Second Clarinet Michele Verheul has been a core musician with the HPO for 17 years. This week, we caught up with Michele to ask a few questions about her career in music and her history with the HPO.

What’s your earliest musical memory?
Singing “raindrops keep falling on my head” in a restaurant when I was 6. I can’t believe I had the courage to do such a thing!

Why did you choose to take up the clarinet and what can you tell us about your instrument?
I loved the sound of the clarinet. It is a relatively new instrument in the orchestra compared to the other woodwind instruments. It really came into its own with Mozart, who loved the clarinet.

When did you decide that you wanted to become a professional musician?
In high school, I was in an inspiring music program. I had no concrete idea of how much work it would actually be but very much wanted music to continue to be a significant part of my life.

Do you play any other instruments?
I play bass clarinet and sometimes flute and sax.

Do you remember your first performance with the HPO?
Yes, it was La Traviata led by conductor Daniel Lipton in 1999. This wasn’t my first time performing with an orchestra however it was my first time playing a full-length opera. I was competing for this job with another finalist so I really needed to be prepared. Initially, I was quite nervous but gradually calmed down with every performance. It’s hard to believe I’ve been playing with the HPO for 17 years!

After all this time, do you still feel nervous before a performance?
Preparation and practice are still a big part of playing professionally. This doesn’t really change over time except that you get better at it and work more efficiently. Over the years a basic trust in yourself develops making nerves less of an issue- you stop over- thinking and just get to work.  I enjoyed working with Daniel Lipton during my early years with the HPO. His knowledge was impressive and he was a good leader. Tough but also supportive. It was nice to have him back as a guest last season, all these years later.

Who would you say are your artistic influences?
Sarah Vaughan and Yo-Yo Ma.

I grew up listening to a lot of jazz vocalists, Sarah was one of my favourites. I still love the way she fills up the musical space. I love her sound, her intensity and her skill. I appreciate the way Yo-Yo Ma continues to grow and experiment as a musician. From his wonderful recordings of the Bach cello suites to his Silk Road recordings were he collaborates with non-classical musicians, he exudes joy when he plays and I think that’s special in such a “serious” profession. Also, as a bass clarinetist, I am inspired by the sound of the cello and work on emulating this tone.

Fill in the blank: Music makes me feel ______.
Connected to the indescribable part of being human

And last but not least, what are you most looking forward to in the 16-17 Season?
I’m really looking forward to the last concert of the season Stravinsky & Lara St. John. It’s a big program and a very challenging one for the orchestra. I couldn’t even say which piece I’m looking forward to the most, they are all so great, though I am looking forward to playing bass clarinet in Petrouchka.

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