from: Action, Adventure and Goldfish, 6/26/04

Donald Martino:  Threeway for Clarinet, Cello and Vibes (1957/2000)
(Comments by the composer from the score)

“Three months early, in the summer of 1956, lured by the possibility of a teaching job, I returned to the United States after two glorious years of composition study in Florence, Italy.  I had won prizes and awards.  Even commissions had come to me.  I fully expected to find a good college teaching job.  All my applications were rejected!

“I settled in New York City and scraped by as best I coud using the resources I had.  I taught theory, clarinet and oboe at the Third Street Settlement Music School, played whatever jobs I could find, did some ghost arranging, and created many “popular songs that never became popular.”  In the summer of 1957, by this time resigned to the freelance life, I composed six contrapuntal jazz compositions and prepared arrangements of four standards for various ensembles, the aggregate of which was clarinet, vibraphone, piano, bass, and drums.  I hoped to form a jazz group to perform these pieces and the many more that I planned to write as the years went by.

“A  close friend and childhood colleague was living in town, still waiting for his big break.  I enlisted his aid.  I picked up another player on the Union Floor simply on the recommendation of a casual acquaintance.  (These two would go on to true greatness in the world of jazz.)  I recruited a well-known bass player, quite a few years older than the rest of us, somehow found the missing player, and the group was formed.  With the grand sum of $40.00 I managed to buy some rehearsal recording time at Nola’s Studio, and on one hot, very hot, summer afternoon in August we recorded as much – hardly more than snippets in some cases – as we could.  The works were never performed in their entirety or in public.  That brief session tape and the sheep music itself are all that remain of my jazz hopes.  Miraculously, within a few weeks I got that teaching position.  The good news is that for the next 36 years, and through five different college institutions, I was able to stabilize my financial world.  The bad news is that it soon became apparent that teaching, composing, performing, and having a life were too much for me to handle.  The clarinet had to go.

“Now that I am retired from teaching, I again have time to practice my clarinet and I regard those old jazz pieces as unfinished business.  It is my hope to record them and then issue the sheet music as Dantalian publications….”  (8/1/2000)


Donald Martino, born in Plainfield, New Jersey, May 16, 1931, began music lessons at nine – learning to play the clarinet, saxophone, and oboe – and started composing at 15.  He attended Syracuse and Princeton universities.  A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, his many awards include two Fulbright scholarships, three Guggenheim awards, grants from the Massachusetts Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in music for his chamber work Notturno.

Martino has taught at Princeton, Yale, The New England Conservatory of Music, Brandies University and Harvard.