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Robert West, Principal Clarinet

Robert O. West joined the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera as principal clarinet in 1998.  He moved to Chattanooga from Alabama where he is also principal with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra.  Maintaining dual symphony calendars and a busy travel schedule, Robert regularly appears in solo recital, chamber music concerts and teaches throughout the area.    As a member of the CSO woodwind quintet, performances include educational school assemblies, master classes, hospital arts in healing programs and community outreach.

Solo performances with the Huntsville Symphony include the Aaron Copland, Clarinet Concerto and the big band Concerto by Artie Shaw for the inaugural Pops Series celebration.

 “West handled it all with great style and confidence, ending the piece with a note so high  in the  stratosphere it has the audience leaping to its feet.” -The Huntsville Times

Robert began studying clarinet at the age of ten and was soon traveling central Illinois with local dance bands.  As a young soloist, he appeared with the Central Illinois Youth Symphony, Peoria Symphony Orchestra, DePauw University Symphony and the Chautauqua Festival Orchestra.  At the age of eighteen, he took first prize at the International Clarinet Society competition in Denver Colorado.

In 1981 Robert completed his Bachelor of Music at New England Conservatory, studying with Peter Hadcock of the Boston Symphony and graduating a member of Pi Kappa Lambda Honorary Music Society.  He received his Master of Music in clarinet performance at Mannes School of Music in New York a student of recording artist Gervase DePeyer.  Robert has participated in the International Music Festival at Round Top Texas, Chautauqua Festival and Opera Orchestra, Bedford Springs Festival Orchestra in Pennsylvania and the Interlochen National Music Camp.

Mr. West was principal clarinetist, featured soloist and on the Music Academy faculty of the Filarmonica del Bajio in Guanajuato, Mexico.  He has also performed with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Cedar Rapids Symphony in Iowa, American Repertory Opera Orchestra in Boston, Quintessence Woodwind Quintet from Phoenix Arizona and the Relache Chamber Ensemble which debuted in Carnegie Recital Hall.  Recording in collaboration with sister and pianist Gail Wasson, they are featured on the soundtrack for the “Zola Levitt Ministries” series on the Christian Broadcast Network.  Including the music and video premier of “Elegy” for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, dedicated in remembrance of the Holocaust.

”An assured and polished performer, West caressed and cajoled his instrument to provide both  excitement and passion.  Just pure musical inspiration.” -Chattanooga Times Free Press

Area appearances include the Chattanooga Bach Choir, Huntsville Chamber Music Guild recital series performing with the Blair String Quartet from Vanderbilt University, HSO Premiere Wind Quintet, faculty soloist with the University of Alabama Wind Ensemble,  Jacksonville State University guest artist and featured soloist at the Alabama Music Educators Conference at Auburn University.

In addition to his private teaching studio, Mr. West has been a faculty member at Oakwood College, Tennessee Valley Music Festival, University of Alabama in Huntsville and Alabama A & M University.

What convinced you to pursue a career in music?

A former college band director, my dad was my first private teacher. I have many fond memories of playing clarinet and trumpet duets in our basement. My mother is also a musician, a pianist and my first accompanist. Our house was always full of music. Influenced by my parents, my first professional work, “gigs,“ began at age 15 in Central Illinois on the road appearing with several hotel style big bands. With rolled up sleeves, the old fashioned uniform tux jacket reached my knees. The paycheck was just an added bonus for my love of music and early career training on stage.

How did you choose your instrument?

At the age of ten, I was very excited about joining the school band. The family story is told that my father came to me and said, “Bobby, your father plays the trumpet, your grandfather played the trumpet and your great grandfather played the trumpet. What instrument do you want to play?” To his surprise, my response was, “the clarinet.”

Who is your favorite composer and/or favorite piece?

From the beginning, Benny Goodman has been my inspiration. He introduced me to the sound and possibilities of the clarinet along with his ground breaking style and rock star popularity.