An interview with Randal Clark, Acoustic customizer

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Getting to know Randal Clark, Cannonball’s alto and soprano saxophone acoustic customizing lead, a little better.

What do you do at Cannonball?   “I wear a lot of hats at cannonball.  Most of my time is spent acoustically customizing the Alto and Soprano saxophones. I’m heavily involved in R&D which is a lot of fun trying new things and tinkering with other things. In addition to that I’m the educational specialist, I do the website, and create the advertisements.  It’s a lot of variety.”

What have you enjoyed most about working at Cannonball?   I love getting more involved in the industry, especially meeting and hanging out with our great endorsers that come from time to time.  I especially get a kick out of going home and telling my wife that I got to hang out with some of my childhood heroes like Branford Marsalis, or Gerald Albright.”

How did you get involved with Cannonball?   “I graduated from the University of Utah in Music Education in 1997.  I taught middle school for 2 years, then applied at another high school in our school district.  I have been there for the past 13 years.  When I got the job at the high school I didn’t really know anything about Cannonball and I ran into Tevis (one of the owners) at an educator’s conference.  I played the horns and was very impressed, but was not in the market for a new saxophone so I left the conference with a really good attitude toward the company and was very positive about what I played and heard. The next year it so happened that one of the owners sons, Ryan, entered my high school and I got to know Tevis and Sheryl pretty well through parent teacher interactions and so forth.  That summer I was looking for a part time job to supplement my teaching salary, and ended up making a pretty much full time thing.  I still teach at the high school full time, then come work full time for Cannonball after I’m off contract at the school.  After working there for a few months I sold my vintage horns I played and have never looked back.  The rest is pretty much history.”

What do you do at your High School?   “I teach 2 bands, a Symphonic Band and a Wind Symphony.  I teach Jazz Band, Percussion, AP Music Theory and Orchestra. “

Your high school program is pretty good isn’t it?   “I guess so.  We have had superior ratings at our state festivals for the past 11 years in Band, Jazz, Percussion, and Orchestra. We are one of the only schools in the entire state to have that record.  But we don’t really judge ourselves that way.  We work on sounding professional.  Sometimes we get close to that, and other times we don’t (laugh).  But the emphasis is always on quality, not ratings.  I’ve found that the more we focus on quality, the ratings tend to come.  But if they don’t we don’t really beat ourselves up about it.  The most fun comes from our emphasis on quality, it opens up the world of literature that you can perform.  This year the highlights are David Maslanka’s “Give Us This Day” for the Wind Symphony, and the “Symphony No.5” by Vaughan Williams in the Orchestra.  Playing that kind of literature at a high level puts a smile on my face.”

When did you start playing the saxophone?   “I started in the 4th grade through my elementary music program.  In eighth grade my Jr. High teacher helped me get into private lessons with a great teacher in town who worked almost exclusively on improvisation, learning standards, and how work as a saxophonist.  Now that I’m teaching I realize how rare both those kind of teachers are, so I was lucky to have had them.  In high school I started studying more about classical playing and just ate it all up.”

What playing are you doing now?   “I play principle alto in the Utah Wind Symphony, which is a professional wind band in the Utah area.  They are really a fantastic group, at the level of the best out there.  I also freelance around town.  I don’t play as much as I’d like due to my busy schedule working on my doctorate and my two full time jobs.”

You’re working on a doctorate?   “Well right now I’m working on a DMA in instrumental conducting.  It’s been a lot of work but has also been a lot of fun.  I am able to conduct the Wind Ensemble at the University and I’m continuing to learn a lot about music and myself.”

What other things interest you?   “I really like home theater and audio, well, pretty much anything tech related.  I also really like cars, especially Mustangs.”

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