps do you take in order to prepare for a major audition?
A. I like to make a big book with all of the music, and record myself a lot. I also listen to as many recording as possible of the clarinet players in the section. If possible, find some chamber music recordings as well. I really try to get to understand what they are after and do that myself.
Q. Have you ever had any problems preventing you from practiced and
performing, like tendonitis? What did you do to fix these problems and
avoid them in the future?
A. I had a bit of tendonitis in college. I started using a BG neck strap and it cleared up. The strap causes other issues, but as long as you are aware of them, it's fine. I try and stay as relaxed as possible, both in my embouchure and my hands. It's not always possible, but it helps.
Q. Do you have any recordings you would recommend listening to while
preparing for auditions?
A. I usually just try and listen to the ensemble I am auditioning for to see what they really sound like. It's not all that helpful if you can't find anything current though. A recording from 20 years ago is not really going to help all that much. Also, I try and listen to recordings of great players. For example, there are a ton of great recordings of Don Quixote from a cello standpoint, but the bass clarinet playing can be a bit lacking depending on the orchestra. I usually try and find one that Lawrie Bloom is playing on and it is usually fantastic.