New faces at the ISO: Samuel Rothstein, the clarinet blogger 

click to enlarge samuel_rothstein.jpg

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra opens their 2015-16 season with handful of new personalities.

“It’s been several years since we’ve seen this many new faces at the start of a season. It’s very exciting to welcome them to the family, says ISO Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski.“Just like our entire orchestra, our new musicians and new associate conductor come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. It will be such a joy for me to lead all of these talented individuals. I hope our patrons notice the continued quality of our outstanding Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and are proud of what we present each and every week.”

NUVO took the opportunity to learn about the new ISO faces. In the mix you’ll find sports enthusiasts, a professional photographer, a trained engineer; some with acting, opera and national musical tour credits. 

Samuel Rothstein, Assistant Principal Clarinet and Bass Clarinetist

NUVO: Developed in the 18th century the earliest Clarinets came into being to extend the high clarion register of trumpets. Clarinets now appear in many note signatures. How does each resonate differently within you?

Samuel Rothstein: The sound of the clarinet is what originally drew me to playing the instrument. There is a certain simplicity and beauty in the sound that is so captivating, like in the "simple gifts" melody from Copland's Appalachian Spring. My teacher, J. Lawrie Bloom, who is the bass clarinetist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, encouraged me to start playing bass clarinet towards the end of my Junior year at Northwestern. I'm very thankful he did because I feel the bass clarinet gave me a voice that the clarinet wasn't able to give. It has the dynamic ability to play long, beautiful, legato phrases, like in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, but it also has the power and edginess to represent something primal and earthy, like in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. No other instrument in the orchestra has such a wide sonic spectrum.

NUVO: After graduating from Northwestern you toured nationally with Les Miserables in 2010-2011. What are the challenges to cross over from concert hall to performance stage?

Rothstein: While I was classically trained, my education at Northwestern taught me to be well versed in many different styles and genres. Les Miserables is very much a classical show, so I approached it in the same way that I would approach an orchestra concert. The difference, for me, was the mental aspect of these performances. It is very difficult to play a three-hour show, eight times a week, and still be able to give it your all on each and every performance. Performing in musicals is very mentally draining, and I have a ton of respect for my colleagues who do it for a living week in and week out.

NUVO: You’ve spent summers at Tanglewood as a member of New Fromm Players playing contemporary and newly commissioned works. What goes through you as you approach a composition as the first to play it, and then as you get the feel of it taking form and growing from inside you?

Rothstein: Performing new music is a very different experience than performing something like a Beethoven symphony. With Beethoven, there are years and years of revisions, recordings, documentation, research and traditions that don't exist with a new work. At Tanglewood we were fortunate enough to have most of the composers present at rehearsals, which enabled us to create the pieces collectively. One of the faculty members of the composition department, John Harbison, said that often times people think that composers know exactly what their piece is going to sound like during the first rehearsal, when in fact many times they experience their own music in a way that is completely unexpected. It is extremely rewarding to watch a piece grow from the ground up, and especially in collaboration with its creator. I am very thankful for my three summers at Tanglewood; it is a place that has had a profound and lasting impact on me as a musician.

NUVO: You’re a blogger reviewing new products connected with the clarinet. Why?

Rothstein: My colleagues in the Richmond [VA] Symphony used to give me a hard time because I always have the latest clarinet gear. One day, I was joking around and said that I was going to start a blog, and they encouraged me to do so. I have had numerous professionals email me and ask for recommendations on what they should buy, and I am always happy to indulge them. It's turned out to be a really fun thing for me.

NUVO: At the ISO you’re sitting next to David Bellman [Principal] whose degree also is from Northwestern—what’s the generational dynamic between you two?

It has been great sitting next to David and Trina [Cathryn Gross, 2nd clarinetist) in the few weeks that I have played with the ISO. Our teachers, Larry Combs and J. Lawrie Bloom, played in the Chicago Symphony clarinet section for almost 30 years together. I have felt very welcome since the first time I stepped foot into an ISO rehearsal, and we, as a clarinet section, make it a point to spend time together outside of rehearsal. David and Trina are both absolutely lovely individuals and I feel so fortunate to be a part of their section.  


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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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