David H. Thomas has been an orchestral clarinetist for 25 years. Additionally, he is also an experienced soloist, with numerous critically acclaimed performances.

Starting his performing career directly after undergraduate studies, he won a position with the Greensboro Symphony in 1982. The next year he was offered the principal position of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra in Washington, DC. The grueling demands of opera and ballet repertoire honed his skills as a versatile player. In 1989, he won the principal clarinet position of the Columbus Symphony in Ohio.

A noted orchestra among several giants in Ohio, the Columbus Symphony had its Carnegie Hall debut in 2001. The review was glowing.

For the past 16 years David has impressed audiences with his music making, both as orchestral and solo performer. Columbus Dispatch chief critic Barbara Zuck offered these comments in a 1994 review of Thomas' rendition of Rossini's Introduction, Theme and Variations:

"Thomas, ...has steadily grown in stature and confidence. Even so, I'm not sure anyone was prepared for the absolutely bravura display of virtuosity Thomas delivered last night. Who would have expected him to emerge as the clarinet equivalent of Cecilia Bartoli? I don't recall a bigger or better reception for any artist, anywhere."

From an April 30, 2005 review of the CSO in a concert of opera overtures and tenor arias, Zuck noted: "(Thomas) had as many great lines as the singer, and his brilliant performances once again reminded us how his playing has spoiled us over the years."

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Imagine Playing

When I was learning the Mozart Clarinet Concerto for a performance years ago, I practiced as I jogged. I heard and felt the piece in my body phrase by phrase, back-wards from the end to the beginning. This practice also helped me memorize it. While my body flowed and loosened during jogging, the beautiful music played through me. Without the instrument, I was able to idealize how I wanted it to sound when I played.

If you don't have the sound and the music in your ear, your body won't know how to get there, what to do. No teacher can teach a student who doesn't hear what they want to sound like, who they want to sound like. No teacher can teach a student to love a phrase of music beautifully played by a great musician.

If you want to become a musician, listen to recordings. Fall in love with them, live them, breathe them. Go to concerts and find what you love about the music and the performance. Yearn for the satisfaction of hearing music played beautifully. Let your ear sing and play with the music as you hear it. Feel it in your body as you enjoy it.

Listen carefully. Listen critically. Watch closely, if it's live. By critically I don't mean finding mistakes. I mean hearing detail. How does rhythm emphasize the shape of a phrase? How is pitch used? How is vibrato used? How does the body express the music? How is tone used?

Imagine these things with your body. Imagine being that musician as they play. Become them in your mind.

When practicing, let go of your judgments. Keep the ideal in your ear. Let your body flow toward that ideal. Relax into that flow.

Now you are ready for a lesson. Now a teacher can help you learn.

Even for professionals, hearing before playing is essential.