Anthony Friend

Clarinet Performer and Teacher

Anthony’s Music Story

I have built up a varied and stimulating career, working with some of the UK’s top orchestras, chamber musicians and soloists. Growing up, I was fortunate to have excellent teachers from the very beginning, and attended Westminster School as both a Music Scholar and a Queens Scholar, where my clarinet teacher was David Campbell. My parents are both great amateur musicians, and music was always around, but it was only in my late teens that I realised I wanted to pursue a career in music. The two factors that pulled me in this direction were discovering my love of composing, and joining the London Schools Symphony Orchestra as principal clarinet. Not yet sure which I wanted to follow, I decided to keep as many doors open for as long as possible, and did a one-year gap year course at Trinity Laban in order to study with Michael Whight. He instilled in me the level of discipline and critical thinking I would need if I wanted to take clarinet further whilst at university.

I read Music at the University of Cambridge, where alongside my academic degree there was a wonderful and almost manic amount of music going on all the time, including students from every discipline. I probably played in many more concerts than I would have done in the more competitive arena of a conservatoire undergrad. I had funding from my college to go down to London for lessons regularly during term time (mostly with David Campbell and Michael Whight), and I spent every vacation period playing in orchestra projects run by young conductors or my friends who had gone to conservatoire in London. This meant I was in a good position to audition for postgraduate study at conservatoire, having decided that performing was the route I wanted to follow.

I completed a two-year MA at the Royal Academy of Music, which had a very selective, small clarinet department compared with the other UK conservatoires. It was partly this and partly the teachers that appealed to me: I studied with the London Symphony Orchestra’s clarinet section (Chris Richards, Chi Yu Mo and Lorenzo Iosco) as well as Angela Malsbury and Laurent Ben Slimane. I focused hard on technique during this period; it felt like I had two years to fix any remaining problems in my playing before going out into the profession. I feel like I largely achieved this, but in reality, the studying never stops. I have studied extensively since graduating, mostly in Paris with Patrick Messina, who has helped me to push myself even further. Lessons can also yield professional opportunities – playing to a colleague is often an informal audition. Alongside professional playing work, I organise concert series, write about music and teach.

"everyone’s brain and body is different, so what works for one student might not make sense to another."

What was the Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music like?

The music scene at Cambridge was diverse, hectic, and run entirely by enthusiastic students from every academic background. There were wonderful musicians who were studying Medicine, History, Astrophysics, Engineering, etc., who could easily have pursued a high level career in music, but chose to keep it as a hobby. It was completely separate from the Music Faculty, where I did my degree, and which was an academic subject like any other arts subject taught at Cambridge.

Going on to the RAM after Cambridge was a welcome opportunity to focus solely on my playing, having had to practise in my free time around a demanding workload at university, often cramming in an hour or two at 11pm having just finished an essay. For the first time, I had free time to really think about and absorb what had been discussed in my lessons, to consider how best to approach my next practice session, and so on. As a result, my playing improved dramatically in the two years I was at the RAM. The clarinet department was small and supportive, and students would often practise together or run through things to one another. I was also lucky with my main Principal Study teacher, Chris Richards, who helped me make the changes that dramatically raised my level.

Where would you suggest people buy a clarinet from?

Howarth’s, London, www.howarthlondon.com
Cyrille Mercadier, Paris, https://cyrillemercadier.com
For reeds & accessories:
Woodwind & Reed, Cambridge www.wwr.co.uk (see also Reeds Direct, run by WWR, who do a fantastic mail order service: www.reeds-direct.co.uk)
Windology Music, www.windologymusic.co.uk

What age do you recommend to learn the clarinet?

Most children’s hands are too small to reach the lower notes before about age 7-9, so this is a good time to start.

So, what are you like as a teacher?

I enjoy finding multiple ways of explaining fundamental technical and musical concepts – everyone’s brain and body is different, so what works for one student might not make sense to another.

I build strong technical foundations in all students, whatever their level; these give you control, enabling you to say what you want to say with intention, and it also teaches you to listen to yourself properly, so that you can keep on improving.

Finally, I want all my students to understand the music they are playing, so I encourage them listen to music widely, to play the piano, to go to concerts.

What has been your career highlight to date?

I was invited give the annual ‘Concerto per Peggy’ (Peggy Guggenheim Birthday Concert) at the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, Venice in 2019. I performed the Mozart Clarinet Quintet with the Philharmonia Chamber Players (the quartet of the Philharmonia Orchestra).

What pieces would you recommend people listen to, to inspire them to take up the clarinet?

Brahms, Clarinet Quintet
Poulenc, Clarinet Sonata, movement II
Steve Reich, New York Counterpoint
Mozart, Clarinet Quintet

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