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Meet MSO clarinetist Mike Hoover

April 19, 2007|by KATE COLEMAN

If Mike Hoover isn't playing clarinet or saxophone, there's a good chance he can be found teaching the instruments.

The Chambersburg, Pa., native and resident has played clarinet with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra since 1992. He also played in the Hagerstown Municipal Band for 30 years, a big influence because of the variety and level of music performed.

Q: How long have you been playing the clarinet? When did you start and why?

A: I started playing in 1963. My mother had just bought a piano and she wanted me to take piano lessons, so, of course, I naturally gravitated toward the clarinet.

The first teacher to inspire me was William M. Bill, who had retired from the Marine Band and come to Chambersburg teaching lessons. Lynn Lerew, who directs Hagerstown Municipal Band, was my high school band teacher. He was also a big influence.

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Q: How long have you played with the MSO?

A: I started in '92.

Q: Do you play with other musical ensembles?

A: I am principal clarinet in the Shippensburg (Pa.) Festival Chamber Orchestra - that's three weeks in the summer at the new Luhrs Center at Shippensburg University. I play in a woodwind trio, The Pandean Wind Trio. I played with Cumberland Valley Chamber Players, which disbanded a couple of years ago, and I was principal clarinet with Millbrook Orchestra in Shepherdstown (W.Va.) from 1987 until they disbanded in 2001.

Q: How do you prepare for a concert? How much time do you spend preparing for each performance?

A: It depends on the piece. When the schedule comes out for the next year, I eye over everything. I know pretty much what is going to need more time. Sometimes, I'll order parts from publishers ahead of time, so I'll have my part if it's something I've never played.

Q: Do you practice every day? How long?

A: I try to, but it varies, (based) on how much time I have available.

Preparing for a concert is not just playing the music; preparing the reeds, getting them conditioned and worked up so you have enough to get you through how many concerts you have to do.

Q: Do you have a day job?

A: I teach at Music & Arts Center in Hagerstown - since 1998, when it was Machen Music. I teach at Saint James School and also for Cumberland Valley School of Music. At last count I had 43 students - clarinet and sax, fourth-graders to senior citizens.

Q: Compare playing in the MSO and under Elizabeth Schulze's baton to playing with other orchestras and conductors.

A: I've played under a good many conductors, and she is my favorite. She has the right balance of technique and emotion, knowledge, personality.

Q: Who's your favorite composer? Do you have a favorite composition?

A: Or an era - I would say late 19th to 20th century. Favorites - the French school, maybe Debussy. I'm an opera fan - Wagner. I like Prokofiev, Ravel.

Q: What kinds of music do you listen to in your leisure time? What's the last CD you bought?

A: I listen to a lot of vintage jazz - Ellington, anything going from the '20s,'30s, '40s.

I was in Paris for several days and turned the television on and saw Brigitte Fontaine, an eclectic French pop singer, being interviewed. I ordered a CD and just got a call that it was in.

Q: What's your favorite nonclassical piece of music?

A: There's a song Billie Holiday recorded late in her years when her voice was very emotionally tattered and worn: "I Thought About You."

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