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In Their Own Words: Julianne Kirk Doyle & Raphael Sanders

editorial.notes: Last November, Morrie Backun and I visited the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam to work with the clarinet studios of Raphael Sanders and Julianne Kirk Doyle. During the seven-hour drive upstate from New York City, we wondered what we would encounter at the school renowned for its strong music education program. What we found astonished us: a clarinet studio led by two exceptional artist-educators with a singular goal of teaching and inspiring young musicians. No egos. No drama. In their own words, Raphael and Julianne discuss their recipe for managing a studio founded on respect, dedication, and love for the clarinet. — Chief Ed.

Joel Jaffe: What was it that drew you to the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam? What keeps you there, knowing your talents allow you to teach anywhere you want?

Raphael Sanders: Awesome students, colleagues, administration, and a terrific environment for teaching, performing, and growing in music.

Julianne Kirk Doyle: I had just completed my doctorate at Eastman and was teaching at Ball State on a one-year visiting contract when I saw the posting for the position at Crane. I was thrilled by the prospect of returning to New York State, as I had enjoyed my four years in Rochester during my graduate work. I also knew that Raphael was teaching there and had known his playing from hearing him at the Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium. 

Julianne, what is it about Raphael that makes him such an exceptional colleague and educator?

JKD: Raphael is the most supportive colleague you will find. He is open to learning and sharing knowledge. We support each other as a team and our students take that same approach. Our students are very close with each other, as if we’re one large studio instead of two. Raphael and I often exchange students when they’re preparing for barriers, recitals, or auditions to provide them with different perspectives. 

Raphael, what is about Julianne that makes her such an exceptional colleague and educator?

RF: Dr. Julianne Kirk Doyle is first and foremost a terrific person. She translates that well in her teaching and collaborations with faculty, students, and staff. She is a beautiful musician with unmatched flair and phrasing. Her teaching is world class, and she cares deeply about each one of our clarinet students.

The focus of Crane is predominantly educating and inspiring music education majors. What is different about teaching these students, as opposed to performance majors? How do you tailor your studio lessons and ensemble work to their pursuits?

RS: We strive to bring a world-class standard of teaching and clarinet playing to Crane. No matter a student’s major, they’re asked to give 100 percent. Anything less is unacceptable.

JKD: Crane considers excellence in performance to be the foundation on which teaching rests, so our education majors strive to achieve the same level of excellence as our performance majors. Many double-major in performance or pursue the performer’s certificate. We also have a fast-growing music business program. All of these students work to become the best they can be, and they encourage and inspire each other. Lessons are no different from major to major; we take the students from where they are when they enter as freshmen and take them to a level of playing that’s higher than they ever thought they were capable of.

Let’s talk ensembles: Crane has a plethora of performing ensembles. How do you help to prepare your students for performances? How do you interact and engage with the ensemble directors and performing groups to ensure your students get what they need out of the experience?

RS: We audition students for ensemble placement every semester. We monitor their progress in each ensemble they perform in. We ensure they are being placed in a manner that serves their needs and the needs of the ensemble. We also monitor the harmony clarinets and facilitate their excellence. We have a mentoring system that helps in each ensemble. We are also in constant communication with the conductors to be sure our students are productive members.

JKD: Crane has an ensemble-based enrolment. We have to staff the orchestra, wind ensemble, symphonic band, and concert band. This requires us to maintain about fifty majors, and we also have students major as bass clarinetists.

Once we assign students to ensembles, we work with the principals, helping them with sectional planning; have students bring difficult passages into lessons; assist the auxiliary players with those instruments; coach the orchestra clarinets when needed. 

We have excellent ensemble directors who plan a well-balanced variety of repertoire for all ensembles. We rotate the orchestra clarinets so our top upperclassmen receive experience both in the orchestra and as leaders in the wind ensemble. We check in with ensemble directors to make sure the clarinets are performing up to their expectations. Being married to our director of bands, I have an inside scoop to what is needed in ensembles.

Your innovative programming for clarinet choirs is known around the world. What is it about the Crane Clarinet Choir that keeps it ahead of all others?

RS: We select works that present a diverse palate of musical styles and challenges. Many have been specifically written for us. Seniors conduct on the concert and we also feature soloists. As I tell the group, “be aggressive musically, challenge yourself to be the best member of the choir you can be. Always prepare and be ready to succeed. But, most importantly, HAVE FUN.”

JKD: Raphael’s passion for clarinet choir is a driving force. The students have no idea what a great ensemble we have, they just work hard and play their best. They enjoy playing the repertoire and in the group. It shows! The students learn to listen, play in tune, and blend as an ensemble. It is a great opportunity to train ensemble skills and it carries over into the bands.

Having worked with you both, as well as with your students, I’ve seen that you’ve created an amazing culture of open, shared learning and camaraderie between your two studios. How was this culture developed and how do you maintain it?

We, ourselves, are learners. We thrive off each other and enjoy our daily collaborations and discussions. The students see that, and it permeates their own learning and collaborations. We lead by example. It’s the best and healthiest way to facilitate our nurturing culture.

Raphael and I set this example ourselves and the students follow. We work together and encourage our students to do the same. 

What advice do you have for young educators taking on their first job in academia and possibly sharing a studio with a colleague?

RS: Work as a team. Support each other. And most importantly, communicate constantly. Seek to improve. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

JKD: Be open minded, try new things, don’t be afraid to express your opinion or share your ideas. Believe in yourself, in your colleagues, and in your students. Never give up on a student. You saw their potential when they auditioned. Help them realize that potential. Help them connect the dots. Take chances in your playing and your teaching. You will only continue to grow as you teach more.


Julianne Kirk Doyle is Professor of Clarinet and Director of the Crane Youth Music Camp at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. She performs regularly with the Aria Reed Trio and Eastman Triana. Her primary teachers include Jon Manasse, David Etheridge, and Bradford Behn. Julianne Kirk Doyle is a Backun Artist and performs on MoBa clarinets and accessories.


Raphael P. Sanders, Jr., is Professor of Clarinet at the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam. Originally from Hawaii, he has performed with the USAF Band and with orchestras in San Francisco, Houston, New York, and Ottawa, and has taught at the college level in Texas and Nevada. In 1997, he established the I.C.A. Orchestral Audition Competition. He co- directs the Crane Clarinet Choir and performs in the Potsdam Woodwind Quintet, the Orchestra of Northern New York, and the Northern Symphonic Winds. Raphael P. Sanders, Jr. is a Backun Artist and performs on MoBa clarinets and accessories.

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