Alumni travel near, far to return for music professor's 25th anniversary concert

Clarinet professor Robert Spring will mark his 25th year at the ASU School of Music, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, with a multi-concert celebration Oct. 5-7 when 30 of his former students return to perform.

ASU alumni are coming from China, Israel, Canada and at least 20 states and Washington D.C., to celebrate a professor they call one of the most influential people in their lives.

“Most people have a celebration at the end of their careers, not in the middle of their career,’’ said Lisa Oberlander, professor of clarinet at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., who is among those returning to participate in the three-day event. “This is for us, his students,’’ she said.

It was Oberlander’s initial recognition that this year marked his 25th at ASU that sparked Spring’s vision to have his former students, many of whom are college music professors, reunite.

Oberlander credits Spring with being one of the most influential professors and mentors in her career.

“All you have to do is see him teach, or have him teach you, and he makes you feel as if you can do one-eighth of what he does, you will be better,’’ she said. It’s a role model that she aspires to be for her own students, some of whom have gone on to study under Spring at ASU. “He works so hard and you try to keep up with him and suddenly you can do something you never thought you could accomplish.”

Like Oberlander, many of those returning for the anniversary celebration followed in Spring’s footsteps, becoming college and university clarinet professors. Others have pursued careers outside music. But Spring expects them all to share with his current students and others where they have come in their careers either by performing, demonstrating or lecturing.

The celebration also includes a concert by Spring, where he will perform three new pieces commissioned by him to be performed for piano, clarinet and percussion. He and his 30 former students also will perform a clarinet chorus.

“We are pleased to celebrate Bob Spring’s 25th anniversary of his lifetime commitment to teaching and performing,” said Heather Landes, interim director of the ASU School of Music and associate dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Bob’s dedication to the creation of new works for the clarinet and new ways of thinking about woodwind pedagogy have served to expand the repertoire and advance the understanding of the instrument throughout the world.”

“This is for my students," Spring said. "Without them, I would be just another clarinet player." His standards for performance are as high as those for his teaching. He’s been described as “one of this country’s most sensitive and talented clarinetists.”

By his count he’s recorded 10 solo CDs and has performed as a recitalist or soloist with symphony orchestras and wind bands in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and South America. He’s played for National Public Radio's “Performance Today” and numerous festivals, and has taught countless summer master classes.

“He taught me it’s not just about playing the clarinet well, but also about the impact you want to have on the industry by being active and an advocate,’’ explained Jana Starling, clarinet professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. “He even still teaches at a middle school band camp every summer modeling what he taught me which is to be a part of your 'subject’ at many levels and through many angles,’’ she said.

“He’s influenced my teaching and performing by encouraging me to always give my best, no matter what the gig or who I am playing for or with, or that whatever music I am playing to be well- or over-prepared for everything,’’ she said. “He inspired me to be enthusiastic and demonstrate what I expect and hope of others because the day one stops aspiring is the done one stops dreaming.’’

Adam Ballif, professor of clarinet at Brigham Young University, who will talk about the advances in technology for musicians during the October event, credits Spring’s enthusiasm for new music as teaching him to take risks and embrace the new.

“He taught us to regularly think outside the box,’’ Ballif said. “His love for new music was a vehicle for helping us to perform music and play the clarinet in ways that we hadn’t thought about before. He tried to instill in me an understanding that time was limited and we had a lot to do.”

For more information about the Robert Spring 25th Anniversary Celebration, visit celebration.