Connecticut College clarinet instructor Kelli O‘Connor poses for a photo with Jamie Bernstein and Kevin Rhodes of the Springfield Symphony.
Connecticut College clarinet instructor Kelli O‘Connor with Jamie Bernstein and Kevin Rhodes of the Springfield Symphony.

I’m afforded plenty of opportunities to hear my clarinet professor, Kelli O’Connor, perform at Connecticut College. Most recently, she played in two pieces in the music department’s February faculty recital, including Mozart’s well-known “Kegelstatt” Trio, and last December she was a featured soloist with the orchestra’s string section during our fall concert.

However, I’ve also had many opportunities to hear her play off-campus, and get a sense of the wide variety of gigs she has as a professional clarinetist. I often attend Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra concerts at the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London, with whom professor O’Connor is principal clarinetist. I’ve also twice had the opportunity to see her perform outside New London: once during the fall of my junior year when I went to Boston to hear her and Chameleon Arts Ensemble perform Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” in its original 13 instrument setting, and a couple weeks ago when I traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, to hear her perform Leonard Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata at a talk given by Jamie Bernstein, the composer’s daughter.

Being able to occasionally attend professor O’Connor’s gigs outside of Connecticut College is the closest experience I’ve had to job shadowing a professional musician. I’m able to gain greater appreciation for how performances can go well or poorly. For example, one performance where she was accompanied by an out of tune piano gave me insight into the sort of challenges one has to sometimes adjust to on the fly. It’s also given me time to get to know her better and discuss career paths as I consider continuing to pursue a career in music and/or theater after college. As I prepare to graduate, it’s these sorts of interactions with members of our community that I feel greatly prepare me for navigating the “real world.”