About a year and a half ago, I had the pleasure of attending a performance of a clarinet quintet performing at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington on the north side of Columbus. The clarinetist, Dr. Antoine T. Clark, played some wonderful music by the likes of Mozart, Stadler, Baermann and Carl Maria von Weber, along with string musicians from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. The concert was wonderful. A real treat.
Antoine is now the Music Director of the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra. I had the opportunity last month to talk to him about music in central Ohio.
Hometown: Wilsons, VA
Instrument: Clarinetist and Woodwind Specialist, Piano
Alma maters: Virginia Commonwealth University – Bachelor of Music in Music Education
University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music – Master of Music in Clarinet Performance.
The Ohio State University- Doctorate of Musical Arts in Clarinet Performance
Degree you’re working on now? Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting-The Ohio State University
What drew you to the clarinet? Music has always been a big part of my life. My father played the guitar, piano, and sang as a church musician. He was a well-respected gospel musician in the area where I group up. In 6th grade, I picked the clarinet because I loved the way it sounded, the beauty and warmth of the tone. When growing up – I used to watch PBS Great Performances programs that featured the orchestra, because I never went to a live orchestra concert. I didn’t hear live string players until I was a senior in high school. I was drawn to it.
What specifically do you teach? Woodwinds and piano
Where do you teach? I am an Adjunct Instructor of Woodwinds at Kenyon College, Woodwind Instructor at The Jefferson Academy of Music at OSU, Woodwind and Piano Instructor at Music Royale in Powell, Clarinet Instructor and Symphonic Band Director at Camp Encore/Coda in Sweden, Maine.
How often do you practice your instrument / or go over your scores? I stay in shape on my instrument because I teach more than 20 hours per week. This year I am learning many scores so I try my best to do at least two hours of score studying a day. Generally, when I have an upcoming performance, I increase my personal practice time.
I’m an associate musician with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, which means I’m on the sub list. I played a pops concert, children’s pops concert and the 4th of July concert just this past summer.
So why classical music? I grew up in a musical family because of my father’s profession. When growing up I sang with Dad along with the 8-track tapes. I loved singing everything, but in middle school when I discovered classical music, I was impressed with the vocabulary, the range of emotions that I couldn’t get from certain genres of music like pop. I loved the sound of the many instruments in an orchestra. I have always enjoyed musical genres that used real instruments. It’s what I always loved about music, but I especially love classical. It’s intellectual.
What do you say to people who think they don’t like it? Try it and understand that like anything you have to develop a taste for anything new. I think many reasons why they don’t like it is because it’s foreign to them and they may give up too easily because they may not understand it. I think going to live concerts to hear any musical genre would help because we then get closer to understanding the human connection to the music being performed.
What is the best thing about performing in front of an audience? Just knowing that they enjoyed it (especially when they tell you!) It’s mission accomplished. Knowing they enjoy it – that’s why we play. We want to bring an audience joy. When I know that someone was pleased, then I know we served our purpose.
What do you hope they gain from it? I think that music can be a spiritual, nurturing thing – if they came and they enjoyed it, we satisfied their human artistic need.
Favorite composer? Richard Strauss / Romantic music – (If I HAD to choose…) Brahms is great for what he’s done for the clarinet. I love Mozart! Wagner – I love things that remind me of Star Wars!! I love music that is expansive, romantic, pulls at the right heartstrings.
Piece of music to play? Mozart Clarinet Quintet, Brahms Clarinet Quintet and Sonatas for Clarinet.
Piece to conduct? Wagner – Siegfried Idyll – it was my first time conducting a professional ensemble.
Favorite show off piece for the clarinet? Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody
Who are some great performers for your instrument? Anthony McGill, David Shifrin, Robert Marcellus (used to play with the Cleveland orchestra), Harold Wright.
What are some pieces you recommend people add to their music library that show case the clarinet? Brahms Sonatas, the Debussy, Carl Maria von Weber concertos, the Brahms quintet – probably one of the best chamber pieces for the clarinet.
(HMB – I’m going to have to download some more music, aren’t I?)
McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra
How did the MACCO get started? MACCO was born out of a desire to see the Worthington community with an orchestra similar to surrounding communities. I perform with several of the groups in the area and I always wondered why Worthington didn’t have an orchestra. After performing with my woodwind quintet, The Apollo Winds, at the McConnell Arts Center of Worthington on one of their Thursday Night Series Concerts, I was informed by many in the audience as well as the McConnell Arts Center staff that there was a keen interest in seeing more classical programming at the MAC. Jon Cook, the executive director of the MAC, was told of my idea for a chamber orchestra and then he asked me to submit a proposal.
I have always enjoyed conducting. Having been a Music Director of a college orchestra in Nebraska, I saw this as an opportunity to start a new dynamic group.
I’m so grateful to the musicians for giving their time and their talents
Where did you find the musicians? Many of the musicians perform in other local orchestras, such as the Westerville Symphony, the Newark-Granville Symphony, the Central Ohio Symphony, the New Albany Symphony, the Springfield Symphony, the Mansfield Symphony, the West Virginia Symphony, the Dayton Symphony, the Evansville Philharmonic, and the Columbus Symphony. Many are educators that work in local colleges, universities, as well as public schools. Some of the musicians are students at The Ohio State University.
The orchestra is a professional orchestra that comprises talented musicians from the Greater Columbus community.
Who doesn’t want to make great music with other great musicians?
What do you think of leadership? One of the first things I did when I founded the orchestra was to buy a book on leadership. All too often, people in leadership positions can lead in the wrong fashion. I wanted to approach my job as Music Director in a way that the musicians would trust me and work with me. It’s a delicate balance – you don’t want to be passive, but you have to make good decisions in terms of making music, working with your colleagues, be respectful, and lead by good example. I need to come prepared to rehearsals, bring excellence and hope that the musicians will mirror that back to me. I want to inspire the musicians to perform at their highest level so that we can be the best that we can be for the community and for the music.
Where do you see the MACCO in 3-5 years? I’d love to see it continue to be a place where the community can come to enjoy high quality classical music. I want the orchestra to be a model of excellence. I want it to be a place where people can hear fine music and masterworks performed by fine musicians who are their neighbors. If it becomes a bigger part of the community and more people come out to see it, then great. I know things like that take time. I want us to be a bigger part of the community where we can also educate the youth in the community.
This year we hope to have a couple of outreach concerts in the Worthington Schools to let kids know about art in their community. The goal is to go to schools in Worthington where students might not otherwise be exposed to classical music.
How do you pick the music? I start with music that I like, but sometimes it’s built around a theme. This year we have three masterworks concerts in addition to a Concerto Concert featuring winners of the Woman in Music Scholarship Competitions.
Concert 1 – The classical concert. (People have) heard of the composers.
Concert 2 – This is more of the “chamber” music – music just for strings, or just for winds, and breaks the orchestra up a little bit.
Concert 3 – More modern music – Copland, Piazzolla, etc.
Different styles, different time periods, different instrumentation. We also have two higher profile soloists this year – Luis Biava, Principal Cellist with the CSO and Music Director of the New Albany Symphony Orchestra; and Yun-Tin Lee, violinist with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. It’s what is great about being in Ohio – we have so many great musicians here.
Here’s a look at the upcoming 2014-2015 schedule with the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra.
Sunday, November 16, 2014 3pm
Nocturno in C Major for Eleven Winds ~ Felix Mendelssohn
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Hob. VIIb: 1 ~ Joseph Haydn
Luis Biava, Cello – Columbus Symphony
Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major, K.543 ~ W.A. Mozart
Sunday, February 8, 2015 3pm
Serenade for String Orchestra, Op. 48 ~ Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Sonatina No. 2 for 16 wind instruments in E-flat Major (“Happy Workshop”), Op. 143 ~ Richard Strauss
Sunday, March 22, 2015 3pm
MACCO/Women in Music Columbus – Concerto Winner’s Concert
Honoree: Jerry Casey, Composer
Sunday, May 3, 2015 3pm
Serenade No. 2 in A Major, Op. 16 ~ Johannes Brahms
Three Latin American Sketches ~ Aaron Copland
The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires ~ Astor Piazzolla
Yun-Ting Lee, Violin – Cleveland Orchestra
Tickets are available either at the door or online via the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center website. I’ll be there for the November 16 concert. I hope to see you there, too! Thanks to Antoine for the use of all the pictures in this post!