Few clarinetists have had the kind of divergent career Paul Green has had. Green will be the featured soloist tonight as part of SUNY Schenectady County Community College’s Chamber Series.
At age 13 in 1962, Green was selected by Leonard Bernstein to perform in a Young People’s Concert with the New York Philharmonic. Three years later, Green was playing at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, with members of the future Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, followed the next year by winning the Young Concert Artists International Competition.
Degrees from Yale University and the Juilliard School were coupled with orchestral engagements over the next few years.
But Green was getting itchy feet to try something else.
“I’d been toying with the idea of law school for a while,” Green said. “So I took a law clerk position for a month with a criminal defense team. It was an exciting office.”
His father had been a lawyer but hadn’t practiced, he said. Even so, he decided to apply to Brooklyn Law School and was accepted.
“But I didn’t go,” he said.
Green continued to perform, then decided to apply again and was accepted for a second time, but turned it down again. It was only when he applied a third time that the dean of the law school called him in.
“He told me that if I rejected the application this time, he would not accept me if I applied for the fourth time,” Green said. “But I’d just been offered the job of principal clarinet with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. So it was a turning point. I thought about it most of the summer and decided to go to law school. I went that September, 1975.”
Green did well in law school, graduating cum laude, and joined an antitrust litigation firm on Wall Street for almost three years. He then got a master’s degree in taxation law at New York University.
“But I was getting tired of practicing law,” Green said. “It’s a grueling intellectual discipline, and a huge amount of work and not so much fun when you’re in it. I was starting to think about clarinet again. So I took a job as a law professor at Brooklyn Law School so I could have my summers off to play.”
He took some lessons with a former clarinet teacher to brush up, and in 1990 Green took the plunge and returned full time to music. Over the past several decades, he’s done a lot of chamber music, solo recitals, orchestral gigs and discovered an interest in jazz.
In 2009, Green got his master’s degree in jazz performance at Florida International University. He also discovered klezmer.
“I really took to the style and love it,” he said.
He’s recorded two discs on the Big Sound record label, mostly of original material fused with klezmer: “Two Worlds-Music Coming Together” (2016) and “A Bissel Rhythm” (2019).
In the past year, Green has become a familiar face on local campuses as the clarinet professor at Williams College, Skidmore College and at SUNY Schenectady. His performance skills are also getting a workout.
Besides tonight’s concert, he’ll perform Stravinsky’s “Octet” on March 30 with the St. Rose Camerata at The College of Saint Rose; and Daniel Godfrey’s “From a Dream of Russia” at 7:30 p.m. He'll perform earlier the same day with the Musicians of Ma’alwyck at Schenectady’s First Reformed Church at 3 p.m. . (A three-course dinner follows this concert. Contact MOM for reservations.)
Tonight, pianist Mark Evans and cellist Petia Kassarova will also perform with Green.
The program includes Debussy’s “Premiere Rhapsodie,” one of the great staples of the clarinet repertoire written in 1910; an early Beethoven Trio in B-flat major that Green said was very lively; and a late Brahms trio that is one of his great pieces and very autumnal.
Paul Green, clarinet
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. tonight
WHERE: SUNY Schenectady County Community College’s Taylor Auditorium
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 518-381-1231;