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a2. orchestra director and founder Josh Spirek sat down with Sophie Allison, our wonderful clarinet soloist for the upcoming concert “Reflections”, and chatted about all things clarinet, the pieces she will be performing and more!

Article No. 9

Josh started by asking Sophie how she first become interested in playing the clarinet, and what drew her to it as her instrument of choice. Sophie said, “I started the clarinet when I was 10 years old and I was fortunate enough to learn at school through the Instrumental Music School Services (IMSS) program. I was particularly drawn to the clarinet partially because it looked like a big recorder, but mostly because my mum wanted me to play the flute and I didn’t want to do that. As I got older I fell in love the sound of the clarinet and I think that is what really solidified that this was the instrument for me.”

Next up, Josh enquired about Sophie’s future plans and goals as a clarinettist, and also what projects she is currently working on or looking forward to in the near future. Sophie replied, “I would love to be able to do a bit of everything in the future. I love teaching, performing, reading and working with other musicians, so I am keen to continue doing what I love to do into the future! Currently my big projects coming up are my undergraduate recital at the start of June and the a2. orchestra concert Reflections. I am really enjoying having something to work towards and people to play for. I would also really love to delve a little bit deeper into the science behind clarinet technique and clarinet pedagogy in research.”

After this, Josh was curious to know what drew Sophie to her chosen pieces for the upcoming concert and what she likes about them. Sophie said, “both of these pieces are pieces I discovered pretty early on when I first started to delve into the depths of clarinet repertoire on Spotify. The Debussy is just absolutely stunning. The atmosphere created through the orchestration and different timbres was something very unique to me at the time and the piece just stuck as one of my favourites. As for the Messager, it’s a piece that is not only satisfying to listen to but satisfying to play as well. I love the flare of the piece and to me it almost has an element of ‘nonchalantness’ to it. Overall, it is just a bit of a party piece!”

Sophie Allison in rehearsal with a2. orchestra for “Canvas”
Photo by James Trimble

Along with this, Josh enquired how Sophie maintains her instrument, and asked if she has any special care routines? Sophie said, “not so much for the clarinet itself, apart from swabbing it through after every practice session, but my reeds do get some ‘TLC’. When I first break in new reeds, they all get soaked in water, polished on my glass chopping board with the back of some sand paper, and test played for about 2 minutes at a time. I then repeat this process for about 3 days before adding them into my rotation. From here I continue doing this process of soaking and polishing my reeds about once a week, so they stay in a good playing state.”

Musicians often have low periods in their creative journey. Josh asked Sophie how she stays motivated and overcomes periods of musical burnout or frustration. She shared that, “staying motivated during burnout is something I find really difficult. I am yet to find a magic way of dealing with it. It is important for me to take a break, just to give myself a chance to reset. I also try to limit social media and do more mindful activities like reading. Then I go back and listen to some of my favourite pieces before getting back into practice again. I normally start my practice with the pieces I love to make it more enjoyable. Retail therapy also works surprisingly well!”

Next Josh asked Sophie to discuss the role of music education in her life and how it has shaped her career as a clarinettist. Sophie said, “I am so grateful to have been involved in such an amazing music program at Rossmoyne Senior High School from years 7-12. It is truly thanks to all of the passionate music teachers who work tirelessly day in day out, that I am where I am today. At school I found my love for performing, especially as a part of an orchestra, and found my love for making music with others. My positive experience learning in a high school music program has directly impacted the way I teach as I want everyone to experience a positive connection to music making. I love teaching my instrument to others as I want to give back what I received.”

Sophie has also been one of the most dedicated musicians of a2. orchestra, appearing in every single concert since the orchestras founding in 2022 totaling 6 concerts.

You can catch Sophie performing as soloist at out next concert "Reflections".

Sophie Allison Performing at Triumph & Tragedy in 2023 as part of the clarinet section
Photo by James Trimble

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