William (Bill) Blount was the first clarinet teacher I had when I arrived in New York City from Kiev, Ukraine, in 1977. I was introduced to him by my late brother, trombonist, Alex Kofman, who, a few years prior, was Bill's bandmate on Buddy Rich Big Band. Bill played Alto Sax, clarinet and flute in that legendary band.

Among the NYC's classical clarinet community, Bill was a "rock star":) -- known for his flashy technique and personality. 

As a teacher, surrogate older brother, and mentor -- Bill became a huge influence on me, as I began to discover America, and the world of classical clarinet, which I didn't know much about as a young clarinetist back in the USSR.

In the Summer of 1978, I had a privilege of studying with Bill's dad, John, Blount, formerly Principle Clarinetist with NBC Radio Orchestra in Chicago. That was my first trip outside of New York City. Blount family have adopted me, taking me into their home, and it meant the world to me! Ever since, I have a soft spot for Chicago in my heart, and I keep in touch with them still. 

Back in New York, as I used to walk up the stairs to Bill's apartment (his building has no elevator), I would often hear him practice. Between his regal tone, and "scary" speed, I often thought: why even bother? Would I ever sound that good?

Our lessons flew by like seconds. Bill always had his clarinet ready, often playing me a passage I had hard time with. We'd often play duets, or clarinet trios and quartets with his other students. We sight-read a lot of music, and had to keep up with Bill. We'd often swap parts, and were expected to play them as cleanly as Bill! All that kept everyone on their toes. Those were some carefree days for me, where among my top priorities in life were: not making any mistakes playing my weekly 3-4-5 Clarinet Etudes, or Studies, in addition to other solo, chamber music and orchestral repertoire that I'd prepare for each of my lessons. I wanted to playing them as fast and clean as Bill did.

After the lessons, we'd often hang out, and listen to some music, all kinds of stuff: clarinet, classical and Jazz recordings, Lenny Bruce comedy too:)! I'd often bring my "killer dish" of shredded carrots with mayonnaise and fresh garlic, and we'd grill mozzarella cheese over that and some good bread, with tomatoes on the side!

My lessons with Bill continued, even as I went on to attended Mannes College of Music, followed by Manhattan School of Music (I got my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees there). In those schoolds, I already had me some "name" teachers: John Marco, Leon Russianoff, Peter Simenauer (NY Philharmonic), Joe Allard (NBC under Arturo Toscanini). I had a full scholarship, and I was totally immersed into the world of clarinet! Some of my fellow clarient students at Manhattan School and other schools, also studied with Bill... It was almost a cult type of phenomenon, and chances are that our "official" teachers were not thrilled about all of us studying with Bill.... Politics, egos... Hey, it would have been hard for anyone to match Bill's passion for clarinet -- always with a clarinet ready to play, and thus back up his ideas! He was an active in demand player in New York...

Bill's devotion to clarinet was infectious, taking me away from my original goal -- playing my original Jazz compositions on saxophone! Eventually, I got back to persuing that original dream of mine, but those early days in New York, being around Bill, and the Classical World had a lasting impression on me...

Time permitting, I hope to add more recordings, photos and videos from my Bill Blount days, but for now, here is a quick bootleg video I shot:

Tuesday, July 26, 2004, 8 pm

The Washington Square Park
New York City

Artie Shaw
Concerto for clarinet and band

William Blount, clarinet

Felix Swing Band, featuring:


more information on that performance...

Direct Link to the above YouTube video, where you can see it in full screen


Google Search: William Blount Clarinet

New York Times Review

among former students:


Gregg Collins

Catherine Cahill

Albert Hunt

Gregg Wall

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