The Symphony welcomes Wendy Bickford, principal clarinet, as one of our newest orchestra members!
Wendy's musical background is extremely impressive having performed as a clarinetist in “The President’s Own” Marine Band performing for Presidents George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, along with several orchestras including the Colorado Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Ft. Collins Symphony and New Orchestra of Washington. We couldn't be more thrilled to have Wendy in our community! A big thank you to Wendy for sharing her life inside and out of music which follows!
At six years old in Lakeland, Florida, Wendy heard her older brother practicing the clarinet. Even though the sounds were rather frightening at times, she wanted to learn to play it. He charged Wendy $5 a minute to try it out. She waited five long years to inherit his Noblet clarinet. While awaiting her time to play the licorice stick, she discovered the classical music station, and Wendy was hooked. She could not get enough of this newly discovered music and knew it would be a main part of her life. As Wendy got older, she would record the classical station on cassette tapes just like her father would record classic rock songs for their travels to fastpitch softball tournaments. Then in the eighth grade came the discovery of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto thanks to a gift from her mother. It was Wendy's first classical CD, and she had no idea who was performing it and could not pronounce the German name, but that did not matter. Life was never the same; Wendy knew she wanted to be a performer.
While working through scales, etude books and solo repertoire, Wendy was also playing year-round travel fastpitch softball. Her private lesson teacher was against this other passion Wendy shared with music. So, to avoid the countless lectures about breaking bones or trying less dangerous sports, Wendy and her family decided to hide her softball life from her teacher. Ironically, it wasn't until the end of her graduate studies that broken bones became an issue! In high school, Wendy participated in as many musical opportunities she could possibly fit into one day outside of her lessons and Symphonic Band rehearsals. She participated in the jazz band on alto saxophone, competed in concerto competitions and performed solos with the local professional orchestra and organizations supporting classical music, and also joined the percussion section of the younger band at her school. Her senior year, Wendy was ecstatic to receive her acceptance letter to attend a music conservatory.
Wendy earned her bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University where she studied with Edward Palanker of the Baltimore Symphony. During her senior year at Peabody and before starting her graduate program, Wendy studied with Mark Nuccio of the New York Philharmonic and Yehuda Gilad. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado, studying with Bil Jackson of the Colorado Symphony, where she also earned a triple fracture in her left thumb from picking up softball again right before her audition for the Marine Band.
Prior to moving to Montana three years ago, Wendy was a clarinetist in “The President’s Own” Marine Band in Washington, D.C., performing for Presidents George W. Bush and Barrack Obama. During this time, she performed as a soloist, chamber musician and coordinated outreach programs throughout the United States. She enjoyed her time in the band, making several life-long friends and memories of our country's top leaders. During a secret rehearsal at the White House, Wendy will never forget the sheer look of panic from President Bush's Chief of Staff's face while the President nonchalantly conducted “Stars and Stripes” for the first time. She was grateful for the compassion and gratitude that President Obama had for his band every time they performed for his events. One of the things she most appreciated about being a part of the band was performing and traveling on the band's national concert tour, bringing world class music to small towns all over the country. Wendy has also performed with several orchestras including the Colorado Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Ft. Collins Symphony and New Orchestra of Washington.
Since adjusting to her new life back in Billings, where she previously lived until the age of five, Wendy has been thrilled to become a part of two Montana orchestras in the same year, including the Bozeman Symphony. She is excited to be performing with the Bozeman Symphony and playing with and meeting such wonderful and diverse personalities and musicians. She has enjoyed the transformation of the music with the ensemble from the first rehearsal to the final performance; the reaction of the audience was incredible after her first concert with the orchestra in September. Wendy feels fortunate to be a part of such an energetic music family and supportive local community. She cannot wait to see what musical adventures are in store for her and the rest of the Bozeman Symphony.
Currently, Wendy has started a private lesson studio and is also a member of the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. She is a substitute teacher for several of the Billings schools’ band teachers. The best compliment she may have ever received came from a fifth grader who stated, “Wow, you play clarinet better than Squidward!” Wendy has started a clarinet choir for high school students with the goal of including a choir for younger players soon. Wendy is in the process of establishing a non-profit program to provide opportunities for every child to have more music education in their lives. Her goal is to see a symphony orchestra of 8 to 10-year-olds that includes children playing mini bassoons!
Outside of her love for music, Wendy also coaches middle school fastpitch softball at Castle Rock Middle School in Billings. She started umpiring fastpitch softball tournaments this past summer and has finally gotten used to being called “Blue”.
When she's not calling balls and strikes or instructing on the fastpitch field, Wendy can be found playing “competitive” coed and women's slowpitch softball during the summers.
Wendy's favorite activities besides music involve adventures with her partner-in-crime, Chad, their two dogs, Nala and Yoda, and two cats, Molly and Eli.