Interview with Égide Duo

Interview avec Égide Duo
Stefanie and Joshua Gardner release their first album as a duo : "Gone is Gone". We asked them about the Genesis of the third piece they commissionned, "This Homeless Way", but also about their way of working with composers, their vision of education, their instruments...

As agents of new repertoire, Égide Duo’s mission is to collaborate with composers to create and present music that addresses social change, including issues involving the environment/climate, animal and human rights, and equality. Their debut album, Gone is Gone, features newly commissioned works written for Égide Duo that provide clear and pointed musical commentary dedicated to effecting social change through music by stimulating public engagement on such issues. Their recent performances of Coal Seams (included in the album) was described as “powerful” with a “vibrant color palette and captivating quality” (the 2019 International Clarinet Association Review Team) and “lovingly performed” (the San Francisco Classical Voice).

100% of the album proceeds will be donated to nonprofit organizations supporting the homeless, efforts to achieve justice and equity, and protecting the environment.


STEFANIE : « I'm Stefanie Gardner and I teach at Glendale Community College and I play with Paradise Winds and Egide Duo.»

JOSHUA : « My name is Josh Gardner. I teach at Arizona State University and I also play with Paradise Winds and Egide Duo.»

About Egide Duo

JOSHUA : « In our reed quintet, we really enjoyed the sound of the clarinet and the bass clarinet paired together. And we decided that we should explore that, as a duo. We wanted to do something meaningful, not just introducing new repertoire by commissioning and working with composers. We wanted to do something that addresses certain issues that we felt very strongly about, particularly environmental issues, social issues, political issues, human rights issues, animal rights issues… All of these things we're very passionate about, and in working with composers, we're able to foster new music that might help an audience member think a little bit differently about the topic or even just think about the topic in more depth to maybe encourage them to act.»

About this Homeless way

STEFANIE : « We commissioned This Homeless Way by Jonathan Russell, and it's based on a set of poetry by Jacob Folger. He was actually homeless for a long time and he wrote a set of poems about his experience. The piece is in three movements, and it really demonstrates our ability to match timber and play around with who's who. We can’t really tell sometimes, we go back and forth and a lot of that is because our clarinets are so amazing and they match so well that we can do a lot of timbral play.»

The homeless cause

JOSHUA : « My mother raised me by herself while trying to get me through school and she really depended on the social programs to provide food stamps and other services to make it possible for us to eat. It's becoming more and more difficult for low income families to really survive. And this is something that's been on John's mind for a while, and that's why he decided to write this piece. I think it's hauntingly beautiful.»

STEFANIE: « He set the words in the music. So when we are playing it, you can hear the poetry and when we perform it we hand the poetry out to the audience.»

Work process with composers

STEFANIE : « Usually composers contact us with a few ideas and we generally pick one that hits home with us. And then they expand on that idea.»

JOSHUA : « We try not to limit or really even prompt them with specifics because we wanted to be something that's meaningful to them, because they're going to write more passionately about something that they care about. So we kind of stay hands off at the beginning, just providing the prompt of addressing some pertinent social issue or environmental issues that's important to them.»

Stefanie’ approach to education

STEFANIE : « I like to have a holistic approach. Sometimes my students come in and they've never had a clarinet lesson before, so I have a lot of work to do, but they have a big heart and they want to move ahead very quickly. So I try to teach them of course the fundamentals, but I have to make sure that they're okay as humans, to make sure that they have food and support and the motivation to get through a degree.»

Joshua’ approach to education

JOSHUA: « For me, philosophically, my priority to my students is to make them as independent for me as possible. And at the same time equipping them with all of the tools that they need to be expressive in any way they choose to be with their instrument. And that means overcoming the technical demands of the instrument, the musical conventions of multiple styles, multiple genres, to be able to play extend to techniques. Ultimately, I want them to be able to do what they want to do, and to do it very successfully so that they can become employed. That's ultimately the most important thing, that they are finding work and doing what's meaningful to them. And that makes me very happy. I try to be a mentor to them. I try to be available to them at hours that I probably shouldn't be, because I want them to feel like they have someone who is truly dedicated to helping them achieve their goals and to make their degree as valuable as possible.»

Joshua’s switch of clarinet

JOSHUA: « I tend to not change equipment very much because I am very routine oriented. I don't like mixing things up too much because I like predictability. I like knowing what things are going to feel like, knowing where pitcher's going to be. Knowing how the resistance is going to be.

But there comes a point where you don't necessarily want to work quite as hard to achieve your musical objectives. And in 2015, I had the opportunity to visit the SELMER Paris showroom and to try many, many instruments, all of which were fantastic. And at that time, I picked one instrument in particular that I really, really liked because it was easy to play. And that's huge, because the easier it is to play, the easier it is to do what you want to do with the instrument. Because the instrument it's a tool, it’s a conduit through which you can express yourself musically. Ultimately, it needs to be efficient. It needs to not be in your way. It needs to do things easily and predictably. And it needs to be flexible enough for whatever you happen to want to do with it.

And this instrument seemed to achieve those objectives, which was a really nice feeling. I found that it just made my life easier. And that was a huge statement to me that maybe a change is necessary. Because we're busy. We don't have time to deal with problems that could easily be alleviated. And that was a big selling point for me, for making a switch, especially for someone who doesn't really like to change things very much.

And on top of that, my experience with the company has been fantastic because it feels like family. It feels like home.»

Stefanie’s switch of clarinet

STEFANIE : « I tried his instrument and then I decided that I would like to try some more. And I was very interested in trying the bass clarinets, I've heard that they were very nice instruments. And then I tried bass clarinets and I was amazed at how easy everything was, especially the upper registers. Everything's very even and projects well. Sometimes I was having problems projecting, but with Selmer instrument, everything is just so even. When we play our duos, we do a lot of voice exchanging and it's nice to have good balance and blend. And it wasn't always that easy…»

► Learn more about Stefanie and Joshua Gardner
Listen the album 'Gone is Gone'