Robert plays on;
*Lyrique Libertas II
*Lyrique Libertas II A Clarinet
*Lyrique 576bc Bb Clarinet
*Lyrique 570C C Clarinet
Bob Straka resides in Garland, TX and is retired after 37 years of teaching band across two states. Bob graduated from West Virginia University and the Yale University School of Music where he received a Masters degree in clarinet performance.
At Yale, Bob studied clarinet with Keith Wilson, and had the good fortune to perform master classes with Aaron Copland and Benny Goodman. He also studied with Kalmen Opperman and David Weber in New York. After graduation, Bob performed regularly with the Wallingford Symphony, Meridan Symphony, the CT Symphonic Band, and numerous other groupsin CT.
While since moving to TX in 1995, Bob has performed with the Houston Symphonic Band, The Dallas Winds, and the Lone Star Wind Orchestra. He has taught in the Aldine, Richardson, Allen, and Plano ISD school districts. Since retiring, Bob is an active band clinician, and regularly performs with the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra, the Plano Community Band, and the Toccare Winds.
Bob has been performing on the Lyrique clarinets for nearly a decade and successfully used them with his middle school clarinet students in Plano for nearly five years. Bob is currently a highly satisfied owner of the Libertas II Bb and Lyrique A clarinets.
Please feel free to contact him at: Apollobnd1@aol.com if you have questions regarding them.
Review of the Libertas II Bb and A clarinets
I wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying the new Libertas II B flat and Lyrique A clarinets! Trying to ‘describe’ the playing experience of these clarinets to others is a bit like trying to explain what it feels like skydiving to someone that has never done so, but here goes…
Those accustomed to wood clarinets might be surprised the first time playing the Libertas Bb and new A clarinet. However, once you allow yourself to discover the airstream resistance point of this synthetic material, these clarinets will ring with as much overtone resonance and quick response as any other on the market, and with a lot less effort! The evenness when playing from the throat register into the long-pipe clarion notes and from the upper clarion register into the altissimo register is uncanny. The altissimo technical response is every bit as agile as playing in the mid clarion register. This is especially apparent in passages that involve both registers. The 12ths are really well in tune naturally without having to finesse your way through the scale. The Clarinets hold the tone together at any dynamic whether playing a liquid legato passage or a crisp articulated one. The two clarinets also match each other really well in response. The new silver key-work is the same quality as other professional clarinets and for far less $$$.
For those considering one or more of Tom’s clarinets, I could go on with details, but it is nothing more than propaganda at this point. Full disclosure; I have been playing the Lyrique 576 Bb and C clarinets on and off for nearly a decade. The 576 plays more like an R13 resistance (with the many good synthetic qualities), while the new Libertas II Bb and Lyrique A are modeled after the Opus clarinet acoustics. The clarinets are remarkably consistent and are never affected by weather changes. The Lyrique 576 can be used by professionals, but are also an excellent choice for students. I used them with my band students for a number of years.
The first time you play on a Ridenour clarinet, you may be uncomfortable with the initial experience because you are trying to manipulate it with the same adjustments that your current wood clarinet requires. Do not be fooled into thinking that it is the new clarinet. Once you give yourself enough time to forget old habitual intonation and response adjustments, you will be astonished at how effortless playing becomes, regardless of your experience level!
Plus, the price for such quality cannot be beat! I’ve known Tom for decades, and his entire business model has always been to try to get the best quality affordable instruments on the market that he can. It’s been exciting to see the Ridenour product line continue to evolve to such a high level. I’m loving the experience!
-Bob Straka, Masters in Clarinet Performance, Yale School of Music
Review of Lyrique 576bc
For as long as I’ve known Tom, I have admired his logical and steadfast dedication to make playing the clarinet simple and affordable to everyone. Still, I was skeptical when he tasked me with his thirty day Lyrique challenge this past summer. How could a hard-rubber clarinet possibly compete with my R13, especially one costing less than the basic E11 model? I have played R13’s for thirty-eight years and felt that I owned a gem. In retrospect, I have tried and rejected far more Buffets for myself as well as my students than I ever recommended. While I’m sure there are some really great ones still available, they are difficult to come across or be able to afford for all but the greatest artists.
After the initial three-four days of getting used to the feel of the 576, I began to realize just how much less effort it took to make great music on it. The Lyrique allows me to shape beautiful phrases with accurate intonation. Denying my biggest doubt, I am able to make the instrument sing with the same colorful resonance as my R13. Technical passages are much easier to perform confidently since every note responds the same from the altissimo through the chalumeau registers. The key action feels refined overall. My singular concern in this area is a rather short and steep throat A key which takes some getting used to and makes rolling a challenge. Also, I did have to apply Elmer’s glue to reattach the felt to the inside of the case.
When I did retry my R13 after playing for a full month on the Lyrique, it felt blown out and somewhat unwieldy. I suddenly realized how much effort I had been expending to finesse the intonation and response idiosyncrasies of my beloved Buffet.
As an educator, this has been an even more important revelation. My middle school students most likely have no idea how to correctly affect the numerous subtle response and intonation deficiencies of their mostly intermediate level instruments! The Lyrique clarinet will lift that responsibility from them and allow my students to perform to their best ability. I plan to recommend and use the 576 for all of my clarinet students beginning this spring, and look forward to enjoying the musical results in the future. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and craft again, Tom!
-Bob Straka, Masters in Clarinet Performance, Yale School of Music