Music News & Reviews

Arts Preview: Cellist and teacher Clyde Beavers

As cellist Clyde Beavers lists all of the jobs he has — private teacher, adjunct professor, member of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra — his eyes search the ceiling and out the window for other things.

Trio member. Camp organizer.

The over-arching occupation is musician. But for Beavers, like many other instrumentalists in Lexington and Central Kentucky, that involves a lot of subcategories, including teacher, performer and accountant. Yes, one of the joys of being self-employed is doing your own taxes.

Beavers, 52, a North Carolina native who studied at The Juilliard School and the University of Kentucky, says wearing so many hats is the product of both necessity and passion.

"For my first two or three years here, I didn't have one job, so I'd say my bread and butter would be private teaching," Beavers says. "It's really nice to be in the Philharmonic."

But playing in the Philharmonic is not a full-time job. The orchestra does not employ any musicians full-time as instrumentalists — some perform other duties for the orchestra — so all of the musicians are paid per performance or rehearsal. Some hold down jobs in completely different fields, others are professors and instructors at UK and other colleges, and then there are players like Beavers, who piece together incomes from numerous sources.

Beavers accepts that life without reservation.

"You get to meet exciting people," he says. "As a private teacher, you're your own boss. You can touch people's lives through music. You feel passion for others, and music is love. It's an exciting field.

"It doesn't feel like work. You love it and it's a lot of fun. There is a lot of work to play publicly. There's a joy in accomplishing something, in learning a piece, and you discovered it."

Considering the hours Beavers keeps, it would seem bizarre if he didn't love it. He describes a schedule in which he can sometimes leave a Philharmonic rehearsal at 10 p.m., meet a student at 10:15 for a lesson, and after that, work into the wee hours practicing or taking care of bookkeeping chores. Then he could have a student at 6 a.m. the next day.

"I've had students whose parents wanted them to take a lesson before school," he says. "I had one who wanted to take a lesson at 5 a.m., and I had to say no. Sometimes you have students who want to take a lesson on Christmas Day.

"Some kids come in and want to make music. Some want to discover. There are all different types of students."

Beavers says his teaching, far from being a distraction, enhances his performing.

"If I want to learn a new piece, I usually throw it on one of my students," he says. "Sometimes when you're performing, you don't hear yourself. You have to train your ear to go out into the audience. You have a guinea pig in front of you and you can say, 'Try this, try this, try this fingering, try this bowing,' and you hear what an audience might hear."

And the student gets to try a number of approaches.

Does Beavers tell particularly gifted and enthusiastic students what their lives might be like if they become professional musicians?

He says a lot of his students play in the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras, and that gives them insight into what the music world is like.

"A lot of them are aware," he says. "The biggest thing is to get involved. At our music camp, Festival of Strings, we try to get the professors from the public universities around here, and we have master classes. They get a broad range of teaching styles.

"When you love music, there's always a way. A lot of people ask, 'Why am I doing this?' My teacher in New York said, 'If music's all you can do, that's what you should do.'"

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