Page 1

Jere Kizer Douglas

Behind The Ligature The life of a freelance performing artist behind the Ligature and around the world! Volume One

Life And Times Hysterically Speaking

Behind The Ligature

Behind The Ligature Forward Greetings! First off, let me tell you who I am. I am a clarinet picker from Milan, Tennessee, population 9000 on a good Saturday night, that has been around the world. I would like to offer just a snippet of my professional studies and life so we can get to know each other. Coming from an educational standpoint, it is not necessarily the teacher’s complete responsibility to guide each and every student to the trough of knowledge and wisdom, that responsibility lies in the laps of the parents and families of the children also, perhaps more than the teachers themselves. My personal educational experiences are a more hands on approach than sitting in lectures about methodologies and pedagogy. There is a very old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink!”Well, for me, I would drink, but I’m not a horse, I don’t think I am at least, but then, I had the want to know feeling about who and what I am and how I can impact myself and the world around me. There is a wonderful experience in my life, studying with a great mentor, perhaps an icon of artistry and intellect, Mr. Robert Marcellus. In many people’s eyes and in mine, was one of the greatest and most prolific of the performing artists of the day. As I ended a rather exhausting lesson experience with him (as a point of reference, the second one I had with him), he, in his unobtrusive way made the statement “Jere, There is nothing I can teach you, you already know all there is to know. If you ever want to learn from me, let me know, I’ll be glad to share with you my knowledge and teach you my ways of doing things.” At the end of 3 years of very personal and down to earth working with a colleague, Mr. Marcellus said, in his very soft and gentle way with “My Wife Marian” standing beside him, “Jere, when you came to me, you were already an accomplished musician, I just put finishing touches on you!” I cried for 30 minutes after that statement, sitting on the floor in the music room of his summer home in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. The reality for me is, the only thing I ever auditioned for was the Marine Band, and everything else was done on a more congenial level, non-competitive. Of course, if you ever were involved in my life during these stages, you would have seen dedication, determination and a massive growth experience. Personally, I spent 12 to 16 hour practice and rehearsal days, performances left and right as well as managing 3 very different careers at the same time, all my life. These proclivities are part of the aspects of a professional artist working under a call system, good at what you do, and top of the list for every pick up orchestra in the world. Amazing, isn't it? Perhaps a very different understanding of the way the life of an itinerant performing artist is... When I first performed with Ray Charles in Memphis, Tennessee before 100,000 people, he actually stopped the orchestra in the rehearsal that afternoon and made the comment “That’s got to be a black clarinet player! Well, No Sir, Mr. Charles, I’m white, but my first teacher was Robert Hodge…and his response to this statement we “Count Basie’s Lead Tenor!” Yes Sir. One of the best performers I ever worked with. I have shared a life with over 150 professional (Grammy and Tony award winners) in my sharing career and consider this aspect of my life as a personal gift from a much higher power than all of us. Perhaps it is time to look at the growth value of an “education” and not at the judgmental part of Academic life. Thank You Mr. Marcellus for summing things up for me!


Behind The Ligature

Dedication To my mother and father Thank you for giving me a precious gift, Life

A gift from our past, Found in her copy of "The Lonely Lady of San Clemente" by Lester David, the story of Pat Nixon. Power is the ultimate Aphrodisiac! “To me, Education is: I have never studied in a University. The kind of university I was raised in had no graduates. Its name is society. The day I meet God is when I will graduate, and who knows how many grades I will get from God? My Golden Rule is Practice is the only norm for verifying fruit!� Mabel Williams Douglas, February 28, 1979, LPN, Co-founder of Douglas Nursing Home, Inc., Milan, Tennessee Our Mother and Grandmother, and when she went to meet God, she was found on the couch asleep with a book across her breast, glasses on as if she were going to wake up and read again. I know she finally received her cap and gown, a radiant white and is reading in God's library. Another quote from Mimi, "The day you stop learning is the day you die." Amen God Bless You Mimi! Jere Kizer Douglas, April 7, 2010, loving grandson.


Behind The Ligature

Thoughts I’m Happy with my life! As I reflect on the people I have had the honor of being around, I stand in Awe At the Might and Power of God In my life! To be considered by some To be from the dregs of society, God put me in the lives of many And gave me the power To help them achieve their dreams also! After all, What more can a person ask In this life, Than to be an inspiration to others. My past, My present, My future, My soul and spirit Will live on. When I pass from this world, With great joy and peace Knowing, many more will be able to achieve Their very dreams And fulfill others with their spirits and souls, Because of the gifts God gave me to share with others.

From Grammy Award Nominee, Dr. James Ramsey: “Mr. Douglas, You have been and are a great inspiration to us all!” 2008


Behind The Ligature

Jere Kizer Douglas

Jere in Rehearsal attire and working hard on the Brahms again with Dr. Kennith Freeman in Houston, 2010

Jere Kizer Douglas, Clarinetist


Behind The Ligature

Table of Contents: 1. I Love A Piano? 2. You Want Me To Sing What? 3. Woodwinds 4. How To Work With The Greats 5. Coming Full Circle 6. The Coda Bar and Grill 7. Fine


Behind The Ligature

Rhythms of Life

I did make a cute kid!

My Father and I

Vice Presidential Limo and Me‌

My Father and Sister

My First Clarinet Teacher, Mr. Robert Hodge 7

Mr. Pete Evans, Band Director Milan High School

Behind The Ligature

 I love a piano I love a piano Or Life Begins At The Piano



Behind The Ligature

The Piano, a Wonderful Instrument? I began piano lessons at the Burl Olswanger Music Store and Studio’s in Memphis, Tennessee during my first grade year. Finding just the right piano for home was an adventure unparalleled to none at the time. I was really happy to get that spinet upright that was in the living room at the time and furiously began to bang upon the keys. My first lesson, I tried to do the same thing and was stopped immediately by a concerned teacher who began to teach me hand position and where middle C was. So, that’s what that is, I thought and much to my chagrin, I tediously tried to get my fingers on the 5 white keys, wondering what those black things were all about. Little did I know how quickly I would find out! “Go Tell Aunt Rodie” and the proverbial “Twinkle, Twinkly Little Star” became common place in our living room as I was intent to practice inexorably upon my brand new piano and become a concert artist overnight, envisioning myself on the Lawrence Welk Show for the rest of my life. Now that was a show I was completely enamored with every Saturday evening as everything stopped in the house and it was time for Norma Zimmer and the Lennin Sisters. I would lay on the floor in my footed pj’s and my red plaid housecoat and listen intently, imaging myself there on that stage and playing while all those people danced away to their hearts content. Fast forward to PDS and Miss Francis McFadden, now there was a teacher, scales until they were coming out my ears and yet I was still attached at the hip to the piano. In the meantime, I began watching Mrs. Robertson on the big Moeller in the Sanctuary every time I could and Miss McFadden on the Chapel Moeller, amazed at the feet and the hands and vowing to play this wonderful instrument one day. Well, Thanks to Mr. Charles Parham and Mrs. Robertson, those dreams came to reality along with my other grandmother and the infamous Thomas Lawrence Welk Deluxe organ that became my practice organ. Man, I was topping the cotton and began playing dinner gigs, in churches’, the county fairs and pretty much everywhere I could. My other practice organ was the one at First Methodist Church in Milan, Tennessee, another Moeller but a bit older. The reason I stopped playing the organ and the piano is due to feelings of others, especially those in charge of running various churches. Statements of deflation of self worth for playing a musical instrument led me to look at other avenues of endeavors.


Behind The Ligature

 You Want Me to Sing What?



Behind The Ligature

Solfege The Art of Sight Screaming! Ear training is such an important aspect of any musicians life. Mine began at a very young age during my years attending PDS and singing in the Junior Choir, Second Presbyterian Church Memphis. Do Ri Me took on different meanings as 123454321 and 13531. Of course, “The Sound of Music” was very popular during this time frame also and we did almost every song from that show along with hymns and other fun ditties. The Junior Choir was composed of between 40 and 60 young voices and we had our own service in the chapel every Sunday with choir practice on Wednesday evening, just like the big choir. It was a lot of fun and we developed not only as lifelong friends but also a wonderful young ensemble. The graded choir system came along later on, but I do remember being totally involved with Miss McFadden as she was my first piano teacher also. I do remember with a very high debt of gratitude, my first time singing with the “Adult Choir” at Second Presbyterian in Memphis. I was in the seventh grade and the youngest member of the choir at that time. I was immediately immersed in the middle of 7 Metropolitan Opera Singers and another 150 plus professional musicians that were there just to make wonderful music. That was a stepping off point for me musically and spiritually, as if everything had come full force and I could either accept or not accept what was happening to me at the time. I chose to accept and dove into it full force, studying with a vocal teacher after school and still doing gymnastics as a hobby now. I would have never imagined what would happen from there, but keep reading and you will find out for yourself. The power of music in my life is astronomical in and of itself and has taken me around the world many times, performing before Kings and Queens, Presidents and County Fairs. What a wonderful life journey stepped off from that choir loft so many, many decades ago. And whou would have thunk?


Behind The Ligature

 Woodwinds What’s that?



Behind The Ligature

The Clarinet, a long stick of cylindrical wood with gold or silver keys on it.

Without the reed, it makes a good lamp!


Behind The Ligature

Alan Balter and the Die Cast Machine Or The power of a liberal arts education (thanks Michelle) Today, I am laughing at a wonderful awareness that has been ruminating in my convoluted mindset. Alan Balter not only taught me some things about playing the clarinet but also how to set and run a Die Cast Machine. Of course, digging into the brain wave functions of a disturbed traumatized practiced performing artist could be delving into major uncharted fearful territory. Minute Evaluation Picture this, a person, a clarinet, a metronome, a stack of music in a 4 X 4 cubicle for hours on end each day, trying to get fingers, wind column, rhythm and intonation all in sync at the same precise millisecond can lead to total ‘brain fry” at times. However, it’s important to realize the thought and analyzation skill sets that are also being developed during this intense process. In this unique process there are times when even the slightest variance in finger height or hand position can cause and irrefutable catastrophe lasting only a second but destroying the performer mentally and emotionally. Situation Analysis Moving forward one step at a time, perhaps we over analyze a situation that we as performers deem to be important, but there is a sideline to all this. Yes, I am getting to the point, eventually; this finger moves a millimeter too far to the left as I raise it making the mathematical formulation of the 32nd note run seem infinitesimally gross. In other words, it’s just not working the way it should fit into the complexities of the rhythmic structures around it. Troubleshooting Sight, Sound and Mechanics now come into play in this scenario. Veraciousness aside, slow methodical working through each and every motion will give the performer a different aspect of each action and reaction. This is really becoming an explanation on the theory of relativity I do believe. From A to Z A – Air B- Breathing C – Nothing Here D – Dense E – Eureka! F – Fine’ Found the problem and eureka, it’s working again. Complete and total analyzation skill set developed. Now, take that into the workforce along with knowledge of computer’s (this is where Alan fits in the picture). Combined together, the problem with the Die Cast Machine is in the programming, the parabolic curve on the plunger or injection force is not compatible with the mold itself, adjust using these concepts and while you are at it, check the coolant flow in the hot die, clean it out and WALLA, perfect parts. A Liberal Arts Education, What a Roadmap to success!


Behind The Ligature

Kinesiology of the Clarinet Kinesiology as it relates to the clarinet involves every aspect of practice and performance. By definition kinesiology is the science dealing with the interrelationship of the physiological processes and anatomy of the human body with respect to movement. Movement of the fingers in relation to the fingers and the key’s on the clarinet involves constant attention to the height of the fingers in relation to the keys and the flexibility needed to make the connections with a sense of interconnectedness. Legato and Sostenuto fingerings become perhaps the most difficult part of playing the clarinet with the open holes and the keyed notes. Finger flexibility is important, especially in dealing with the left thumb and it’s relation to the register key and the thumb f, what I consider the backbone of the clarinet itself. The throat tones are in this range as are the 12th leaps which with lack of control in this particular spot, can lead to total chaos and wreak havoc on the clarinetist. Technical exercises for this very delicate movement involve getting used to leaps themselves and a constant visual on what the fingers are actually doing. Positioning the fingers with an imaginary straight line down the horn, is the first way I begin my practice sessions, keeping an eye on the raising and lowering of the fingers in a very economical way. If the fingers get the least bit out of position, there is confusion between the thinking mind and the feeling fingers that leads to sloppy fingers and wildly flippant scales and arpeggios. As I mentioned before, the left thumb sits as a key fulcrum point on the instrument itself and the manipulation of that digit can make or break the clarinetist. Talk about frustrations, well there are ways to deal with this without getting frustrated. Step one for me is to take the horn out of my mouth and finger the notes, paying particular visual attention to the knuckle joint of the thumb and how it is moving and is it hitting the appropriate area each time I move it. The use of the knuckle is very important at this point. Make sure it is bending and not stiff. Stiffness of this one knuckle can lead to the thumb itself having to pull too far away from the horn and lead to squeaks and squawks and also pulls the other fingers out of position on the front of the instrument, hence, instant befuddled fingers and mind. Constant analyzation is essential to any artistry. Now, it is back to the practice room now and the Russianoff Clarinet Method, Volume 1.


Behind The Ligature

Finger Management I have already delved into the kinesiology of playing the clarinet and some of the aspects of movement and stability. I am pushing further right now with the left thumb or finger 1 as most people commonly refer to it. This digit can by highly irritating and can cause unwanted squeaks and squawks in register changes. The stiff thumb is not a good thumb, take the splint off and use the knuckle. I have been fighting the instrument to achieve that smooth break across the register and have become quite frustrated with fingers moving out of position left and right and the Altissimo Register is totally out of whack at the moment. I began a much slower practice today with attention to the thumb and keeping the fingers a reasonable close distance from the keys themselves. By the way, finger lift also has a lot to do with this aspect and should be left unnoticed during any practice session or performance. I have found out today, that my fingers were more than erratic, they were just plain out floppy. It is important to keep in touch with the mental and physical parts of this process for very logical reasons. All the senses need to come into play, touch, hearing, taste, every feeling known to mankind and even toe tapping for rhythmic symmetry in various passages. Dr. Sandra Cox reminded me of a very good lesson Robert Hodge taught us from Junior High forward about the toe tapping technique for fluidity in tempo and fingerings. I fell it is time to speak of a great person in my life that I almost took for granted, Mr. Robert Hodge. Mr. Hodge, or Robert as we call him later in life, was a person not to be messed with and that has come to pass many decades later as I have learned of his history around the world. Mr. Hodge taught a lot of us in Milan, Tennessee, a very adamant professor in his own right and yet a world class artist hiding in Milan, Tennessee. Mr. Hodge was the epitome of woodwind players in the big band era performing with, among others, the Count Basie Orchestra and here he was doing something he treasured most, teaching these kids the rudiments of music and jazz, first at Polk Clark High School, then after integration as the Jazz Band Director and Assistant Band Director for a small town high school system. We did not really know what we were getting at the time, but I have run into people that automatically genuflect at the mere mention of his name here in Houston, Fort Worth, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere. Mr. Hodge, Thank You Sir, from all of us!


Behind The Ligature

Galamian Techniques Excerpt from the Galamian Violin Technique “In instrumental music, the relationship of the percussive elements to those of the purely singing sound is analogous to that of the consonants and vowels in speech and song.”

I have worked with many different, unique ensembles around the world and coming from a background of both choral and instrumental I developed an understanding of the sounds and how they impacted interpretations. Going back to the Bach/Reminschnieder analysis book, I found a lot in the figured bass that has carried forward into present day jazz improvisation and miasmatic accompaniments. The inclusion of dip thongs in clarinet technique has bode me quite well through my performing career. Personally, I do my best to match sounds with the different ensembles I am performing with. With string players, realizing the different effects of the bow technique and the caliber of the performer, I adjust accordingly. Spicatto, Pizzicato, for the clarinet denotes a tonguing approach with a “du” or “dut” vocalization and incorporates the raising and lowering of the soft pallet with a delicate yet solid tongue. The oral cavity comes into play in these vocalizations without moving the jaw or affecting the embouchure and is internal instead of external. The joy in performing comes from it appearing effortless to the audience or other performers and yet many mechanizations are involved in minute increments. Forming the “du” is one of my standards with the German umlaut coming into the picture. How you might ask? With the solid V embouchure intrinsically in place, the back of the tongue is raised and there is a slope much like a ski jump with the end of the tongue coming up to the reed instead of down to it. The whole purpose of tonguing is to shape the vibration of the reed, not to attack the reed with a kW force of power and massive control. In other words, it does not take that much to stop that vibration and produce a delicate light tongue stop. There is, on the other hand, a prevailing thought of tonguing technique involving anchoring the tongue. My personal style involves a combination of all these things into one very exquisite sound.


Behind The Ligature

 How to study With the Greats Or Two Gin and Tonics Please!



Behind The Ligature

Leon Russianoff I am busily working on this sonata and having a great time doing it. There are very fond and funny memories associated with these particular sonatas. One occurred at the International Clarinet Convention in Richmond, Virginia. Picture this, Richmond 1980ish, there I am with staying in the Holiday Inn and after a long day at the convention hearing some wonderful new compositions performed and meeting the composers, I retired to the lobby drinking establishment for an afternoon refreshment, (Gin and Tonic by the way), when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a little man in a red hat that had arrived from New York City. Well Well Well (well drinks are cheap), to my wondering surprise, it was none other than Leon Russianoff, the very one that I was performing for and with on the morrow. Needless to say, we had dinner that night, a hangover the next morning and got to know each other quite well as a mutual admiration society began. The next morning, Kelly, my accompanist came into town to play with me during the Master Class series with Leon. We met, ran the Brahms down quickly, well, quickly for Brahms is 45 minutes and prepared for the Performance with Russianoff doing a public coaching on the piece. Hitting the stage, there was Leon and in the audience were the premiere clarinetist of the era. Leon took us through the first movement and into the second movement with a bit of ease, commenting only momentarily on the technique and the interpretation. Of course, he had to ask who I was studying with and I said “Alan Balter”. “Oh”, Leon said, “One of my former students who just happen to be in the audience.” Enough jocularity I thought, but that was not to be. As Kelly and I began the Allegro Appassionato movement, Leon, with all the verve of a demented teacher in a red hat, grabbed an umbrella and started dancing behind us, Mary Poppins style. There was laughter from the audience and I was wondering what was going on, was I doing something well, was it really messing up or were my pants unzipped. Hummmm. Well, I just happened to see out of the corner of my eye, that little man, an icon of professionalism and clarinet etiquette, doing this wonder umbrella waltz. Thus began my wonderment and my private study with Leon Russianoff. By the way, for a point of reference, it is a waltz movement and I was not conveying that at the time well enough for him. Too stiff and not letting it flow. That evening, we adjourned to the by now infamous Holiday Inn lobby for dinner and the evening progressed from there with a lot of laughter and some serious discussions about studying with Leon in NYC. Our table became a crowded spectacle of people trying to sit and talk for a bit and passing on to other tables. It was truly fun.


Behind The Ligature

As the evening progressed, we ended up in the den of raucous behaviors better known as the Holiday Inn Bar. Well, what transpired there seemed to top the by now famous Brahmin Umbrella Waltz. There is Leon on top of the table, dancing, dealing with his inhibitions in a wonderful way. Years later, when Leon passed away, Kelly met me backstage at a Memphis Symphony Concert with Alan conducting, and shared this sad news with me. We had a tearful, but joyous remembrance of a wonderful man, full of life and a different approach to teaching, a true Master in his own right. Kelly has moved on to a wonderful life in Virginia and those talented hands are performing to this day in Virginia on both the organ and the piano. I am truly blessed with some wonderful people in my life, and Kelly is right at the top as a great friend.


Behind The Ligature

Life with Alan Balter Alan Balter, Musician, Mathematician, Conductor, Maestro, a Wonderful Human Being! Working with Alan was never dull or boring, always a new adventure each and every day. Beginning with a couple of lessons when he was at the San Francisco Conservatory and I was still in the First Marine Division Band and carrying forward to Memphis, Tennessee, it was a decade of improvement and exploration without parallel. Most did not know of Alan’s expertise on the computer or of his double degree in Mathematics, an ideal combination for any musician or any other field of endeavor. At his home in Memphis, we would work with the clarinet and the piano for hours and adjourn to his study for a bit of enlightenment on the computer and learning DOS from a true Master. During his performing career, Alan had a bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which caused issues with his ability to produce the saliva necessary to keep a clarinet reed wet while performing. That did not stop him from pursuing other avenues however, he went on to win the Tokyo Grand Prix of Conducting Award and inspired many with his romantic interpretations of orchestral music. As a mentor, he gave me something very special, the skill set to analyze every action and every statement on the instrument and in the music itself. With him, the notes jumped off the page and came to life, full of expression and emotions. Many have said that I have a penchant for coming across the footlights with that performing technique and conveying very deep inner emotions and the spirit of the music. One particular instance I would like to share with you now, involved the coaching session in his living room, of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Working very arduously through the first movement, stopping every now and then as was needed, we finally got through it. On to the second movement…the big Adagio of the Quintet, What transpired here, brings me to a moment of extreme jocularity even in this very emotional movement. In the middle of the movement is a wide sweeping up and down motion, very intense and with the need for that level to be shared. Of course, after that climatic moment is a restful recapitulation of the main theme. Well, things were not going just exactly right at the time; it was not climatic enough or being expressed well. Alan, in his intrinsic way stopped the coaching and looked at me and the music and asked me a question I will never forget. “Jere, have you ever had an orgasm?” Of course, I blushed; being the shy individual I am and respectfully answered “Why yes, I have.” Alan’s response was, and I quote “Have one here, here, here and here then release!” To this day, I cannot play this movement with a smile coming to my face around the mouthpiece as that passage comes up.


Behind The Ligature

Another rehearsal with Kelly, a wonderful pianist that we just happened to fall into place together, centered on the Bernstein Sonata. I was having massive problems with counting the free flowing section and getting in sync with Kelly. Alan, with all the aplomb of a concerned parent, sat at the keyboard and played alongside Kelly, counting very loudly for me to hear. Well, that counting is still in my head whenever I play that piece, all the jazz licks as well as the modal textures I experience in this work totally changed that day. A sense of relaxation came over me and the nerves settled. Each note was beginning to get full expression and full value and the creativity flowed copiously. Alan and Nikki were and still are two special people in my life. They met at the Mayo Clinic where they were both undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Alan was the Principle Clarinetist in the Atlanta Symphony and Nikki was the Third Chair French Hornist in the Louisville Symphony. As I crashed in 1991, Alan and Nikki were there constantly sharing their experiences with Lymphoma and the breakdown of their immune systems. That absolutely amazed me that someone in the time frame could talk openly and honestly about the affects of disease on them. What and enlightening experience as I was battling HIV/AIDS also at the time and the compassionate understanding I so needed came from them. I remember when I was in the VA, literally losing my mind, them both coming to visit on a regular basis and sharing laughter with me and the warm hugs they gave me which encouraged me to get better and to survive, no matter what the issues in my life. I would like to add, as a point of reference that would be Maestro Alan Balter and his wife Nikki. It’s surprising where these feelings and emotions come from, much unexpected and very much appreciated. In fact, I give them some of the major credit for me still being alive some 10 years later.


Behind The Ligature

Mr. Robert Marcellus or Dr. Bob Mr. Marcellus, at the time I had the honor of working with him, was blind from diabetes but still going strong. Another event that happened during this time, was the day I was playing an F Sharp Major Scale, very fast (for all you musicphiles, that would be a quarter note = 120 plus beats per minute) and Mr. Marcellus stopped me in the first octave and said “Jere, don’t finger that F# on the side, finger it on the top, it’s sharp on the side.” I dropped my horn to my side and in a very concerned voice asked the question, “Mr. Marcellus, how did you know I was fingering it that way?” “Jere, I may be blind, but I have ears!” I thought, oh my, what have I gotten myself into? Such a keen ear and I knew then there was no skating around the issues of performance or interpretation. On another note, my first experience at the Marcellus Master Class series was in the summer of 1985, what a summer! Of places to meet people, it was a break on the first day of the Master Classes and I had to go to the necessary room and take care of business. During my visit to the toilet...I happened to have a conversation with the gentleman standing next to me who happened to be the Principle Clarinetist in the Denver and Colorado Springs Symphony as well as a Clarinetist from Sydney, Australia. Upon asking my name, in a very off handed way, I was referred to as “The New Golden Boy” of the Marcellus Studio. Come to find out, there were two other performers that Marcellus had given this type attention to, one was my former Teacher, Maestro Alan Balter. Well, imagine my shock and surprise! Leaving a week of Master Classes at Northwestern University, I spent the next 3 summers with Robert Marcellus at his summer home in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, with 3 hour plus lessons every other day. Talk about intense work with someone whom I considered a wonderful mentor and performing artist. I would also like to mention Mr. Robert Marcellus, a phenomenal performer, teacher and life coach. Even though he we blind from diabetes when I studied with him, he could still play rings around me or anyone else for that matter. I remember to this day, him hitching a ride on my arm to walk to the student center cafeteria at Northwestern for lunch and having me describe in detail, what I was seeing. The very definitions of color began to change for me as I saw every aspect of the landscape and relayed that to him. The warmth with a cooling breeze became a wonderful blend of Blues and Reds creating an ethereal hue of colors that came to life in many ways. Performing became more of a feeling than just technique. Perhaps an expression of the inner soul and spirit would be an appropriate way to state this very valid performance technique. 25 plus years into what is supposedly a disabling death sentence for me, I am alive today and still kicking due to these wonderful people/mentors in my life that took an education and the arts to a different level for me. There is more to the Arts and a very liberal education than just job skills, to me it is life encouragement and mentoring that has far reaching possibilities and even healing qualities. Thank all of you, for the inspiration to live like I have never lived before. 23

Behind The Ligature

Interpretations I would like to imbibe you in a dissertation on the likeness and difference between a technical performance and a romantic performance. In a recent performance in Houston, Texas, I worked with a pianist and we had a pleasant discourse on the various interpretations of a work by Johannes Brahms. This particular set of pieces is the Brahms, Opus 120 written originally for Viola and Piano and transcribed by Brahms for clarinet also. The suggested tempo markings came up in discussions before we actually met and we both seem to agree on the premise that these are not necessarily etched in stone, but are merely guidelines for an accurate modern day performance of various works. As you can probably see from these articles, the metronome did not really take off until the mid 19th century and then was only to give a steady beat to practice by and help rhythms fit more precisely together. The opening of the Brahms Sonata in F minor is set as Allegro Amabile and to me that is an interpretive statement more than a metronomic influence of the time. Johannes Brahms works fall in the romantic period of musical styles as well as art form, possibly influenced by those during the “Age of Enlightenment�. Kennith and I decided to have our leeway with our interpretation and took this particular piece on as two musicians performing a great work as an ensemble and not as two virtuoso performers. In the Allegro Amabile, we took the necessary liberties to make things work and sound the way we felt was best for the performance, studying the score diligently and interjecting personal experiences within the piece itself. Hence, the Allegro was full of many romantic perceptions that allowed emotions to be expressed feely and coherently providing a great experience for the listener and a superb dual involvement in the performance. The Second Movement, a wonderful waltz movement, we took to a different level of sonority and intensity with a single interpretation, mutually agreed up by both of us and staying in context with the score itself. The Third Movement with its sweet grazioso in the middle was light and airy, denoting a difference in the contrasting heaviness and lightness of Brahms. All in all, a wonderful performance by two professional musicians willing to place all other matters aside and develop as an ensemble. From a discussion with Dr. Kennith Freeman, Pianist.


Behind The Ligature

This Page Left Empty except for This Text Box For Various Reasons‌


Behind The Ligature

A Brief Discourse on Lives While I was studying and performing with the greats, I found out something extremely interesting that I didn't know up to that point. Robert Marcellus, Stanley Drucker, Leon Russianoff, Bette Midler, Nell Carter and a wide range of others never had degrees until later in life. Mr. Marcellus finally received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nova Scotia at the age of 70. Stanley studied at Curtis, but made first chair Clarinet when he was 19, no degree, Leon emigrated from Russia and began teaching eventually getting his bachelors later in life, but in the meantime taught Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stanley Drucker and a whole slew of others with international prominence. Leon didn't come to teach at Julliard until the 1980's. I adapted to their way of achieving, work, practice, dedication to learning and the willingness to learn. There was one lesson with Robert Marcellus I will never forget. I came in, did the Mozart, not up to snuff and not prepared like I should have been and after the 3 hour lesson was over, he looked in my direction and said �Jere, there is nothing I can teach you , you already know it all, but, if you want to learn, I will see you next week." Talk about tucking my tail feathers, one of my greatest dreams in life at the time, to study with Marcellus and I just about blew it. I came back next week, put his horns together and got them set up for him and very humbly said "Mr. Marcellus, I'm ready to learn." That was a major turning point in my life. 3 years later, he finally told me something that floored me again. "Jere, you were already an accomplished clarinetist when you came to me, I just put finishing touches on you." That was my last lesson with him, friend, mentor and great teacher.


Behind The Ligature

Arkansas and the Midwest I have thought long and hard about this segment and how to present it. Let’s just get down to business about the gig artist and teacher affiliated with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Arts Commission and the Mid America Arts Alliance. On my personal time line, I was based out of Little Rock, Arkansas in the early to mid 1980’s, leaving there in 1985 for the green pastures of Tennessee, New York and Chicago. During that time frame in Arkansas, I developed as a true professional, performing with the theatre company and any other “gigs” that I was called for. What a wonderful life living in the Quapaw Quarter in Little Rock at the time. I did 3 different musicals with Arkansas Rep during that time frame, “Ain’t Misbehavin” with the cast pulled from Memphis, Tennessee and Playhouse on the Square, “Sing For Your Supper” which we toured for a year throughout the Midwest into Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and the eastern part of Texas and “Good Woman Of Szechuan” , a new musical written by Michael Rice in the Arkansas Arts Center, McArthur Park, Little Rock, Arkansas. Through the Mid America Arts Alliance and with a wonderful tour manager, things were set up in advance for me to work with the junior high and high school bands in all these states as we toured and were in the area. I met a lot of kids and had fun teaching them some of the basic rudiments of the performing arts. The band directors were nothing short of Gems themselves, struggling with financials and still turning out some great ensembles and kids. One special spot I remember was in Nebraska, the backwoods so to speak and the week we spent there, seeing the country side and working with the schools. Movement, Discipline and Character were the primary goals of this personal mission and I really enjoyed pulling out the horns and playing along with the kids during this time frame. Very attentive and enthralled with the professional aspects of this gentleman sight reading what they were working on and having fun doing it. Laughter with a serious side has always been my benchmark. Coming back to Conway, Arkansas and working with the bands both there and in Preston, Little Rock and even down to Pine Bluff was a challenge and yet very rewarding. I was also playing a lot in various churches’ and other places, such as the Governor’s Mansion. Conroe and Preston offered me that small town entity where I felt very comfortable both staying with Rick Moncrieff and his Mother in the country just off the Air Force Base there, a lot of good food and good times. Rick is a professional drummer and we worked a lot together during that time frame. One of my fondest memories was going to a church there and being asked to play the piano, nice Presbyterian Church with some great people. What a Friend We Have in Jesus and When the Roll is Called up Yonder never sounded as good as they did then with the Baptist Rolling Tenths and a great instrument to play on.


Behind The Ligature

Preston was a fun place to be around back then, Air Force was the order of the day as it was in Conroe and I fit right into the military city attitude that prevailed there. Sitting in with various rock bands and jazz combo’s became a Saturday and Sunday thing when we were not performing a Matinee or otherwise engaged in travel or such. I do believe I signed more autographs during this time frame with kids and their parents. It’s a great thing stepping out of the performance situation and sharing a great skill with others in whatever way is wanted or needed. Back to Nebraska, the first town I gave my time, contractually I might add, to the local program, it seemingly packed the auditorium for the performances with all of the kids and their families waiting at the “stage door” to say thank you and wish us all well on our travels


Behind The Ligature

Conversations Dear John, I wanted to say thank you for lunch on Wednesday. That really still means a lot to me! I have a personal situation I need to provide some clarity to. My laundry list of experiences as well as education has been questioned left and right about who, what when where how and why. Putting things into a perspective which is not acknowledged here in Houston ( a personal perception by me), I have enjoyed a wonderful life in the Performing Arts Worldwide as an Independent Contractor, much like the painter one might hire for painting a room in a home. Perhaps a specialist in the Performing Arts so to speak. Hence, picture this, a phone call in New York City…. Jere Hello Lennie Jere J Yes L How are you doing today? Had a great dinner last night at the Russian Tea Room with you. J Thanks Lennie, what can I do for you? L I have a performance coming up 2 weeks from now, are you available? J Let me check…… (Pulling out date book and checking availability), Yes, I’m available, what’s up? L Well, rehearsal is Thursday Evening at Hall 7 to 10 pm and Performance is Saturday at 8 pm Tux and Bow Tie and not that silly thing you wore last time. J (giggling) Ok Lennie, see you there! Bye (getting more coffee and preparing to begin personal practice for the day. Lunch at Mamma Leone’s, 4 dollar lunch buffet and dinner at Tavern on the Green with Jimmy L., more on that later) The caller was Leonard Bernstein and the performance was excerpts from the Bernstein Mass with cast of thousands. The performance venue was Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center and the Gig was a onetime thing, not the recording of it, the life of an Independent Contractor and the misunderstandings surrounding it…. Jere


Behind The Ligature

Conversations with Vance Vance Reger is a wonderful oboe player that studied with John Mack and when I knew him, was the Principle Oboe with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Vance came to Memphis as friends already with Maestro Alan Balter, auditioned and won the chair. Their history together is something to be admired and respected. Fast forward to my time in Sister Bay Wisconsin and the Clearing studying with Robert Marcellus. I went to the status of brain fry during the second summer there and called Vance in a state of heightened anxiety. Picture this, not only were there 3 hour plus lessons with Marcellus every other day, but the people at the clearing were people that knew Marconni, Einstein, Henry Ford and some of the greats I had only read about. In today’s terminology that would be TMI or a sever overload of information for a fragile, delicate brain. After this phone call, I received a letter from Vance that I still have to this day and refer to it on a regular basis. One of my favorite movies is “Auntie Mame” and well, that has always been a source of humor between the two of us. In this very long letter, there in the middle of it is a statement, “My dear, you are Agnes Gooch, become a sponge and soak in every word and every nuance you are experiencing right now. Marcellus wanted you at the Clearing for a reason and years later it will come into play for you.” Well, just call me Agnes because that is what I did, playing cards, putting together puzzles and relaxing after a hard day of practice and preparation. I really advanced during this time frame by leaps and bounds, insulated from the world and yet still performing in a very peaceful setting. Friday evenings at the Clearing were always fun as it was the end of the week and we showcased our wares from the weeks activities. I had a wonderful schtick I did on the piano, ala Victor Borga and would entertain with that for a bit before performing Stravinsky’s “Three Pieces for Unaccompanied Clarinet”. In the setting I was in, virgin grounds and a great A-Frame performing space, this piece took on a different meaning. The sounds of nature add a great deal to Stravinsky. My final year at the Clearing, I received a wonderful gift from Don and Louise, the managers of the Clearing with a signature and statement in the front of the book from them. “Jere, We have really enjoyed your time here. Just remember, as long as you do something you love, you will never work a day in your life.” Well, this statement sticks with me to this very day and is something I treasure.


Behind The Ligature

 Coming Full Circle “Healing”



Behind The Ligature

The Healing Power of Music

In the disastrous year of 2008, I suffered a devastating episode/stroke that left me senseless and helpless and very afraid. As the year passed by and recovery began for me, we moved into a new home and I began to look at my life, where I’ve been and where I was at that time. Taking a live evaluation, thinking my life was over, I finally went back to the thing I love most in life, playing the clarinet. Well, a disparity of thought at the time as I was just beginning to talk again in a perceptual way and was not totally functioning at the time, but I picked up the horns anyway and began a journey that I continue to this day. The first notes were insanely bad, squeaks, squawks and something horrendous. However, as I continued each day to do a little more, I began to get enthused, I had a focus point in my life again and something to train the brain to center and find that place of solace and solitude in the vibration of the reed against my lips and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment with each passing day. I did not have a physical therapist and being the individualist I am, pushed myself to do better and to figure out how to come back to a performance standard I dearly treasure. Frustrations come and go, but I keep at it. Scales, Scales in Thirds (Thank You Dr. Gholson), Fingers and finger movement (Thank You Leon Russianoff), Musical Integrity (Thank You Alan Balter) and a wonderful discipline with attention to every detail of the practice and working through problems with the fingers and the vision (Thank You Mr. Marcellus). At the time, my eyes would not focus on the notes themselves and were still floating around the page and my thought process’s were here and there. As time progressed, I became adamant with myself and pushed to achieve that focus of sound, timbre and smoothness of the tongue movement and the shape of the wind column, working very meticulously on even the slightest perception of imperfection in my playing. Each day became a chore dealing with these issues, fears, anger at myself and other aspects seemed to be moving slowly, but with persistence I knew I could and would be a lot better. Suddenly, a flash of light went off in my pea brain and it occurred to me that the scales were becoming more commonplace to me and the etudes that I could hardly see were coming into focus, and thus began the major journey of recovery. Disability, we are only disabled as we wish to be. As a stroke Victor, The Journey Continues!


Behind The Ligature

Curtains Up, Light the Lights All the World’s a Stage, God’s Stage As we go through life, things become more important than interpersonal relationship, companionship, sharing, caring, and each one giving freely to another. In my life, I have truly been honored to be among the greats of our times. Looking back I see a great domino effect happening. Take for instance, Daniel Bonade, the founder of the American School of Artistry on the Clarinet. Speaking musical lineage, I am a second generation Bonade student. I’m one of many (what a huge family it is). Just from my standpoint, seeing the effect these great teaching have had in my life and being allowed to pass them on to others, has been and is a great joy in my life. Passing the skill sets as well as the inspiration to others extends his life and influence perhaps into the next millennia, which is if the world doesn’t implode on itself in the meantime. Taking this concept to another level, Thank you Leonardo DaVinci, for modern day air travel. What a visionary, a dreamer and a true master. I know, in present day, the colossal impact one life can be, no matter how current or ancient it is. Most of us seem to be merely actors in a bad play. Others stand out as true performers that can inspire others to achieve and make the world a much better place for future generations. God see all the performances and applauds for everything and everyone. Some performances are ok and acceptable; others are mediocre but still acceptable. On the other hand, some are truly awe inspiring and we all applaud uproariously, for a space of time….and then go on with our lives, changed or unchanged by the experience. I believe that’s our choice and our free will. Real and unreal, seen and unseen, what is, is, what is not, is not, What’s real – people hungry with basic needs not met, human dignity – gone, wiped away, crushed for the amusement of others. What is real – awe inspiring performances, gone unseen or squashed for whatever reason. What’s seen and unseen (perhaps at the same time) are performances of faith, hope and love. What’s really unseen – the very thing behind all of these….Faith can move mountains, Hope can bring peace, Love can heal the world. A single human life is truly more valuable than any building, bank, insurance company, greedy corporation or war. Great performance… looks good on paper and television….great spin…..but who in human form will be around to give the applause if we do not take care of each other… 33

Behind The Ligature

What about the Accompanist? June 1, 2010 I am involved in a wonderful discussion about the role of the soloist and the accompanist in the creation of musical works. Dr. Kennith Freeman and I are engaged in an internet discussion about a recent experience in Houston, Texas when we performed together for the first time. The event was called “Mosaic” and we collaborated across the miles in the United States before we met, each with different ideas and ideologies about how a performance should go. When we first got together, there was a meeting of the minds and personalities, each from different backgrounds and yet very similar. Kennith was used to just being in a subordinate role as an accompanist on the piano, not an integral part of the performance (my take on the situation) where I was of a different mindset, both the pianist and the clarinetist are integral parts of any performance and presentation. What evolved was very satisfying for both of us and began to open new doors of performance communication. We began working on the Brahms, opus 120 and the initial read through was good, but was lacking. We were coming together with accuracy and noting each rhythmic complexity with an eye to individualistic comparisons. This soon changed as we began working the first movement with definitions developing about how we believed an Allegro Amabile should be performed. Suggested metronome markings were discussed and the supposed validity of the markings themselves as related to the music and the performers. The brief discussion opened new ways of interpretation as we began again in earnest to put this piece together. In the opening statement, we both relaxed and allowed the piece to find its natural “friendly” tempo between the two of us, becoming a small ensemble instead of two accomplished players in this field. As the music came to life, nuances began to appear without being discussed verbally, instead each of us contributed and the notes began to leap off the page with a vibrancy neither of us realized at the time. On the second day of rehearsal, we began with the first movement and both of us stopped, together I might add, as we were taken aback at what had just happened. Musically, the expression of the piece came out, with little conscious effort on our parts, just allowing it to flow and follow its natural course.


Behind The Ligature




Behind The Ligature

The Coda Bar and Grill Alas the Coda on this tome of extraordinary significance. There is not decapo, it is part of the journey. There are other stories, other methodologies, but this one is mine. Stay tuned for volume 2, or the saga continues through all the cheap beer joints and gin mills of the world into a blooming blossom of unique empathic anomalies of interest to many and mere grabble to others. Life is what you make of it not what life makes of you, after all, “I am what I am�.

Peace Out!


Behind The Ligature

The Obligatory Laundry List Professional Studies: On Clarinet: Robert Marcellus

Leon Russianoff Anthony D’Andrea Robert Hodge Dr. James Gholson Leonard Bernstein Aaron Copland

Principle Clarinetist Cleveland Orchestra, Northwestern University, Cleveland Conservatory Conductor Memphis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Akron Symphony, Winner Tokyo Grand Prix Conducting Principle Clarinetist Atlanta Symphony Julliard University of Tennessee Milan, Tennessee, Lead Tenor Count Basie Orchestra University of Memphis, Principle Clarinet Memphis Symphony New York Philharmonic (1980) Master Classes on Copland Concerto and other compositions

Oboe Mr. Pete Evans Dr. Wright

Milan High School Band University of Memphis

Saxophone Mr. Alan Rippe Mr. Robert Hodge

University of Memphis Milan High School

Maestro Alan Balter

Piano: Studies with: Miss Francis McFadden Presbyterian Day School Berl Olswanger Angie Case Newport University of Memphis Organ: Dr. Charles Parham Organist, First United Methodist Church Mrs. Jerome P. Robertson Organist, Second Presbyterian Church Vocal: Mr. Tommy Ashcraft Robert Shaw George Beverly Shea Luciano Pavarotti

Minister of Music, Second Presbyterian Church Atlanta, Chorus Studies, Shaw Chorale Billy Graham Crusades Vocal Interpretations with Instrumentals


Behind The Ligature Conducting studies and Master Classes: Leonard Bernstein

New York Philharmonic Clarinet Sonata, Conducting, Composition, New York City

James Levine

Metropolitan Opera Choral/Orchestral Conducting, Interpretation

Alan Balter

Memphis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony. San Francisco Conservatory Clarinet, Conducting, Computer

Robert Shaw

Atlanta Choral/Orchestral Conducting

Francis Macbeth University of Miami Wind Ensemble Arranging, Conducting Alfred Reed

University of Miami Arranging, Conducting

Freddy Fennel

Eastman School of Music Wind Ensemble Methodology

John Williams

Composer and conductor of Boston Pops Conducting, Interpretation

Hideo Suzuki

Osaka, Japan Suzuki Method

Cliff Baker

Arkansas Repertory Theatre Staging, Acting, Vocals Currently CEO/Artistic Director of Wildwood Park for the Arts on the western edge of Little Rock, Arkansas. The park focuses on multidiscipline experiences, exploring the Culinary, Horticultural, Literary, Visual, Healing and Performing Arts. Founder/Producing Artistic Director of Arkansas Repertory Theatre (1976-l999) Corporate Leadership Consultant with Goss-Reid Associates (l999 to present)

Dr. Burton Fine

Principle Violist, Boston Symphony String Ensembles and Solo Interpretative Analysis

John Rutter

Memphis, Tennessee/London England Performance, Conducting, Interpretation, Rhythmic Complexities

Dr. Donald Freund

University of Memphis Premiere Performance of Mass


Behind The Ligature

Postscript A Diamond in the Rough

A diamond in the rough, is extremely valuable Although it has no brilliance yet The first cut, begins to reveal that brilliance. Just to behold God’s wonderful creation, At its’ first conception It Is Amazing. The brilliance still held within, Wanting to be developed. Experience will open that brilliance. Each facet that’s cut, Display’s the brilliance for all to see And Admire! The final product Of a life’s work Is a gem that shines’ Forever more brilliant Than life itself. Jere Kizer Douglas


Behind The Ligature




Behind The Ligature  
Behind The Ligature  

My life and times