Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1995
  • Online publication date: September 2011

9 - The professional clarinettist



Whatever their preferred course at the outset, musicians these days are best equipped if they can apply themselves to several related trades. Playing a wind instrument can offer a most satisfying professional life combining orchestral work, solo playing, chamber music and teaching, but performers often end up diversifying in all sorts of directions. Examiners, lecturers, recording artists and producers, conductors, composers, businessmen, arrangers, authors, consultants, administrators in education or artistic managers – I can think of at least one clarinettist who has become each of these! Competition for rare orchestral vacancies is intense, whilst only one or two professional clarinettists in Britain can honestly say that they earn a living from playing solo and chamber music. There are, however, hundreds of players throughout the country who teach and many who play occasionally, if only in local amateur orchestras, bands or jazz groups. This has not always been the case. Between 1890 and 1900 the number of listed clarinettists in London increased tenfold, suggesting there was a time when the instrument was not as popular as it is today. Nowadays there is a flourishing market of freelance players supplying a large number of the capital's ad hoc orchestras and ensembles. Despite the risks of being a musician, it seems that playing the instrument for a living has never been so popular.