Solo Judges Sheet from 46 years ago – The Story

I am so glad I found this 46 year old piece of falling-apart paper. Please allow me to share the story behind the performance and the rating.

Throughout high school, Robert Roden was my clarinet teacher. I was the first chair clarinet at Holmes HS in Covington, KY. He also taught the first chair clarinet student from Simon Kenton (where he was Band Director) and at Campbell County HS. We were all in the same grade and had been competing with each other throughout high school when it came to District and All State ensembles.

For Solo Contest senior year HE GAVE ALL THREE OF US THE SAME SOLO!

It was a crazy difficult Theme and Variations on “Au Clair de la Lune”.

I lost my copy and have not been able to find the piece. If you do, please share details.

It created quite a stir as it became a bragging rights contest between the three bands.

When the schedule came out, I was third to go.


The first girl went – got a “I” (Superior) Rating. The room was fairly full with mostly students from her school.

More pressure.

The second girl went – got a “I” (Superior) Rating. Again, the room was fairly full.

Pressure cooker.

When I went, there were students from all three schools who couldn’t even all get into the room.

The piece is structured with a theme, piano interlude, variation, interlude, variation, etc.

The judge is Earl Thomas, clarinet professor at Eastern Kentucky University. He knew me well as I had studied with him four summers at the Stephen Collins Foster Music Camp at his school.

As I am ready to begin, Thomas says,

Mr. Gardner, this is a popular piece this year and you seem to have quite the following.

(I explain we three had the same teacher).


Well sir, since I have already heard this piece twice, can we just cut out the piano interludes? Just play each section, pause, and go on to the next.

For those who know me, I hope you would agree that my biggest strength is technique while my biggest challenges are endurance (and nerves). I could play fast, but I really needed those breaks. GONE.

I got so worried about losing the interlude breaks that I forgot to get nervous about performing….. I always wondered if, knowing me, he did that on purpose just to see how I’d respond.

At the end of my performance, HE STOOD UP FOR ME …. and then gave me the highest rating of the three. Yay!

17 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them. Also 4yrs as proprietor of, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

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