It all began when I was five and my mother enrolled me in Orff music education classes. Shortly thereafter, I began playing recorder in a small private recorder group run by a really nice woman named Mrs. Mac. By the time I had reached highschool, I'd played recorder for quite a few years, spent several thousand hours practicing and had become yet another vetran of the music competition circuit. For a while I thought about going to university to study Early Music and the Baroque Recorder, but I soon discovered my passion for science and engineering. Hence why i am now studying engineering at university. However, this did not signal an end to my musical studies - to this day I am an active musician. (It's also excrutiatingly difficult to make a living playing music; engineering doesnt' have that problem!) From around grade seven onward, I started playing clarinet and saxophone. I took a few applied music courses on clarinet my second year of university, but decided that I liked playing for fun better. With that said, as a local clarinetist I still take on paying gigs, in addition to my regular volunteer groups, from time to time.
These days because of school I'm not playing as much music as I used to -- my courses seem to just take up so much times. Unlike past years, I am currently am a regular member of just two ensembles. To keep my orchestral playing in shape, I play clarinet (and occasionally bass clarinet) with the University of Guelph Orchestra. In the band arena, I play contrabass clarinet (and occasionally double on alto clarinet) with the Wellington Winds, a wind ensemble associated with Wilfred Laurier University. Over the last number of years I have played in a number of other different ensembles including the Cambridge Concert Band, Galt Kiltie Band, Guelph Concert Band, UofG Concert Winds, Twilights, and some other local dance bands.
The year 2000 a real turning point for me musicially. It was the first time I got up the nerve to play in a symphony orchestra. After much encouragement, I sheepishly auditioned to play clarinet in the University of Guelph Orchestra. To say I was nervous as hell was an understatement. While I was auditioning I didn't think things were going all that well since the conductor strangely smiled while I played.... I would soon learn this was a good thing! Soon after, to complete surprise, I read on the audition results that I had just secured position the Principal Clarinetist. I was amazed to say the least! To this day, I continue to play in the orchestra to this day as a their principal clarinetist. The only exception is that for some more modern works, the conductor will ask me to play bass clarinet, since I the only amateur clarinetist he knows that has their own bass.
Over the years I have played many different gigs, some good, some bad, some downright awful and a few really great ones. On the downright awful list definately goes gigs where it is freezing cold. Santa Claus parades are just terrible by definition, but for some twisted reasonI I don't seem to ever learn despite how bad the frost-bite was last time. Civic Remembrance Day Ceremonies go in their own category, I see them as a civic duty, but not a pleasant one by any stretch of the imagination. November is a rotten month and playing on the ice in a freezing cold area is not really my idea of a good time. It's always an interesting feeling when you can feel the keys on your instrument starting to freeze. Another "bad gig" that comes to mind is the gig where someone loses the music and you have to ad lib everything...and it's not a jazz gig - I hate that. I also can remember a number of gigs where I did solos were the band leader attributed them to the wrong person, or (even worse) just plain forgot my name and made one up for me. eg. "That piece featured a clarient solo by Gordon" - my name isn't Gordon!!! It seems you only ever remember the really bad or the really good gigs. I've lost track of how many mediocre gigs I've done...you just don't remember that kind of stuff. However, I do remember a few really great gigs.
One concert I remember well was back in March 2001. It was to a sold-out house at Guelph's du Maurier Theatre in the River Run Centre. To start off the second half I had one of the most stressful but most rewarding solos I have every played. I played the opening solo to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in Guelph's . What a rush! This was a solo I had been wanting to play ever since I picked up the clarinet for the first time back in grade school..... and I NAILED IT!
My second most memorable "great gig" was New Years at the turn of the millennium. As a last minute sub on tenor saxophone and clarinet, as I brought in the new year playing with a 13-piece dance band for a formal dinner/dance. It was at a large Hall in Guelph. I've never seen so many old folks at once in my life. But, boy, could they dance! We played for 5 hours straight, but it was a hell of a lot of fun!
In the past the sung in a few choirs, played recorder for all kinds of events (including even the Guelph Spring Festival), played trumpet at football games, and even taken a stab at playing percussion/tympani now and again. Back I highschool I used to run my own Dixieland Jazz Band, called Volante, and blew the odd solo or two on sax in the stage band.
The other significant musical event in my life took place in early 2001 when I joined COMA...no it's not what you think! COMA is the Central Ontario Musician's Association, which is the musician's union. This was a good thing. This means that I have the same union protections and can get the same access to union-only bands that professional musicians enjoy. Musicians often get taken advantage of when they play professionally, so it is nice to have a union to back you up. It also means that I get paid for MPTF public performances. Not a bad deal actually.
These days things are pretty mello. I've got my two groups I play in: the Universty of Guelph Orchestra and the Wellington Winds. Both give me great playing opportunities. As principal clarinetist in the orchestra, I get all sorts of great solos and opportunties to shine as unique voice in the orchestra. The Wellington Winds keeps me on my toes, as I am their harmony clarinet specialist. During their playing season I will play Contrabass, bass and alto clarinets, along with occasionally the usual soprano clarinet everyone is used to. Two groups is not a lot, but when coupled with my day job it makes a nice balance.