As she raises her clarinet to pursed lips, images of her grandmother’s clarinet playing a sweet and mellow tune come to mind. As her fingers display the kind of motor skills that only comes from years of hard work, memories of both her parents skillfully seducing sweet sounds from the same instrument appear before her.
This past August, Wendy Mazon joined the Pierce College staff as a music professor and leader of Pierce College’s Symphonic Band.
“Now with new blood in there and a band director, [Mazon] is seeking new students. So, if they play a musical instrument and are interested in working with other students in a band scenario, she teaches a band class Monday nights and we’re going to offer it again every semester to build it up. She’s just awesome. Take her class,” Department Chair of Performing Arts Michael Gend said.
Mazon comes from a musical background. Her parents met through music in college, and both her parents and her grandmother played the clarinet. This inspired her to pick up the instrument at a young age.
“I started clarinet when I was in elementary school and I was horrible,” Mazon said. “I remember my first concert, I was very nervous and I squeaked so loud that it echoed through the entire auditorium.
“I just continued to play in middle school, then I joined the high school band. By that time I enjoyed the clarinet so much I would practice on my own and started to excel, but I really had my first clarinet teacher in college.”
After graduating from John Burroughs High School, Mazon attended Los Angeles City Community College for two years, and then transferred to Cal. State Northridge where she studied clarinet by her former professor, Julia Heinen.
“When I needed somebody to talk to and express my frustration, or whatever I was going through at the time, [Julia] was there. When I needed somebody to push me a little harder than I really wanted, she would do that for me,” Mazon said.
“Having that support from her and knowing I could go to her for anything clarinet or otherwise was very integral in actually shaping who I am today as a teacher. She gave so much to me, so I personally want to try and give that to my students.”
Mazon believes that the role an instructor plays in the development of a musician is critical to their learning experience.
“Having that kind of relationship is so important, because musicians can be fragile. We’re putting ourselves out there. It’s our whole selves, essentially, in our art,” Mazon said.
“If you have a teacher that’s not supportive, if you have a teacher that talks down to you and kind of degrades you, or makes you feel like you’re less of a person, or less of an artist, it can really actually break a person and cause them to go into another direction.”
Mazon has already begun to portray a respectful image for herself among her students at Pierce College.
“[Mazon] is passionate about her work. I can tell. She’s awesome, and I know that she’s probably been doing this for a while,” Jess Contreras, a student of Mazon’s, said.
Mazon has continued furthering her progression with the clarinet, and among other achievements, she has become the current principal clarinetist for the Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra.
“It’s the only Filipino orchestra outside of the Philippines. The focus is to really perform Filipino music, traditional folk songs, and Kundiman, which are very lyrical pieces known to be Filipino,” Mazon said.
Mazon said that their mission is to bring Filipino music to the community, including the Los Angeles area. Part of their mission is also to expose young people to Filipino music through educational programs.
Mazon also mentioned how vital it is for a person to have a strong connection to their heritage.
“It’s a support group that’s there for you, and although there’s other identities that many people have in addition to just their culture, it’s nice to have that connection,” Mazon said. “It’s just good to go back to your roots and know where you came from, and be able to share that with the people that you love.”
Mazon expressed the personal impact that working with the orchestra has had on her.
“My father came from the Philippines with his family, and when I was growing up he would play songs on his guitar,” Mazon said.
“Being in a group with the same pieces, but now in a full orchestration, and being surrounded by that sound brought those warm memories back to me and nostalgia, and the pride to know that I was able to continue what my father was doing just in a different way here in Los Angeles.”