Quotes from Former Students and Colleagues

Fred Ormand is a world-renowned clarinetist. Hereís what some of his former students and colleagues wrote when he retired from the faculty of the University of Michiganís School of Music.

Read quotes from
Janet Averett * Carey Bell * Lawrie Bloom * Kelly Burke * Martin Katz * John Mohler * Lee Morgan * Justin O'Dell * Jo Ann Polley * David Shifrin * Michael Wayne * John Weigand

Return to Mr. Ormandís homepage.

Janet Averett

Professor of Clarinet, San Jose State University

I have said many times that if it weren't for Fred Ormand, I would not be in the music business. He helped me find my voice and spurred a shaky confidence when I had been told that I would never "make it." He was able to recognize my special skills/talents and help me develop them.

What I like most about his teaching is that he was able to help individual players find their own special voices while honing fundamentals of technique. Therefore, no two Ormand students ever sound "alike," and I think that is a testament to his successful teaching. I worked with him for three years total (one at FSU and two at Michigan) although it seemed like my entire career.

There are several special skills [Fred's teaching exhibited] that come to mind for me:

  1. He taught me how to practice, based on a fundamental understanding of the memory portion of the brain, and my finger technique skyrocketed in a short amount of time.
  2. He introduced me to all the important literature of the repertory as well as the new and fad-ish pieces of the time.
  3. He had an incredible understanding of tongue/throat position and fixed tonal flexibility issues really overnight. I still use several exercises on myself and in my own teaching that he used with me.
  4. He stressed making music and enjoying oneself over technical perfection, realizing that no one was capable of "perfection." He was the first teacher I had among many illustrious ones that helped me give myself permission to make a mistake, thereby not focusing on mistakes in performance. He also wanted you to try something musical, even if it didn't work. He encouraged you to think for yourself and not just parrot.
  5. He was able to de-mystify reeds and helped me hone the reed adjustment skills that I still have today. I haven't used a knife for years and never bought a Reedual, although he might shudder to hear me say that. With good reeds, all felt and sounded better.
  6. He has an elephantine memory for details, especially the personalities and stories of the music business. I still enjoy hearing his stories.
  7. He had a great understanding of equipment--especially mouthpieces--and was able to help me find one that enhanced my clarinet sound at the time. I still use that sound ideal as my model today.

Carey Bell

Principal Clarinet, San Francisco Symphony
Principal Clarinet, San Francisco Opera

Fred is the kind of teacher that not only provides a solid, middle-of-the-road approach to clarinet playing, but one who encourages his students to find their own voice. He always underlines the importance of a relaxed, easy technique. This focus on identifying and releasing tension is something I have found valuable to this day. Fred also was a great supporter of my interest in new music, along with orchestral excerpts and classical repertoire. I feel very grateful to have had the experience of being a student of Fred's; he has informed so much of my clarinet playing and music making, as I know is true of the many students of his that have gone on to successful careers.

Lawrie Bloom

Clarinet and Bass Clarinet, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Fred and I first met in August of 1979 at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson, WY. We had a great time together right from the start based for me on respect of Fred's wonderful playing, and enjoyment of his dry Texas humor. We even participated in a somewhat infamous performance of the Ponchielli Quartet for flute, oboe, Eb clarinet and Bb clarinet, with piano. Who knows, maybe that was the beginning of his fascination with Ponchielli. Over the years I learned what a master teacher he was by working with his students and experiencing how incredibly well prepared they always were. Having taught for many years myself, I know what an amazing accomplishment this is. And then there's golf. We played once. I wasn't good enough for him, but the stories were great.

I congratulate Fred on his retirement and official entry into the exclusive club of the clarinet world's "Grand Old Men", those who have contributed greatly to the clarinet world and have our great love and respect not only as clarinetists, but also as wonderful human beings.

Kelly Burke

Professor of Clarinet & Chair, UNC-Greensboro School of Music

I chose Mr. Ormand and the University of Michigan for my doctoral studies because I noticed that so many new hires at colleges were coming from his studio. I really didn't know much about him, but I figured he knew how to prepare college teachers, which was what I hoped to be. When I arrived at U of M for my audition, I observed him taking the time to help a student on his resume. This confirmed in my mind that this man was generous with his time and cared about the welfare of his students. When I arrived on campus and began my studies, I found myself to be working with an incredible teacher who was particularly gifted with the process of clarinet pedagogy. He was always clear in his explanations (we all have experienced the numerous golf analogies) and was relentless in troubleshooting. His approach to sound is obviously one of his hallmarks; it is easy to tell 'Ormand' students upon hearing. He stressed homogeneity of sound across all breaks, resulting in that smooth, clear sound found in his students.

Mr. Ormand was also very generous with his time for career development, mentoring, and life discussions. I always felt that he taught the whole student, and in my case (as with most of his students), continues to do so. Although there are so many specifics for which I am grateful, he taught me (by example) how to work with doctoral students. The give and take, sharing of information, which is what lessons seemed like to me, and the respect he accorded to each of his doctoral students is how I have modeled my own approach to doctoral education. I cannot say enough great things about my teacher, mentor and friend. We are all fortunate for having had the opportunity to work with him.

Martin Katz

Professor of Collaborative Piano, University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance

From the day he arrived at Michigan, Fred Ormand and I knew we were meant to be particularly close colleagues and eventually friends too. I don't think an academic year went by without our doing a concert together. This partnership was augmented by an occasional performance in Santa Barbara, and particularly so with the recording of two CD's. Working with Fred was not about the clarinet... ever! It was always about the music, the words (if voice was involved), the ways in which real ensemble could be achieved. For Fred, the clarinet seemed a means to an end, never the end in itself.... Unless, of course, it was one of those outrageous and insane operatic fantasies he was so fond of!

When a student of Fred's came into my studio to work on a piece with one of my own collaborative piano students, the quality of the preparation and insight was virtually guaranteed. Fred put such a FEAR into his kids about me, that it's a wonder they could inhale at all. Nevertheless, these partnerships mirrored my own with Fred, and were always on the highest level.

John Mohler

Professor of Clarinet Emeritus, University of Michigan

Fred and I have been friends for over 50 years. We first met as students at the University of Michigan in 1954. He was fresh out of high school; I had just left the U.S. Marine Band. We got along very well, roomed together on a tour or two, and ever since have kept in close contact. When he took a position at Michigan State University, we attended each otherís faculty recitals, etc. When a clarinet teaching position opened at the School of Music some years later, since it was very clear that Fred had become an extremely gifted teacher and performer, he was obviously my nomination to fill the position. Fortunately for the School of Music, it subsequently worked out that he accepted the appointment. The many fine students who have graduated from his studio are the greatest possible tribute to his teaching abilities. He not only continued to perform actively but also fully entered into academic responsibilities which are so important a part of a faculty appointment. Fred was an excellent faculty colleague in all respects.

Lee Morgan

Principal Clarinet, Royal Danish Orchestra, Copenhagen, Denmark

I have been proud to call Fred Ormand my mentor, colleague, and close friend for 40 years. The long list of fine students he has turned out is a testament to his unparalleled skills as a teacher. A unique combination of musical inspiration and a no-nonsense approach to clarinetistic problems whether it be reeds, mouthpieces, or embouchure has always been his hallmark. Among many things he taught me, one of the most important was how to practice. Through the years I have sent many colleagues and students to him and they always returned inspired and better prepared to face the challenges of life as a clarinetist. Fred and I have performed often together over the years both in the USA and here in Europe. What a joy those experiences were, along with the good food, wine and enlightened conversation that followed. Always and forever youthful, both in body and spirit, it is difficult to imagine Fred ďretiredĒ.

Justin O'Dell

School of Music, Louisiana State University
Principal Clarinet, Acadiana Symphony Orchestra

Fred Ormand is probably the most successful teacher of our instrument in the country. His students are performing and teaching in dozens of orchestras and universities around the world. His success and efficacy was no accident. Rather, it was the product of a kind of clarinet teaching that is unfortunately very rare these days. His approach is firmly rooted in practicality, based in tradition, and full of the benefits that years of teaching and performing provide. One of my favorite aspects of his teaching, besides the fact he was tough and demanding, was his huge toolbox of ways to fix problems. For anything that you brought to him, he had several ways to fix it. Over the years he constantly collected tidbits of information and tricks from anyone who presented a master class. How many master classes do you remember? Well, he did! The result at Michigan was a monster class of clarinetists that all had solid fundamentals. There was a consistency in the class, and the clarinetists sounded similar in the sense that they could play well in a traditional style by the time they graduated. He seemed to find the right balance of helping students improve rapidly while allowing them to develop their artistic personality as they chose.

Jo Ann Polley

Professor Emeritus in Music, St. Olaf College

Rarely does a day pass in my own teaching, practicing, and professional performing when I do not reflect upon the fabulous musical training I received from Professor Ormand at Northwestern University and, later, at Michigan State University.

It was a quirk of fate that I had the privilege to study with Professor Ormand. In the fall of 1973 I was to begin graduate clarinet study with Professor Jerome Stowell at Northwestern University. However, before the school year began, Professor Stowell passed away. In a matter of weeks, Fred Ormand was hired from Interlochen Arts Academy to replace him. From the first lesson forward, it was a marvelous match between student and teacher. Professor Ormandís steadfast guidance and support throughout the years allowed me to flourish and pursue numerous educational and musical opportunities. Truly, it has been a great honor to have Professor Ormand as a teacher, mentor, and friend.

David Shifrin

International soloist; Professor of Clarinet, Yale University

Given his perpetual youthfulness, his enthusiasm, dedication and unique abilities as a teacher, clarinetist, musician, and communicator, I cannot imagine Fred retired in the "literal" sense. I know he will stay active and productive for a very, very long time.

I am honored to have known Fred for more than forty years. Our association started out as a student-teacher relationship at Interlochen [Arts Academy] in the 1960's and turned into a lifelong friendship. Only recently has the student-teacher relationship resumed as Fred has given me so many pointers on the golf course. As a clarinet teacher and mentor, Fred Ormand is unique. I studied with some of the best known clarinetists and educators of the 20th century, but no one did as much to prepare me for my life in music as Fred.

Michael Wayne

2nd Clarinet, Boston Symphony Orchestra

Fred Ormand prepared me with the foundation for a professional career in music. It began with a comprehensive understanding of fundamentals, evolving to a strict discipline for auditions. Fred's mentorship has guided me to sustaining and enhancing my profession as an orchestral clarinetist.

John Weigand

Professor of Clarinet, West Virginia University

I have known Fred Ormand since 1980, and he has been a most inspirational teacher as well as a great friend ever since. His teaching came at exactly the right time in my life and career, and he proved to be a most inspirational, challenging and thought provoking teacher. With Fredís guidance, I became a better player and a much better teacher. Fredís friendship has meant even more to me, and he is one of those few friends who one feels close to even after a long separation. We have spent countless hours together discussing golf, politics, and students, and, of course, clarinet and music. I value very greatly his guidance, wisdom and ideas, and I continue to learn from our time spent together. Fred Ormand has had a major impact on my musical life, and I look forward to our continued friendship.

This page most recently updated on 8 March, 2009