March 15, 2013  |  Music

When I’m not playing with Third Wheel, I spend a lot of time working with the students at the Orange County School of the Arts. They are a wonderful group of talented musicians, and I have a great time teaching them.

This week, they just got some new music to start preparing for their final concerts at the end of the semester in May. One of the pieces on the program is Frank Ticheli‘s Blue Shades. This has become a very famous piece for wind ensemble, and is performed often. It’s a lot of fun because it borrows a lot of elements from jazz, especially the blues scale.

You can listen to a professional performance of the entire piece here:

In my opinion, the best part of Blue Shades is the extended clarinet solo. (It starts around 8:00 on the video above). The solo is very Benny Goodman-inspired, and really gives the clarinetist a chance to wail — which is not something that happens often in a wind ensemble!

The internet is full of aspiring clarinet players recording the solo! Check out these videos on YouTube and decide for yourself who does it best:

You may have noticed, if you come to Third Wheel shows, that I love to play music that has some jazz influence. So of course I love the clarinet solo in Blue Shades. In fact, I had the opportunity to play that solo when I was in high school! It was my senior year, Karin was playing in the flute section, and I was only a little mad at my conductor for making me stand up to play the solo. What fun!

It is even more fun now to watch my clarinet students learn this music for the first time. They are exploring the music the same way I once did, and struggling with some of the advanced techniques in the music — flutter-tonguing and even some pitch bending. It really gives me an opportunity to think of the music from a fresh perspective and try to see it from their point of view.

I can’t wait to see which of the OCSA clarinetists wins the solo, and to hear him or her perform it in a concert. I know they will learn a lot through the process, and I know they will feel so happy and satisfied when they play the last note and hear the roaring applause. I’ll be the one in the audience beaming with pride and applauding the loudest.