Melissa Koprowski is the Assistant Professor of Clarinet at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, as well as maintaing a busy private studio. In addition, Dr. Koprowski is an active performer and soloist who has been awarded first prize in over a dozen international and national competitions.
What do you most enjoy about teaching clarinet?
My motivation as a teacher comes from my awesome students. I’m fortunate to teach some amazing students that are passionate about music and becoming the best musician possible. Some of my favorite moments as a teacher are those proud “parent-like” teacher moments. You know the ones when your students figure things out on their own, or come to you really excited about something they discovered outside the scope of their lessons that helps them with an issue in their playing. I always tell my students that my goal as their teacher is to teach them in a way so that they become their own teacher by the time they graduate. When you see a student grasping concepts on their own, taking initiative, and gaining the ability to self-regulate their learning, it makes me excited to see what they will accomplish.
What are your thoughts on equipment for students?
I want my students to use what works best for them. I’m not an equipment “junky” and a lot of my students aren’t always able to buy a professional instrument as an incoming student, but I do feel it is important for them to have a mouthpiece, ligature, and reed set-up that allows them to play with a beautiful resonant sound, clear articulation, and frees the path so we can work on anything and everything in lessons without having to worry about equipment issues.
I’m amazed at how many students (myself included when I first began playing) believe the instrument itself is the most important piece of the puzzle. When I visit middle or high schools I will often ask to borrow the worst (working) clarinet in the group and when I put my mouthpiece, reed, and ligature on their horn they are amazed at the fact I still sound relatively the same.
Any specific products that your students have found success with?
Most of my students play on either the Vandoren M13 lyre, M30, or B40 lyre mouthpieces – almost all are 13 series. Many have recently switched to the gold-plated M|O ligatures, and they are loving them. A majority of my studio uses the V12 and Traditional reeds as well.
I should note, my favorite swab is the Vandoren microfiber as I can’t believe how well it wicks away the moisture and it seems to be the swab that lasts forever. I also love the Vandoren hygro reed case, especially in the Midwest winters. This was my first winter using it and it was interesting to see it change from red to blue as the dry winter approached. Right as the humidity indicator was turning blue is when I noticed my reeds weren’t responding as well as they use to… I added a little water to the sponge and within 30 mins they were responding back to the way I expected them.
Melissa Koprowski is a Vandoren Regional Artist, whose goal is to enhance the quality of the music experience in your school.