Stanley Drucker: The Heavyweight Champ

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Growing up in New York and having lived in the city my entire life, I had a chance to see and hear Stanley Drucker play hundreds of times. He was our hometown kid who made good and always seemed to succeed regardless of any musical challenges he faced. His musical commitment, confidence, passion, personality and energy were ever present and you could always count on him to deliver an inspired performance. His love for the clarinet and music is still apparent, nine years after retiring from his job with the Philharmonic. Stanley continues to practice and perform throughout the world and be involved with his instrument on a daily basis. He goes to concerts and stays abreast of clarinet happenings by attending clarinet conferences and watching YouTube videos. At the age of 89, his youthful approach to life along with his sense of humor and storytelling remain intact. As an example, I was reminded after our interview that while at the Vandoren factory in Paris in 1951 he asked Robert Vandoren if he could meet the fellow who put the TWO good reeds in every box. Typical Stanley. In this interview, he talks about his teachers; approach to practicing; recordings and players who have influenced him; the conductors who made the greatest impression on him; and his equipment. While we live in very troubling times, after spending an afternoon with Stanley Drucker you still get the feeling that everything’s going to turn out just fine. Thank you, Stanley.

Correction: Jeff Spurgeon, who is referenced as conducting one of the many video interviews with Stanley Drucker, is affiliated with WQXR-FM, not WKCR.

About the Artist: Stanley Drucker is simply the most well-known and celebrated orchestral clarinetist of the 20th century. His list of accomplishments are mind-boggling, the type of statistics usually reserved for all-time sports greats like Michael Phelps, Jack Nicklaus, Roger Federer, Cal Ripken and Joe Louis. He has become such a presence in our culture and profession that he is simply referred to as “Stanley”—no other name needed. The only instrumentalist to be awarded an honorary membership in the Philharmonic Symphony-Society of New York, Stanley holds the Guinness Book of Records for the longest career as a clarinetist—62 years, 7 months, 1 day. In 1999, he was named Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year—the only clarinetist to receive this award. During his long career with the New York Philharmonic (48 as principal clarinet), he performed over 10,200 concerts, a record that is sure to last for eternity. These are but a few of the many achievements that he has amassed over his career. His many recordings are still available and a recent 5-CD set of live performances—“The Heritage Collection”—is available online. This collection contains 28 works and showcases Stanley’s unique talent as a chamber music performer. His biography, “Stanley Drucker—Clarinet Master” by Mitchell Estrin and published by Carl Fischer, is now available for purchase online.

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