CG: Where did you grow up?
DS: I was born in Queens and grew up both in California and New York ending up in California for High School. My mom thought that it was too expensive to raise kids in Queens and felt she could afford life in California. Clarinet was always something I liked to do, I was never forced to practice and all through High school I would practice without being asked. I was motivated because I wanted to be the first chair clarinet in the band.
CG: How did you come to choose to play the clarinet? Was there someone who inspired you to choose this instrument?
DS: During 6th grade there was a demonstration of instruments and at first I was impressed with the trombone player who really made the trombone sound flashy, but when I heard the clarinet, I was absolutely mesmerized! I ran home and told my mom I wanted to play this instrument that I had heard, but I didnt know the name. I could only describe it as a black instrument with silver keys. My mom told me she would get me one if I could find out the name. My mom ended up getting me a clarinet from a pawn shop that was literally held together with glue and bandaids. She said she would buy me a better one if I showed her that it was working out. I always practiced without my mother asking me to. I just really liked to play. After about a month, I figured out a tune by ear, with the notes that I had learned so far by listening to a cassette tape. When I came and played this for my mom, she went out and bought me a new instrument the next day.
CG: What was your childhood experience like studying the clarinet/music?
DS: I did not have private lessons until freshman year in high school. In fact I didn’t even know that you could go to college and be a music major. No one in my family had ever gone to college. As a junior in high school someone first told me that I could major in music. I really just practiced a lot because I wanted to sound good, and also to be first chair in the band. When I realized maybe going to school for music sounded good, I started taking college auditions and then they started actually pursuing me, they started recruiting me to come to their school. That felt pretty good.
CG: When did you decide that being a musician or clarinetist was what you wanted to do with your life?
DS: I was one of two freshman to get accepted to the University of Southern California and I got a scholarship to attend. Even though I really wasn’t very good, I was like the worst in the school of music, but one of the teachers took a liking to me and decided to start investing in me and by the time I was a senior in college, I was in the top 6 students of the class. Even then, I was just practicing to get better, because I wanted to make the best sounding music possible. The thought of taking auditions to get into an orchestra was still far away for me. When it came time to go to grad school, I decided I wanted to try to go to New York because everyone from New York had such great technic. So I auditioned for Manhattan School of Music and got in. Everyone in California thought I was crazy to move to New York, but once I was here, I really started honing in on learning orchestral excerpts and taking auditions to get a job. That’s when it really became more real for me about really making this a career.
CG: We understand that you are a huge Pete Fountain fan.. can you tell us more about why you like him so much? What style of music does he play?
DS: He is all Dixie Land. The first recording that I ever bought was by him. His crystal mouthpiece was inspiring to me, and his dark sound. I also really love how much he enjoyed the music while he was playing, his exuberance really shows. From him I took away how important it is to not just enjoy what you’re doing but to communicate that to the audience.
CG: We understand you use a crystal mouthpiece a lot of the time. Can you tell us more about this and why you like it so much?
DS: The Crystal mouthpiece is what I used to record on for my Brahms CD, I think it brings a more solid and reliable tone. It holds the sound really well. I actually have another crystal mouthpiece that changes color in the light from clear to lavender when the light hits it. Its pretty cool. But I don’t play on crystal mouthpieces all of the time, because they don’t work for me in every situation
CG: What kind of clarinet do you play on?
DS: I have an Uebel clarinet made out of mopani wood (african rosewood type of wood) that has gold keys.
CG: Do you every play jazz or other styles besides classical?
DS: I only play classical but I do love to listen to jazz. I also play the whole clarinet family, from bass clarinet to the e-flat clarinet. I just love the challenge of classical music.
CG: When teaching the young, what is the most important thing you try to impart to your student?
DS: With young students its important to teach students that its not how long you play but how consistently you play, Its better if you play long tones for just 5 minutes, than to not play at all that day, Its really about the consistency of playing every day. If I want to be a body builder I can just work out 1 day a week. It takes months before you see a difference in your body as a body builder, even with working out every day, its also the same idea about loosing weight. Daily practice is crucial. I also like to tell my students to become problem solvers and pretend like they are giving themselves a private lesson when they are practicing. Playing mindlessly, just to say you are practicing is not going to get far. I give them a checklist of things to think about when I teach my students. I ask them to go down the checklist of things to think about.
Its not just about what’s on the page, but its about the sound you are getting and the phrasing.
CG: Has teaching during this pandemic changed for you?
DS: My lessons have been more powerful than ever before and I have really been able to connect more with my students, and with their parents as well. I think with all of the isolation in our shut down, I was throwing them a lifeline, and they in turn were throwing me a lifeline. Because of the pandemic I have also got a closer connection to the parents of the students I am teaching, and I am now requiring a conversation with the parents to take place, where as before, often I had not met with the parents because they were just dropping off their child for lessons.
CG: We are excited to hear that you just released a new CD. Can you tell us about it? Why did you choose to do Brahms over other composers?
DS: A friend of mine in California who does sound for movie soundtracks called me and told him he wanted to invest in me and help me make a CD. He told me, “the world needs to hear you David, especially hear you play Brahms”. My friend set up the recording studio at a discounted rate for me, I found another donor to donate the funds to pay for the recording. I made the recording In LA at a union recording studio..actually at the same place where they recorded the Simpsons soundtrack..its a big orchestral studio. I got the friends and family discount, I also had access to an incredible videographer, who happened to be the same person who works with Beyonce for her videos. So I am very happy with the video and the sound on the CD will sound great on any and every platform.
CG: David, thank you so much for sitting down with us for this interview. We are so excited that you are teaching as part of our music lesson program. And we would like to share with everyone the link to your website as well as a link to a sample from your CD so that they can purchase and hear you play the Brahms Clarinet sonatas. https://www.davesapadinclarinet.com/listen
DS: My pleasure, it will be interesting to read my life story on paper!