Robert Spring, professor in Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, received the International Clarinet Association’s highest honor, the Honorary Membership Award, at the association's 2021 annual conference. The award, a lifetime achievement counterpart, is given to clarinetists worldwide who have made a significant difference in the clarinet world through performance, teaching and service.
“Through the ICA, I have met and interacted with the finest clarinetists in the world and my students have been able to ‘rub elbows’ with their clarinet heroes,” Spring said. “I cannot say enough good about the ICA and what it stands for.”
Spring and fellow clarinetist Chuck West were inducted virtually as honorary members in July, a culmination of a journey that began when West invited Spring to perform for the first time at an ICA conference in 1988. Spring performed a virtual recital at ClarinetFest 2021 as an honorary member.
Past honorary members include former principal clarinetists of the New York Philharmonic; world-renowned soloists including David Shifrin, jazz great Eddie Daniels and Paris Conservatory Professor Guy Deplus; and university teachers from the Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan, the Juilliard School and conservatories worldwide.
“Of the numerous great clarinetists of the last four decades, few have had as great an impact on the clarinet world as Robert Spring,” said Wayne Bailey, former professor and director of the formerly named ASU School of Music. “His performing, commissioning and teaching career has literally changed the clarinet and how it is played.”
Spring, a Henri Selmer Paris artist, has commissioned well over 100 new compositions involving clarinet, many of which have been featured at conferences and used as competition pieces. His commissioning and teaching were featured in the ICA’s quarterly magazine in March 2020 (page 38).
He was president of the ICA from 1998–2000 and a member of the board of directors from 1996–2002, and he hosted the annual conference at ASU in 1995.
His former students have been active as performers, officers, conference hosts and educators. Over 30 students and alumni featured at the 2019 ICA annual conference were from ASU, a first-time accomplishment for any school, and six of the 12 young people selected as finalists for the young artist competition were ASU students.
“Having studied with Bob for five years, worked with him professionally at ASU for nine years and performed with him countless times, I know his most significant influence transcends the clarinet,” said Joshua Gardner, clinical associate professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. “Bob taught us all how to not give up, how to dream big and not let anyone or anything tell us we can’t, and how to care deeply about what we do and who we teach.”