Patience - Steve Cohen
Hi to all out there trying or playing Légère Reeds. My name is Steve Cohen and I have been playing on Légère's exclusively since.............1999. Hard to believe? Well it's true. I played in the New Orleans Symphony at the time and started there in 1975. I left the orchestra in 2004 after 30 years and went to teaching full-time. Previously I taught at Loyola University in New Orleans and then my last 14 years in New Orleans I taught also at LSU School of Music in Baton Rouge. That was a big commute and seemed pretty daunting I must say. Probably what made me end up leaving when the opportunity came to be on faculty at CCM (Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music). After a year I moved on to Northwestern University and I have now taught there for 12 years with many playing opportunities in the Chicago Symphony and many other venues. I also play and teach at the Brevard Music Center, every summer since 1979.
My reed history is probably like a lot of my age. I will tell you that as a Marcellus student we all played Morré reeds in the early 70’s. Eventually they got too expensive and I switched to Vandorens for a while and then spent a good 5 years making my own reeds from blanks. Playing in the orchestra every day and teaching too probably helped me seek other solutions since it was so very difficult to find adequate time to get good reeds.
I will tell you that my biggest piece of advice to any of you out there attempting to play on these reeds of various models is PATIENCE. As clarinetists we get pretty used to the feel and “we think” the sound of a cane reed. I can tell you that it took me a while to get used to the reeds but once I did there was simply no turning back. My impetus originally was my friend Eddie Daniels, who came to visit in New Orleans one October shortly after the reeds came on the scene at the 1998 ICA convention. He had about 6 or 7 he left with me and I really didn’t have any expectations at all. I tried to keep an open mind but it wasn’t until May that I felt confident enough to play one on an outdoor concert. Shortly after that concert I bought about 10 new boxes of Vandorens in preparation to play at the Oklahoma Symposium that June. Couldn’t find anything remotely as responsive as the Légère's I had apparently gotten used to, so I wrote Guy and asked for some more reeds to get ready for the recital. The rest, as they say, is history. From that point on I was hooked. I have played many different mouthpieces with the reeds and have played most of the models Guy has made over the years. I have been to Barrie to work with him and am always happy to have a chance to see what the latest thing is. Of course it all very much depends on the mouthpiece/reed combo and all don’t work as well as others. It also depends on the strength and the placement on the mouthpiece and it often takes me a little while to decide which model works best on the mouthpiece I’m using.
During my last visit to Barrie just this past May I discovered the European Signature model and one of my mouthpieces made for me by Ramon Wodkowski worked fantastically well with them. Each time it’s like a new experience in discovering all the wonderful musical things I am now able to do so much more comfortably and easily with the reeds.
I’m not one of those who needs to know all about the specifics of the reeds and how they’re made,etc. I’m still amused by those who ask me why I use them. Do I like the way they sound, etc? Good grief! Why on earth would I use them if I thought for one millisecond that I was sacrificing anything in what I wanted to sound like or play like- life is too short! It is simply a tool for me. My whole goal, especially as I get older, is to find ways to make playing easier so I can focus on the music more. These reeds have done just that for me and I encourage you all to try them with the aforementioned patience. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Having played on them now for about 17 years I think I know what to expect! Raise your expectations and sound and play better than you ever have before!