The Western Carolina University Clarinet Studio is led by Dr. Shannon Thompson, winner of the 2011 James Dooley Excellence in Music Teaching Award. Clarinet music majors within the studio can pursue degrees in performance, music education, commercial and electronic music, music industry, or music with a minor in another area. 

All performing groups at WCU are open to both music and non-music majors. Ensembles include wind ensemble, symphony band, concert band, marching band, various chamber ensembles including small ensembles and clarinet choir,  jazz band, musical theatre productions, community orchestra, and our Artist-In-Residence Orchestra program where students perform orchestral masterworks with members of the Asheville Symphony.

See this link for application and audition information. Those auditioning for the undergraduate program should prepare two or three pages from a standard clarinet solo, as well as all major scales (at least two octaves by memory), and be ready to sightread.  To increase your chances of admission and prepare to succeed as a music major, Dr. Thompson offers the following advice:

  1. Study regularly with a private clarinet teacher. It is very important to learn the fundamental skills of clarinet playing including a stable embouchure, correct fingerings for scales and technical passages, and healthy ways to play the clarinet before you enter college. Without good instruction before college, you may be behind in your playing skills compared to other clarinetists, and you are also less likely to be accepted into the program. At the very least, work privately with your band director or another music expert. 
  2. Practice a lot. Clarinet music majors are expected to practice individually twelve hours per week or more to pass through their levels. Play music you love and find creative ways to enjoy practice sessions. Get a SmartMusic subscription or work with other music apps to vary your practicing and keep yourself challenged and motivated.
  3. Listen to great clarinet playing. There are so many wonderful resources available on the web including amazing performances by some of the world's best clarinetists. Try youtube to start (yes, there's a lot of scary stuff there too), and then look up your favorite clarinet players and clarinet music from there. is a fantastic site for free sheet music that is in the public domain. Guess what? At least half of the standard solo clarinet repertoire is available on IMSLP for free!
  4. Schedule your audition and do your application in a timely manner. Don't miss the deadline. The application does not take that much work, so just submit it before the deadline. If you are unable to attend your audition on audition day, contact Dr. Thompson to schedule another time, but do it in plenty of time for her to be able to fit you into her schedule. If you are slow to audition, you will miss being considered for scholarship money and there might not be any more room left in the clarinet studio for more students. The last official audition day is in February, and you should expect to play for us by early March at the latest to be considered for Fall admission. 
  5. Earn good grades before you get to college. This is the best predictor of success in college and in the clarinet studio. You need good study habits, discipline, and the fortitude to do things that you don't always like if you are going to succeed in any career. Do the hard work now, and you won't be wasting your college tuition money. 
  6. Supplement your pre-college education with lessons and/or classes in piano and music theory. As a musician, you can never have enough keyboard skills, and getting a head start in music theory can help smooth the path to success.

You are also welcome to schedule a day to come hang out with the students in the clarinet studio, go to classes with them, and have a lesson with Dr. Thompson to see what life at Western is like. Contact Dr. Thompson by email or call her at 828-227-3956. She is happy to offer a free lesson to ANY interested clarinetist!

For more information about the School of Music at Western Carolina University, go to


 WCU Clarinet Choir Rehearsal Clarinet Reed-making ClassStudent Clarinet Quartet performs at Cullowhee Valley Elementary School


 In spring 2010, the clarinet studio set a record the WCU when five of its members won concerto competitions and performed solos with university ensembles in one semester! The clarinet studio also holds the record at WCU for most consecutive years (seven) of concerto competition winners.

January 2017 Western Carolina Civic Orchestra Concerto Competition - Performed April 2017: Ashton Parker (junior) - Concertino for Clarinet by Carl Maria von Weber

March 2014 WCU Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition - Performed April 2014: Kandyce Norton (junior) - Adagio and Tarantella by Cavallini

January 2013 Western Carolina Civic Orchestra Concerto Competition - Performed May 2013:

Leanna Smith (senior) - Concerto for Clarinet and English horn by Josef Fiala (Eric Jackson, English horn)

March 2012 WCU Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition - Performed April 2012:

Hannah Austin (junior) - Introduction, Theme, and Variations by Gioachino Rossini

Emily Talley (masters student) - Alla Polacca from Concerto No. 2 by Carl Maria von Weber

March 2011 WCU Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition - Performed April 2011:

Leanna Smith (sophomore) - Rondo from Concerto No. 1 by Carl Maria von Weber

March 2010 WCU Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition - Performed April 2010: 

Tripp Lewis (sophomore) - Viktor’s Tale from The Terminal by John Williams

Austin Waynick (junior) and Lance Barton (senior) - Allegro from Concerto for Two Clarinets, Op. 35 by Franz Krommer

    January 2010 Western Carolina Civic Orchestra Concert Competition - Performed May 2010

Hannah Austin (freshman) - Allegro from Concerto, K. 622 by W.A. Mozart

Leanna Smith (freshman) - Rondo from Concerto, K. 622 by W.A. Mozart

    January 2009 Western Carolina Civic Orchestra Concert Competition - Performed April 2009

Katie Ebert (masters student) - Second and Third Movement from Concerto in F minor by Bernhard Henrik Crusell

    March 2008 WCU Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition - Performed April 2008:

Katie Ebert (masters student) - Fantasia and Rondo by Carl Maria von Weber