SFCM Faculty Launch First-of-Its-Kind Bass Clarinet Summer Intensive
SFCM Woodwinds Chair Jeff Anderle, alongside SFCM faculty and San Francisco Symphony bass clarinetist Jerome Simas, is behind the new program, believed to be the first of its kind.
By Alex Heigl
"For a long time, the bass clarinet was just a nothing, like auxiliary, the donkey of the orchestra," SFCM Woodwinds Chair Jeff Anderle jokes of his instrument. "But in the last like 10 or 20 years, it's really fully emerged; it's come out from underneath the clarinet umbrella and become its own totally separate instrument that can be your primary instrument. We're hitting peak bass clarinet."
At least part of that could be attributed to Anderle's own work—both at SFCM and as one-half of the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk (with Jon Russell). And it's reaching a new high with a week-long bass clarinet intensive at SFCM in June he's running with fellow Conservatory faculty (and San Francisco Symphony bass clarinetist) Jerome Simas that the organizers believe is among, if not the, first of its kind in the nation. (Part of the groundswell around the instrument was the first-ever Low Clarinet Festival in January.)
"Jeff and Jon are at the vanguard of solo bass clarinet and increasing the solo repertoire as the instrument is coming into its own, rather than just kind of filling out the harmonies of a woodwind section," Simas says. "There's a big bass clarinet solo in Verdi's Aida, but generally, up until, I would say, about Stravinksy and earlier Shostakovich, it was definitely more of a harmony instrument."
With this new program Anderle hopes to expand beyond just the "practical" side of learning bass clarinet as an avenue for getting more ensemble positions. "Aside from the sort of traditional career paths, there's this other path of, 'I can just start a bass clarinet ensemble.' Like there's this new music chamber group called Loadbang that's trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, and baritone voice." The weeklong intensive will focus on standard instrument-specific workouts like orchestra repertoire, extended techniques, breath and embouchure control, along with lots of group playing in various settings, including one large ensemble at the close of the camp, inspired by the final concert at the January festival that featured in the neighborhood of 80 bass clarinets.
The breadth of instructors, Anderle says, covers a lot of ground. "One of the things I'm excited about is between me and John and Jerome, there's such a broad area of expertise. John has a new bass clarinet ensemble in Boston, so he's going to bring a bunch of that repertoire out and do a workshop on how to compose for the instrument. Jerome has this huge wealth of knowledge on winning an orchestra seat and playing in a symphony; we all do chamber music."
"I think Jeff is amazing," Simas says. "Putting these things together and creating a community around this little corner of the woodwind world is pretty exciting." "We're expecting some college students and even professionals who have heard about it and think, 'Oh yeah, I want to come to San Francisco and play bass clarinet chamber music," Anderle finishes. "It's a really exciting time to be a bass clarinetist. There's just so much energy and a really wonderful community growing around the instrument."
Students can sign up for summer programs through April 14th. SFCM's summer bass clarinet intensive runs Monday, June 12, 2023 - Friday, June 16. Learn more about the program, or about studying clarinet at SFCM.