Artist Spotlight: Bixby Kennedy, Clarinetist

Meet Bixby Kennedy, clarinetist. Bixby will be in residence July 2-9.

Tell us a bit about your upbringing and first exposure to music. 

I was born in a small town (Maryville, TN) just outside of Knoxville. The music scene is very eclectic there and, to be honest, for a long time (until I was probably 12-13) I had never really listened to “classical” music. My first memories of listening to music were riding around in the car with my mother listening to soul music, the golden oldies, Sting, and Pat Metheny. I think this has led to me being able to be invested in and love whatever music is placed in front of me. I love playing a wide variety of styles and eras of music and using my imagination to figure out how to best express the composers’ wishes.

Did you have any “ah-ha!” moments in your education that led you to become a professional clarinetist?

There were many throughout my educational career: but one of the first was in eighth grade in my private teacher’s living room: we were having a discussion about school and she mentioned studying music in college. It was at that moment that I learned that it was possible to study music and hopefully, one day become a professional musician. Although I was nervous, I told her I was really interested in that and from that moment forward we started working at a much higher level and I started to grow more and more.

What time of day do you do your best work and why?

Historically, at night, however, with the arrival of our new baby, I am becoming more of a super early morning person!

Do you have a favorite place to visit on vacation?

In the last few years, I’ve had the chance to go out west and perform in Nevada and Arizona, and go to the Grand Canyon – I’ve loved going there and hiking through the desert and canyons.

How is a period instrument different from a modern instrument?

There are many differences: 

  • The wood is made of boxwood compared to grenadilla
  • There are far less keys
  • The fingerings are different
  • The pitch is different (A= 430)

What unique challenges are there to playing on a period instrument?

The biggest challenge is also one of the greatest aspects of playing the period instruments: the tone production is naturally very uneven throughout the registers, but this provides a lot of natural variation in the sound and allows for expression to be found in the way you play the instrument in addition to the way you phrase/perform the music.

What are some of your favorite foods?

I’m looking forward to all the lobster in Maine!

Get to know more about Bixby Kennedy.