Tolo Mercadal, clarinet professor, clarinet barrel craftsman, good friend and benefactor of this project, asked me to write a post for the Arixa Clarinets blog to describe and characterize the clarinet course held in Canena yearly in the month of August and I must admit I liked the idea because it gives me the opportunity to explain a little bit more about this project which, although modest in numbers and means, has ambitious objectives.
Eight years ago I had the opportunity to be the assistant professor of Josep Fuster at the already extinct “Cursos de la Universidad de Jaén” in Jamilena. And it is curious to know that during four years, 45 clarinetists from around Spain used to come to this course in Jaén, bearing in mind the dreadful August heat. Very sadly, these courses disappeared, this meaning a great loss for the already delicate “health” of music education in Andalucía.
During this period, Josep Fuster and I became friends and he also became my clarinet teacher, and I mean teacher (because one has many professors, but not as many teachers); not only his technique and performance style were extraordinary, but I also thought we shared human values. All this inspired me to carry on with my project in one of the most beautiful places in the province of Jaén, Canena, which has a castle from the sixteenth century and a health resort similar to an oasis surrounded by olive trees; despite it being very small (two thousand inhabitants) it has a great musical tradition and is an example of cultural promotion.
At present, there are many courses, the majority of them very interesting and with great professors, but our intention was to make our course different to others: of small dimensions, specialized in clarinet and with a very clear line of work, both from the clarinet and the human side; our idea was to be able to get to know the students, their curiosities, spend time with them and deal with the personal dimension of playing and instrument, what nowadays is called coaching and that, under my opinion, consists in offering a type of teaching which approaches in a comprehensive way the total learning process of a student, based on the relationship and confidence in the teacher and focused on the teaching and learning process and not on other aspects related to other purposes rather than to music.
Last year 20 students applied for the course, the majority of them having finished their Professional studies or already having started their Superior degree and, nearly all of them, came because they had heard very good references of the course. This is very gratifying for us and it encourages us and reinforces our idea that things can be set up a different way to the conventional one and with our nearly total conviction that everybody that has come to our course has found it useful in one or other way.
As a matter of fact, I think Tolo asked me to write this post because last year we were very pleased to receive his visit and he told me that when he was at the course he was aware of what I am trying to explain, the idea of a way of teaching and learning based on two basic human values: humility and closeness. Our idea is not to “sell” or “pretend to be”, it is to show an attitude and compromise with certain musical aspects which we are sure work and that at a medium-term (a course doesn’t do miracles, but it does open doors) help to understand better the clarinet, enjoy it and make other people enjoy listening to it.
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