The Oracle: What media do you primarily use? Why do you use it?
Kelsey Chan: I chose the clarinet in fifth grade because I liked the tone quality of the clarinet the most. It also had the largest range of notes that it could play, and the instrument itself wasn’t too big to carry around.
TO: Why do you like band?
KC: Band is the perfect way to meet other students who are passionate about music. It is also a nice way to relax and get my mind off of school work. Learning how to play the clarinet has also taught me valuable skills that I have transferred to both playing piano and playing volleyball. My clarinet teacher recommended that I read “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, which basically explained how everyone has the ability to become an expert in pretty much anything as long as he or she practices the correct way. Each repetition of any skill, whether it be for piano, clarinet or volleyball, adds more myelin coating around synapses, improving the connections in your brain for that particular skill.
TO: What do you enjoy most about band?
KC: I enjoy being able to collaborate with other musicians and being able to listen to all the other instruments in the ensemble. Each instrument contributes to the overall sound of the band, creating different nuances that are incredible once you are able to distinguish them from one another. In freshman year, we played Disney arrangements from “The Lion King” and “UP,” which were probably my favorite songs that we played that year.
TO: When and how did you first become interested in band?
KC: I started playing clarinet in fifth grade because it was a requirement for music class. In ninth grade, I signed up for concert band because I had never played along with other instruments, and I thought it would be nice to try something new. It was also helpful for me because I was able to meet new friends easily. I started participating in all-state and all-county bands last year as a sophomore becaus [band director Todd] Summers always encouraged all the students to participate in music programs outside of school. Since I didn’t have enough time in my schedule to do youth orchestra because of my volleyball commitments, I decided that all-state and all-county would be perfect because they were only single weekend events.
TO: What are some works that you are most proud of? Why are you proud of them?
KC: I am most proud of the songs that I prepared for all-state this year and last year (Poulenc clarinet sonata and Saint-Saëns clarinet sonata) because I put a considerable amount of time working on the details and trying to sound more musical. I remember practicing those pieces so often that I would get tired of listening to them, but in the end I was proud of how they turned out. These show how much I’ve improved as a player.
TO: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
KC: Focus on one thing you want to improve (articulation, rhythm, dynamics, etc.), and repeat that skill until you are satisfied with the progress you have made for that one goal.
TO: Where do you find your inspiration?
KC: My clarinet teacher always likes to come up with funny analogies or stories to go along with different parts of the music. She always asks me what kind of emotions are expressed in the music, and from there I try to think of the types of scenarios that would have that music playing in the background. Going to all-state and national competitions always inspires me to improve as a player because there are always so many high school students who are so much better than I am.
TO: How much time do you spend working on your art?
KC: I have practice for wind ensemble four days a week during A period, and at home I practice from an hour to an hour and a half every day, depending on how much music I am working on. All-state band is normally four days long with six to eight hours of rehearsal per day. The concert is on the fourth day. All-county band is a total of four days as well with a similar amount of time spent in rehearsals, culminating in a concert on the last day.
TO: What pieces are you currently working on?
KC: [For solo pieces] I am currently working on a piece by Stravinsky and another called the Weber Concerto. At school, we are preparing for the next few concerts in February and March, including the Winter Band Concert, the concert at Terman Middle Schooland the Chabot music festival.