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My name is Robert Bethea and I was born in Arlington, Virginia in the USA. I grew up in Annandale, Virginia for the first three years of my life. From there I moved to Woodbridge, Virginia and attended St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Elementary School. I began there in Kindergarten and progressed through the fourth grade. It is this year that I began my interest in music. I began the clarinet that year and excelled at it. I was promoted to the intermediate band in the beginning of my first year.
My father’s job moved us to Bergschenhoek, a little town outside of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. I attended the American International School of Rotterdam during our tenure there. This is where most of my musical progression took place. I played in the honors ensemble there at AISR and had the priveledge of working with Mr. James Long, a bassist who was the music director. He gave me many opportunities which I would otherwise not have had in the USA. I participated in two solo and ensemble festivals, one at the International school of Dusseldorf and one at the American School of The Hague. I was also the first chair clarinetist for the first AMIS.
All-European Middle School Honor Band. I recieved the music award at the American International School of Rotterdam three consecutive years, from 1997-1999, the last two years winning a high school award in seventh grade. I can’t give enough credit to Mr. Long for his help in my excellence, I owe so much to him. It is at AISR with his help that I was able to write my first piece and many subsequent pieces.
After we moved back to America, I attended St. Michaels Catholic Elementary School for just the eighth grade. I performed in the band there under the direction of Mrs. Linda Moore. She gave me the opportunity to audition and successfully attain second chair in the District X Middle School Honor Band Band of Virginia. I was able to work with a fine conductor from Georgia, Mrs. Patricia Garren. Later that year I performed a duet with a younger colleague of mine, Joseph Roth, which attained us a superior rating at a solo and ensemble festival. Towards the end of my eighth grade year, I performed with the Arlington Diocese Catholic Elementary School Honor Band as principal clarinetist.
High school began a new era in my life and career as a musician and composer. I went to Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Band went very successfully. I performed as seventh chair clarinetist as a freshman in high school. The Bishop Ireton Symphonic Wind Ensemble under Dr. Garwood Whaley, was my first true band that performed quality literature. The high level of performance is one of the things that I attribute to my success. Dr. Whaley strongly encouraged me to get private lessons and so I did. I studied with Jeff Snavely primarily (ret. US Air Force Band, currently in the US Navy Band) but also with his wife, Laura Grantier-Snavely (Assnt. Principal of the US Navy Band). Probably the two most musically influential colleagues that I have ever had are Kristin Armstrong and Sara Rouhi. Whether they realized it or not, I admired them both for their sense of character, leadership, integrity, and musicianship. Kristin was the best high school clarinetist I knew and Sara was the best person and leader I have ever met. Godspeed to both of them (Kristin attends the University of Michigan and will be majoring in clarinet performance Sara is attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.). During my freshman year I auditioned for the high school District X Band and got forteenth chair out of 102. During that experience I performed under the direction of Mr. Carl Bianchi. During that year, the Bishop Ireton Symphonic Wind Ensemble commissioned "Angel Fire" by composer Steve Rouse (prof. at Louisville University). We premiered the piece at our anual combined concert, that year with the United States Army Band. We took that piece and other repertoire including the National Emblem March, Konigsmarsch, and Hammersmith on tour with us to Southern Germany.
Sophomore year brought much of the same type of thing except for I made principal clarinetist in the Wind Ensemble, Sara Rouhi being assistant and second chair. District X Band roled around and I attained fifth chair out of 114 and I was conducted by Dr. Gary Green of the University of Miami, Florida where we performed the very challenging, Apocolyptic Dreams by David Gillingham. We did not go on tour that year because of the tragic and very sadenning events of September 11th, 2001. However, we did commission a piece called "Country Bandstand" by James Syler. We premiered this piece at our combined concert with the United States Navy Band. In June I performed with the Cappies Gala Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Cappies Awards Show for High School Drama in the Washington D.C. region. I also had the opportunity to audition for and perform with the All-Virginia State Band.
My junior year, I got first chair again and performed the most challenging pieces I had ever encountered. I made second chair at district band out of a total of 105 auditionees. I auditioned successfully for the Governor’s School of Virginia.. Dr. Whaley commissioned Frederick Speck for this years commission and the piece is entitled "Dance Toccata," the most challenging commission since I’ve been at Bishop Ireton. We performed the commission, Persichetti’s Symphony for Band, Revelation March, and Suite Francaise with the United States Army Field Band. We toured Southern France that year which was a wonderful experience. I perfromed with the Cappies orchestra again as well as the All-Virginia State Band.
Senior year was great. I was able to experience the first year of Fr. Matt as the principal as well as graduate from a top rated high school. I performed with Dr. Randall Eyles in the Wind Ensemble, again playing first chair. Katie Miller, one of by best friends, was second chair. We commissioned a piece by Michael Djupstrom entitled Gaeng, even more difficult then Dance Toccata. We played our combined concert with the James Madison University Wind Ensemble and travelled to Germany over Easter. We had a blast and owe it all to our homestays (some of which are in the picture to the left).
I now attend Carnegie Mellon Institute of Technology and, while juggling academics, music, and NASCAR, attempt to get good grades!