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WRTI is proud to highlight the accomplishments of young artists in our local communities. You can donate now to champion and support WRTI's education initiatives! Learn more about what inspires and motivates these musicians through the interviews in this series.

WRTI Young Artist Spotlight: Clarinetist and Conductor Sara Bock

Conductor and clarinetist Sara Bock
Joseph V. Labolito
Conductor and clarinetist Sara Bock

Sara Bock is a clarinetist and conductor pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Clarinet Performance at Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance in the studio of the world-renowned clarinetist Gi Lee.

A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Sara has soloed at the Strathmore Music Center, The National Presbyterian Church, and The National Arts Club. She has been recognized for her significant artistic development and impactful arts leadership, having been twice awarded the Certificate of Merit in Music Performance by the National Society for Arts and Letters, as well as receiving the 2023 Eberly Endowed Chair Award from the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras — recognizing her musicianship as Principal Clarinetist of the Philharmonic Orchestra in their 2022-2023 season.

Before her time at Temple, Sara studied under clarinetist Lori Fowser, Maestro Kristofer Sanz, and pianist Jeongseon Choi, all of whom helped shape her into the musician she is today.

10 Questions with Sara Bock:

1. What inspires you?

It’s more of a who inspires me — and that would be my grandparents. My grandparents inspired me to study music. During the pandemic, I spent most of my days playing my instrument. With nowhere to go and no one to perform with or for, I found myself a little lost as a musician. So, I made an audience of my own. Each week through the pandemic, I performed for my grandparents via Zoom. I would end each performance with my grandpa’s favorite: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. I can still remember the tears in his eyes when I played it for the first time. His joy brought me joy, and I was inspired to create more joy by pursuing music.

2. When did you start getting interested in conducting?

In my second year of high school, I was in the marching band under the leadership of a female drum major, which was incredibly inspiring. I loved how she conducted the group with such vigor and passion; I remember wanting to be just like her. I began conducting a lot more in my junior year of high school. In the summer of 2021, I was admitted into a summer musical theater direction workshop with Ted Sperling at NYU, conducting musicians from the Into the Woods revival on Broadway in New York City. After that experience, I knew I wanted to pursue conducting as an essential part of my career.

3. Do you have any hidden talents?

I’m not sure if this counts as a hidden talent, but I have a photographic memory! It definitely came in handy in high school when I forgot my band music on my stand at home!

4. How would you describe the role of the clarinet in an orchestra?

The role of the clarinet in an orchestra is a versatile one. The clarinets work closely with the bassoons, oboes, and flutes in an orchestra to create the woodwind section. The woodwind section can almost be considered a chamber ensemble, as we often are tasked with individual melodic lines and counterpoint to the string section. Within the wider orchestra, the clarinet can be responsible for solo lines and is often used in extremely quiet dynamics, as the clarinet has the unique ability to create sound out of nothing. One minute, we can be roaring through a solo, and the next, we can be softly creating chamber music within the woodwind section.

5. What was your dream job as a kid?

I’ve always loved space, and so for a while, I wanted to be an astrophysicist. Once I started playing clarinet and my love for music grew, I wanted to be both a musician and an astrophysicist. Then, I took calculus, and I no longer wanted to be an astrophysicist.

6. What was one thing about conducting that was unexpected when you began studying?

The most unexpected part of conducting has been the aspect of score studying. When you play in an ensemble, you just need to learn to play your part. Of course, it is important to have a sense of what the other instruments are doing, but at the end of the day, your responsibility as an instrumentalist is to play your part. As a conductor, you need to know what all of the instruments are doing all of the time. It is your job to know how to communicate the music of all the instruments rather than just one. This is where score studying comes into play. Score studying is the process of looking through a score and analyzing harmonic textures, the movement of the melody, the structure of the score, and working to understand the musical ideas that will bring the score to life. Without sufficient preparation of the score, stepping in front of an ensemble to conduct is extremely difficult.

Conductor and clarinetist Sara Bock
Joseph V. Labolito
Conductor and clarinetist Sara Bock

7. What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia?

My favorite part of Philadelphia (so far!) is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The connection between music and art is one that I love to explore and the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a perfect way to do so. Art and music have been used as a means of individual and collective expression throughout history. For example, did you know that Claude Monet was inspired by Claude Debussy and vice-versa? Or that Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre was directly influenced by Giacomo Borlone’s The Macabre Dance? Whenever I go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I, a classical musician, never fail to get inspired.

8. What type of ensembles do you enjoy playing in or conducting, and why?

I am a sucker for a good old wind band. Before starting at Temple University, I was the youngest member of the Capital Wind Symphony in Washington, D.C., an ensemble filled with military musicians and freelance artists. I loved the repertoire, and being in a large section taught me blending and balance skills. Also, the first ensemble I ever conducted was a wind band, so wind bands have a special place in my heart. However, my favorite ensemble to conduct is a musical theater pit. I find that being the bridge between two types of music is an extremely unique experience that you can’t find in other ensembles. Conducting a musical theater pit involves working with many kinds of music and constantly changing ensembles. One minute, I may conduct a jazz ensemble, and the next, a piano and string ballade. I love the versatility of conducting a musical pit. I look forward to being the music director of Temple’s student-run musical theater organization, By You, For You this spring in our production of Footloose.

9. What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Monet (World of Art) by James Rubin — a book that analyzes the work of Claude Monet. As I said earlier, I love exploring the connection between classical music and art! This book has every piece of art that Claude Monet produced, and the history behind it. It’s like walking into a Monet museum!

10. What was an experience with a teacher or peer that was impactful to you in your career? 

The first thing that came to my mind was when one of my high school band directors, Mrs. Carolyn Herman, [who] asked me to music direct You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in my senior year of high school. She told me that I was going to be the first student to music direct a mainstage musical in almost 20 years. I was honored to be asked to music direct by Mrs. Herman, as she was a teacher who inspired me daily. Knowing that she had confidence in me and my abilities was incredibly impactful, as it inspired me to move forward with music directing the show — an experience that I would not trade for the world.

Sara's Recommended Playlist:

Lydia Veilleux has worked in music education and arts administration for the past 20 years, and has taught students of all ages in various community settings. As WRTI's Education & Outreach Manager, she oversees educational partnerships, sponsorships, events, and coverage.