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Welcome to the Clarinet Choir News Page.  Given the popularity of this ensemble medium and the many ensembles operating throughout the world, this page provides for a special emphasis to learn about events and Festivals.  All such organizations are invited to submit important event information and Festivals to spread the interest and encourage more performance and composition.


6 - 7 November 2010

Vandoren/Buffet 5th Clarinet Ensemble Festival - University of California at Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California USA

          The fifth Vandoren/Buffet Clarinet Ensemble Festival, in its trend setting evolution since the first one in Atlanta, Georgia, has grown into a major event involving Clarinet Choirs and related ensembles, including Chamber Quartets and other combinations performed to high standards. From its inception, Mitchell Estrin, Artistic Director, and Professor of Clarinet at the University of Florida in Gainesville, along with legend of the Clarinet Choir field Harvey Hermann, have made an important mark in expanding the interest and levels and reminding all of the history of the Choir movement, reaching back to Simeon Bellison (Solo Clarinetist in the New York Philharmonic and one of the most important teachers of the 20th Century, having mentored such American School icons as Daniel Bonade, Leon Russianoff, and several other greats). It was Bellison who organized a Clarinet Choir that performed regularly at Carnegie Hall in New York, and caught the interests of others who further made the Choirs popular.  Harvey Hermann was one of the foremost icons having built up his group at the University of Illinois at Champaign for many years, and being responsible for the transcription of many of the major Orchestral works for this combination.  Many other Directors since have expanded the contemporary repertoire and at this point there is a wealth of quality music to be played.

Studio Musician Seminar

Bass Clarinet Seminar

           The past Ensemble Festivals, from 2008, at North Illinois University emphasized the College teacher and Orchestral opportunities and trials for those headed for careers there, 2009 at the USAF Band in Washington emphasized the Military Band opportunities, and this year an emphasis was placed on the Los Angeles Studio Music field dealing with opportunities, the need to be fully prepared as a doubler with equal fluency in playing the entire clarinet family, the saxophone family, oboe, and flute.  The competence expected with no compromise was well talked about by 5 of the best doublers in LA such as Gary Bovyer, Gary Gray, Don Higgans, James Kanter, and Phil O'Connor.  A seminar with these players was held with questions and anectdotes from all over the room.  Another seminar was held regarding Bass Clarinet performance and trends.

             Like many events that happen, there were exhibits of products all familiar such as Clarinets, Accessories such as mouthpieces, reeds, ligatures, tools, stands, sheet music, most provided by Vandoren, Buffet-Crampon, Jeanne Music, and RDG Music.  There was ample time for everyone to browse, try things and purchase.

UCLA Clarinet Quartet and the Orange County Wind Symphony Clarinet Ensemble

Licorace Ananimous Clarinet Ensemble and University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble

Clare Fischer Clarinet Choir and the Cal Arts Clarinrt Ensemble under William Powell

Forte Clarinet Quartet and the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir under Margaret Thornhill

Free Mason Clarinet Quartet and the Orange County High School Arts Clarinet Ensemble

Edmond Wells the Bass Clarinet Quartet

Festival Clarinet Choir under Harvey Hermann

             As the galleries indicate, there were several top notch ensembles performing including the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir under Margaret Thornhill, The University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble under Mitchell Estrin (a group that has been nominated for a Grammy for their latest CD Clarinet Thunder), many University Chamber groups, the Wells Bass Clarinet Quartet, the Orange County Wind Symphony Clarinet Ensemble, the Chris Fischer Clarinet Ensemble, the Cal Arts Clarinet Ensemble under William Powell, the Licorice Ananimos Clarinet Ensemble, the Freemason Clarinet Quartet, and the UCLA Clarinet Quartet, and as the Finale, the Mass Clarinet Choir headed by Harvey Hermann, with a premiere and performance of the first movement of the Schubert Symphony #5.

             Credit for this success cannot be amiss with the organizational skills of Director Mitchell Estrin, Michael Skinner, President of DANSR (Vandoren importers), Professor Gary Gray, and the students who carried out the logistics to make this great event happen.  As has been said many times about conferences, every opportunity to come and grow is of serious importance for all who can attend.  It is a major educational and social event which can bring future opportunities especially developing students.  It is in fact a labor of love to go to the effort to organize and fulfill the mission of such an event as this.  The above directors are owed an intangible debt of gratitude from all who get involved.  This event was no fee for all who attended.

USAF Band and Deputy Commander Major Scott Guidry, and Mitchell Estrin and TSgt J Blake Arrington

Participants and Faculty including Harvey Hermann, SMSgt Carl Long, William Wright, Hermann, Michael Kelly, and Mike Getzin, and Mitchell Estrin, Hermann, and Stanley Drucker

TSgt J Blake Arrington and Major Scott Guidry, Gregory Estrin and Michael Skinner, a Portrait of Past esteemed Commander Colonel Arnald Gabriel, Students with Stanley Drucker, and Active players in this Festival

8 November 2009

5th Vandoren/Buffet Clarinet Ensemble Festival - Mitchell Estrin, Artistic Director, held 7-8 October 2009 in conjunction with The United States Air Force Band at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, DC

Washington, DC USA

          This high point Clarinet Ensemble Festival, in its 5th year since its inceptions in Atlanta, Georgia, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, Seattle, Washington, Northeast Illinois University in Chicago, and here at the United States Air Force Band in Washington, is probably the strongest statement yet made in this part of the Clarinet field.  The statement that the best things in life are free couldn't state it enough here as what happened here this weekend held historic proportions in having as guest artist the legendary Stanley Drucker of the New York Philharmonic and just retired after 61 years, 50 of which as Solo Clarinetist, and recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest standing career Clarinetist in history.  Also noteworthy is the Band itself in having Mr Drucker as soloist on many occasions, especially in 1981 at the 1st Klar/Fest 81 under Colonel Arnald Gabriel, another legend Commander and probably the finest Conductor and Band builder in the history of this organization. The chemistry between Drucker and Gabriel was magnetic, as even after performing on campus at Catholic University for the Klar/Fest, Drucker performed again with the Band at the Jefferson Memorial the day after.  The professionalism of this Band speaks for itself as a world -class organization.  

         The initiatives set forth to produce this weekend credits Mitchell Estrin, of the University of Florida and Buffet's Creative and Educational Manager,  Vandoren Performing Artist,  and as Performing Organization Chairman with WKA. Also of key coordination is TSgt J Blake Arrington, a Clarinetist in the Band who coordinated the logistics to make this event successful in every aspect.  The Command of this Band went overboard in supporting this program, and the results were incredible.    Bolling Air Force Base was an almost perfect place to hold this event, in a modern base with all needs including restaurants and facilities nearby, and an ultra-modern Band Hall.  Sponsors for this event were Vandoren, headed by DANSR President Michael Skinner, the official importers of Vandoren Products, with Associated support with Buffet-Crampon.

           Very probably the high point of this Festival was the performance appearance of Stanley Drucker, and his wife Naomi, an accomplished performer, who performed 2 works-  Kupferman's Double Features for 2 Clarinets, and Mr Drucker performing the Berio Sequenza IX for Solo Clarinet.  Performances were spellbounding.  After the performance, Mr Drucker took questions from the participants about anything and everything Clarinet, including his views on playing, a history of his career in many phases, and more.

Navy Band Harbor Winds Clarinet Trio and Quartet, and the Marine Band Clarinet Quartet

Army Band Clarinet Quartet and the USAF Band Clarinet Quartet

Proha Illinois University Clarinet Quartet and the Virginia Commonwealth University Quartet and Soloists

         As the above galleried programs will indicate, there were 4 Clarinet Choir Ensembles, including the USAF Band Clarinet Choir, the University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble, the Gennusa Clarinet Camerata (named in honor of Ignatius Gennusa, major Solo Clarinetist in the Baltimore Symphony), and the Conference Mass Clarinet Choir, Conducted by legend pioneer of this medium Harvey Hermann.   Several smaller Quartet and Quintet ensembles also performed, including Quartets from Proha Illinois University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and all 4 of the Premiere Bands in Washington, performing to a very high standard admired by all who came.

Military Band Opportunity Seminar with Military Clarinetists from the Washington Bands

         The Clarinetists from the Military Bands gave a seminar about playing in these Bands, the eligibility, the Auditions, and how to prepare for them, the work in the Bands, the pay and benefits, and the career opportunities and educational benefits, including College Loan paybacks by the Military upon entering the service.  This was a major plus at this Festival for young players to explore these professional options.

          Both Buffet and Vandoren gave lectures and historical summaries of their firms and their commitment in the making of instruments and accessories, especially reeds.  Exhibits were open to try and buy including Clarinets, mouthpieces, reeds, and sheet music, provided by Jeanne Music and Washington Music Center. 

University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble, Mitchell Estrin, Director

       Gennusa Clarinet Camerata, William Wright, Conductor

The USAF Band Clarinet Choir, SMSgt Carl Long, Conductor

Vandoren Mass Clarinet Choir in Rehearsal and Concert, Harvey Hermann, Conductor

            The photo galleries posted tell an intangible story about this great weekend,  and the great players who performed.  Next year it is planned to have this Festival in Los Angeles, California, dates yet to be fixed.  Credit is certainly due to Mitchell Estrin, Harvey Hermann, Mike Skinner, Carl Long, and J Blake Arrington.  Like many others who have made sacrifices and time and expense to make good things happen, appreciation is certainly deserved.

Dr Rose Sparazza and Students

Stephan Baughman and David Gould of Vandoren and DANSR

Harvey Hermann

DePaul University Julie DeRoche and Dr Sparrazza

Festival Faculty

Dr Gregory Barrett and Mitchell Estrin

Rose Sperazza Festival Introduction

Mitchell Estrin Introduction

David Gould Introduction

Estrin, Getzin, and Sperrazza

17-18 October 2008

4th Annual Vandoren Clarinet Choir Festival - Northeastern Illinois University, Mitchell Estrin, David Gould, and Rose Sperrazza, Directors

Chicago, Illinois USA

           In its fourth year, this American Festival initiative, started by Professor Mitchell Estrin of the University of Florida, has expanded its reach to include a large geographic of players and students from all over the United States. Previous Festivals have been held in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, Seattle, Washington, and this weekend in Chicago.   Participants included over 200 performing in several ensembles numbering 12 groups plus the Mass Festival Clarinet Choir conducted by Clarinet Choir legend Harvey Hermann from the University of Illinois in Champaign.   Many of the most important transcriptions for this ensemble medium were arranged by Dr Hermann especially of the Classic Orchestral repertoire which brought a higher musical meaning for the development of fine ensemble performance.   The twelve ensembles, listed on the above galleries, performed to very high standard, and this is certainly one of the most comprehensive and high performance festivals held.

           Seminars and special talks were given covering New Music with Eric Mandat with demonstrations, and an Orchestral career talk was given by Chicago Symphony's John Bruce Yeh and J Lawrie Bloom, and Charlene Zimmerman from the Chicago Lyric opera.  Discussion included the daily life of an Orchestral musician, including priorities in time management and obligations to family, the Orchestra, practicing, and students, maintaining flexibility and knowing how to say no when necessary to keep on track.  Given the difficulty of maintaining these needs, the participants got a solid idea of all that is involved.  Opera playing issues including the repertoire requirements and keeping in touch with the performance standards, and in the Orchestra life, full knowledge and flexibility in playing all the Clarinets including Eb, Bass Clarinet, and the Bb and A.  The days of just playing e.g., Bass Clarinet are gone.  Auditions and preparation also were covered.

        A major session was held regarding the life of College Professors teaching Clarinet in the Academic arena.  Steve Cohen (Northwestern University), David Harris (University of Illinois), Caroline Hartig (Michigan State University), Justin O'Dell (Michigan State University), Julie DeRoche (DePaul University), Eric Mandat (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale), and Director Mitchell Estrin (University of Florida), discussed the many facets and responsibilities involved including the several taskings including other music courses, other instruments including Saxophone, and woodwind method teaching for Music Education students, no less Music Theory, Music History, and Student ensembles, varying between which positions held at whatever school.  Being on top performance form is a must and one can see the pressure on the teacher.  Also discussed were career tracks for those desiring to be a Professor, and what is needed to achieve these goals, including academic degree credentials, many schools requiring a Doctorate to have tenure, or some other high credentials such as performance experience, and a high degree of networking within the field so schools are aware and interested in Professor applicants.   All the above Professors have certainly earned their keep and have been dedicated to teaching for years.  Mitchell Estrin coordinated the session.  It is rare to see such a distinguished panel from several high profile institutions as listed above.

           As Vandoren was responsible for sponsoring this great event, several firms representing the field including Lisa's Clarinet Shop displaying Buffet Clarinets, Jeanne Music with stacks and files of sheet music of Clarinet repertoire, PM Woodwind Repairs and sellers, Vandoren, with their Mouthpieces, Reeds, ligatures, humidifiers, tools, and for interest for players, David Gould presented a hands on session with a student trying out various reeds in different strengths and models, along with ligatures and mouthpieces, and showing the differences in sound and response and how players can make their choices for their playing. The audience gave their feedback as the session unfolded.

            David Tuttle, a Chicago freelance Clarinetist, and an authority on 'Clarinet Mouthpiece of the Chicago Clarinet Tradition' with a table full of mouthpieces dating back over 80 years from early makers, especially the Kasper cousins, who together developed those historic mouthpieces used by the Bonade followers especially Clark Brody and Robert Marcellus.  Their business history was covered and handouts were given out (in the gallery) which gave a brief but informative summary of this topic.  Mouthpieces were passed around for viewing and many questions were asked.  Unfortunately, there was not enough time to fully explore all this rich information.

Chicago Clarinet Ensemble, Rose Sperrazza, Music Director

Chicago Mozart Ensemble with Bassett Horns with John Bruce Yeh, and University of Illinois (DeKalb) under Gregory Barrett

University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble under Mitchell Estrin and Festival Mass Clarinet Choir under Harvey Hermann

           Throughout both days, there were performances by all the 12 ensembles with the Finale Mass Clarinet Choir under Dr Harvey Hermann with a high level performance.  It was very clear from the choice of music-  Mozart Cos van Tutte Overture, the Mendellsohn Adagio from the Italian Symphony No 4, and Gabrieli's  Canzona, all transcriptions, showed the music making priority of Hermann's mission.  Credit is due for this success to Mitchell Estrin, David Gould, Stephan Baughman for making this great event possible. The admission was FREE so it is too obvious that missing this event by any serious player was a serious mistake.  Plans are underway for next year, aiming for Washington DC.

13 July 2008

The Capriccio Clarinet Orchestra from The Netherlands tour to Spain from July 3 - 13, Conducted by John de Beer.   They were invited by the ChamberArt Music Festival in Madrid. A total of six concerts with three concerts in the Royal Palaces of Aranjuez, La Granja and Segovia.

On Tour in Spain

            A high profile tour by this acclaimed Clarinet Ensemble conducted by renowned Clarinetist and Conductor John de Beer, performed a major Spanish tour to 6 cities and special performances at the above Palaces and Chapels in Aranjuez, La Granja, and Segovia, Spain.  Information on the Capriccio website gives a complete account of the success and dignified acclaim given to these 40 Clarinetists, who performed a varied program slate, especially recent transcriptions of the Dvorak Symphony #9  (New World), and the Smetana Moldau, both of which have been recorded, the Dvorak on DVD.    This ensemble is one of the most notable in Europe, The Netherlands and Belgium along with the United Kingdom, having many Clarinet Ensembles of high quality comprised of many professional players.    John de Beer, besides being Director of this elite group, is President of the Netherlands Clarinet Society (NERV), and is a WKA Artist VIP.

Lawrie Bloom as Soloist

Charlene Zimmerman as Weber Soloist

5 May 2008

Chicago Clarinet Ensemble Performs Major Concert at Northeastern Illinois University conducted by John Bruce Yeh,  Rose Sperrazza, Artistic Director

Chicago, Illinois USA

         The second of a series of concerts of this elite ensemble consisting of many of the finest Clarinetists from the Chicago area, many of whom are College teachers and professional performers, took place at Northeastern Illinois University.  The ensemble was conducted by famed Associate Principal Clarinetist in the Chicago Symphony John Bruce Yeh, with soloists Lawrie Bloom, Bass Clarinetist in the same Orchestra, and Charlene Zimmerman, Solo Clarinetist in the Chicago Lyric Opera, performing the CM von Weber Concertino Op 26 arranged for the ensemble. Program is posted above with details about the group.  Credit is due to the Artistic Director Rose Sperrazza, Professor of Clarinet at this University.

Harvey Hermann and Host William Blayney

Wife, Jon Manasse and Blayney

Broadway Lobby

Blayney, Students, and Manasse

2 Students and Jon Manasse

Robert DiLutis, Buffet, and Mitchell Estrin

DiLutis Class

Vandoren table

Ted Brown Music display

Jeanne Music

University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble under Estrin

14 October 2007

Buffet-Crampon/Vandoren 3rd Clarinet Choir Festival

Seattle, Washington USA

               This 3rd Major Clarinet Choir Festival, led by Mitchell Estrin, made for a success on the West Coast featuring 8 Clarinet Choirs from all over the country, with Harvey Hermann, noted pioneer in the Choir movement for several years, leading the Mass Choir including the majority of players attending and benefitting.  Host for this program was William Blayney, a leading teacher and Principal Clarinetist in the Seattle Symphony, and Director of the Northwest Clarinet Choir in Seattle.  Noted Clarinet Ensembles, including from the University of Florida, performed programs of high professional quality, performed in the Broadway Performance Hall. Sponsors for this major event, and free admission for all participants was Buffet-Crampon USA and Vandoren, who underwrote the costs of this Festival as a Clarinet Public service.  Besides performances and rehearsals by the participants, Master Classes were held, especially noteworthy by Soloist and major Player Jon Manasse, who performed the Mozart Clarinet Concerto K 622 with the Seattle Symphony Saturday night.  The above galleries tell an intangible review of the events and the intensity seen at this event.  Next year it is planned to hold this Festival in Austin, Texas in October 2008.

6 July 2007

“The Great Clarinet Circus” featured at Vancouver ClarinetFest with Performance by the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir

Vancouver, BC, Canada

          On July 6, 2007, the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir, conducted by Dr. Margaret Thornhill, performed the International Premiere of an important new work for 14 clarinets and percussion, “The Great Clarinet Circus” by Edward Cansino, at the ICA ClarinetFest in Vancouver, British Columbia, to a standing-room-only audience. The nine-movement, 25 minute work includes a movement for solo basset horn, “Sad Clown”, performed in Vancouver by guest soloist David Howard, bass clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Percussionist Timm Boatman, was also featured in a virtuosic duo for xylophone and soprano clarinet with the choir’s principal clarinetist, Lori Musicant Koch.

          The work is scored for two E-flat clarinets (one doubling bass), eight soprano clarinets (option of 12 sopranos); basset horn; bass 1 and 2; B-flat contrabass; and a battery of percussion (one player; may be divided) including xylophone, glockenspiel, gongs, snare, bass, cymbals, slide whistle, taxi horn, and more. Scores and parts are available for purchase by writing to the composer at:

          A professional quality studio recording may be purchased from the Clarinet Choir by contacting Margaret Thornhill at

          Cansino, an award-winning California composer of choral, orchestral, operatic and chamber music (including a song cycle for soprano, clarinet and piano, “Seven Songs” of ee cummings) wrote “The Great Clarinet Circus” for the Los Angeles Clarinet Choir in 2005. Inspired by the composer’s childhood recollections of the great Sad Clown, Emmett Kelley, the work is also a tribute to American composer Charles Ives, with the Finale quoting Ives’s famous song “Circus Band.” The composer’s vision of the work includes optional theatrical: the group marches in from offstage during the first movement (Parade); the soprano clarinets hold up their bells to “trumpet” during “Mighty Elephants”; and the 8th movement, Fanfare, precedes“ a circus act of the conductor’s choice” which may be a sword-swallower or chainsaw juggler or an extraneous musical piece performed by a member of the group. The first California performance included a mime in clown face and a dancer attired as master of ceremonies changing large circus cards that announced individual movements. The composer envisions a noisy circus atmosphere, including applause between movements.

 Members of the Los Angeles Choir performing in Vancouver were:

David Barnett, Erica Golden, Don Gross, Sarkis Hardy, Joel Kabakoff, Lori Musicant Koch, Wendy Mazon, Nichole Pacquing, Victoria Ramos, Gary Robertz, Alex Sramek, David Sucik, Jonathan Szin, and Steve White.


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Revised: November 11, 2010