John Ferraro

At what age did you start playing the instrument you play in the PSO? Did you learn another instrument first?

I started instrument lessons when I was 8 in the 4th grade and I began on the trumpet! I was AWFUL and really disliked how it made my lips hurt! I switched to the clarinet after a few months of struggling with the trumpet and never looked back.

Why did you choose your current instrument?

I ended up picking the clarinet as my second choice because I really liked the way it sounded. I had heard Peter and the Wolf so I was familiar with the clarinet and the cat. I also knew I wanted to pick a woodwind instrument since I hated playing the trumpet so much and I didn’t really want to lug around a saxophone and the flute looked awkward, so clarinet was an easy choice.

How long have you played with the PSO?

I began playing in the PSO as a bass clarinet sub for a Holst The Planets performance in June of 2010. I became principal clarinet in Fall of 2010.

Where do you live?

I live in Danvers, MA with my wife Erica, and our children Isaac and Rebekah.

Do you play with any other groups?

Not as a permanent member, but I do sub in many groups.

What do you like about playing with a symphony orchestra?

What I love the best about playing in a symphony orchestra is the sonic energy that surrounds you. It doesn’t matter how soft/loud or slow/fast a piece of music is, you are surrounded by intense energy that really can’t be replicated. Being a clarinetist, you are always on the spot because typically you are one of two playing that instrument, and you are also the only person playing that part. I love having that responsibility to play well for myself, my section, and my orchestra. Being a part of recreating someone else’s musical vision and doing that with so many amazing people is very rewarding.

How do you spend your time outside of the PSO?

Besides playing clarinet whenever I can, I am a music educator in the Boston Public Schools where I teach high school music. I also love sports and like to play sports for fun and go to Bruins games. Of course, having two young children, I am very busy with them!

What is your favorite piece of music to play on your instrument?

That is actually a very tough question! There are pieces I love to listen to, but HATE to play!! I would say my favorite chamber music piece would be Brahms Trio in A minor Op. 114 for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano. It is such a wonderful combination of instruments, Brahms is brilliant, and all the instruments get to play such beautiful and haunting melodies.  I would say my favorite orchestral clarinet part would be Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It has a little bit of everything for the clarinet and it is so rewarding to play.

Tell me about your musical education.

I studied music education and clarinet performance with Michael Sussman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I received my bachelors and masters degrees there. I also studied with Allan Meyer of the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra when he did a sabbatical at UMass. I loved UMass because I was able to study with some really great musicians and was able to attend so many amazing concerts. Amherst is about half way between NYC and Boston so we had a lot of touring orchestras and operas perform at UMass and it was easy to get to both cities. Hearing so much live music was very influential on my development.

Any recognition or accolades you want to share?

Not really, I was awarded a teaching assistantship for graduate school, so that was a great honor.

Anything else of note you want to share? 

I actually have begun to study music productions and recording. As part of my teaching job, I have been teaching music production. I think it is great how you can teach kids how to create original music, without them having the foundations of traditional notation. On my own, I have been studying how to apply my musical background to editing recordings and video. I guess part of this is a byproduct of Covid and having to self-produce my own performances!