When Suzanne Tirk enrolled as an undergraduate at Wisconsin's Lawrence University, she couldn't decide whether to pursue a career as a psychologist or a musician. For a year, the Montana native juggled both, but music ultimately prevailed.
It helped that Tirk had a solid musical foundation before college. Growing up in a musical home, she took clarinet lessons from her mother (a middle school band director) and often accompanied her father (a choral director at Montana State University) to rehearsals and concerts.
While still in high school, Tirk won a concerto competition that afforded her the opportunity to play Carl Maria von Weber's “Concertino” with three orchestras. When she was working on her doctorate, Tirk gained valuable teaching experience when she was hired to fill in for professors at four universities, all of whom were taking sabbatical leave.
Today, she maintains a large private clarinet studio at the University of Oklahoma. And while musical concerns are her first priority, working one-on-one with students gives her a chance to put her psychological training to good use as well.
“I like to use out-of-the-box approaches with my students,” Tirk said recently. “If a student has a problem with rhythm, we might walk down the hall and do kinesthetic things. For those who have great ears, I may try to minimize that and do something in a totally different way. I never stop trying to find different approaches.”
During the past decade, Tirk has traveled internationally and often combines recitals with master classes. The latter can be particularly challenging when there's a language barrier. On trips to China and Kazakhstan, Tirk had to rely on interpreters to get her musical suggestions across.
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Clarinet, University of Oklahoma
in clarinet performance, Lawrence
University; Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts in clarinet performance, Michigan State University.
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