Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Stefanie Gardner

December 5, 2023 | By John Fleming

Clarinet, Residential Faculty
Glendale Community College, Arizona

Stefanie Gardner is an activist for the clarinet and especially her instrument, the bass clarinet. “All my degrees are in soprano B-flat clarinet, but I am primarily a bass clarinetist,” says Gardner, who has a doctorate in clarinet performance from Arizona State University. She teaches clarinet, music theory, and chamber music at Glendale Community College, a two-year school in the Phoenix metro area.

Gardner is bass clarinetist for the Paradise Winds quintet and the Égide Duo (with her husband and fellow clarinetist, Joshua Gardner), which tour widely and have commissioned many works that feature the instrument; she frequently gives solo performances and master classes on bass clarinet; and she is a consultant for instrument-maker Henri Selmer Paris, traveling to France yearly to test prototypes and provide feedback. 

“The bass clarinet used to be kind of an afterthought in the clarinet family, but now it’s coming into its own,” Gardner says. “The instrument is so versatile,” she says, pointing out its merits as a solo, chamber-music, orchestral, or jazz instrument. “You even hear it in rock bands. At school I have a low-clarinet choir—it’s called Team Lo-Blow—and it has such a unique, big sound, like an organ.”

In January, Gardner was artistic director and host of the first-ever Low Clarinet Festival for the International Clarinet Association, drawing about 275 enthusiasts from around the world to the four-day event on the GCC campus. She is an influential member of ICA, chairing several committees, including the New Music Committee, working to broaden the repertoire. Now she is chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access Committee.

“Unfortunately, the clarinet community has been very late to diversity, especially in Europe,” Gardner says, citing numerous clarinet events lacking in representation of women and marginalized populations. She has been outspoken in asking organizers, “Where are the women?” via the social media hashtag #womenplayclarinettoo. “It has been a passion of mine to call out when I see something is wrong.”




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