Three 20th Century Juilliard Clarinet Masters

by Mitchell Estrin

Date Posted: July 11, 2018

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During the 1970s, the clarinet faculty of The Juilliard School in New York City was comprised of three of the most distinguished and knowledgeable teachers in the world. How fortunate were all of us in the clarinet class of the time to study with clarinet titans Joseph Allard, Stanley Drucker, and Leon Russianoff? Three great teachers, each with their own personal approach and style.

Joe Allard

Joseph (“Joe”) Allard (1910-1991) studied clarinet with Gaston Hamelin, the first clarinetist of the Boston Symphony. Allard had a very distinguished playing career, highlighted by being the bass clarinetist of Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony from 1949-1954. Allard was a member of the Juilliard faculty from 1956-1984.

Allard was a gentle and soft-spoken man who believed in the importance of understanding and mastering the harmonic series of the clarinet, bass clarinet, and saxophone. He gave his students specific exercises to practice to develop an understanding and working knowledge of the overtone series, which would allow for proper voicing and greater consistency of tone. Allard was a calm and supportive teacher who provided invaluable pedagogy, which was always explained in a logical manner. He was equally comfortable teaching the clarinet, bass clarinet, or saxophone, and his legacy lives on today through his many disciples on all three instruments.

For more information on Joe Allard, his approach to overtones and pedagogy, you can visit:

Stanley Drucker

Legendary clarinetist Stanley Drucker (b. 1929) was a member of the New York Philharmonic for over sixty years, serving as principal clarinet from 1960-2009. His recordings of the clarinet concertos by Carl Nielsen and John Corigliano are monuments in the music world and set a new standard for artistic performance and execution on the clarinet.

Drucker's teaching philosophy was multi-faceted, but one concept in particular was emphasized in every lesson. This was the defining of a player's optimal sound quality, and striving to utilize that sound in every passage played. He would have a student play a slurred slow passage in a comfortable range and have them strive to produce their most beautiful and resonant tone. Then, he would encourage (insist!) that the student produce this sound in everything they played, whether the music was:
- fast or slow

- high or low

- slurred or articulated

- loud or soft

Certainly not easy to do, but learning this concept was transformative for me.

Leon Russianoff

The renowned pedagogue, Leon Russianoff (1916-1990) studied with Simeon Bellison and Daniel Bonade. He served on the faculty of both the Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School for many years. His teaching in the mid to latter part of the twentieth century produced a virtual who's who of clarinetists.

Russianoff was a brilliant and enthusiastic teacher. His instruction was steeped in fundamentals, combined with many of his own hand-written tonal and technical exercises. Lessons could be characterized by a high energy, demanding, and supportive approach. His amazing ability to connect with the inner musician in each student produced multiple generations of top professional clarinetists. He worked to cultivate the individual strengths and personality of each student. Russianoff was a master psychologist who emphasized the fundamentals while developing the unique artistic voice of each student.

One of his signature exercises is what he called the "fulcrum study." This study particularly helps to strengthen embouchure flexibility and stability. I have adapted this study for my own students and can be found here:

As if this wasn't already an abundance of clarinet riches, before I graduated, Juilliard added a fourth luminary clarinet teacher, David Weber (1913-2006). I never had an opportunity to learn from Weber, who was a leading American exponent of the French school of clarinet playing and noted for his beautiful tone. From all accounts, Weber was a marvelous and devoted teacher who produced a significant number of top clarinetists.

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