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Samuel Sparrow, Clarinet and Eb Clarinet

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Are you a native Charlottean? 
I am not, but I am native to North Carolina - I’m from Durham!

What was your musical upbringing like?
My family was very encouraging of my siblings and me to try music. We all played piano and sang in choir. I started the clarinet in 5th grade band, and the rest in history!

What drew you to your instrument?
To be honest, I actually wanted to play the flute! Haha. But our band had too many as it was. After that I wanted to play percussion, but my parents said it was too loud. So I settled for the clarinet. I didn’t think band would be for more than a few years – I’m very glad to say I was wrong!

What are the challenges and opportunities unique to your instrument?

The clarinet has a very wide emotional range, and composers tend to highlight this. The clarinet gets everything from beautiful lyrical solos to quirky articulations and fast runs. We do it all!​A challenge specific to my other role in the orchestra, the E-flat clarinet, is intonation. I call it a glorified party favor. The fun part of E-flat clarinet is that you are always heard, and it gets a lot of fun solos in the orchestra.


How were you inspired to be a professional musician?

My middle and high school teacher (Jimmy Gilmore, retired principal clarinet of the North Carolina Symphony) really encouraged me. I also always had so much fun playing in high school orchestras and summer festivals. I never pictured myself doing anything else. From day one of high school, I always knew I wanted to be an orchestral musician.


Could you describe your job within the Symphony?

It’s always something new, and such a blast! Every week we perform different music, so it’s so much fun getting to play such diverse repertoire over the course of each season. Our actual work schedule also varies every week, which I personally love. We almost never work Mondays, and we often have afternoons off, so it’s great to be able to go to the grocery store or the gym when it’s empty.


What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened on stage?

Two things. On a serious note, I will always remember the applause of 9,000 audience members when I performed at the BBC Proms in London one summer. The audience had an energy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced since. On a funnier note, once (not in the CSO) the principal clarinet’s swab got stuck in her A clarinet, so she had to use my A clarinet and I had to transpose the rest of the program on my Bb clarinet (the job of second clarinet often comes with surprises!)


What music do you enjoy listening to, classical and otherwise?

In classical, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Brahms, Scriabin, Copland, Reich, and Prokofiev are my favorites. I also really love chamber music and film scores.Outside of classical, I love some top 40. Kesha is my homegirl (and I just saw her in Charlotte!). P!nk, Marina and the Diamonds, Smallpools, and COIN get worn out on my Spotify. Broadway, 90s/2000s, and jazz also end up on my Spotify playlists​.


What are some of your non-musical interests, or passions?

I love hiking, traveling (recently went to New Zealand!), exploring Charlotte’s breweries, ogling over other people’s pets, going to concerts classical and otherwise, and trying new foods.

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