Remembering Joe Allard

Joe Allard

I studied with Joe Allard (12/31/10—5/3/91) intensively from 1971—1978. I believe I would have never had a career in music if I had not studied with Joe. While I could move my fingers pretty nimbly on clarinet and saxophone when I met him, I had no clue whatsoever about sophisticated and elegant music making at the time or how to play with line, regardless of musical style. Joe changed all of that for me. My first lesson was on a Friday night at 9pm at his Carnegie Recital Hall Studio. (I was his last lesson of the day and he had more energy than I did as an 18 yr. old!) I figured I would impress him by playing the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto. After a minute or so of playing, he said: “Let’s hear Mozart.” I thought, what have I gotten myself into?” I had played the Mozart Concerto as a 9th grader and considered it as an “easy” piece to play by this time. During the remainder of that hour, a light bulb went off in my head and my life changed because I started to realize how much more there was to this great work and all music and how little I understood. In the ensuing weeks, months, and years ahead, I learned to play with less stress (I had no choice!) and observed how a master teacher works. He taught using every tool imaginable including demonstration, imaging, storytelling, physical exercises, instrumental exercises, his experiences as a performer, and common sense. His unusual ability to phase sentences with just the right emotion made a lasting impression on all who had the privilege of taking a lesson and drove home the point he was making for life. Leaving a lesson with Joe almost invariably made the rest of that day better. How lucky I was to make his acquaintance and study in his presence.

The information that follows on Joe Allard’s life and teaching philosophies were shared at the International Clarinet Association Conference in Los Angeles on August 6, 2012. The panel discussion that I chaired at that Conference included some of Joe’s former students: Eddie Daniels, Joe Soldo, Gary Bovyer and John Cipolla.

Art has to have variety. Unless a tone has variety of color and variety in volume, unless vibrato has variety in pulse, you don’t have art. —Joseph Allard

When the effort is lost in the result, the latter is said to be artistic. —Joseph Allard

STUDIES

  • Gaston Hamelin (Clarinet, Boston Symphony)
  • Edmondo Allegra (Clarinet, Boston Symphony)
  • Augustin Duques (Clarinet, NBC Symphony)
  • Daniel Bonade (Clarinet, Philadelphia/Cleveland/NY Philharmonic)
  • Ralph McLane (Clarinet, Philadelphia Orchestra)
  • Lyle Bowen (Lead Saxophone Dorsey Brothers Bands)
  • Rudy Weidoeft (Saxophone Soloist/Recording Artist)
  • Chester Hazlett (Lead Saxophone, Paul Whiteman Orchestra)

WORK

  • Red Nichols (1931)
  • DuPont Cavalcade of America (1935-1957)
  • Red Norvo Orchestra (1936-1939)
  • Bell Telephone Hour (1940-1965)
  • WOR Radio Orchestra
  • Cities Service Band of America (1947-1957)
  • NBC Symphony Orchestra (1949-1954)
  • Voice of Firestone (1949-1956)
  • Symphony of the Air (1954-1963)

TEACHING

  • The Juilliard School (1956-1984)
  • Manhattan School of Music (1970-1987)
  • New England Conservatory of Music (1970-1987)
  • Mannes School of Music (1971-1976)

Notable Students

Ray Beckenstein, Bob Berg, Virgil Blackwell, Dan Block, Gary Bovyer, Michael Brecker, Carmine Campione, Lester Cantor, Harry Carney, John Cipolla, Paul Cohen, Eddie Daniels, David Demsey, Eric Dolphy, Marty Ehrlich, Lawrence Feldman, Dominick Ferra, Stan Getz, Jon Gordon, Roger Greenberg, Steve Grossman, Tom Haber, Diana Haskell, Rick Heckman, Bill Helmers, Ken Hitchcock, Brian Hysong, Ed Joffe, Billy Kerr, Lee Konitz, Burl Lane, Walt Levinsky, Dave Liebman, Teo Macero, Bob Malach, Dave Mann, Warne Marsh, James Meyer, Victor Morosco, John Moses, Ron Odrich, Don Oehler, Edward Palanker, Harvey Pittel, Bob Porcelli, Seldon Powell, Raoul Querze, Ken Radnofsky, Roger Rosenberg, Charles Russo, Willie Schwartz, Les Scott, David Smeyers, Dennis Smylie, Jack Snavely, Joe Soldo, Bob Steen, Dave Tofani, Jonathan Tunick, Paul Winter, Alan Won, John Bruce Yeh, Pete Yellin

Joe Allard’s Concepts in Brief

Tone

Joe Allard believed that a tone should have the maximum resonance and with a variety of colors at any dynamic level. He sought a strong and equal balance of overtones in the tone. His teaching emphasized that the throat and mouth cavities should be free of any stress so that one’s ability to play any tone, at any dynamic level, at anytime would not be compromised. He favored mouthpieces that had small/medium tip openings, long facings along with medium-hard/hard reeds.

Breathing

Much of what Joe taught with relation to breathing was strongly connected to the principles expressed in yoga. He described the breathing process as a 3-step function: during inhalation, the ribs, thoracic cavity (lungs), and finally the lower abdominal muscles (in which the diaphragm is located) expand. The reverse occurs during exhalation. He designed certain exercises to encourage the student’s awareness of the motions of these parts of the body. Virtually all that he said regarding the breathing process corroborated the teachings of Arnold Jacobs, the renowned brass performer/instructor from the Chicago Symphony.

Embouchure

His concept of embouchure was gleaned from his studies with Gaston Hamlin (principal clarinet, Boston Symphony) and Ralph McLane (principal clarinet, Philadelphia Orchestra) as well as his work with Robert Bloom (renowned oboist). He believed that a single lip embouchure could afford all of the benefits of a double lip embouchure plus offer greater flexibility. Joe  wanted the lower lip to be positioned in such a way that it covered the entire circumference of the lower teeth so that one could feel the lower lip in between upper and lower teeth when chewing. The lower lip would be lightly stretched across the bottom teeth and not rigid, thereby allowing the lower teeth to “feel the reed” when playing. The zygomatic major muscle would be stretched lightly upwards from the corners of the mouth to the cheekbones. (This is the muscle that is activated when one smiles.) The upper lip would rest gently on top of the mouthpiece while moving towards the upper teeth and would not create any downward pressure. This would ensure the least amount of pressure against the sides of the reed and thereby allow the reed to vibrate its entire length while freeing the larynx to be responsive to the dictates of one’s musical imagination.

Tongue Position

Joe advocated that the tongue be positioned high and wide whether playing a legato or articulated passage. He suggested the use of the word “Dis-ney” in order to help achieve this position. (William Kincaid, the great former principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra, also made use of this ”Disney” effect.) The syllable “Dis” would allow the tongue to lightly touch the molars on each side of the upper teeth and keep the tongue from falling too far back in the throat. The syllable “Ney” would position the front of the tongue behind the upper teeth at the point where the gumline meets it, ensuring a forward tongue placement that he called “forward (French) coning.” This high, wide tongue position would reshape the mouth cavity by creating a more compact space for the air to move above and below the tongue and result in greater compression of the air as it would leave the mouth to enter the mouthpiece.