Where to go to school (in the US) for Bass Clarinet

Where to go to school (in the US) for Bass Clarinet


I get this question pretty frequently, and despite my post from a couple years ago, it seems folks want to focus on bass clarinet in college, so who am I to argue?

First off, here’s the question from Sofia:

I am a rising Sophomore in high school, and have been doing college programs during the summer to prepare for future college auditions. The problem is, very few colleges offer bass clarinet options. I love the bass clarinet and want to continue pursuing that throughout college. What is your advice for applying to colleges as a bass clarinet player/looking for opportunities to play bass clarinet?

Here’s my response:

You are right: most colleges do not offer bass clarinet majors, but some do.

Now, I see you’re in Tennessee, and I’m not sure whether you plan to stay in-state or would consider going out of state for your college career, so that’s something I would need to consider when answering your question.

But for now, let me do the best I can with the info I have.

If you want to play bass clarinet in college, but don’t need to major in it, you can go just about anywhere.

That’s what I did. I went to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I took clarinet lessons, of course, and I brought my bass clarinet to many of them. My teacher wasn’t “a bass clarinet god” or anything like that (though he will probably disagree), but he was (and still is) a great teacher. (His name is Charles Neidich, if you’re interested in looking him up.) I played bass clarinet in ensembles much of the time, and I played bass clarinet on most of my recitals. (I played clarinet in both, too, but I always thought of myself as “the bass clarinet player” at school.) My official major was “clarinet performance” and that’s fine. Who cares what a piece of paper says? I sure didn’t.

Now, you write that you’re “looking for opportunities to play bass clarinet” — here’s the thing: you will have all the opportunities you can handle as someone who loves the instrument! So, so many people would rather go to the dentist than pick up a bass clarinet! You’ll be fine there.

Now, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to go somewhere where your primary clarinet teacher can play the bass clarinet well, and knows how the bass clarinet is different from the Bb clarinet. I know that Spencer Prewitt at Austin Peay does. I know Victor Chavez in Knoxville does (very very well). I think Lisa Perry in East Tennessee does. And that’s just in Tennessee!

If you are able to go out of state, there are schools that offer Bass Clarinet majors. University of South Florida, State University of New York in Potsdam are two. But again, it really doesn’t matter whether you major in bass clarinet or clarinet — your diploma won’t say anything about your major instrument. If you want to focus on Bass Clarinet, if you choose your teacher wisely, you will be just fine. Better than fine, actually.

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