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Top Clarinetists - Great Professional Clarinet Players to Inspire Young Musicians

Updated on May 24, 2011

Playing the clarinet is cool, Daddy-o!

Giving young musicians an earful of great clarinet music

When my son tossed aside the dreaded violin and picked the clarinet as his band instrument of choice I was clueless about the instrument. But encouraged by his enthusiasm for playing the "licorice stick" and his ability to make some sweet notes among the squeaks early on, I started to educate myself on the instrument, its history and the greats who have played the clarinet. His music teacher suggested that I purchase some clarinet music to play at home since learning music is as much about the ear as it is eye and hand coordination. The following are some suggestions of past and present clarinet recordings that will inspire your young clarinetist.

"Sing Sing Sing" - Benny Goodman classic

Benny Goodman's Historic Swing Sound at Carnegie Hall 1938

Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman took the clarinet out of the classical quartet and put it front and center of a swing band. Known around the globe as the "King of Swing" Benny Goodman was a world wide sensation on par with the Beatles and Elvis. At the height of his long career as a popular entertainer he drew crowds of screaming, dance crazy teenagers like a modern day Justin Beiber.

Benny Goodman was only 10 when he first picked up a clarinet. At 14 he was in a band that featured the legendary Bix Beiderbecke. By the time he was 16 he was recognized as a "comer" as far away as the west coast. His swing bands torn up the airwaves in the age when radio was king.

In January 16, 1938, Sol Hurok, the most prestigious impresario in America, booked the Benny Goodman band into Carnegie Hall. Known previously at the bastion of orchestra music, Benny introduced America not only to his cool, swing style but to Jazz itself. The concert was the hottest ticket in American and the resulting concert is legendary.

Suggested Benny Goodman Recordings

Jazz Clarinet Lessons from Eddie Daniels

Eddie Daniels

Eddie Daniels plays both jazz and classical music and excels at both the clarinet and saxophone. Eddie first broke on the scene in the late 60s with the tenor saxophonist with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.

Daniels has toured and recorded with a variety of bands, small groups and orchestras, and appeared on television many times. Lately he has been concentrating on the clarinet. In 1989 he won a Grammy Award for playing on the Roger Kellaway arrangement of Memos from Paradise.

We have the Homecoming CD which is an amazing live recording of Eddie in concert on clarinet and sax.

Noddling on the clarinet

Eddie Daniels - Modern Jazz Clarinet Master

Richard Stoltzman's Star Wars at the Boston Pops

Richard Stoltzman

If you like your clarinet playing more classical than jazz, Richard Stolzman is probably the right pick. Stoltzman is perhaps the most well-known clarinetist who primarily plays classical music.He is a two time Grammy winner for Best Chamber Music Performance on:

  • Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma & Richard Stoltzman for Brahms/Beethoven/Mozart: Clarinet Trios (1996)
  • Richard Goode & Richard Stoltzman for Brahms: The Sonatas for Clarinet & Piano, Op. 120 (1983)

Young players will particularly like some of his recordings of movie themes and songs including some from the Lion King.

Richard Stoltzman -God like music

Once you find great clarinet music - keep going!

Of course the above suggestions are just the start and perhaps the most obvious suggestions in the world of clarinet players. Once you've sampled these great clarinet players, keep going! Check out the classic players of the past and explore today's great players. If you really want to inspire your young clarinetist be sure to attend live concerts where you can really feel the passion of the music.

For example our family recently attended the "A Moment in Time - A Tribute to Benny Goodman" at the Capitol Center in Concord, NH. This was a re-staging of the famous Carnegie Hall concert at exactly 73 years later to the date. It featured the Capitol Center Jazz Orchestra and Special Guest Ken Peplowski. We had no clue who Peplowski was but were enthralled by his enthusiastic clarinet playing. It turns out that clarinet virtuoso Ken Peplowski, an actual alumni of the Benny Goodman Orchestra in its later years.

So if you like a certain clarinetist's style you can further explore that style by seeking out recording of people who that artist is associated with - find out who they've collaborated with or shared the stage.

Copyright Edward M. Fielding

More Suggested Recordings For Aspiring Clarinet Players


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    • peanutroaster profile image

      peanutroaster 6 years ago from New England

      Got any great clarinet recording suggestions?