Rodney Wollam joined the San Antonio Symphony in 1975 as a protege of Robert Marcellus, the incomparable Principal Clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra. He is from the Cleveland area and developed as a musician following the disciplined musical philosophy of George Szell and the many brilliant principal players in the Cleveland Orchestra during Szell’s tenure.
He started his studies under the disciplined training of Carl Marks, Jr. and continued for six years with Robert Marcellus. For additional focusing on technique, he simultaneously studied with Thomas Thompson, Co-Principal Clarinetist of the Pittsburgh Symphony. For Bass Clarinet he worked with Alfred Zetzer and for E-flat coaching, Theodore Johnson, both with the Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Wollam is an advocate and teacher of the Daniel Bonade School of Clarinet Playing.
His musical philosophy follows that of George Szell . . .“In music one must think with theheart and feel with the brain.” Mr. Wollam believes musicians must always work for logic of phrasing, musical structure, clarity of articulation, and purity of sound. He disagrees when musicians inappropriately, if not vulgarly, over phrase or actually fail to phrase. Regarding Mr. Wollam, critics and colleagues have praised him saying “astonishingly well played” . . . “beyond excellence” . . . “gorgeous clarinet sound” . . . “deserves special praise.”
Having a particular love of chamber music, during Mr. Wollam’s early years in San Antonio he shared recitals with artists such as pianists Tamas Vasary, Peter Frankl, John Browning; Emerson String Quartet; Rafael Druian, violinist; and ensemble conductor Robert Marcellus to mention a few.
Other musicians he greatly admires are Leon Fleisher, Ji-Yong Kim, and Xiaotang Tan, piano; Myron Bloom, french horn; Pierre Fournier, cello; Budapest String Quartet; Marc Lifschey, oboe; Dick Smith trumpet; vocalists Jussi Bjorling, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; and Joe Williams, jazz vocalist.
During the lockout of the symphony musicians in 1987, he was Director of Marketing for the competing Orchestra San Antonio. When the lockout concluded, Rick Lester recruited him for the same position with the San Antonio Symphony. His two seasons of marketing were marked with substantially increased ticket sales, growth in subscribers, and tripling the pops season. He occasionally freelance consults for other marketing/public relations campaigns.
In the early 1990’s, Mr. Wollam was one of the two founding members of the Olmos Ensemble. After a few years, he decided to leave the ensemble due to artistic differences. Having taken a hiatus from producing and performing chamber music programs, his new series of private concerts continues in its third season this year. Mr. Wollam wholeheartedly believes that musicians should never compromise in striving for the highest level of “artistic integrity.”