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It’s hard to believe Lisa’s Clarinet Shop has been part of the International Clarinet Association (ICA) for 42 of its 50 years history. This month was a record attendance year for the ICA as 1800 registered to come out to celebrate their milestone of turning 50 years old.

As a long-standing participant in the organization, I have to say I have mixed feelings, at 50, about its future purpose. With a long-standing focus on university/college educators and performance, it feels outdated and lacking in substantial value to building a more vibrant future for clarinetists to create sustainable paths in their music communities. It has essentially operated for 50 years as an amazing social club but offered little else to its members beyond its new focus on diversity and inclusion and health. While Lisa’s Clarinet Shop supports these valuable missions, we also strongly feel it needs to be accompanied with a long-term growth plan to create jobs and opportunities for all clarinetists.

We believe ICA has outgrown its existing format and needs to be reinvented. It should, as should all of the other instrument specific conferences, be moving towards becoming an organization that supports its members more substantially if it is raising an endowment.

Of course, the ICA is essentially a volunteer organization with few paid employees. This too is part of the challenge of becoming an ‘adult-grown-up’ organization. It also, like others, has a rotating board and very little long-term memory of things that have and have not worked most effectively because of the continuous turnover.

The ICA had a great opportunity, they missed, at this past conference to honor its vendors who have supported this organization faithfully-despite our needs being often overlooked and ignored repeatedly. It could have chosen to recognize those who have spent 5,10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and beyond years investing into it as part of its celebration of diversity and inclusion. But it chose not to.

As an innovative forward-thinking company, Lisa’s Clarinet Shop believes its time our woodwind instrument specific conferences- all of them- clarinet-flute- saxophone-double reeds- step into the 21st century and look at modern ways to motivate musicians to remain relevant. It’s a lot easier to embrace diversity and be inclusive when you have new opportunities that you are excited about that pay your bills.  And while clearly performance and education is at the core of an organization like this, its myopic focus on these topics don’t embrace the need to include the clarinet industry writ large by fully integrating it into its mission- which requires more than its consideration of it as its funding/sponsorship source.

While Lisa’s Clarinet Shop had a wonderful time visiting with new and old friends, and equally, thanks to record attendance, had an excellent show selling, there have been many years that the venue was not selected to support our needs, and did not, despite us all as a collective paying for the conference to exist.

I wish the ICA and other organizations like it, would consider creating co-president chairs where one leader comes from education and the other from industry. If we want music to flourish, we need to understand and address the economic underpinnings that fundamentally impact inclusivity and greater diversity to succeed, and stop providing lip service to our support or seeing a performer/educators/composer/artists contribution as more valuable or relevant.

While we appreciate how hard it is to run a conference, 50 years of the same old thing is enough. It’s time to do better for the health of the industry which is more than educators, performers, competitions, composers and performance venues. It clearly includes industry, jobs, opportunities and career equality- which is completely missing.