Dr. Stefanie Harger Gardner teaches clarinet, chamber music, and music theory at Glendale Community College and Ottawa University. Previously she served on the faculty at Northern Arizona University. Gardner has performed with Arizona Opera, the Phoenix Symphony, Red Rocks Chamber Music Festival, Seventh Roadrunner, the Paradise Winds, and the Égide Duo, whose mission is to commission, record, and perform music inspiring social change. During her time as chair of the International Clarinet Association New Music Committee, Stefanie founded and organized the biennial ICA Low Clarinet Festival and the annual ICA New Music Weekend. She has performed in concert with PitBull, Ceelo, Tony Orlando, Reba McEntire, Michael Bolton, David and Katherine McPhee Foster, Jordin Sparks, Weird Al Yankovic, Hanson, and The Who. Her chamber music albums are recorded on the Soundset label and can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. In 2012, Gardner won first prize at the International Clarinet Association Research Competition with her study, “An Investigation of Finger Motion and Hand Posture during Clarinet Performance.” Gardner received Bachelor, Master, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Clarinet Performance from Arizona State University, studying with Robert Spring.
Here’s my interview with Stefanie:
BP: What is #womenplayclarinettoo?
SHG: I’m lucky to have a strong network of women all over the world speaking up about female representation in the clarinet community: Sarah Watts, Julia Heinen, Carrie RavenStem, Dawn Lindblade-Evans, Lara Diaz, Marta Kania, Fie Schouten, Kristine Dizon, Larkin Sanders, and many others. We use this hashtag to promote clarinet events embracing equality and to call out events lacking in representation of women and other marginalized populations. We are actively working together to ensure the future of clarinet is welcoming of all underrepresented populations (races and ethnicities, gender diversity, sexual orientations, and those with disabilities). In short, we are a coalition of worldwide clarinetists using our voices to demand change.
Why did you start #womenplayclarinettoo?
The hashtags #womenplayclarinettoo and #clarequality grew out of frustrations that women and other marginalized groups have been excluded in recent clarinet events. In just April and May of 2023, there were at least 24 international festivals with male-only faculty, jurors, or guest artists.
We publicly asked the organizers and panels of these events on social media “Where are the women?” Many organizers did not reply, deleted our comments, emailed us or privately messaged us threats, or, even worse, said that they only hired the best faculty and artists (implying that women can’t play or teach as well as men). We have asked sponsors to think carefully about supporting these events, and how that reflects on their company and their consumers.
What are the goals of #womenplayclarinettoo and #clarequality?
We believe that our clarinet community is made stronger by the diversity within it. Events within our community should represent our diverse makeup and be accessible to all. We are inviting all clarinetists to join us by taking this pledge:
“I am an ally and advocate for equality and diversity in the worldwide clarinet community. I will inquire about, support and insist on increased visibility and opportunity for underrepresented populations; races and ethnicities, gender diversity, sexual orientations, and those with disabilities in events and programs that I take part in.”
Clarinetists and sponsors can sign the pledge at clarequality.com and have their name listed on the website as allies for equality. There are “next steps” to becoming an ally listed on the website as well.
What are some of the ways gender inequities are manifested in the world of clarinet playing?
Many women in the international clarinet community have come forward with personal stories of inequity, harassment, and even sexual abuse by male colleagues and teachers.
The #womenplayclarinettoo movement has met resistance from some men in the clarinet community. Some have told us to “be more ladylike,” “stop shouting,” or “plan your own events” (excuse me, but we do!), or warned us we are “burning bridges.” Others have threatened lawsuits and changed our slogan to “B****es play clarinet, too!”
Asking nicely or ignoring the issue has not brought change. With our campaign, we are finally getting festival organizers and sponsors to think carefully about their rosters and programming, and getting allies to spread the word and speak up for us too.
What experiences have you had with gender inequity as a female-identifying clarinetist?
In addition to never having a female teacher or role model, I am often the only woman in the clarinet section. It is rare for me to play with another professional female-identifying clarinetist in orchestras and other gigs. I’ve been attending ICA festivals for decades now, and it has only been in the past 5 years or so that we have had women headliners at the night concerts. I can recall past years like 2016 when there were zero women soloists at the coveted night concerts.
I want my diverse clarinet studio (primarily female, Hispanic, and LGBTQIA+) to see themselves in the performers they admire and want to study with. I don’t want my students to feel like they don’t belong in the clarinet community because they don’t look the same as the teachers or artists in the poster, or that they can’t be professional clarinet players too.
When with my spouse, Joshua Gardner (another professional clarinetist) at music festivals, I am often introduced as “Josh’s wife” and rarely introduced as another clarinet player or even by my name. (To be clear, Josh never introduces me this way, but other males in the clarinet community often do.)
The low clarinet community used to be very male dominated, but in recent years has been a very accepting community of all marginalized players with the work of Sarah Watts, Jon Russell, and the very first ICA Low Clarinet Festival. 50.6% women low clarinet artists performed at the festival last January.
Has there also been positive response to #womenplayclarinettoo and #clarequality?
The ICA has taken notice of the #womenplayclarinettoo and #clarequality movement. Many of the board members use profile picture frames, created by Carrie RavenStern, for their social media accounts. They also worked with us to create a powerful diversity statement to remind the international clarinet community that we are an inclusive community.
Where can people find you on the internet?
Where can people find #clarequality and #womenplayclarinettoo on the internet?