Rosario Mazzeo in the world of Music and the clarinet.

January 30, 2009

Dear Sherman Friedland,

I am V O G, a Spanish clarinet player. I am in the last year of clarinet studies in Conservatorio Superior de Castellon (Valencia, Spain), and in the spanish teaching system, we have to research about the clarinet, clarinet makers, inventors, players… I took part in the Claremont Clarinet Festival in 2007 and 2008, and get an special relationship with h Director, Margaret Thornhill. I learned from her a lot of things during that weeks, and I took my first contact with the name of Rosario Mazzeo. She plays with Mazzeo System, and taught following his phylosophy. I was very impressed with that person, and I have choosen Rosario Mazzeo for research in my final project.

We don’t have neither book of Mazzeo in spanish, nor translation, nor any other book speaking about him. For that, I would like to get the information in the better way, listening in the first hand the impressions of their students. This is the reason that I am writting you, I have read that you studied with Mazzeo, and I ask for your collaboration, if you wish. I will divide my research into three principal parts, Mazzeo as Clarinetist, Mazzeo as Teacher, and Mazzeo as Inventor. I will be very thanked to you, if you can contribute to my project any thing related with Mazzeo, anecdote, student experience, your experience with his system, and everything that you think interesting to my project.

Thank you very much for your time. I hope you can help me.
Dear Mr Ortiz:

The many contributions made by Rosario Mazzeo to the clarinet fraternity concern themselves with his innovation with the Mazzeo System Clarinet, an instrument which in its full system served to cut away many inherent mechanism difficulties of the basic technic, including the Bb located in the throat register. This has really not been solved by anyone else, not Stubbins, nor Rossi nor anyone who has added any keys or mechanism to the instrument. It works simply by opening the best Bb there is and facilitates it with a way of opening the third trill key easily and without problems. Others do not achieve this simple mechanistic and musical problem. The whole way of playing rapidly and with great facility achieves as well an advance in the embouchure as there is simply less one needs to do to play the best Bb. Of course, the problem of playing around that register by adding or subtracting fingers in order to provide” resonance” is simply not something that is used at all. In the years I played the Mazzeo Clarinet as Principal in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, I never ever had a problem with leaving extra fingers down. It simply doesn’t help and getting rid of the problem was a great relief. Everything I had to play became relatively simply technically, period. There were no exceptions. The full boehm Mazzeo System was necessary and provided a great help to me in all ways.The duplicatearticulated G# and the B-C#(low e-f#) were of significant importance in maintaining perfectly smooth execution. All in all, I must say that I always feltmuch more complete in technical execution than with ordinary boehm, the problems of which werealways a new problem.But the passage of time has provedmy efforts less than the implication of the status-quo, the ordinar Boehm clarinet.What a disappointment for Rosie; you see,his system was only available on a Selmer clarinet, an instrument not greatly in vogue in the symphony orchestra, except for Boston, where everyone played Selmer. So goes thesymphony,so goes the town, we all played Selmer. It is a much refined bore and clarinet now, however Rosie left us more than a dozen years ago, and with him, so died his patents.Had he had the wearwithall to moveabout as much as he did in younger years,he would have hookedup with Buffet or with Yamah.Thingswould have been different.There was too much doubt in the eyes of the rest of the students and their teachers. That is of course, my reason for disdain of the Buffet clarinet.The only really good Buffets were the ones worked on by knowledgable technicians like Hans Moennig of Philadelphia. Or those who understaood clarinet voicing and tuning and were able to make the changes necessary. The clarinet business in the US is totally different now, as many principals play Selmer, as does Morales of the Philadelphia or Larry Combs who plays the Opus of Leblanc, designed by Ridenour. Eddie Danielstoo plays the Leblanc clarinet.

Mazzeo was also the best Bass Clarinetist, but prior to that he was the best Eb clarinetists for it was he who created the distinctive way of playing the solo in “El Salon Mexico” by Copland, but if you listen to that solo you will hear that he really did it better than anyone has since, mostly because he understood the harmony and took advantage of it.
As far as the Bass is concerned , listen  to the the William Schumann third symmphony and you will hear a Bass clarinet solo, so rapid and nimble and into the altissima that it has not been approached since. The work was written with Rosie in mind.
Of course, Mazzeo was a noted photographer, having worked  with Ansel Adams and Bret 0Weston. He is also remembered as being an ornithologist .
Of course he was the personnel manager of the Boston symphony and it was he who was the first to introduce playing “behind  the screen” for the audition .
As far as the significance of all of the above, the clarinetists who read this will know, for it is different for each of you.
The fact that the patents were not taken up by any number of large companies when Mazzeos patent with Selmer ran out was not   the fault of his clarinet, but of the clarinetist fraternity that didn’t “buy it” because it was only available on Selmer.
As far as a teacher,for me, he was the best of any. I studied with him much before his retirement from the BSO,in a time when the activity on Saturday morning was never less than a maelstrom of teaching and learning.He was a rough rough teacher, but the best there was. I fought with him many times, and apologized many times as well. What else what I supposed to do?

Thank you for your note and your request. Please feel free to use any or all of the articles on this entire site to explore for material on Rosario Mazzeo. Certainly there is lots of it, and you are welcome to use any or all. (Please accord all submission their origin as being this website..
Rosario Mazzeo was as I have mentioned, my teacher for 6 six years at the New England Conservatory. I studied with him at the height of the publicity or his new clarinet and benefitted considerably from both his tutelage and his instrument, which I firmly believe was the clarinet that gave me the most freedom of any I had played in musical expression and control of the instrument. He was also a photographer, ornithologist and the manager(personnel ) of the Boston Symphony for more than 30 years.There are many many articles concerned with his many contributions to the clarinet world. I was both a clinician for the instrument for the Selmer Company and  am proud to say Rosie was my friend for many years.
Most sincerely,
Sherman Friedland


there are many Mazzeo System Clarinets still out there, but less full boehm and the one thing that needs to be noted is that these instruments need to be adjusted perfectly, and they are seldom in this pristine condition which is necessary for the instruments to function properly. There are collectors who really have no knowledge of proper condition. The value of these instruments becomes only intrinsic. I have seen overhauled instruments completely redone and not capable of the simplest articulations. I learned myself how to make the proper adjustments playing them in a professional situation.SF

Rosewood responds well, but can be anightmare for intonation and cracking.

January 24, 2009

Hi Sherm,

About three years ago I began playing clarinet again after a hiatus of many years. I’m or imagine I’m starting to get up to speed and am looking for an A clarinet. Right now I using a Yamaha CSG and a Buffet Vintage B flats. I could get a matching A for one of them, but thought I’d try something new.

Surfing the net I found this; “LeBlanc Symphonie II Rosewood Clarinet Set: Bb #75553 and A #77624. Three years old, played one year in major symphony orchestra. No cracks. Includes two extra barrels and double case.”

What do you think Sherm? I’m slilghtly tempted. I know you’re quite familiar with LeBlanc clarinets; tell me what you can.

Thanks so much,

Hi DL:
Slightly tempted is a good term to use. Rosewood, actual rosewood responds in a much sweeter manner than does grenadilla however it is an extremely chancy material with which to work and needs to be carefully made and fnished.It is also much more prone to cracking than is grenadilla,or for that matter hard rubber, which is becoming more and more popular.
Here is what Tom Ridenour has to say bout Rosewood. While at Leblanc, he designed clarinets made of grenadilla and of Rosewood. “Clarinet manufacturing is no exception to this upspoken but widely practiced manufacturing rule. The fact is there are many other woods that have better musical qualities than Grenadilla wood; woods that have a better, more stable tone; woods that have a better response. Honduran Rosewood immediately comes to mind in this regard, but there are others. It produces a darker, more coloristically stable tone of greater beauty than Grenadilla and the response is quite superior throughout the dynamic and pitch range of the clarinet.
So why was it not used rather than Grenadilla?
Very simple: making Honduran Rosewood clarinets is a manufacturing nightmare. First, it does not machine nearly as well as Grenadilla. There is much more waste involved in processing it, and waste is lost money and time. The tone holes of the natural wood are so pitted that pads leak terribly. In order to provide a leak proof surface for Rosewood clarinet requires tone hole inserts. Rosewood cracks more frequently than does Grenadilla. Finally, because the wood is so porous, it absorbs great amounts of moisture, causing bore dimensions of the barrel and upper joint to be very unstable. Such instability causes tuning to go “wacko” and the clarinet can feel “blown out” after only a short time of playing. The only solution is to line a large amount of the upper joint bore in hard rubber to stabilize dimensions and reduce cracking. Honduran Rosewood barrels are also usually lined in hard rubber for the same reasons.” This from the article “Myth of Grenadilla, written by Mr Ridenour, who is generally considered to be the expert in this area and was responsible for the design of the Leblanc Opus and many other Leblancs.
So, you may be tempted, but I would let it go no further than that.
If you wish to acquire another set of clarinets. I would suggest the Opus . I had a set of them and was quite satisfied, and would certainly recommend them for your consideration.Or you may wish to write to Ridenour to ask him about his hard rubber clarinets, whichin many opinion hav the most stable quality of any clarinet.
best wishes,

What Mite Have Been, And Probably Was

January 22, 2009

Y.E. K. wrote:


I am a student clarinetist and I have noticed a couple months ago these white bugs first on my reeds. These white bugs are like little spots of dust, but when observed carefully they move! These bugs have spread to the rest of my clarinet. I have tried every possible solution, but there has not been one that has worked so far. I have done quite some extensive research to find out what these bugs are, but I have found nothing. I know for sure that they are not carpet beetles, woodlice, mites, and such. Help would be much appreciated.


Dear Mr. K.:
Many thanks for your interesting note concerning these tiny bugs ambling about on your reeds.
I am afraid that while I commiserate with you because I too have had them, I could not find out what they are called.
They are so tiny, you almost don’t believe that they are moving, but in fact as we both have determined, they do indeed move.
Now , as to what they are called, I would definitely think because of the size, (about the size or smaller than the head of a pin,) that they must be some kind of mite. I say this because they are about as tiny as the ones we both seem to have seen, or they can be even smaller.
Here is a “control sheet I found from Ohio State University, which may be of interest to you:

Control Measures:For bird and rat mites, standard insect repellents such as diethyl meta-toluamide (deet), ethyl hexanediol or dimethyl phthalate will prevent bites. Locate and remove bird and rodent nests, and treat infested areas with household crawling insect sprays of malathion, diazinon or Baygon. A vacuum cleaner will collect many mites. Dispose of sweeper bag contents. For grain and mold mites, store materials moderately dry (130 degrees F and low relative humidity). Discard infested foodstuffs and clean premises. Treat storage areas with pyrethrins, malathion or resmethrin. Before using insecticides, read the label and follow directions. Infested grains and cheese in food handling institutions must be fumigated only by licensed, certified pest control applicators. For treatment of scabies, dermatitis and other skin disorders, contact a physician. I realize one might consider the above as “overkill”, it may in some way help you.

While I cannot remember when or where I incurred these little things, I do remember spraying my reeds very lightly with some type of repellent and have not seen them again. Unless………
Best wishes:

Is my clarinet blown-out?

January 14, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland,

Over the years I have heard of clarinets being “blown out” You mentioned this too in one of your recent posts. Can you explain just what the term means and what happens to the clarinet when this happens? Can the instrument be repaired after this occurs or has it reached its end of life?

Thank you,

S. C.
Hello S.C.:
Thank you for your request for a comprehensive meaning to what constitutes a blown-out clarinet.
First and foremost there are those who believe that a clarinet can become “blown-out”, and there are many who do not believe that it is possible or that a clarinet that demonstrates less than acceptable playing characteristics is not blown out, but in need of various corrections to be made.
One of my clarinet heroes for many years was Harold Wright whom I first heard in Constitution Hall in DC when he was principal in the National Symphony. I was then in the US Army and was actually a student at the Navy School of Music. We would attend the National Symphony concerts in uniform iin order to be allowed in free and I first was mezmorised by this most beautiful and subtle playing, and only later did I learn that his name was Harold Wright. This sound actually frightened me a bit as it was so different from the normal clarinet-in-the-orchestra sound. It demonstrated unbelievable sensitivity and a vocal quality of playing which was all wrapped in this ethereal clarinet quality. I can still hear the first time I heard him play. It became my sound, or at least the one I always emulated after having heard it. There was great clarinet love in that sound and an unheard-of beauty of legato as well, and there were dynamics which were audible and always axactly what was written in the part. He is one of the very few clarinets who played the written dynamics literally, which does not occur much at all these days. Most orchestral clarinets play everything with as much volume as they can muster, leaving the tenderness completely out. It is the result of the recording industry which creates a subtle competition between player and recoding of the players. Most recording will raise the volume of an orchestral clarinetist so that it will be quite audible on the recording. Of course, when the ordinary listener attends the concert. he will not hear the dynamics.He will expect to hear that clarinet solo as he does on his playback system.
Back to Harold Wright, he did play the dynamics and all of the subtleties of vocal production were brought to his clarinet playing. That is the reason his playing is still revered today.
Mr Wright is interviewed which is still available and he speaks of using set of clarinets “for only about ten to 20 years” before changing to another set.
Now, this should not be taken literally. First, because there are technicians who do not believe that a blown -out clarinet exists and that it is only the need for various technical work to be done in order to retain its use as an excellent instrument. Mr Wright speaks about constant playing in the best orchestra n the world, perhaps let us say, for ten services a week and practicing as well for these 10 or twenty years.
I think that there are not many plaers who put that much time into an instrument and there are those who believe that organic bore oil and other tweaking can make the instrument work as new. I think both attitudes must be taken into consideration.
The reason for that consideration is that we all from time to time, think about changing instruments, for any number of reasons. (And I will let the reader fill in those reasons)
I myself have always been fascinated with another clarinet, and the differences than can occur utilizing a different horn on a particular passage within the orchestra.
This is true with many players and with many different instruments, to say nothing of diffeent mouthpieces.
There is the famous story of the Chicago Orchestra playing Til Eulenspiegel. There are many solos for the first horn. The first horn at the time of this story was Philip Farcas. A student goes back after the performance and says, “Mr Farcas, that is the most beautiful “til” I have ever heard.
Fracas looks up and wonders to himself,” Oh my, which mouthpiece did I play it on?”.
Your clarinet may be blown out or you may be fed up with an aspect of your work, and a new horn may just be the trick for total renewal. Then again…….

Keep practicing,


Leblanc Dynamic H, relearning…

January 10, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I have started to play clarinet again at the age of 53 after a lapse of many years. I played seriously in high school and college but have not played since then. The instrument I have been playing is a Leblanc Dynamic H. I bought this clarinet in college but did not play it much; I played a Buffet that I no longer own. Now, I find the Leblanc nearly impossible to play in tune. Certainly I fault the player and not the instrument. But given that I am woefully out of practice, is the Dynamic H more difficult than other instruments to play in tune? Would it make more sense to buy another instrument, at least until I have regained some proficiency?

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer. I have very much enjoyed reading your advice to other players.



Hello G:
I think there are several things to consider in thinking through your problems in playing your Leblanc Dynamic H in tune.
The first would be the conditions of storage. Depending upon how the instrument was stored it could have been disfigured as afr as the bore dimensions are concerned. If so, then it could be the fault of the clarinet. However this can be repaired with proper immersion in organic bore oil and a good technician. In any event it probably does not indicate the purchase of a new clarinet. The Leblanc Dynamic H is basically a good instrument, however 20 or so years on the shelf cold have had its toll on the instrument. It would also be difficult to play, and I think quite stuffy.
My recommendation is consistant practice every day, Use a softer less resistant reed than you used in the past. Give it some time. Do not practice anything either difficult in the high register. Make sure you include tong tones in your “renaissance”. If conditions begin to improve, it was indeed your long vacation from pahying the instrument and the attendant demise of your embouchure to blame.

Hopefully this was the case.

Good luck, Sherman

Restoring Centered Tone Clarinet

January 1, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I’m trying to restore a Selmer Centered Tone Clarinet for my father, and I’m very appreciative for the information already available on your site so thank you very much for that. So first the clarinet description… dad played in the Army band in Germany in the 1950’s and bought this clarinet in Paris. The serial number is P 7458 and the 4 has an asterisk above it. The keys work fine, but are tarnished, and the instrument is in need of a general overhaul repad/recorking. The biggest problem is that the bell is missing, so I will need to find a replacement. I have seen Selmer bells on eBay, but I’m not entirely sure what the embossing should look like on a P series instrument that was purchased outside of the US. So the question I would appreciate your help with is in describing what the embossing might look like on the bell, i.e., would you expect it to have only the basic Selmer Paris insignia, or would you also expect other words/designs? I have seen some that have the words “Sole Agents for US and Canada Selmer Elkhart” just below the Selmer insignia on the bell, but I was wondering if this is germane to instruments purchased in North America, or if instruments sold in Paris would also be expected to have the same design. I have also seen a picture of a Selmer bell that had the words “Centered Tone” inscribed on it similar to the way they appear on the top section. Of course the second question is regarding your advice on where I might find such a bell? Trust me, I have tried eBay, numerous web searches, and have even called some local repair shops in Maryland, but my luck has not been very good in finding a replacement.

The third question is regarding the keys. They work fine but look terrible, so I was thinking of having them replated with silver. Is there any reason not to have them replated, and do you have any advice on what to look for in a quality replating vendor? Would it reduce the value of the instrument? Can you recommend someone that is skilled and proven in replating keys? We have several local repair shops, but I’m not sure I want to turn this instrument over to them to experiment on without some confidence they will do a good job and not damage it.

Thank you
Carl P

Dear Carl:
Many thanks for your question concerning the Selmer Centered Tone clarinet that belonged to your father. I would really have to see the condition of the keys. If there is pitting, it will be a considerable expense to replate, which may even mean replacement.. If only tarnished a simple polishing will do. Were the keys originally silver plated? That information is crucial in advising you as to how to proceed. The very best advice I can give you is to consult with Emilio Lyons of Rayburn Musical Instruments in Boston. Emilio will have know all there is to know about reconditioning your instrument and Rayburn will most probably be able to replace the bell with as close a match as can be found. They are the biggest Selmer dealership in the US, or have been for many years. Please remember me to Emilio.
Best wishes.
Sherman Friedland