Yesterday, I began my 25thyear of teaching at CSU Long Beach. It also was the 15th anniversary of the passing of my beloved mentor, Clement Barone. Flying back home to Northern California, energized after a fun first day with my Body Mapping students, I took a trip down memory lane with my favorite pearls of wisdom from the master.
For those of you who never had the great fortune of meeting, hearing, knowing, or studying with this extraordinary man, Clement Barone was a mensch of the highest order. Week after week, for thirty-three years, he delivered piccolo magic in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Clem had a piccolo sound like nothing I’d ever heard before or since, a sound that remains my north star. Clem was the solo piccolo of the DSO from 1958-1991. Flutists, piccoloists, do yourself a favor, and find some DSO recordings from the Paul Paray, Antal Dorati, and early Neemi Järvi eras.
He had a gift for making every student feel like family, yet still honest and firm when it came to our progress as young musicians. He was a role model in every way; as a player, as musician, as an artist, as a teacher, and as a human being. He reminded us lesson after lesson to “SING!” Of course, he was interested in the destination of whatever phrase we were trying to navigate, but found a way to kindly remind us that it was really about the journey.
Clem taught us how to be humble and create honesty with ourselves in our daily practice. Leaving no stone unturned, he made us ask ourselves the simplest yet sometimes difficult questions in the practice room; what, where, when, why, and how? When working things out in our practice, or when thinking about music, he would encourage us to ask ourselves:
What’s happening here or there? When does it happen, or when was this piece written?
Where does it happen, or where should I do this or that? Why is this particular thing happening in this spot, what am I doing to make this happen? How is it happening, or how should I approach this passage?
He used to say that if we could answer those questions we’d no longer need him and we could do anything as musicians. No piece would befuddle us, nothing would be insurmountable, we’d have the tools we need to be our own best teacher. He believed there was always another way, and it was for us to seek out.
I model my teaching style after that of Clem and of my father, Santo Urso. The two of them were like brothers, and their approach and teaching styles were similar in many ways. Both were old school Italians who didn’t mince words and told you like it was, but always from the heart and with compassion.
As a Body Mapping specialist, I’m always in search of the answers for the what, where, when, why, and how – for myself and my students. I remain curious to find the answers. Like Clem used to say, there really are many other ways, and I encourage my students to also look for them, as I was encouraged to do by Clem. Also like Clem, I teach the student, not the flute, and believe it’s about the journey, telling the story, playing from my heart, and singing through my flute and piccolo when I play.
Body Mapping has been an awesome and essential addition to my life as a performing artist. In addition to helping myself overcome years of tension, pain, and injury as a flutist, I have the good fortune to help others to do the same. Before Body Mapping, there were times throughout my professional career that I would stop and ask myself “wow, is this what the end of a career looks like?” My repetitive injuries began in undergrad, while studying with Clem. There were times when I was completely sidelined. His practicality, understanding, and teaching style was especially helpful during those years. Fortunately for me, the path finally led me to my good friend and colleague (and fellow Body Mapping teacher) Amy Likar, who was the one to first introduce me to this amazing somatic world, ultimately enabling me to play pain free.
Fast forward to present day, as cliché as it sounds, I am doing what I love and love what I’m doing; exactly what I want to do, and not what I feel like I have to or need to do. The gratitude I feel for my teachers, mentors, and colleagues for their inspiration and guidance, as well as my students for their enthusiasm and eagerness to soak it all in, is immeasurable. Most especially, I am grateful to Clem Barone. The north star of his pure, sparkling, beautiful piccolo sound, and words of wisdom, continue to inspire me.