Q&A with MWF Clarinetist, Jeffrey Boehmer

MWF:  When was your first encounter with music?

JB:  My first encounter with music may have been back in the early 80s at age 3 or 4. Back in those times, my parents would use cassette tapes to record me singing such hits as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Happy Birthday," and "The Juicy Fruit Commercial." My mom and dad also taught me a few little tunes on the piano in my grandparent's basement around that time. Sometime in early elementary school, my parents bought me a Casio keyboard and I would spend hours learning songs from my Disney music book and figuring out little accompaniments.

MWF:  When/How did you start playing your instrument?

JB:  At the end of the fourth grade, we got to pick which instrument we wanted to play in the band the following year. I spent about a month trying to get a decent sound out of the flute and when my arms started hurting from throwing it across the room, I changed my mind. My uncle, who was a clarinet professor at Susquehanna University and SUNY-Plattsburgh, set me up with a clarinet and after some growing pains, I really enjoyed making music with it.

MWF:  When did you decide to make music your career?

JB:  Sometime during high school I started taking private lessons and it really helped me hone in on my skills. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school with some extremely talented peers and an Advanced Music Studies program, in which I spent my senior year. Aside from all that motivation, I've honestly never thought about doing anything else with my life. I went to West Virginia University to study with Dr. John Weigand and after I graduated, I knew I didn't want to go right to grad school. I spent a year living with my parents, working in a restaurant, studying weekly with Dr. Mark Gallagher in DC, and taking every audition I could. During that time, I won a job with the US Air Force Heritage of America Band. I never thought I'd end up in a military band, but after some poking and prodding from my parents, I took the job and went to basic training.

MWF:  What is your favorite memory of a performance?

JB:  This is a tough one, yo. I spent 10 1/2 years in the Air Force and got perform in some amazing places and see some amazing things. My favorite concert tours were those that took me away from Maryland and Pennsylvania (where I grew up). My most memorable tours were trips down the west coast in California, through the Dakotas, through south Texas, and tours of Russia and Poland. The most memorable events during my time in the Air Force were performing in both inaugural parades for Barack Obama and in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

During the Air Force years, I had the pleasure of attending the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival at Juilliard two years in a row (once with my Air Force wind quintet and once on my own). Those performances were truly life changing.  I learned a whole other side to performing by letting go of my calculating, overthinking brain and bringing life to the music. I think about the work I did with the members of the Imani Winds and my festival-mates on a daily basis.

Most recently, the Maryland Wind Festival has been a highlight of the year. We spend an exhausting week or so rehearsing, performing, and teaching. It's incredible to work with such passionate people and create such beautiful music.

MWF:  What do you like to do outside of music?

JB:  Outside of music, I spend a lot of time running and working out, photographing things, and raising my 5 year old daughter. Every year I start training in the spring to run in the JFK 50 miler. It's a great way to stay in shape all year round because the race is in November. I love distance running because it gives my head a chance to clear and the world looks different when you're out on foot. I think that's why I've gotten into photography too. My favorite photographs are those of scenes or moments captured from unconventional angles or vantage points. Although, most of my time is spent entertaining my husband and daughter with little ditties I just make up off the top of my head. I truly have a gift.

MWF:  I bet!  See you this summer!

Jeffrey Boehmer