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Tom Ridenour was born in Ages, Kentucky, a small mining town in Harlan county in southeast Kentucky. His father was a coal miner, working most of his years as a mining electrician, his mother a house wife. He had relatives on both sides of the family with musical, artistic, and mechanical gifts. Tom's family encouraged him in music and purchased a piano. But, after hearing Pete Fountain play on Lawrence Welk he developed an enthusiasm for the clarinet. After begging for a clarinet his parents gave him one as a Christmas gift. Tom played clarinet by ear for a few years, listening to recordings of Pete Fountain, Benny Goodman, and Buddy DeFranco. He subsequently taught himself to read music, played in the high school band, won regional solo competitions, played in Kentucky All State band, was principle chair in district and regional bands, all the while remaining self-taught until his freshman year of college. Tom attended Murray State University, majored in clarinet performance and worked most of his way through school playing piano in the Jack Stalcup orchestra, a regional band that performed throughout the mid west. At Murray Tom studied clarinet with David Gowans, John Sumral, Donald Story, and Harry Schmidt at summer camp in North Carolina.

Tom graduated from Murray with honors and won a Charles Ditson fellowship to study clarinet with Keith Wilson at Yale. While at Yale Tom also studied with Sigurd Bockman, David Weber, and Kalmen Opperman. In 1971 Tom graduated with honors, receiving his Master's in Clarinet Performance, taught for a year at the University of Georgia, and returned to Hartt College in Hartford,Connecticut for post graduate study.

 

Tom began teaching and playing professionally in the New England are during graduate school. In subsequent years he taught in the junior division at Hartt College, the Hartford Conservatory, Eastern Connecticut State, the University of Connecticut, and Wesleyan University. He played clarinet in the Wesleyan Woodwind Quintet, performed regularly on Connecticut public radio, and toured with the New England string Quartet, performing the Weber Clarinet Quintet.

 

Tom gave the first North America premier of Robert Muczynski's Time Pieces at SUNY Buffalo, NY,  where he and Alan Lurie were invited by Allen Sigel to perform a recital. Tom also performed live on Robert J. Lurtzema's Morning pro Musica on WGBH Boston Public Radio with pianist Alan Lurie  (son of Mitchell Lurie). During that time Tom also published his first instructional work: Clarinet Fingerings: a guide for the performer and educator. Some of the live WGBH performance can still be heard on youtube.

 

All the while Tom was teaching and performing he developed an increasing interest in the technical and acoustical aspects of the clarinet. This interest grew into a full time business, and eventually Tom resigned his position at Wesleyan University and he and his family moved to Florida.

 

In Florida he ran a clarinet service, concentrating on artist repair, acoustical work, and the production of artist hand finished clarinet mouthpieces. Tom also did some teaching, and performed frequently in ballet orchestras at Ruth Eckerd Hall in St. Petersburg.

 

Tom's skill with clarinet acoustics did not go unnoticed, and in 1989 he was hired by G. Leblanc Corp. in Wisconsin as Manager of the Woodwind Co. While at Leblanc Tom redesigned the mouthpiece line, and set the acoustical designs for the Leblanc Opus, Concerto, Esprit, and Infinite clarinets. Tom spent time each year working at the Noblet factory in France, as well as testing and refining the French clarinets that were processed and distributed in North America. During his tenure at Leblanc Tom also traveled extensively, lecturing and giving master classes on the clarinet at countless schools and universities, and virtually every major music convention in North America.

 

After eight years at Leblanc Tom and his family longed to return to his home in the South. They settled in Dallas, Texas where he was clarinet specialist for Brook Mays Music for seven years before founding his own clarinet company.

 

In the 2000 Tom published The Educator's Guide to the Clarinet, the first complete, systematic pedagogy of the clarinet in the instrument's history. The Ed. Guide has received high praise in several reviews, commonly referred to as the best book written on playing and teaching the clarinet.

 

Some years after that Tom designed and created a simplified method of reed finishing which he called The ATG System. By word of mouth alone the ATG System has become the largest selling reed finishing system in the world---by far. The system has become popular for its unique combination of ease of use and amazing effectiveness. In recent years Tom also introduced a 3 DVD set teaching clarinetists how to do clarinet repair and keep their clarinets in excellent repair condition.  You tube viewers can also avail themselves of over 100 free videos Tom has produced on practically every aspect of the clarinet and clarinet playing.

 

Today Tom lives in Duncanville, TX with his family, and with his son,Ted, runs and operates Ridenour Clarinet Products, producing clarinets, clarinet accessories, and educational material for clarinetists all over the world.

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