Report by Lara Mitofsky Neuss.
The Clarinet Journal - Volume 45, No. 1
The Lift Clarinet Academy wrapped up its fourth successful summer in June at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Created in 2014 by Wesley Ferreira (Colorado State University) and Jana Starling (University of Western Ontario), this invigorating festival continues to bring in the country’s finest upcoming clarinetists. An established pedagogue joins Ferreira and Starling each year, and the three work as a team to mentor and guide students both musically and personally. Robert Spring, esteemed clarinetist, pedagogue and professor of clarinet at Arizona State University joined the trio this year. Ferreira and Starling were both pupils of Spring which created an intimate and family-like atmosphere for the academy.
Upon arrival, students gathered for the annual faculty performance held in the Organ Recital Hall. Ferreira and Starling opened the show performing Freebirds by Scott McAllister, a work they often perform together, which was originally premiered by Spring. Following this full circle experience, Spring, Starling and Ferreira performed a handful of light-hearted trios by Jacques Bouffil and Peter Schickele.
The week then began in full force, starting out with topic classes, lessons and quartet rehearsals. The beginning half of the week at the Lift Clarinet Academy is dedicated to technical and musical training. Students were placed in topic classes based on their pre-determined personalized goals and in quartets based on their audition recordings. Classes and quartet coachings facilitated by faculty were inspiring and uplifting, covering topics including articulation, tone production, altissimo, extended techniques, intonation and warm-up. A highlight of the week was Wednesday night’s roundtable on performance anxiety, in which students were given the opportunity to speak via Skype with clarinetist Christine Carter, an expert in the field.
The personalized training during the first three days prepared students for the latter half of the week. Thursday morning began with a passionate masterclass by Spring, focusing on musical details such as rhythm, style and emotion. The class concluded with a heartfelt talk between Spring and the students where he shared his own musical path and offered career suggestions. On Friday, Ferreira and Starling brought a perfect combination of personal inspiration and clarinet pedagogy to their joint masterclass.
In addition to musical training, the Lift Clarinet Academy places a high value on personal connection to music, musical peers and life experience. Throughout the week the students connected while enjoying a hike up to Horsetooth Reservoir, a festival gathering in the park and an afternoon in Fort Collins’ Old Town. The week culminated in a final concert featuring four student soloists, student clarinet quartets and the full Lift Clarinet Academy choir performing Rikidim by Jan Van der Roost. Students and faculty then gathered for a beautifully catered reception to celebrate the week’s success. See you next year!