After being discharged from the Army, I returned to my home in Boston and waundered around between several teachers for a about a year, while attending Boston University. I studied with Gino Cioffi, Principal of the Boston Symphony for a year and with Pasquale Cardillo, First clarinet with the Boston Pops before I found that if one wanted the finest teacher, that would be Rosario Mazzeo, bass clarinetist with the Boston Symphony and personnal manager, ornithologist, photographer, and inventor.
(Talk about impressing a student, I saw him walk out on to the roof of Symphony Hall to rescue a wounded pigeon).
Well, I heard that he only took 6 students and in order to be accepted, one had to audition. I auditioned with the Neilson Clarinet Concerto, and was accepted as a student.
All lessons, actually it was a kind of seminar) were attended by all of the 6, where each one would play to be evaluated by Rosario and of course, the others.
On Friday evening, I would go through 5 boxes of Van Doren reeds, and at that point each box consisted of 25 (bad) reeds, ($3.75), in preparation for Saturday morning.
Those seminars were the most intense sessions of playing that I have ever had, before or since. There was literally no time to swab out the instrument and Saturday afternoon was universal crash time.
At the first meeting Rosario explained that it would take at least a year or a semester to understand his vocabulary, which I found not to be the case, but the instensity with which he used words was unforgettable.
I was prohibited from playing any repertoire, solo or chamber music for the first year. Well,not prevented, I was given only the following exhausting preparation for each time I played.:
There were three main books upon which each student worked: Emile Stievenard, Study of Scales, Gaston Hamelin, also a study of scales, however with emphasis on legato playing and even-ness, and finally, and this was the coup de grace, Eugene Gay, Book two, a rather bulging hard cover book of every conceivable kid of study, including works by Baroque composers, legato and staccato and rhythms and all of the possible permutations of any particular passage.
As to the first, the Stievenard (published by Associated), these were simple scales in every key, divided into two pages of simple one line exercises, facing one another.
The key factor here was the utilization of the metronome which was used while we executed each line.
The metronome (and I will never forget the setting) was set on 43-46, or the slowest it can be set).
The idea was to play the first exercise, a simple scale in eighth and quarter notes played broadly and articulated with equal strong attack, and then there was one measure rest and here was the trick, for the next exercise was in eighth note triplets, pianissimo instead of forte, and legato instead of staccato and to be started exactly on rhythm waiting only the three beats of rest beween.
I remember finding this the most difficult work I had had, yet it was the best preparation that I can think of for learning to play in time and also to follow a conductor
If you did not make the rhythmic modulation exactly you simply had to go back, and there were no exceptions. This could take seemingly forever and it was trying and it was frustrating and yes it was criticized and many students dropped out, yet I still say there was no better training than this wonderful little book, (of course as directed by Mazzeo)
If you were successful, you went on to Hamelin, (who of course had been principal with the Boston Symphony early on and was really, along with Daniel Bonade, the father of the American school of clarinet paying, which was an essentially French “school” Ralph Maclain legendary principal of the Philadelphia studied with Hamelin and Bonades students were many).
Hamelin was all beauty and legato and even. I learned so much about true legato from this wonderful book of studies, really studies of scales. There were also lovely whole tone scales and interesting rhythms to play or execute actually, and by then you had raised a sonsiderable sheen of perspiration.
The final part of your syllabus was the Eugene Gay Book II which was a hard covered compendium of every conceivable study from the simpest Mozart, to the most complicated Bach, divided with scales, followed one to another of major and minor thirds. (for instance, play a scale of thirds using only minor thirds, than move to major thirds and do it rapidly and slowly and with only the most beautiful legato.
No mistakes were tolerated and repititions were endless. Yes it was like some kind of very rigoruous military training, yet if you able to keep your senses about you, you had a real technic when you got through.By technic we mean control, not just the ability to astound your colleagues with your wipeout warmup, but the abilty to have total control over every facet of clarinet technic and …of music.
Do I use this syllabus for every student. No, I do not, but certainly the serious students must confront these problems and resolve them if they hope to be employed in any kind of playing position. There are many different approaches and everyone does not have that special intensity, that great ear that was enjoyed by Mazzeo and his students.
Was he perfect? No,(none are pefect) he was not, but you were definitely prepared. (as Rosie always said) “as ever” I will always say thanks.