A Spotlight on Dr. Christopher Ayer

Marina McLerran

Editor, McLerran Journal

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX

 

A native of Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada, Dr. Christopher Ayer is currently the Professor of Clarinet at Stephen F. Austin State University and is an active member of the Stone Fort Wind Quintet, a regularly-performing chamber wind ensemble comprised of SFASU faculty. Dr. Ayer has served as a clinician for multiple organizations including the International Clarinet Association, Midwest International Band and Orchestra Conference, the Texas Bandmasters Association, and the Texas Music Educators Association.

The son of an environmental chemist, Dr. Ayer had always shown a particular interest for the sciences (especially physics) in school. It was not until his senior year of high school that he decided to study music as a career. Dr. Ayer had always enjoyed listening to classical music and practicing his clarinet after school and found excitement in the prospect of making something of himself in the fields of music and education. He felt that no other career could provide the spiritual nourishment or adrenaline that is associated with a lifetime on the stage.

Dr. Ayer received his Bachelor of Music Education in 1991 from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, his Master’s in Clarinet Performance two years later from the New England Conservatory of Music, and his Doctorate in Clarinet Performance in 1997 from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. His teachers included two particularly famous clarinetists; Thomas Martin, currently the Associate Principal Clarinetist with the Boston Symphony, and Ronald de Kant, former Principal Clarinetist of the Vancouver Symphony. Through his studies, Dr. Ayer met his wife, Dr. Kae Hosoda-Ayer, and has had the opportunity to live in Canada, the United States, and Japan. Dr. Ayer explained that any international study is valuable since it makes one realize they are “only a small part of a much larger ecosystem.” Becoming engulfed in other cultures and languages makes one more aware (and understanding) of other perspectives and adds something to one’s musical performances.

Before SFASU, Dr. Ayer was the Clarinet Professor and Orchestra Director at Eastern New Mexico University. Dr. Ayer chose to work at SFASU because of it's similarity in size and spirit to Acadia University, where he completed his undergraduate work. Because of their small class sizes, both universities provide an intimate and customizable learning experience. He enjoys working with the SFASU faculty, who are constantly striving to perfect their craft rather than settling into a routine. Dr. Ayer also appreciated the emphasis on Music Education at SFASU and the advanced level of playing ability in the wind ensemble. He strongly believes that Music Education majors should take every opportunity to improve on their instruments; “Getting a degree in education shouldn’t mean that there is a ceiling on your performance career.”

In my time as Dr. Ayer’s student at SFASU, I always appreciated his attention to detail and the high academic and moral standard he held us to. Dr. Ayer was serious but approachable and made studying the clarinet enjoyable. One moment in particular sticks in my mind from my very first private lesson with him in the fall of 2011. I entered the office with an especially squeaky reed (which was, of course, exacerbated by my nervousness) and kept stopping to apologize. Dr. Ayer grabbed his clarinet and made a quick chirping sound. “There, now we’ve both cracked a note. Now play the solo.” His matter-of-fact demeanor and highbrow humor were something to look forward to every week and I genuinely felt that he cared about the personal success of his students.

In the future, Dr. Ayer would like to continue to improve as both a clarinetist and an educator. He stated that he “would hate to think he is done” growing at the age of only forty-eight. To young educators, Dr. Ayer advises remembering the experiences that encouraged us to enter the field in the first place. “Whatever you do, make it about the music.” While contests and fundamentals are necessary, he warns against allowing the job to become routine or passion-less. “A computer can be programmed to play all of the right notes, but it doesn't necessarily constitute music.” Dr. Ayer describes music as an audible expression of the human soul which must be passed on to younger generations or be lost to time. When it is eventually his time to step away from the teaching world, he hopes to find a meaningful way to give back to the community.

 

Book Suggestions from Dr. Ayer:

“The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”

By Malcolm Gladwell

Purchase here:

https://www.amazon.com/Tipping-Point-Little-Things-Difference/dp/0316346624

 

“Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else”

By Geoff Colvin

Purchase here:

https://www.amazon.com/Talent-Overrated-Separates-World-ClassPerformers/dp/1591842948  

 

Recording Suggestions from Dr. Ayer:

 

“Preludes and Fugues Op.87” Shostakovich

Performed by Alexander Melnikov, piano

Purchase here:                  

https://www.amazon.com/Shostakovich-Preludes-Fugues-Melnikov/dp/B00354XVKO

 

“Octet” Schubert

Performed by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players

Purchase here:

http://bostonsymphonychamberplayers.org/schubert-octet-may-28-1992/

 

Image source for article: http://www.music.sfasu.edu