Maximizing Tone Quality Among Your Clarinets

with Iris Gonzalez

A lifelong educator, Iris Gonzalez spent the majority of her career in southwest Houston at Hodges Bend Middle School, recognized as one of the biggest band programs in the country. Iris taught up to 110 beginning clarinets and numerous woodwind classes as assistant band director before taking over as the Hodges Bend Middle School head band director in 1995. Upon retirement, Iris began a small clarinet private studio and remains active as clinician and adjudicator to bands and clarinet sections around Texas.

What has been your experience teaching in the Houston area? 

Through the years since 1981 when I began my teaching career I’ve worked with many talented students and had many All State Band and Orchestra clarinet students. At Hodges Bend Middle School, we all believed in team teaching and worked with the students based on our instrumental specialty. During my time there, we were selected as the CCC Honor Band for the State of Texas and had the opportunity to perform at the Texas Music Educators Convention and the 50th Anniversary of the Midwest Clinic. 

"I can honestly say that my students have played Vandoren mouthpieces through middle school and beyond for my entire teaching career." - Iris Gonzalez

What are your thoughts on student equipment?

It is imperative that students have quality instruments and mouthpieces with great reeds to be successful. A clarinet in proper adjustment provides the best opportunity for student’s ease of playing without tension.The mouthpiece and reed must work in tandem to maximize reed vibration and not hinder the tone production or technical responsiveness.

What have you and your students found success with as far as equipment?

I’ve dealt with reeds since 1972 and have learned how to identify excellent quality of cane that is aged appropriately and precision cut to maximize response and tone quality. I grew up playing Vandoren reeds and mouthpieces. As a college student, I tried everything on the market and always had my Vandoren reeds as my trusted back-ups. Once I began teaching I knew my student’s success would be determined by a clarinet in proper working condition, responsive mouthpiece and reed. I can honestly say that my students have played Vandoren mouthpieces through middle school and beyond for my entire teaching career.

I was very interested and excited to learn that Vandoren was introducing a new reed in January 2015. The Vandoren representatives have been very helpful with providing sample reeds for me and my students to try. The V21 is, in my opinion, the best reed Vandoren has ever made since I began my clarinet playing in 1972! The reeds are perfectly balanced and I have not had to adjust them. The V21 is a terrific reed and I highly recommend it to my students and everyone else! I’ve also been trying the new Vandoren Hygro Reed Case that is keeping my reeds in constant humidity in the controlled environment.

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