Larry Clark is an ASCAP award-winning composer with over 300 publications in print. For over 20 years, he has been a much sought-after composer, writing and arranging for Warner Bros. Publications, Carl Fischer Music, and now his own publishing company, Excelcia Music Publishing. Pepper was pleased to host Mr. Clark for an Inside Voice interview where he discussed his background, early career, his new venture, and the challenges facing modern music teachers.
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Born in New Port Richey, Florida, Larry Clark was the son of a music teacher and big-band performer, who taught him how to read and play music before he learned to read. Clark was able to join the school band early because his father was the teacher. That gave him a great head start on learning musical concepts, especially transposition. When he began playing trombone in the school band, his father encouraged him to learn how to play other instrumental parts on the instrument. Because of this, he had a strong base of knowledge when he entered Florida State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education.
Though he is known for his compositions, Clark started out as a teacher. He had the itch to try composing for his middle school band in the Tampa area, but he was nervous to try. Still, he gave it a shot, employing much of what he had taken from his jazz ensemble technique class at FSU to create strong pieces for his students. He continued his education at James Madison University, earning his graduate degree in conducting and composition. He was the assistant band director at Syracuse University for two years before becoming the director. During this time, he continued experimenting with composition.
Getting into Publishing
After spending four years as the band director at Syracuse, Larry Clark found himself at a crossroads. He could pursue further education and work toward his doctorate, or he could focus on his writing, which by then he had been doing for his own bands for several years. He got his opportunity to become a full-time composer and arranger when he was invited to interview with Jack Bullock of Warner Bros. Publications. The CEO of Warner Bros. at the time was Sandy Feldstein, who spoke to Clark directly about why he should join them:
“If you’re a band director,” Feldstein told Clark, “you affect those students you have in your band program… but if you write a piece or a pedagogical book you can affect thousands of students.”
“I was sold,” Clark says of the conversation.
Larry Clark joined Warner Bros. Publications and started out editing marching band music under Jack Bullock. Not long after, however, he learned that he had actually been hired to replace Bullock when he was ready to retire. Upon Bullock’s retirement, Clark became the jazz band editor and also oversaw a number of other parts of the catalog.
Clark received a new opportunity to develop his work when Sandy Feldstein left Warner Bros. to become CEO of Carl Fischer Music. The publisher had fallen on hard times, but Feldstein was determined to revitalize it. He brought Clark along and together they brought Carl Fischer back to prominence. Clark worked there for 19 years and eventually found himself faced with another tough decision: stay on at Carl Fischer or take on a new challenge by starting his own publishing company. The answer was Excelcia Music Publishing.
“One of the things we say at Excelcia is we want to put out music that inspires. To me, that starts with the composer.”-Larry Clark
“My goal is to continue to do what I’ve done before, which is to produce good quality music,” Clark says of his hopes for Excelcia, which takes its name from his first published piece. “I still take to heart what Sandy said, which is ‘We want to help students. We want to impact students with the music we produce.’ That’s really important to me.”
Excelcia also considers itself more composer-focused than other publishers.
“One of the things we say at Excelcia is we want to put out music that inspires. To me, that starts with the composer. The composer is the brand.”
Sean O’Loughlin, one of Excelcia’s more established composers, agrees that there is a real difference with the publisher.
“Larry’s approach is very composer-centric. He gives us the tools and the feedback to write the best music we can. Excelcia’s catchphrase – Music That Inspires – could not be more true. In addition, the music that Excelcia is publishing is designed to give music teachers the best tools to teach music to their students. Not just from a technical standpoint, but from a musicality standpoint, too. The catalog is inspiring and challenging all at once.”
Tyler Arcari, another young composer, worked with Larry Clark before coming to Excelcia and says that their partnership and the trust between them was a major factor in joining the publisher.
“It was a big decision to leave my friends, home, students, and job security,” Arcari says. “I had worked with Larry as my editor at Carl Fischer for about four years, and in that time learned to trust his decisions. He truly is a giant in the industry, and on top of that, he doesn’t act like it!”
Clark hopes to hit the ground running with a wealth of new publications coming out from Excelcia Music Publications. This past year, they released 50 new band pieces, 27 orchestra, and 23 choir pieces.
Composers both old and new have written for Excelcia, including well-known names like Sean O’Loughlin, Peter Terry, Greg Gilpin, and Ruth Elaine Schram. There are also some great new composers like Tyler Arcari, Jon Bubbett, and much more.
Partnership with Voctave
Followers of the a cappella group Voctave will be excited to hear that Jamie Ray is working as the choral director for Excelcia Music Publishing. Ray has been producing the recordings for each piece with members of Voctave singing on each track. The choral offerings cover the major voicings and are perfect for a range of middle and high school age singers.
Challenges of Modern Music Education
Much of what Larry Clark has done in deciding the direction of Excelcia Music Publishing is centered on combating the challenges facing music educators today. Music teachers today often have less time than in the past; Clark hopes to address this with new classroom resources that focus on high-quality recordings. These recordings are pedagogical, with carefully selected musicians who have excellent tone and technique, and many pieces include the use of helpful technology like SmartMusic and PracticeFirst.
Budget constraints are a major issue as well. Clark has endeavored to add greater value to each offering from Excelcia.
“We as a publisher have to give them as many resources as we can to help them succeed and make their students succeed.”
An admirable goal, and one that Larry Clark – with his three decades of experience in education, editing, and publishing – is well positioned to achieve.
Check out Excelcia Music Publishing’s band, orchestra, and choral offerings on jwpepper.com!