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Former Music Student Returns to HCC for Master Class and Recital

A profile picture of Jason Shafer

Jason Shafer was just an eighth grader when his mother contacted Dr. Kyle Coughlin to arrange clarinet lessons for her son through Howard Community College’s (HCC) music program.

“She said that he really enjoyed playing the clarinet,” said Coughlin, assistant professor of music at HCC. “Well, that was an understatement.”

From the very first lesson, Shafer was hanging on to every word Coughlin said.

“He had intelligent questions and wanted to learn as much as he could,” he said. “When he came back for his second lesson, he had prepared every single thing that I had assigned him and more, which is extremely uncommon.”

His hard work paid off. Shafer, who is now the principal clarinet of the Colorado Symphony in Denver, was an obvious choice as a guest artist for a master class and recital at HCC this fall.

“When Kyle told me about Jason, it seemed he would be a great fit,” said Dr. Hsien-Ann Meng, music department chair. Not only is Jason an outstanding musician, but he had gotten his start with Kyle, right here at HCC in the Musical Arts Center (now The Music Institute).

“Kyle guided Jason and helped him get into one of the top music schools in the country. If anyone wondered where studying with Kyle, or at the Music Institute would lead them, Jason is great example to the model.”

On Friday, November 9, 2018, Shafer will lead “Jason Shafer Clarinet Master Class” at 4 p.m. in the Monteabaro Recital Hall located within the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center. On Saturday, November 10, 2018, at 7:30 p.m., Shafer will partner with HCC faculty member Kuei-I Wu and collaborate with Coughlin in the performance, “Jason Shafer Clarinet Recital,” also in Monteabaro Hall.

“The recital contains some of my personal favorite works for clarinet, and there’s quite a variety of different sounds and characters,” Shafer said. “The Brahms Sonata in F minor is perhaps one of the deepest, most moving pieces written for a clarinet and piano, and it’s a true duo in many ways.

“The other works are shorter, but contrast lots with the Brahms, from ethereal Debussy to sensuous Gershwin, ending with the showy, energetic Mendelssohn. There will be something for everyone at this performance.”

Shafer, who also teaches clarinet at the University Northern Colorado, said he is elated to return to HCC and perform where he got his start.

“Maryland still holds a special place in my heart since I grew up there, so I was very honored when I was asked to perform on this guest artist series,” he said. “It’s going to be wonderful to perform with both Dr. Wu and Dr. Coughlin. Both are fantastic musicians, and it’s an honor to share the stage with them.

“I’ve stayed in close touch with Dr. Coughlin over the years, but I just realized that I don’t think we’ve ever performed together. That’s going to be a very special experience for me.”

Shafer said Coughlin was easily the primary force fostering his growth as a musician and clarinetist throughout high school.

“Most importantly he was the first person to really show me how seriously I had to take my practicing,” he said. “I will never forget when we had a heart-to-heart conversation and he explained everything I needed with attitude and commitment in order to succeed. It changed everything for me.”

After graduating high school in 2005, Shafer went to study as an undergraduate music performance major at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. After graduating from Eastman, Shafer spent four years as a fellow with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida, before landing his current job at the Colorado Symphony.

He kept in touch with Coughlin, and the two would often meet for a meal when Shafer returned to Maryland to visit family.

“We often end up having so much to talk about after a meal, we stand in the parking lot for a long time continuing to chat,” he said. “It’s so wonderful to stay connected with such a great teacher and human being. I’m very much looking forward to our performance together.”

Topics: Arts & Culture
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