Winds of opportunity

Manasse is grateful for everything his career has afforded him

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Clarinetist Jon Manasse either walks or flies to work.

"I usually tell people I live in very close proximity to Lincoln Center (for the Performing Arts) and Carnegie Hall," Manasse said. "I walk to my concerts at Lincoln and Carnegie and go to places like Steamboat Springs, Japan and Europe by plane."

¤ Chamber Music, Gershwin to Gypsy with clarinetist Jon Manasse ¤ 8 p.m. Saturday ¤ Strings in the Mountains Music Festival Park, 900 Strings Road ¤ $24, $5 for juniors ¤ 879-5056

Manasse gives his frequent flier mileage to his children so they can accompany him to his performances.

His 8-year-old son, Alec, also plays the clarinet and his 10-year-old daughter, Madeleine, plays the violin. His wife, Pam, is a cellist. Manasse's children found a passion for playing musical instruments on their own.

"I don't believe anyone should feel pressure. As cliche as it sounds, it is something that chooses you and is an enormous discipline," Manasse said. "Like athletes, we have to stay in shape. Unlike athletes, it's for the rest of our lives. And there must be something wrong with your head to rigorously keep that discipline all along."

Manasse is the principal clarinetist of the American Ballet Theater Orchestra and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. He teaches at the Eastman School of Music.

"It's a crazy thing to blow into a wooden tube and make a living and enjoy it. It's nuts," he said. "I look at it as I'm just blessed to be able to do so many things. If anything was missing, I'd feel a little void somewhere."

One thing Manasse misses out on is being able to watch the ballet when he plays in the orchestra pit for the American Ballet Theater Orchestra.

"The only time I get to watch the ballet is when there is not a clarinet in it," he said. "It's always frustrating because of the great music that I get to play, but I wonder what is going on, on stage when the audience is going berserk. I never get to see it, but I enjoy the music."

Manasse thinks people have a misconception about musicians who play classical music.

"People think that because you are in classical music, that's all you do and all you like," he said. "And that you are stuffy and stiff."

Manasse listens to a wide variety of music besides classical music, including pop, jazz and bluegrass. He notices that there is a lot of crossover between the genres in contemporary music.

"It's really a means of expression. There are a broad range of feelings in the world," he said. "Let's face it -- you should have as large a vocabulary as possible to be a musician."

Manasse has had the opportunity in his career to travel extensively and play with a wide variety of musicians, but he is excited about his Saturday night performance at Strings in the Mountains.

"I'm always excited to play with musicians here," he said. "If you have a bad time here, then there's something wrong with you."

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