WWBW: It sounds like you grabbed the clarinet early and hung on tight. Do you have a musical family?
HAWLEY: I think it’s all because I grew up—my mom was a ballet dancer and my day care and after-school care was sitting in her ballet rehearsals—she was a professional dancer—next to the pianist. The rehearsal pianist was always playing Chopin and Bach and Rachmaninoff. I just was exposed to live music—
WWBW: At a very high level.
HAWLEY: Constantly, on a high level. And so that was one component. Then the second component was that my dad played the clarinet when he was younger so there was a clarinet in the house. That was the only musical instrument I had ever put my hands on, even just like opening the case. It was stored in my closet. When I was nine my parents asked if I’d like to start an instrument. I tried a bunch of sports, but music was more attractive to me.
So I started playing the clarinet and I was determined right away from that age. That’s what I wanted to do and I was going to do it as best I could. I grew up in L.A. and there was some great instruction early on.
WWBW: You had an opportunity to perform with the L.A. Phil at age 13. So you were the extraordinary clarinet student in your school and you found your way to that stage?
HAWLEY: I didn’t even play music in the school at all. I started off with a private teacher right from the beginning and I didn’t even play in band. I started playing with a rehearsal pianist when I was 10 and when I was 12 entered a competition called Student Stars. I just kept advancing and before I knew it I had a chance to play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for one of their Young People’s Concerts.
WWBW: Then moving all the way across the country to the New York Phil a year later. I’m guessing you did well with the L.A. Phil and word got out. How does that work?
HAWLEY: That’s not how it went. New York Phil has a similar contest. It was run by Zubin Mehta. I remember walking out on stage in Avery Fisher Hall and seeing Zubin Mehta there and then Stanley Drucker, the principal clarinet at the time, just sitting right next to him. I don’t know, they just seemed so happy to hear me play once I started. I was watching them enjoy my playing. I never had so much fun on a stage up until that point as that day.
WWBW: So you were selected to perform with the New York Philharmonic at that point?
HAWLEY: Yes. It was part of their Saturday series. I think that was part of a continuation of a series that Bernstein had done.
WWBW: So you haven’t even jumped into your secondary studies, and you’ve got a solid life’s orientation at age 14 at this point. That’s pretty rare.
HAWLEY: I had eaten a bite of the apple of performing on stage and I had to have more and more and more.
WWBW: So when you were considering what to do with in high school, 9-12, were you ready to make a change? What was the school system? Did you just stick with private instruction? How did that go?
HAWLEY: I started playing chamber music. I had a great teacher from early on and I had that teacher all the way through high school. I was playing chamber music and I was studying at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. It’s kind of like Curtis or Julliard, but Colburn started as only a pre-college. And so I was there and in my high school years that was my performing arts life and then I had school that was separate. That wasn’t my regular academic education.
WWBW: Did you attend a conservatory in your tertiary education?
HAWLEY: Curtis. I went to the Curtis Institute of Music.
WWBW: Then it didn’t take long for you to spill out into a legitimate position with Cincinnati's Symphony Orchestra.
HAWLEY: Again, I was just so determined. I just had to be in an orchestra and I just lived, ate, and breathed classical music all the time.
WWBW: Even among medium-sized city orchestras, Cincinnati's orchestra is highly respected.
HAWLEY: I was so proud to be part of that orchestra. They have a tremendous tradition. When I got there they were already celebrating their 100th anniversary. We had a tour every single year and we were recording five CDs a year. The orchestra was just on fire and it still is. It's really made it through tough times better than almost every orchestra in the United States.
WWBW: And the Cleveland Orchestra, is likewise well-regarded. What is it about Ohio? Is there something in the deli food there?
HAWLEY: You know, I think that the communities really rally around their arts organizations in those cities much more so than a place like Los Angeles, where you have so many different neighborhoods. It's not like you're in Thousand Oaks and you're debating, all right, I want to go to this concert and it's going to take me 45 minutes. In Cincinnati everything is 10 minutes from the hall. It's so much a part of the fabric of the community.
WWBW: Okay, and there's that apple of being on stage you took the big bite of and couldn't get enough of. What did it take to bounce you into a more serious commitment to education, the position at Rice University?
HAWLEY: I teach during the summer at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. It's a summer festival like Aspen or Tanglewood. So during the summer I get to work closely with four highly accomplished clarinet players, as well as a lot of other students, all the kids in the orchestra. I was working then with some of the best and most eager music students I've ever met in my life. I was finding that part of my life and sharing what I know about music more rewarding than only being in the orchestra.
WWBW: So it wasn't a case of replacing it at all. It was just adding to it.
HAWLEY: Just adding to it and then at a certain point somebody said hey, there's this opening at Rice University. And I didn't know much about Rice. I knew they had an incredible music program here.
WWBW: They’re really heavy in the sciences, too.
HAWLEY: It is, but the thing is the school has so much money and they do everything right. It's a very small school of music. It's very well-funded. There’s so much scholarship money, which means that you can recruit some of the top students that there are in the country.
WWBW: Now what's the job description at Rice? Do you lead a couple of chamber orchestras? Do you conduct their larger orchestra or is it clarinet specialists only? What's the duty look like?
HAWLEY: The program here is orchestra. There's not a band here. I love band but at Rice we focus on students who have an interest in playing in a professional orchestra. So I have eight students and I work with them every day. I coach them in chamber music and I coach them while they're playing in the orchestra.
It's incredible because all of my colleagues were principals in other orchestras across the country, too, so we've got a real mentorship program here. It's a wonderful chance for us to give what we learned down to the students.
WWBW: When you first took the job, did you have much teaching experience?
HAWLEY: Yes. I had been teaching already at the University of Cincinnati for 10 years before coming to Rice.
WWBW: Have you developed any overarching philosophies of education over the course of the job?
HAWLEY: I love talking about music. I love listening to music and sharing my perspective. I think that my philosophy of education … I don't think I have a philosophy. I think my goal is for all my students to realize it's not about them. It's about us serving the music and being dedicated to this art form and giving everything we can to be able to share the emotion of composers and experiences on stage with an audience. The other thing I've noticed is that kids tend to get to a certain point in their music education where they're only playing in an academic environment and they forget what it's like to just be on stage and entertain. That is the number one goal; for people to come to a concert and get away from their lives for just a few minutes. And that's what our job is. Our job is to make this music come alive for hundreds of people, maybe thousands of people. That’s what a live concert is.
WWBW: So how do you salt in that experience over the course of all of that scale-blowing and whatever else?
HAWLEY: Have them play out in the community. That's one of the best things about the summer where I teach at the Music Academy of the West where they're playing every day for packed audiences that come in to hear the kids improve day after day after day for eight weeks.
WWBW: So it's kind of like a farm team baseball league where the local town will come out.
HAWLEY: Exactly. Yeah, and then the kids realize it's incredible what that summer experience turned on for them.
WWBW: Maybe a good time to do a gear run down. You play the Tosca?
HAWLEY: Yes, I do.
WWBW: And you've been with that instrument for a while now?
HAWLEY: Oh, my God. I've been with the Tosca clarinet for I don't even know, I think pretty soon after it came out, so 12 or 15 years.
WWBW: And were you a Buffet Crampon artist at Cincinnati?
HAWLEY: I was playing Buffet since I started.
WWBW: Are you particular with ligatures?
HAWLEY: I switch around different ligatures because it's just kind of fun. It's the little bit of bling you can change.
WWBW: Without really messing up the way you approach the instrument.
HAWLEY: It doesn't mess anything up. It's just kind of fun conversation and fun different angles and bangles.
WWBW: Do you have a reed preference?
HAWLEY: The D’Addario Reserve classic. Great company.
WWBW: Aren't they? You know, when a large company takes over a beloved thing like Rico or LaVoz the way they did, everybody gets a little nervous. All they've done is breathe new life and health into an already great brand, and button down on the consistency a little bit.
HAWLEY: Jim D’Addario has a real commitment to the performer and you feel it when you're in the factory. You feel it when you're in any of the showrooms and you feel it when you're sitting across the table from Jim. You know that he believes in the art of performing and that he just wants to make it easier and better for all of us.
WWBW: So as I was thinking this I had what I thought might have been a bright idea and that's to write a movie script about the Whiplash of classical. Can you maybe shed a little light on the rhythm of deadly serious classical instruction?
HAWLEY: To answer your question about the Whiplash part of it, that's the level of commitment everyone has to make. At the same time, though, someone can benefit so much from music without being like that. Just by loving it and participating in band and orchestra on any level is so enriching and so important to development and ability as a person and as a person that shares expression. Everybody should have the chance to be onstage performing music everybody.
WWBW: How about your mouthpiece?
HAWLEY: The most important thing.
WWBW: Describe why is it the most important thing.
HAWLEY: Because it is where the initial vibration chamber is. It is the primary source of sound-generating equipment. There we go, the primary source of sound-generating equipment. The mouthpiece and the mouthpiece/reed combination, I should say are the primary source. I designed the mouthpiece with the team in L.A. I only wish I had this mouthpiece when I was in the orchestra. It's just launched. It’s the Reserve Evolution mouthpiece. What’s unique about this is you could open one of these boxes, take out one of these mouthpieces and play principal clarinet for a concert and that same mouthpiece would be beneficial and just as easy and wonderful to play for a ten year old student.
WWBW: What are the attributes that give it that level of versatility?
HAWLEY: Well, it has a real ease of playing. It's really easy to make a sound on it and a lot of times a mouthpiece that's really easy to produce a sound on does not make a gigantic sound. So this is very easy to produce a rich and warm sound. Very easy. It's kind of like a golf club, where even the pros play on oversized golf clubs now. They're just easier. It's so logical. It makes everything easier.
WWBW: Do you have any kind of an engineering background? Like how would you communicate to the design team your impressions and or is it up to them to translate, “Okay, we need a fatter low end. That happens when you…”
HAWLEY: I had for my entire career, ever since I got into college, a fascination and hobby and an obsession with collecting old mouthpieces: measuring them, studying them, filling them up with water to see how much volume was in them. it's a language I can communicate to the engineers at D’Addario really well.
WWBW: What's next? Do you see yourself staying at Rice for a while?
HAWLEY: Yes. This is this is home and I would never, never want to leave teaching. This is a wonderful place to be sharing my musical experiences with the young kids.
WWBW: Thanks for sharing it with us as well.