Interview with a Clarinetist - Anna

I recently interviewed one of my close friends, Anna Ye, a fellow musician who plays the clarinet. Anna is the principal clarinetist in the Pennsbury Symphonic Winds and the PMEA District 11 Orchestra and the Assistant Drum Major in Pennsbury’s marching band. I was thrilled when she let me interview her about her experience being a musician and you can read her responses below!

Why did you decide to play the clarinet?


I actually did not know what a clarinet was at all before the third grade instrument demonstrations. When I heard it played for the very first time, I immediately fell in love with how it sounded. I remember thinking that it sounded like wood and honey and warm milk and the woods on a warm summer night. I knew, right then and there, that I had to learn how to produce that sound on my own.


Besides playing your instrument, what other activities do you like to do?


I like to draw, and reading was one of my biggest hobbies until I ran out of time for it. I enjoy talking with my friends and going on walks with my family.


What motivates you to practice?


Fear. Also I am frequently dissatisfied with parts of my playing, and I would like to fix that. There are also some pieces that I just really want to be able to play, so I need to practice to play those.


Is there a specific routine you take when practicing?


I start with warmups, typically long tones, all twenty-four major and melodic minor scales in the range of the instrument, sometimes chromatics and arpeggios. Next, I practice the etudes I was assigned that week. Finally, I work on whatever solo piece that I am working on.


How has playing an instrument affected who you are as a person?


Playing an instrument has given me a clear way to see the progress I have made over the years, which is very encouraging. It has also taught me how to manage my time and be responsible. Through band and marching band, it has also helped me to make friends, improved my social skills, and taught me leadership capabilities.


What is your favorite piece you have played?


My favorite solo is the Weber Clarinet Concertino, not the district edition. I enjoy how it has a wide variety of different styles of playing, from slow and deliberate to fast and energetic. I also have a soft spot for themes and variations, which the Weber is in part. My favorite band piece I have played is probably split between Armenian Dances 1, A Somerset Rhapsody, Jupiter, Second Suite for Military Band in F, English Folk Song Suite, or Children’s March.


What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?


I got Bell’s Palsy and physically could not play for a couple weeks. The muscles on the right side of my mouth were not working, so I could not play for more than a few seconds at a time, and poorly at that. Because of it, I couldn’t play at two concerts and a parade, which made me very sad. Beyond that, I had a very poor attitude toward practicing when I was younger, and I hated doing it, which greatly delayed my progress.


What is your ultimate goal that you hope to achieve in music?


I hope that music allows me to have fun with others many years down the line, that as an old woman, I can still get together with some friends and play music together. I hope that I can still bring music to my community to brighten people’s days.


If you could choose another instrument to learn, what would you choose and why?


Bassoon. It has a unique timbre that, to me, resembles a human voice in a way that other instruments do not, and it features heavily in Children’s March. Also it would be funny.


What advice would you give to your younger self or someone else who is just starting to learn an instrument?


The most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing. Playing an instrument does not have to be competitive, and if you do not enjoy it, winning first in nationals is not worth it. It is okay to be fourth chair in your school’s lower band if you are still having fun, and if the results of practicing never yields happiness, it might be worth more to just play for fun. However, practicing will almost never be enjoyable, and that must be stomached for the good stuff.


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