The Masterclass

This is my first post, and for a while I have been thinking about what I might say… I am a clarinettist and a young one. I am in the third year of my degree, I’m 21, and I am always worrying, scared of the future, what it might or might not hold (having said that I am young, Karl Leister had his first job in an opera house at 19, and Stanley Drucker got his first orchestral position aged 17). As you may have guessed from the title, I am a little nervous, I am even nervous about this blog post! Will it be good enough? Will it be funny enough? Does it need to be funny? What if I say something wrong? Or even worse… what if people are bored?

Yesterday I watched a masterclass with the great Karl Leister, previously of the Berlin Philharmonic, at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, and he had some wonderfully wise words to say to us about how to get to the top, or at least where we want to be in life. His words made me think, about my fears of mediocrity, and failure, when he asked us what WE wanted from life.

Some of Karl’s lovely quotes included some very nice technique analogies “Walk your fingers, like a cat, over the clarinet, not like an elephant!” & “Don’t polish the floor” and some good information on editions and never to play Schumann EVER on a B flat clarinet “It must be on the A!” (note to self: NEVER play Schumann on a Bb clarinet). Though despite his often humorous and very technical and wonderful insights on Schumann and Brahms he made me think about some of my own anxieties in relation to my music.

“If you want to get to the top, you have to practice, practice, practice…”

We all know that… right?

“…and if you are happy being somewhere in the middle, then ok.”


“OK” is the word that struck a chord in me. Am I happy with “OK”? Of course I don’t necessarily want to be the best clarinettist in the world, but I want to be the best I can be, and maybe I am starting to realise that part of the reason I am anxious, is because I am not really doing the right things to be the best for myself?  I am honest about the fact that I don’t practice enough, and whenever I think about it, the permanent knot in my stomach tightens a little, and it only gets better when I feel like I have done enough for myself to be better. Perhaps because the truth is, I’m not happy being the average of what I can be.  Maybe I DO want the best for myself, and I know what I need to do to get it, can I face it?

Congratulations to all of my musical co-students who performed yesterday in the masterclass with Karl Leister at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Well done!!!

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