Dogs, Baseball and Clarinet Playing! Harness the POWER of Great Clarinet Habits for You and Your Students!

DOG! Our beloved family Golden Retriever, Andy, was a creature of constant habit, just like people!

BASEBALL! When I was a kid, I played little league baseball. While fielding a position, my coaches taught me to keep my right thumb between my first two fingers when the pitcher started to make his pitch. This way, if a ball was hit to me, my fingers would go to the ball in my glove with perfect hand position for throwing a baseball (see pictures below).

I’ve noticed lately that when I’m walking around that my right thumb is often between my first two fingers! I haven’t played baseball in little league for decades, but the finger position habit I developed as a kid is still with me! [I just stopped typing, looked down, and there was my right thumb between my first two fingers!]

CLARINET! The above is a small, but significant, illustration of the power of habit to shape our lives.  In view of this, I believe it is vital that we constantly work to ingrain great habits (physical and mental) in our own clarinet playing and that of our students. This is true not only for the rhythms, notes and dynamics of a specific work one is working on, but with fundamentals such as relaxation, posture, confidence, embouchure, tone, tonguing, voicing, etc.  

Here’s an example of how this often works out in the clarinet (and saxophone, etc.) world. In late April, music majors at colleges and universities in the USA will be feverishly preparing scales, etudes, solos and such for upcoming music juries in May. Some will be in a panic because they did not spend enough time earlier in the semester learning their music slowly and carefully  – they rushed through the music playing it too fast for accurate learning. They made habits of no dynamics, poor rhythms, and even wrong notes.  Then in late April, they’ll spend lots and lots and lots of time frantically trying to fix the jury music and “unlearn” all the ingrained (or habitualized) crummy playing. (For help on practicing – GO HERE.)

ClarinetMike says, “Constantly Load GREAT HABITS!”

NOTE: The above is modified version of a previous post.


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ClarinetMike at TMEA 2018: Free Clarinet Consulting!

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”


I will be offering FREE clarinet advice and good cheer at the Texas Music Educators Association [TMEA] Clinic/Convention 2018 on February 14-17 in beautiful downtown San Antonio. I’ll be at the BG Franck Bichon Booth (#353) in the Exhibits offering free clarinet consultation on the below days/times. Also, below is a list of other great clarinet events during TMEA 2018 (please let me know if I missed any). Special thanks to Franck Bichon, Juan Garijo, Tim Elvy and all the great folks at BG!

ClarinetMike says, “Please feel free to text me at 682-888-7639 if you want to chat about clarinet at a different time during TMEA. I arrive in San Antonio on Wednesday at noon and leave Saturday in the early afternoon.”

ClarinetMike at TMEA 2018: Free Clarinet Consulting!
BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2
Thursday, February 15:  9-11 am and 4-5 pm (I can keep going after 5 pm)
Friday, February 16: 10 am-NOON and 4-6 pm


Clarinet Events at TMEA 2018
Thursday, February 15

9 am-5 pm: Exhibits Open

9-11 am:  ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2

11:30 am-12:30 pm: David Shea (Texas Tech) Clinic “Clarinet Fundamentals Toolkit – Fix Your Clarinet Section,” CC Stars at Night Ballroom 1

2-2:30 pm: Texas Tech University Clarinet Choir Concert, CC West Registration Music Showcase

3:30-4 pm: all about 5: A Woodwind Quintet Concert, CC West Lobby Music Showcase

4-5 pm: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2 [NOTE: I can keep going with consulting after 5 pm.]

Clarinet Events at TMEA 2018
Friday, February 16

9:30 am-10 am: Texas Woman’s University Clarinet Quartet Concert, CC West Lobby Music Showcase

10 am-8 pm: Exhibits Open

10 am-Noon: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2

2:30-3:30 pm: all about 5: A Woodwind Quintet Clinic, “Using the Woodwind Quintet as a Teaching Tool,” CC Stars at Night Ballroom 1

4 pm-6 pm: ClarinetMike at TMEA: Free Clarinet Consulting! BG Franck Bichon Booth #353 in Exhibits, Hall 1 & 2

6:30-7:30 pm: Julian Bliss Clarinet Clinic: “Improve Your Clarinet Section” CC 221

Clarinet Events at TMEA 2018
Saturday, February 17

9 am-NOON: Exhibits Open

Noon-12:30 pm: Neo Trio Clarinet Concert, CC West Lobby Music Showcase

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7 Sight-Reading Tips From ClarinetMike

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

The tips and related quotes below are from one of my ClarinetMike Clinics (CLICK HERE).

7 Sight-Reading Tips From ClarinetMike by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

  1. Sight-Read. “Just Do It!” The best way to learn to read at sight is to do it every day. Make sure to read all different kinds of music. A nice book to start with is Rubank’s Supplementary Studies by R.M. Endresen. It’s been arranged for many instruments. (This book is inexpensive and has a million uses. Get it.)
  2. Rhythm First. I like to say, “Play the Rhythm, Guess at the Notes.” The idea is to “guess” at the rhythms first!
  3. Scan Plan. At an audition or a contest, you usually get a little time to look over the music before sight-reading. Have an organized plan to quickly check things like tempo, style, key, key changes, accidentals, busy areas (areas of fast notes), etc.
  4. Don’t Stop, Keep Going. Keep forging ahead as you sight-read – don’t worry about mistakes. If you get lost, start back up where you stopped, never repeat anything.
  5. Just Duet! Read duets with a buddy – it’s fun and it’s good for you!
  6. Transpose. Occasionally transpose music while sight-reading (C and A Clarinet on Bb clarinet, Bass Clef on bass clarinet and alto saxophone, etc.)
  7. Play With Recordings. Try sitting in front of a big HD (4K) TV sight-reading along with a video of a major orchestra, wind ensemble, or jazz band playing a work. (NOTE: Some orchestras don’t play at A=440.)

“The main things we’re looking for are a tone that blends with the others players, outstanding musicianship, and thorough preparation, which spills over into sightreading – being able to get a piece of music performance-ready very quickly.”
Noted Conductor Jerry Junkin
(from “What Are The Top Qualities You Look For When Hiring A Wind Musician?” WINDPLAYER #59, p. 12)

“If you aren’t prepared enough for a gig or a lesson,
being great at sight-reading can save your neck.”
Somewhat-Famous Clarinet Blogger

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2018 Clarinet Colloquium Schedule of Events

ClarinetMike says, “GO!”

Below is the performing and class schedule for the upcoming FREE 2018 Clarinet Colloquium (link) at Texas A&M University-Commerce on Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3. Hats off to Dr. Mary Druhan and all the great folks at TAMUC plus the great sponsors! (NOTE: the schedule and guest line-up are subject to change.)

Recital Schedule (link)

Friday, March 2 Opening Recital



Saturday, March 3 Recitals

9:00 AM Vanessa Davis – Color Studies: Lost Gems for Clarinet Alone

10:00 AM Cecilia Kang – Contemporary Duo Works by American Composers

11:00 AM Lucas Willsie – Unaccompanied Dances for bass clarinet


1:00 PM Duo Esplanade

2:00 PM David Cook – American Music for Solo Clarinet

3:00 PM Christopher Nichols – James M. Stephenson: Original Works and Transcriptions for Clarinet and Piano

4:00 PM Boja Kragulj – The Music of Rachel Matthews

5:30 PM Combined Clarinet Choir and TAMUC Clarinet Choir Performances (wear school shirts)

Saturday, March 3 Closing Recital



Schedule of Classes (link)

The 2018 Clarinet Colloquium will feature a number of classes and lectures for participants to choose from. The schedule is subject to change.

In addition to these classes, middle school students are invited to attend workshops specifically to help them with Clarinet skills at 12:30 and 1:30 with Judi Altstatt and Karen Bronson, respectively.

All students are invited to perform as a member of the Clarinet Colloquium clarinet choir. Rehearsal begins at 8:15 Saturday morning. The clarinet choir will be performing for friends and family in the recital starting at 5:30 PM.

Band directors and private teachers who are interested in learning more about how to teach clarinet are invited to attend classes with Dr. Jody Webb, Adjunct Instructor of Clarinet at TAMUC and clarinet teacher for Marcus High School and by Dr. Mary Alice Druhan, Professor of Clarinet at TAMUC. For availability and continuing education credit, please contact Dr. Druhan directly at before January 15th. Thank you!

Saturday, March 3 Classes:

9:30 AM Dawn Marie Lindblade-Evans & Julie Linder-Gaulin – Level up Your Tonguing: articulation concepts for the advancing middle school student

10:30 AM Janette Harriott – Embracing the Whole Clarinetist: Ignite Your Musician’s Chi

11:30 AM Jim Marshall – Formative Fundamentals: An Approach to Private and Group Clarinet Study

2:30 PM Julie Miller – Making Your Experience with a Collaborative Pianist Both Enjoyable and Productive

3:30 PM Raphael Sanders – Improving Your Tone: using your ears and drills for best results

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ClarinetMike Teaching Tip: “Play Like You Are First Chair”

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” Performing at the Orfeo Music Festival 2017 in Vipiteno, Italy.

ClarinetMike Teaching Tip: “Play Like You Are First Chair”
by Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

I have noticed that it is sometimes difficult to get across to a student how to project their sound well when playing a solo for a contest, festival, recital, studio class, jury, etc.*  This seems especially true when working with students who have spent most of their clarinet (or saxophone or any instrument) careers as section players in a band.  As section players, these students work to blend in with a group and not “stick out” – and “sticking out” is exactly what you want to do on a solo!

A few years ago, while working with a student on this in preparation for a studio class performance and jury, it suddenly occurred to me to say, “Play like you are first chair.” The student (who was a section player in band) immediately played the solo with excellent sound projection! This comment has since proved to be very useful in helping students (especially section players) project their sound. Try it yourself!

ClarinetMike says, “Tell your students to ‘Play Like They Are First Chair.'”

*Click HERE for a ClarinetMike Blog Post on Sound Projection from last March.

NOTE: The above is a slightly revised version of an early ClarinetMike Blog Post.

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ClarinetMike in Italy 2018! Orfeo Music Festival 2018 Application Information and MORE!

ClarinetMike says, “Please forward to all 7.6 billion people in the world plus others on nearby planets.”

ClarinetMike in Italy 2018! As previously posted, I’ve accepted an appointment to again return as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival in the beautiful Italian Alps in Vipiteno, Italy (Sterzing) this coming summer, July 5-19, 2018.

Who? YOU! Who should apply to go to Orfeo 2018? University, conservatory and graduate students, advanced high school students, talented amateurs, and teachers looking for professional development should apply. Please contact me if you have questions or want help with applying: email me at or CLICK HERE.

Check It Out! Orfeo Music Festival 2018 Website!

Friends! A variety of students attend the Orfeo Music Festival. The majority are university and high school students, but there are also younger as well as talented adult amateurs/others. There is a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie at the Festival. Most Festival participants are American, but there is a definite international flavor with faculty and students from Russia, Austria, China, Germany, England, Australia, Korea, and other countries.

Apply!  CLICK HERE. There is an Early Bird Discount if tuition is paid by January 15, 2018. Regular application deadline is March 1, 2018. However, registration accepted until about April 15, 2018 with higher fees.   I am happy to help you with applying, just contact me: or CLICK HERE.

Scholarships! Some limited merit-based scholarships are available. CLICK HERE for more information.

Fee Table! How much does Orfeo 2018 cost? CLICK HERE.

Join Me On Facebook!  Check out and join my official ClarinetMike In Italy 2018! Facebook Event page. I’ll be posting application information, pictures, video and all kinds of cool stuff about Orfeo 2018! CLICK HERE.

Perform! Below I’m performing at this past summer’s Orfeo Music Festival 2017 in Vipiteno, Italy. I’m performing Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion with my fabulous pianist colleague, Faina Lushtak, at the Chiesa di Santa Margherita in Vipiteno, Italy – an early Tyrolian Baroque church built in the 1670’s with an old bell tower first mentioned in 1337.

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ClarinetMike’s 7 Rules for Building Great Musicians

Dr. Michael Dean “ClarinetMike”

Happy New Year! The below 7 teaching rules are based on my own teaching philosophy. I  happily acknowledge the influence of my wonderful teachers, especially my private lesson teachers Jesse Youngblood, Carol Jessup, Philip Aaholm and Robert Walzel. In recent years, I’ve also been heavily influenced by master teachers John Wooden and Joe Allard.

ClarinetMike’s 7 Rules for Building Great Musicians by Dr. Michael Dean

1. Require Excellence. Push students to strive for genuine excellence. [This means they have to practice!]
2. Emphasize Fundamentals. Constantly stress important basics of good musicianship (relaxation, embouchure, articulation, how to practice, etc.). Teach good habits.
3. Highlight Artistry as of Paramount Importance. Emphasize technique as a means to musical expression, not as an end in itself. It’s all about MUSIC!
4. Personalize Instruction. Stay student-centered by working to fit pedagogical concepts to the specific needs of each student. Focus teaching comments on how to do things better.
5. Make Students Think.  Encourage logical and creative thinking. Ask questions. Be patient.
6. Be Reality-Based. Focus on practical concerns, not esoterica.  Teaching should have a view toward the future.
7. Model Desired Behaviors. Strive to be a good example. Work hard to improve and change.

FYI: Click here for an article I wrote on John Wooden’s ideas. Here’s a link to The Joe Allard Project. Also, click here for an article I wrote a few years ago on how to write a statement of educational philosophy.

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