Symphonic students

Flute, clarinet players find their melodies

By: Maria Allard | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 14, 2015


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Dennis Carter II and Lisa Raschiatore know how to put the “fun” in fundamentals.

From Aug. 10 to 14, both musicians took a group of tweens and teens under their wing in musical workshops offered at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Carter, winner of the 2009 Detroit Music Award for outstanding classical instrumentalist, taught a flute workshop in one classroom designed for preteens and teenagers looking to improve their musical chops.

“It’s nice to give them more training they wouldn’t normally get in their neighborhood school,” Carter said.

In another classroom, clarinetist Raschiatore — who also teaches clarinet music and music appreciation at Madonna University in Livonia — instructed several local students in a clarinet workshop.

The workshops included discussions, warmups, exercises and a workbook. The topics focused on breathing techniques, tone production, hand position, intonation, reed adjustment and practice techniques. The music makers finished out the week in the center’s Stage II with a recital for family members and friends.

“The kids are really great. They all want to be better. They can get in and do detail work,” Raschiatore said. “By day three, they are really confident. By day five, you are so impressed by how much their work has improved.”

The clarinet students worked on a number of pieces that Raschiatore selected. On the morning of Aug. 11, she and the students gathered for a lesson on articulation. Joy Dade, who attends the Troy Adventist Academy, was glad she enrolled in the workshop.

“I learned some things I didn’t know before,” the 11-year-old clarinet player said. “I like playing the clarinet. I like how strong I play on it.”

For 12-year-old Joshua Hilgendorf, studying with Raschiatore gave him the opportunity to further study the bass clarinet, which differs from the clarinet.

“A bass clarinet is a much deeper sound,” the seventh-grade L’Anse Creuse Middle School student said. “What would be a high note in the clarinet would be a lower note.”

Hilgendorf said he began playing the instrument last year.

“I just thought it would be a neat change for the clarinet,” said Hilgendorf, adding that he thought the workshop would improve his skills. “So far it has. It’s very fun I find, but it’s challenging at the same time.”

During class, 11-year-old Emma Velasco had a moment in the spotlight when she performed a clarinet solo of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to reinforce the articulation fundamentals. Velasco attends Messmore Elementary School in Sterling Heights.

Over in Carter’s room, the students worked on embouchure, which is the use of the facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece.

“Let’s do our F major scale,” Carter instructed. “Watch your thumbs. Ready? One and two, nice and slow. ... Let’s see if we can go a little higher.

“Keep good posture. That will help with your air support,” he said. “Big breath. Shoulders relaxed, remember? Keep your heads up. Keep your fingers above the keys even though you’re not using them.”

Carter was 12 when he began on flute.

“I saw the DSO at Ford Auditorium,” he said. “I originally wanted to play the violin.”

But one was not available at school for Carter, so he became a flutist.

“Here it is, 30 years later,” he said with a chuckle.

Carter is the principal flutist with the Dearborn Symphony, Michigan Philharmonic and Fisher Theater Orchestras. 

Raschiatore has appeared with the Windsor, Grand Rapids and Detroit symphony orchestras, and is a regular performer with the Michigan Philharmonic, Dearborn, West Michigan and Traverse symphony orchestras.