By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
2:53 PM EDT, August 24, 2013
Sidney S. Forrest, an esteemed clarinet teacher who had taught generations of students at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the Levine School of Music in Washington, died Aug. 9 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda of complications from injuries suffered in a fall.
He was 94 and lived in Kensington.
"I started studying with him when I was in high school in the 1950s and then when I went to Peabody, from which I graduated in 1963," said Christopher A. Wolfe, assistant principal clarinetist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. "Sidney was principally responsible for me going into the business and career. I owe him a lot."
The son of shopkeepers, Sidney Seymour Forrest was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he graduated from Utrecht High School.
As a teenager, he began studying privately with Simeon Bellison, who was principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and performed with Bellison's Clarinet Ensemble.
He studied at Juilliard School for two years before transferring to the University of Miami, where he attended the university's music school on a full scholarship. After graduating in 1939, he earned a master's degree from Columbia University in 1941.
While at Miami, he was principal clarinetist under conductor Arnold Volpe. Other influential teachers were Alexander Williams, first clarinet of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under conductor Arturo Toscanini, and Otto Conrad, who had been principal clarinetist of the Berlin Philharmonic.
In 1941, Mr. Forrest came to Washington as a member of the Marine Corps Band and Orchestra. In 1946, he joined the Peabody faculty, where he remained until retiring in 1986.
He became principal clarinetist of the National Symphony Orchestra in 1946.
He was also an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America and American University. From 1959 to 2006, he taught during the summer months at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich.
Until his death, Mr. Forrest was a master teacher at the Levine School, and he continued giving private instruction at his home.
"I found him to be a wonderful, thoughtful human being who touched everyone he came in contact with: students, faculty, staff and parents. He loved music and teaching young people," said Peter A. Jablow, president of the Levine School of Music.
"He absolutely had a remarkable impact on music in the Baltimore-Washington region for the last seven decades," Mr. Jablow said. "It was a remarkable career and he loved it. He believed that playing music kept you young."
Starr Schaftel Wayne, who teaches music at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, studied with Mr. Forrest when growing up in Baltimore.
"I studied first with him at the Peabody Prep and then the conservatory from 1973 to 1983. When my mother dropped me off at Peabody for a lesson, I was always so excited. It was the highlight of my week," said Ms. Wayne.
"For me, he had the uncanny ability to make you feel like you were his favorite student. He was a very debonair and funny man," she said. "He had a very clear way to teach music, and that was expressively. It was about phrasing and breathing, just not playing the clarinet."
"Because of his method," said Ms. Wayne, "he taught you how to look at a new piece of music. It just wasn't about playing it, it was about interpretation, and I would think, 'How would he look at this?'"
"Sidney was really good with method teaching, and his students knew what they had to put into it week after week," said Mr. Wolfe. "And if you didn't practice, you were not going to last there very long. And he knew. He could tell. There was absolutely no fooling around. He wanted you to succeed, and it wasn't fun when you didn't do the work."
Mr. Forrest also had an extensive career as a recitalist and chamber musician, including presenting concerts at the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art.
He performed in recital with his wife of 62 years, the former Faith Levine, a pianist, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Phillips Gallery in Washington. She died in 2003.
He also performed with his daughter, Paula Forrest, a pianist who is artistic director of the Ames Town & Gown Chamber Music Association in Ames, Iowa.
Mr. Forrest's highly regarded recording career included the Brahms Trio with cellist Bernard Greenhouse and pianist Erno Balogh; Weber's Grand Duo Concertante and Variations for Clarinet and Piano, both with pianist Leonid Hambro; the Hindemith Sonata with Benjamin Tupas; and the Mozart Quintet with the Galimir String Quartet.
He also arranged and transcribed many works for clarinet and was the author of many articles in professional journals.
Mr. Forrest had been an adjudicator for the National Fulbright Commission, the Buffet North American Clarinet Competition and the Quebec Conservatoire Concours.
A memorial concert for Mr. Forrest will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Levine School of Music, 2801 Upton St., N.W., Washington.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Forrest is survived by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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