Best of both musical worlds

Teaching just as important as performing for clarinetist Spencer Prewitt ’09, ’13

By Bob Cunningham

To clarinetist Spencer Prewitt ’09, ’13, being a performer and a teacher are forever intertwined.

“I wouldn’t want to do only one or only the other because I learn things that I can help my students with when I am practicing for a big performance, and likewise when I’m teaching, it helps me,” Prewitt said. “I guess it’s such a fine magnifying glass when you’re trying to fix a problem with a student that I end up looking at myself through the same lens, and it helps me be a better performer. I feel like they complement each other, for me, really well and it keeps it interesting.”   

Prewitt, 31, who has a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Oklahoma along with a master’s degree in music and Doctorate of Musical Arts from Bowling Green State University, started playing the clarinet when he was 11 years old.  

He worked as a substitute performer for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) this past summer, filling in five times.

“I freelance in the region, playing with Toledo, Ann Arbor, Flint and other orchestras,” said Prewitt, who has performed with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra since June 2007 while he was working toward his degrees at BGSU. “I played with the smaller orchestras throughout my degree and since I graduated in 2013, so that helped build my reputation where I was invited to play with Detroit.”

He also has a connection with the DSO as a mentor to the orchestra’s Civic Youth Ensembles.

“They have a nationally recognized youth orchestra and they have a mentor in each section of the orchestra,” said Prewitt, who mentored clarinet performers for six years. “What that person does is oversee the younger players, lead players and play principal in each section. That was a good experience, especially at the time, because you get to play onstage, interact with the players in the Detroit Symphony and work with world-class directors at the same time.”  

Prewitt, who grew op in Braymer, Mo., started teaching full time at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., this fall. He said his professors at BGSU, as well as his time spent as a private instructor and Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra mentor, have prepared him well for his teaching career.  

Dr. Ken Thompson, coordinator of major ensembles at BGSU, isn't surprised that Prewitt landed a full-time teaching position at Austin Peay.

“For a student to be able to list that he or she was a teaching artist/performing mentor affiliated with an institution like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, when you add that on top of the credentials of BGSU’s College of Musical Arts, that’s really a compelling case for a student’s resume," Thompson said. "Plus, the mentors make really good professional connections with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as well, so it’s a great networking opportunity.”

Prewitt agreed that he had a superior education at BGSU.   

“The overall quality of BGSU’s faculty in the music department is really outstanding,” said Prewitt, who singled out clarinet professor Kevin Schempf as someone who was always in his corner. “He has worked tirelessly on my behalf —when I was a student and even now; he’s a mentor to me and a valuable resource.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now or achieve what I have achieved if it weren’t for the excellent guidance I got from the music faculty.”  

Madison Stump, a freshman honors student and music major in BGSU’s Class of 2020, was a private student of Prewitt’s when she played clarinet in the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra. She said in preparation for the auditions for the DSYO, he would find recordings, readings and video to help her prepare.   

“Spencer has had such a profound influence on my life the last three years,” said Stump, who graduated in the spring from Walled Lake Central High School in Commerce Township, Mich. “He is always encouraging, positive and helpful. I had a big solo in our final concert, and he would text me in the middle of the week of the concert to remind me of how good I was and to remain calm and just enjoy the music.  

“It is clear in his actions how much he loves teaching and spreading music. He was one of the major reasons I am at BG and one of the contributing factors to me wanting to become a professional musician. His positive outlook on any situation, whether it be a broken reed or a bad audition or a stressful solo, is something I constantly and will continue to strive for. He is truly an inspiration.”