We had the good fortune of connecting with Claire Grellier and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Claire, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Passion is the most important factor behind any success.
I started the clarinet at the age of 8 at the Music Conservatory in Nice, France. I do not remember why I chose the clarinet but my parents told me that I chose the clarinet after attending an orchestra concert.
As a kid, I spent my summers playing the clarinet and particularly music from play-along books. My favorite one was a Brazilian music play along book that I would proudly play on my portable CD player in my childhood bedroom for hours.
During my years at the Conservatory, the love for music and the clarinet never went away. Even during my teenage years, I never even imagined stopping my clarinet studies. It brought me too much joy.
By the time I finished high school, I studied business while continuing my advanced studies. However, my desire to continue improving as a clarinetist was stronger than anything else, and I left France for the United States to start my University studies in Music in California.
In 2020, 9 years of American university studies later, I received my Doctorate of Music Arts in Clarinet Performance from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
For many people, studying 9 years is horrifying, but I loved every moment of it. I was studying what I love and to be honest if I could have studied longer I probably would have!
At the end of the day, success came easily for me because I love what I do. Today, when I teach clarinet, record for a project, or prepare for concerts, I often completely forget that what I do is actually called “work.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Being trained as classical musician has not stopped me from launching my own creative ventures!
At the end of 2015, with three other clarinetists, I formed Four Play Clarinet, an ensemble that “seeks to combine virtuosic classical training with a passion for pop and electronic music.” Today, as Buffet Crampon USA artists, Four Play Clarinet has over 4 million views and 30k subscribers on YouTube. The quartet started playing popular and electronic music, not only because we liked those styles of music, but also for educational purposes. Indeed, I had noticed that most people outside of the music world did not have a general knowledge of the clarinet. Therefore, by connecting to my audience through common grounds (popular and electronic music), I could educate people about instruments considered “classical instrument ” or “band instrument” such as the clarinet. As an educator, I find purpose in connecting with younger students through accessible platforms and use popular music to keep them interested in the clarinet.
Last month, I have launched a business of neck straps for clarinet and saxophone players. After suffering from pain in my right wrist, I started wearing a clarinet neck strap in 2014. In a couple of weeks, the pain went away and never came back. However, at the time, the image of the neck strap in the classical world was not great and I felt pretty insecure wearing one. Therefore, in 2015, while shooting the first video of Four Play Clarinet, I chose to wear my neck strap to inspire the younger generation to wear one without shame. In the last few years, I have seen more and more clarinetists wearing one but no company was offering a neck strap that was both comfortable and beautiful. I knew if I wanted to have both, I needed to create a line of neck straps myself. Each neck strap can be worn with pride as a piece of art, a fashion statement just like a necklace. Four different models are available on my website and etsy store at: www.clairegrelliermusic.com
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Los Angeles is one of my favorite cities, and I feel grateful every day to be living here. Not only it is a big city which attracts the best artists and exhibitions, but its diversity in landscapes and people is incomparable.
There are so many great areas to see in Los Angeles but born and raised in France, one of my favorite thing to do is probably to go on long walks. Also, it is sunny all year long around here, so everyday is a good day to do it! Usually, I walk by myself listening to music, and on occasion I go with a friend and talk about plants, architecture, and… big dreams.
If you are on the East Side (where I live), you should walk around the Silverlake Reservoir or the Echo Park Lake. You can also hike the Griffith Observatory, walk the beautiful Larchmont Village neighborhood, or explore the Arts District. If you are in the latter, go grab a beer at the Arts District Brewery and play some old arcade games!
If you are on the West Side, walk on Abbot Kinney boulevard and then towards the beach. At the beach, I usually end my walk, rent a bike, and ride from Venice to the beginning of Malibu and back. And if you can do that in the evening, do yourself a favor and watch the sunset.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have so many people to thank for my success today.
First and foremost, without the unconditional love and support of my family I would not be playing clarinet today. My parents, even though not in the music field, offered me the tools to become the musician I am. They enrolled me in the Conservatory of Music and provided me with a clarinet, extensive numbers of reed boxes, and music scores! My mother also drove me to the Music Conservatory several times a week from age 8 to 18 and followed my music studies closely up until my doctoral thesis. I feel very fortunate to have parents who never doubted my decision to make music my life.
I also want to thank my clarinet professors who have made my love for the instrument even greater. I want to thank Catherine Muzeau and Michel Lethiec in France and to Hakan Rosengren, Boris Allakverdyan, and Dr. Margaret Donaghue in the United States. They gave me the tools to become a better clarinetist and musician. I have learned so much from them and I am forever grateful for all these years of musical growth.
Finally, I am thankful for my friends and extended clarinet family. The members of my groups Four Play Clarinet and KHAOS Wind Quintet for the wonderful music making, my extended clarinet family that I get to see at Music Conferences, and my close friends from my university studies: Gaby, Rani, Dwayne, and Margaret.