(photo: Mary Jungerman, left; Devon Park, right)
The Center for Musical Arts has a variety of talented teachers. In this interview with spoke with Mary Jungerman, who teaches clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, and Native American flute.
Center for Musical Arts: Good morning! I’m Erica Reid, I’m the Marketing Manager for the Center for Musical Arts, and I have the great job of interviewing the faculty of the Center to get to know them a little bit better. Today, I’m here with Mary Jungerman. How are you, Mary?
Mary Jungerman: I’m well, thank you.
Center: Mary, can you start us off and just tell us just generally, your history with the Center for Musical Arts?
Mary: Well, it goes back to the very beginning, actually. I was working — I’ve been a professional musician since I was basically (I think) in fourth grade, but I took a break and took some day jobs, and one of the day jobs I had was at the law school at CU on the staff. And I happened to meet a man there who was working — who was also a musician, and his wife was a musician, and they had been talking to Kathy [Kucsan] and Peggy [Bruns] about starting a music school.
And so we got into this conversation. I didn’t know him very well at all, and we were the first, I would say the three of us and my colleague from Laramie, a trumpet player, Janet Griffith, we were the first four faculty, I suspect, when the school opened.
Mary: And we were in a church kind of around, in Lafayette, around the corner from, a little bitty church, around the corner from where the school is now. And Janet would come down from Laramie and stay at my house and we’d go and teach, and then she’d drive back to Laramie. And she also played with the symphony and did a lot of other gigging. And so sometimes we gigged at the same time, had the same gigs, and sometimes not. But that’s, I don’t know if it’s true that there weren’t other faculty, but those were the only ones we saw or that I knew about at the beginning.
And I had met, I first met Kathy and Peggy over at CU. We just sat down and had a cup of coffee, and I said, “Well, what are you thinking about, this school?” And we kind of got to know each other a little bit and just, of course, I just fell in love with both of them.
Basically, when they started up, Janet and I started right away, teaching. I think I had three students and I think she had one or two, and it started there. And I don’t know how, the other two people were on the faculty for a short time, but we never taught at the same time and I didn’t see them again, and then they eventually moved on. And I’ve been with the school ever since!
Center: And we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the school this year. So you’ve been teaching just in this location for 25 years now? Is that true?
Mary: That’s true, the whole time. I, yeah, all the way through.
Center: Alright! And I understand, so you wear a lot of hats musically. You consider yourself first and foremost a clarinetist.
Center: And you also teach the bass clarinet…
Center: …And the saxophone! Can you tell me a bit about why those are your instruments and how you came to find the connection with your instrument?
Mary: Well, it’s kind of a funny story. Then I look back on it, in fourth grade, I grew up on the gulf coast of Texas where the band program is very, very strong because, or the woodwind program is very strong because of marching band, and football is such a big thing there. And so marching band is a big deal, and I happened to be in a school where the band program was exceptional, really, really good.
And we started in fourth grade and the night before, or sometime in the fall, when we first started at school, we came to the band room and there were all these
instruments laid out for us to choose what we wanted to play. And the cases were lying open there on the, on different shelves and so forth, and we could go around and see them all, and I was immediately attracted to the color of the wood.
Center: The color!
Mary: The color of the wood. The dark brown — well, an instrument, it’s dyed. The wood is actually brown. It’s an African hardwood, and it’s actually brown and it’s dyed black. And sometimes the dye doesn’t take on every bit of the wood and you can see a little bit of brown going through, and it was in a brown case, and I just fell in love with the color of it.
And my dad wanted me to play saxophone, but I didn’t like the brassy color of the saxophone. It was metal. And I picked the clarinet immediately, and now I play saxophone and love playing saxophone. But it was just the immediate, excuse me, the immediate color of the instrument and the wood.
So I just started in fourth grade, went all the way through, and then went in and got degrees up to my doctorate in clarinet performance and pedagogy. So it’s just been my life. It’s really been a very, very important part of my life.
I was lucky enough after my bachelor’s degree to get a Fulbright, and I went to Germany for a year and studied with Hans Deinzer and actually had, was able to have a lesson with Daniel Bonade who was a French teacher who studied, who taught — he was my teacher’s teacher at the University of Houston. He taught at Juilliard for many years and as a French emigre. And then he and his wife moved back to France and I went and studied, took a couple of lessons from him then. Absolutely life changing experiences to actually be in the same room with Daniel Bonade, let alone have a lesson or two from him.
And I noticed that he was checking up on my teacher in Houston. “Well, at least this is okay. Well, at least this is okay.” It was kind of funny, and he was just as interested in whether I could eat an artichoke as whether I could play music. He really wanted me to know how to eat an artichoke properly because there was just a little tiny village where he lived and everybody came to the same hotel for lunch and they had an artichoke, and I’d never seen an artichoke before, and I didn’t know. And he came over and he said, “Do you know how to eat this?” I said, “Well, no,” and he showed me and he was really interested that I know how to eat an artichoke. [laughs] The French, the French love of music and all of life. It was just amazing. So, you know? I really have been blessed.
Center: I had never thought of the way that — obviously football is huge in Texas. I hadn’t made the connection about how that might end up supporting band programs because of the need for marching bands in football.
I think that’s really a fascinating connection, and I think you’re the first person to tell me that you were first drawn to the instrument because of how it looked. Most stories are about those first, the first sound of hearing it. Do you remember how it felt when you first heard the clarinet?
Mary: I, well the main thing I remember is that once I got it, I took it home, and you weren’t supposed to put it together, and you weren’t supposed to really mess with it until you could go in and be shown how to do it, right? And there are wrong ways to put together a clarinet–
Center: [laughs] I’m sure there are!
Mary: But I, of course, carried it with me everywhere in my case. And I went out, I remember I sat on the curb outside, on the street, and opened the case and just looked at it, just looked at it.
I just, I loved, I love playing it. And my mom would always buy, if we’d be home sick or something, mom would go and get a record and play it. And so she would get classical records sometimes and play them. So I had heard some classical music, mostly the light classics that she liked and, but had never heard an orchestra live, or — I lived in a tiny little town an hour away from Houston, and bands were all we had.
So, that was my association with music, but I just loved, I loved everything about it from the very, very beginning.
Center: So I mentioned that you wear a lot of musical hats. You also teach and play Native American flute, which you have explained to me is played different from the flute we are used to seeing.
Center: Can you tell me a bit about that? What brought this instrument into your life? Why do you like playing it and how is it different than how we might think of a flute?
Mary: Well, I brought one, a couple to show you. This is the first flute. This is the first one I got, and it, you can see it’s inlaid with turquoise between the tone holes, and it has a little bird at the end and a bird here.
Mary: And the Native Americans call this the bird, this piece. I have another one that’s much more abstract, if you can see that bird, and the end is just straight.
But I got interested in it because we used to go to Santa Fe a lot when the kids were growing up and we’d hike down there. And I happened to go into — we would go into a gallery every now and then, and I went into a gallery and I saw a bunch of flutes on a wall. And this flute just leaped off the wall into my hands.
Center: It was the visual again! You saw it again. You knew it by sight.
Mary: Yeah, well, a lot. Yeah, a lot. And I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, and I remember we went and sat in a parking lot and I said, “Rick, should I, should I spend the money on this flute?” And we sat and talked about it, and Rick said, “Well, if you really, really want it, yeah, let’s do it.”
And Lois, my daughter, was in the backseat and she said, “Mom, will I have the money to go to college?” [laughs]
Center: Oh! [laughs]
Mary: And so I bought the flute, and I just, I fell in love with it, and I’ve played the flutes ever since. I have one flute that’s my “traveling flute” that I found in a shop when I was, we were driving to visit my daughter in college, and I bought that, and that’s my traveling flute. It’s more sturdy, I guess you’d say. I wouldn’t feel bad taking it outside. So I put it in my backpack when I hike and I take it with me and play it.
It’s traditionally a Native American instrument. They played it outdoors. They made their own flutes, and they, the traditions as I’ve understood it… First of all, the reason there’s a bird here is that they say that the birds taught them how to play the flute and helped to inspire their songs. So each person has their own song that is their heart song, like your poetry in a way.
And I just love that tradition, and traditions get embellished, but I think it’s a wonderful story, so I assume it’s true. [laughs] But I love playing the flutes and they’ve been a real part of my music making because I can take them anywhere, I can play them outside, and I have played them. I find that it’s very healing. The sound is healing.
Center: Is it possible to hear a few notes just to know what it sounds like?
Mary: Sure. [plays; hear it at 11:42 in the video]
Center: Thank you.
Mary: And the other one, the other one has a much deeper voice. These two are six hole flutes, but there are five hole flutes as well. There are a lot of — each maker has their own way. This one, I have a couple of flutes by this guy. His name is David Nighteagle, and he lives near the Four Corners. [plays; hear it at 12:21 in the video]
Center: Oh, how beautiful.
Mary: They’re lovely. They’re just lovely instruments.
Center: So let me ask you about your teaching philosophy, and I wonder, does it include this idea that everyone has their own song, their own heart song?
Mary: I think it does on a really basic level, in the sense that to me everyone should have music in their lives and everyone does in some way, I think, but when a student comes to me — I’ve had students that have somehow had other teachers that they couldn’t work with well or whatever. I take them where they are, and I don’t — I try to find music that will match their interests so that they will be excited to play the instrument, and I want them to fall in love.
I want them to fall in love with music making, with the instrument, with the fact that they can get better from wherever they start. And I always use duets. I use etudes, but that depends on the student. I really try to take them where they are and let them progress the way that works best for them because every person learns in a different way.
And I don’t assume that everybody’s going to love classical music. So, if they bring jazz or if they bring me — I love jazz — if they bring me just little tunes or whatever they’re playing in band, anything they bring in, we’ll work with, because the basics of playing an instrument is you’ve got to get the right fingerings, you’ve got to play in the right key. There’s some basics that you have to do, and those you can correct pretty much objectively.
But in order to get somebody to spend the time to get better, they have to fall in love with it. They have to get something themselves besides just being able to play their band piece. And I love working with the students. I love finding out about them, what motivates them, what their interests are, what kind of music they like, and whatever they bring in.
I recommend students buy certain books that I think are good, and then we just play… If they bring me things, band music, that’s always something they to have a deadline for. They have to learn it for a certain concert, so we always put that in.
And I try to be as flexible as I can because I want music to stay in their life forever. And I know that most of them aren’t going to play clarinet or sax or bass clarinet for the rest of their lives, but I want them to always want to listen to music and be part of music and go to concerts, or sing, or hum, or whatever, have music in their lives because it’s part of our soul, really, like poetry.
Center: I think that’s a good time for me to ask, I read that you take your flute to Boulder area hospitals. Can you tell me about that experience, and what does that mean to them and to you?
Mary: Well that began, my mother was visiting and she got sick and had to go into the hospital for a couple of days. And, actually she was in for about a week, and so I would go in and I would bring the flute and play the flutes for her. And I noticed I would turn around and there would be people standing in the door of her room.
One guy had these bottles that they have on, some sort of infusion that he was taking and he was hooked up to it, and he had a rack that he could push along and wheels, and he had wheeled it down the hall and was standing there with this conveyance listening to the flute!
And the people that worked there, the staff would say, “Oh, I’m so glad you came. This is such a stressful job, and it’s so nice to hear that music.” And I could tell they really were just relaxing into the sound of the flute. So, it’s been a — from playing for my mom I realized how healing that could be for people who were sick.
And so I started going in — for a while I was doing it pretty regularly, much less often now, especially with COVID. But it’s a healing sound. It’s just a beautiful healing sound, and people just tend to breathe better and relax, and I think one time out of all the times I came, someone came and requested that their family member found it disturbing to hear the sound. So that was the only time I’ve ever had any experience with it not helping people.
Mary: All the other times it’s just been, it heals me just to see that the flute is healing other people.
Center: Well, what a great way to share your gift. I’m so glad you get that opportunity, again, maybe less now with COVID, but what a great gift. Anyway, maybe an idea for many other musicians for ways to connect.
I want to ask you one more question about your experience. I understand you spent many years playing with the Colorado Music Festival, which some people might not understand that about a decade ago the Colorado Music Festival and the Center for Musical Arts merged and they are one organization. So I find it interesting you’ve been on both sides of that world. Can you tell me just a little bit about your experience with the Festival?
Mary: Oh, it was absolutely wonderful. It was, it was transcendental. How can I say it?
I began playing, my husband and I were out of town for a year, I taught at Northern Michigan University for one year as an adjunct, and then I, we moved back to Boulder and the first season had just ended the night before we got back to town. And a friend of mine, a colleague, was playing in the violin section for the orchestra and she said, “Oh, you’ve got to audition for this orchestra, it’s great.”
Well, I already knew Giora Bernstein because he was on the faculty at CU when I was working on my doctorate, and he actually was a coach. Because I love late 20th century music and 19th century music, the Romantic music, the very, very end — Schoenberg and so forth — and he would come and coach us when we’d play sometimes and listen to us and make comments because that was his culture specifically coming from Germany.
So he already knew me and he said, “Oh, you need to come and play in the orchestra. I’m going to start an orchestra.” Well I left that year, and so I started the second year, and I played for, I think I played about [edit: Mary later clarified that she played for 12 years]. I can’t remember. A long time.
And I met so many fabulous musicians from all over the world, and we became friends, and we went out to lunch together, and we had parties, and it was just the most amazing music making. Very, very high level of music making as you know, and it’s a great great thing that we have it here.
And the hall is beautiful. The hall is so resonant. It’s unusually resonant. So he picked that place because of the resonance and the way the orchestra, I mean, many, many times we would finish The Firebird, you mentioned Stravinsky earlier, and the sound would be ringing in my ears after we finished, which wasn’t so good for my hearing. [laughs] But it was, the sound, it was just, it was unbelievable. Unbelievable experience.
Center: This was my first summer getting to go to — Chautauqua Auditorium is the hall that you’re talking about — it’s in a historic building, an all wood venue, and it was my first year because of COVID getting to attend in person. And so, coming back after COVID and hearing live music for the first time, and hearing it in that room with that strange acoustic, just gorgeous feeling to it, just a feeling it gives you, it was really something to experience it there.
Mary: Back in the day, when it was brand new, the Festival was brand new, they hadn’t fixed it up at all. And pigeons roosted on the rafters, and every now and then I remember, one time we were taking our bows, we stood for our bows at the end of the concert. One of the violinists couldn’t sit down because a bird had let fly on her chair. [laughs] So we all sat down and here’s this violinist standing there, she couldn’t sit down in her chair. So it was pretty primitive at the beginning, but the sound was always just amazing.
Center: I heard a lot of magpies this summer. I don’t think they were in the building, they were just outside. But they were all chittering, and you’re used to — I’ve worked in a couple of other venues, you’re used to trying to close out all those kinds of sounds. But it’s just not possible in Chautauqua, and so that becomes part of the music, hearing the nature and the wind. And there was a thunderstorm that happened during one of the concerts that actually messed up a recording, it was so loud.
Center: But it became part of the experience of the concert, and it becomes something that you wouldn’t even give up. I mean, music doesn’t have to be this pristine thing on a pedestal. It can also sort of merge with our life in this way, and I think, I think in Chautauqua that becomes really clear.
Mary: Well, and when you think about the way the composers lived, Beethoven and Brahms, they were always wandering through the forest and they got their ideas a lot of the time. Mahler had his little composing house out in the, away from his house.
And nature was so integral to their conception of life and music and it comes out. There are birds, bird calls in the symphony and yeah. So it’s, I just think it was a stroke of genius to find that place and have it be available to make music.
Center: Well, it’s obvious to me, as with any of our faculty members, that music is the center of your life, and so much of it is wrapped up in that. But when you’re not involved with music, what else is filling your days, Mary?
Mary: Oh. Well, I love to hike. I love to be outside, and I love to draw and paint. I don’t do as much of that now. I want to get back to it. I think with COVID everything’s kind of gotten weird, but I love to paint and draw.
I love spending time with friends. Now we get together outside and have, sit and have a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or something outside when we can get together.
I love to travel, and I really enjoyed my year in Germany. I was able to go to France and travel to a lot of places in Europe, playing concerts and also just visiting other musician friends that I met at the school. I was at the Hochschule in Hanover, and that was also a very international music school there. So I got to meet a lot of people from other parts of Europe, especially Scandinavia. So I got to go to Scandinavia and hike around and camp.
Mary: And I was going to be making a recording in Stockholm right after we camped. And so I would put my clarinets under the pillows in the tent to keep them warm, and we’d go out and be out in the world during the day, hiking around, and looking down at the fjords and everything. And then, then I went into Stockholm and made my recording.
But it was just, it was just wonderful. My friend was a pianist at the school and we took her parents’ tent and all of their camping gear and her little VW and drove all around. And so I got to be out in a lot of Europe on that year, and that was just wonderful.
Center: Well Mary, I have a feeling this interview could go on for days. I’ve yet to meet a faculty member that I don’t want to talk to for six hours at a time. Everyone just has so many passions, so many interests, so many stories, so much experience, and I’m glad, I’m so lucky to hear about yours.
Is there anything else we haven’t covered that you think would be useful for someone who’s new to the school, or new to music, and is trying to decide what they want to — what instrument they want to choose, or how they want to study, or about the clarinet, about your teaching philosophy? Anything that you think they’d like to know that we haven’t talked about yet?
Mary: Oh, gosh. Well, I think I would say music is essential. It’s an essential part of our being, and everyone should try to just be as free as they can, whatever type of music.
When you hear it on the radio, what appeals to you? What do you like, what sounds? If you’re drawn to maybe do more with it, I’ve had a lot of students who have played one instrument and then they go to another instrument and then they come to me and then they might go to another instrument. But all along they’re — they’ve done studies, as I’m sure you know, about the fact that the brain has to form new synapses in order to play music, because it’s so difficult, such a complex thing to do. So their brain is being expanded, their heart is expanding.
I have one sister, sister and a brother, who are very musically inclined, and one sister who swears she’s tone deaf. She couldn’t hold, carry a tune when she was little, and she felt so out of it because all the rest of us could. But she taught herself how to do it. She got so frustrated that she taught herself how to do it. I don’t know how she did it. But she loves to sing, she loves music. She has music on all the time.
You don’t have to be a “professional.” You don’t have to be “good at it.” It still enriches your life. No matter how music comes into your life, whether you’re humming, or listening to, singing to the radio, whether you’re in tune or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s a heart thing.
It’s part of our existence as human beings. Every culture has its own music. If you remember the movie Zorba the Greek, that Greek music and he’s dancing on the beach to the music. It’s part of our DNA. So just do it. Do it however comes to you.
Center: Well, I can’t imagine a better way to end. I think that’s exactly the right message, and certainly at the heart of the Center for Musical Arts. No matter what instrument you come in teaching or who you’re studying with, just do it. Just come learn music at whatever level, at whatever age. So I’m glad to hear that reinforced here. Thank you again so much for the time you took with me today, Mary.