The students of Joseph Allard fondly remember their mentor reminiscing about his life in music. Although his experiences were not especially unique to the working musician of the 1930s and 1940s, Allard never let the commonplace be anything but enlightening. His ability to reflect upon the past served as a tool to better himself as a musician and to provide inspiration and guidance for his students.
Joseph Arthur Allard was born 31 December 1910 in Lowell, Massachusetts. His parents, Joseph Jean Baptist Allard and Cora Pratt Allard owned a grocery store in Lowell. The family lived upstairs above the store. Joseph, who was called Joe by everyone except his parents, was the third of nine children.13 Joe's grandparents were immigrants from Quebec, Canada; all of the Allard children were fluent in the French language.14 There was always music in the Allard household. The family would regularly gather around the piano and sing popular songs.15 Joe's mother and most of his brothers and sisters played piano; most of the girls took voice lessons. His older brother Edward played violin in a Dixieland band and Joe would go with him to rehearsals. At the urging of the members of his brother's group, Joe saved up some money and bought his first clarinet. He remembers, "I was about nine years old. I went downtown in Lowell and said [to the music dealer], "Can I buy a clarinet for twenty-nine dollars?" He said, "Well, it won't be very good, but you can get one."16
After a few lessons from local teachers, Joe was able to join his brother's band. Allard attended a local catholic school in Lowell, but the public school music director made arrangements for him to come to Lowell High School for band. By ninth grade, Joe was playing solo clarinet in the high school band.17
Allard bought his first saxophone so that he could form a dance band with some of his high school friends. "Joe Allard's Syncopators" was held in high esteem by the youth of the community. Allard was captivated, and felt that music might be the career path he would follow. There was an unresolved issue in his life, however. From the time he was a young boy, Allard had desired to enter the priesthood. When he reached the age to begin education for this vocation, his parents and the church could not agree on where he should be sent.
The church wanted to send me to Canada to be a priest, but my mother wouldn't let them send me to Canada. My mother wanted me to go to Worcester, where there was a French priests school, but the priests at my church didn't want me to be educated there.18
That argument never needed to be resolved, but a new controversy arose.
I had met a girl in high school and I liked her very much, so I decided not to be a priest. So I told my mother and father I wanted to be a musician. Their response was "a musician? We're not going to have a musician in the family. You'll go out and get drunk, and you'll be a no-good bum. We don't want one of our Allards to become a musician." They put up such an opposition that I started to think of other things I could do. Maybe I could go to school and become a public accountant or something.19
Allard actually explored this possibility by enrolling for business classes at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts while still in high school, but soon decided that accounting was not the field he should pursue.20 He began to devote his time and energy wholly to his music.
Allard began serious study of the clarinet at age sixteen, studying with the principal clarinetist of the Boston Symphony, Gaston Hamelin. Allard's lessons with Hamelin were conducted in French; he recalls that there was as much language instruction as music instruction. "He corrected me with my French before he corrected me with my clarinet."21 After high school, Allard enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music, but Hamelin convinced Allard to leave the institution after only three months, and instead to continue to study privately and work as a flee-lance performer. Hamelin had in mind that Allard would obtain playing engagements as a clarinetist, but Allard thought differently. He recalls,
When I was a student, I played saxophone with a little jazz band in order to earn the money to take private lessons. And I remember when I took my first lesson from Hamelin he said, "I see that you play saxophone - if you want to study with me, you'll have to give up playing saxophone." I said, "All right, if I have to give up playing saxophone, I will." And I did nothing of the sort; I went right on playing saxophone. About a month later, Hamelin said, "Now that you're not playing saxophone, everything's coming along fine." I was very proud of the fact that he had not recognized that I had just played a dance job the night before.22The "little jazz band" that Allard referred to was "Roane's Pennsylvanians," his first semi-professional association. This dance band under the direction of Frank Roane had come to Lowell on tour. The manager of the dance hall where they performed offered them steady work if they would establish themselves in Lowell. Some of the band members returned to Pennsylvania, while others remained in Massachusetts. Allard was hired as a member of the Lowell-based group.23 He remained a member of the "Pennsylvanians" even after relocating to New York, and recorded at least one album with the ensemble.24 Allard's first orchestral clarinet playing experience also occurred in Lowell in the late 1920s with the Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra. This ensemble was founded in 1925 by Julius Woessner and presented regular concerts in Liberty Hall in Lowell.
Allard studied with Gaston Hamelin for four years. Hamelin's contract with the Boston Symphony was not renewed after the 1930 season, reportedly because conductor Serge Koussevitzky would not allow Hamelin to play his metal Selmer clarinet in the orchestra. Harmelin returned to his native Paris, leaving his students behind.25 Hamelin had sent a letter of reference for Allard to clarinetist Daniel Bonade, but before Allard could arrange lessons, Bonade moved to Cleveland. Allard did take some lessons with Bonade over the next several years, but did not study with him on a regular basis.26 Instead, Allard took a few lessons with Swiss clarinetist Edmondo Allegra, who played for a brief time with the Boston Symphony. Allard was then accepted as a pupil by Augustin "Gus" Duques, clarinetist with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Still living at home in Lowell, Allard traveled 250 miles by bus to take lessons in New York City. Allard claims that Duques taught him very little, but the trips into New York did provide him with a taste of the musical scene in that city.27
At this time, in the early 1930s, an opportunity arose that ultimately affected Allard's performing career. Allard had made acquaintance with flutist Eddie Powell in 1928, when both young men were playing in a Boston orchestra under conductor Fabian Sevitzky. Powell occasionally played woodwinds for jazz great Ernest "Red" Nichols.
This oft-forgotten jazz pioneer led a series of small bands in the 1920s and early 1930s. Nichols` early groups consisted of Dixieland musicians from New Orleans. but his most famous group was the Five Pennies, formed in 1926. Over the seven years of this ensemble's existence, Nichols hired an impressive list of performers who were or would become prominent in the swing era. These musicians included Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Pee Wee Russell, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Bud Freeman, Eddie Condon, Gene Krupa and many others.
While on a New England tour in May of 1931, the Nichols band came to Boston. His lead alto saxophonist contracted ptomaine poisoning.28 According to Allard, Nichols called Eddie Powell to substitute, but Powell was unavailable for the concert. Powell in turn recommended Allard, who accepted the engagement.29 About a week later, Allard received a telephone call at two o'clock in the morning from Nichols, asking him to join the band the following night for a radio broadcast in Flint, Michigan Allard accepted, and remained with Nichols on tour for the next eight or nine months.30
The band's tour took them to New York for a few days, and was to continue on to Chicago for an extended engagement at a major hotel. Allard was excited about the possibility of going to Chicago, but Nichols released him from the band. He encouraged Allard to remain in New York to find more lucrative work.31 Allard was reluctant, but later credited Nichols with the inception of his New York performing career.32
In New York, Allard continued to work with small dance bands in clubs and on radio broadcasts. He sought to improve his saxophone playing and arranged to take lessons with Lyle Bowen. He was introduced to Bowen by Eddie Powell, who considered Bowen to be "the best lead alto man radio."33 Bowen worked with many major bands, including the Dorsey Brothers. He and Allard became friends and exchanged lessons, Bowen working with Allard on saxophone, and Allard teaching Bowen clarinet.34 Bowen was the only saxophonist with whom Allard studied for any length of time. Bowen also offered to let Allard live in his studio located across the street from Radio City Music Hall, above Whelans Drug Store. Many of the busiest working musicians had studios in the building; Allard ultimately established his own teaching studio there. Up until this time, Allard lived at the Wentworth hotel on 46th Street at 5th Avenue. He recalls,
It was a cheap hotel, but back then it was a whorehouse. It was the only place I could afford. Lyle let me have his place for no charge; the bathroom was around the corner and I spent twenty-five cents to take a shower at the "Y" once a week.35In 1934, Allard married Anne Maynard in Putnam, Connecticut. The couple had four children over the next twelve years.36 Anne was an amateur artist and pursued her avocation while staying at home with their children. After Anne and Joe were married, he moved out of Bowen's studio and they moved back to Lowell, Massachusetts. Around 1940, the family moved to Manhasset, New York on Long Island, then to Bergenfield, New Jersey in 1945. They eventually settled in Tenafly, New Jersey around 1952. where they would live for most of the next forty years.37
Allard's first opportunity for steady performance work in New York came with the Dupont Cavalcade of America radio series. This variety show was broadcast every Wednesday, and featured many well-known stage and screen personalities and musicians. Cavalcade of America aired on CBS from 1935 to 1939 and on the NBC Blue and NBC Red networks from 1940 to 1953. The show ran concurrently on NBC television and radio in 1952 and 1953 and then moved to ABC television until the show ended in 1957. Allard performed in the show's house orchestra for its entire 22-year radio and television run.38 Cavalcade of America was Allard's introduction to the NBC radio network of musicians, an association that would become the primary resource of his performing livelihood.
As he was gaining prominence with the network orchestras on clarinet, Allard continued to accept engagements as a jazz saxophonist. This included a brief stint with the orchestra of "Red" Norvo. Norvo was an early master of jazz mallet playing and formed a number of groups that spanned many jazz eras, from the 1920s to the 1970s. The Red Norvo Swing Sextet was expanded to a fill dance orchestra in the 1930s.
It is unknown exactly when or for how long Allard was associated with the orchestra. The group had success with a long-standing engagement at New York's Commodore Hotel from 1936 to 1939, featuring Norvo's wife. vocalist Mildred Bailey.39 It is likely that Allard's association with Norvo occurred during that time. Allard recalls,
Mildred Bailey sang with a very soft voice. She was right on top of the microphone, but she whispered into it. We had a lot of beautiful five saxophone things behind the voice, very lush. When we were right behind her and playing backgrounds, we had to play subtones right on the end of the reed, because if we played with any more resonance than that we'd drown out the voice of Mildred Bailey. We played tike that all night.40As noted earlier, Allard's primary saxophone teacher was Lyle Bowen. Allard also took one lesson from Rudy Wiedoeft, the result of a chance meeting at a music store,41 and one lesson with Chester "Chet" Hazlett, who played lead alto saxophone with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.42 That one lesson proved lucrative for Allard, because Hazlett recommended him to conductor and promoter Don Voorhees to perform in the pit orchestra for a musical show in New York. Voorhees later became conductor of the Bell Telephone Hour orchestra and personnel manager for the WOR Radio orchestra under conductor Alfred Wallenstein. Voorhees hired Allard to play clarinet and saxophone in both ensembles.
Allard performed with the orchestra on the Bell Telephone Radio Hour from its inception in 1940 until it went off the air in 1958. He then continued with the orchestra into the Bell Telephone television series until 1965.
The Bell Telephone Hour radio shows were performed live for both the east coast and the west coast. Allard recalled,
You played the show from 8:00 to 9:00 for the eastern coast and then you waited around ... and we'd have to come back and put it on at 11:00 for the west coast. That meant we had from 9:00 until 11:00 with nothing to do. We used to go across the street where the 802 Union building was. There was a bowling alley, and some pool tables and a little restaurant. It was a place to hang around for a couple of hours; watch somebody bowl or bowl ourselves, have a little bit of food. have a sandwich or something. We used to have nothing but time for conversation for those two hours in between [shows], every Monday.43These conversations with colleagues contributed greatly to Allard's development of pedagogical concepts. The discussions often focused on technical aspects of playing. Allard would listen carefully, then experiment on the clarinet or saxophone to see if any concepts could be applied. Colleagues often mentioned by Allard as being influential were clarinetists Ralph McLane, Stanley Drucker and Daniel Bonade, flutists John Wummer and Julius Baker and especially oboist Robert Bloom. Bloom and Allard would converse for hours about their concepts of embouchure, articulation, breathing. and reeds.
The Cities Service Orchestra concerts, sponsored by the Cities Service Oil Company, aired Friday evenings on NBC radio in the 1930s. In 1944. conductor and promoter Paul Lavalle took over the orchestra. When asked to organize a summer band in 1947. Lavalle hired wind players from the various NBC orchestras.44 The ensemble became known as the Cities Service Band of America and presented regular broadcasts for NBC television. Allard was hired as co-principal clarinetist with Sigurd Bockman and performed with the Band of America until its termination in 1957. In a tribute to Allard after his death, Bockman recalls,
The band was comprised of some of the best classical and jazz players in New York, and Joe and I wound up sharing the first stand of clarinets until the band's finale some ten years later. Joe and I remained friends for more than 43 years. Our paths continued to parallel, and we shared many musical experiences, each playing the Firestone or the Bell Telephone Hours, among many others. We both played with Toscanini, Joe on bass clarinet and I on E-flat clarinet.45NBC had asked Allard numerous times to play bass clarinet with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, but he always turned them down. He reasoned, "They'd fired every bass clarinetist they ever had, so why should I be the next one fired?"46 Finally. Allard accepted two recording sessions with the Symphony, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. He had heard horror stories about the famed conductor, but the recording sessions went smoothly.
Allard's second experience with Toscanini was not so tranquil; Allard recounted the incident many times. He was hired as bass clarinetist on a concert that included Richard Strauss' Till Eulenspiegel's lusitige Streiche. The exact date of Allard's inaugural performance with the NBC Symphony is not documented because the archived concert programs do not list auxiliary personnel. It is probable that this concert took place on 5 March 1949. The Strauss composition was performed under Toscanini's baton on that date,47 and Allard performed for Toscanini for five years until the latter's retirement in 1954.48
At the first rehearsal, Toscanini wanted the bass clarinet solo in the Strauss to be extremely loud; he asked Allard play it alone many times. "And when he heard me. he said, 'Chic-chic-chic, Bravura,' meaning I'd played it like a chicken and he wanted it played with courage."49 It was a "test" that Allard passed; he became the only bass clarinetist in the NBC Symphony who was never fired by Toscanini.50
Allard's association with NBC garnered many additional performance opportunities. The NBC Symphony Orchestra was one of the first orchestras to be given full-time employment.
The Toscanini concerts and rehearsals only constituted about 40% of a player's weekly schedule. The rest of the orchestra's time was filled with playing incidental music for other network shows such as Walter Damrosch's Music Appreciation Hour, the Cities Service Show, The Voice of Firestone, occasional radio and television operas and miscellaneous programs.51Allard did play on the Firestone programs, and most certainly filled clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone positions on other radio and television programs on NBC.
He remained an auxiliary player with the NBC Symphony until the orchestra's disbandment in 1954. A committee of former NBC Symphony musicians was formed to explore the possibility of continuing the ensemble independent from the auspices of the network. The Symphony of the Air was born, and Allard was a charter member. No one was sure if this fledgling ensemble would survive. The orchestra's first project was a recording session. The rehearsals took place at night, from 11:30 to 2:00, because most of the musicians had found other steady work during the day after being released from NBC.52
At this session the orchestra - without a conductor - made a recording, a very special recording that never will be sold. It contains Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture selections from The Nutcracker Suite and the Russian and Ludmilla Overture. This collector's item will go as a message of thanks to those people who become patrons of the orchestra by sending ten dollars or more to its sustaining fund.53The first concert of the Symphony of the Air was performed in Carnegie Hall on 27 October 1954. In tribute to Toscanini, this concert was also performed without a conductor. There was no permanent conductor of the orchestra throughout its tenure, though Alfred Wallenstein, Leopold Stokowski and Leonard Bernstein often took the podium. One review of the first concert reflected the popularity that the orchestra would maintain throughout its existence.
There was warm acclaim at the first entry of the players, with most of the listeners on their feet to welcome them with an ovation - testimony to their gallant stand in refusing to let the orchestra succumb when NBC removed its support. These ovations recurred at every pause between numbers.54One of the highlights of the tenure of the Symphony of the Air was a tour to the Far East beginning in late April of 1955. The tour was originally intended to last three weeks, but the public relation reviews were so positive that it was extended to eight weeks. A total of forty-two concerts were presented in Japan, Korea, Taiwan the Philippines, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur and Ceylon. While in the Philippines, Allard was severely sunburned on his face and arms; he was forced to miss some of the concerts. For almost two weeks, he was only able to perform when the orchestra was allowed to wear short-sleeve shirts with no jackets.55 Allard remained a member of the Symphony of the Air from its inception in 1954 until its dissolution in 1963.56
Allard essentially stopped playing professionally after the Bell Telephone Hour shows ended in 1965, and dedicated the remainder of his career to teachings.57 Early in his New York career, Allard established his teaching studio across from Radio City Music Hall. His son John recalls, "He would teach very long hours. He was in that studio from nine o'clock in the morning until well past eleven o'clock at night. He was very rarely home, except on Sunday.58 When the building that housed the studios was sold, Allard was forced to move; he relocated to a Carnegie Hall studio. He didn't keep the same long hours after the move, and began teaching more of his students at his home in Tenafly.59 The Allards also owned a summer home by Corbetts Pond in Windham, New Hampshire. Students would often travel there for lessons. They were considered "part of the family" and often stayed for meals, overnight or for extended visits.
Allard's post-secondary teaching affiliations began as a clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone instructor at The Juilliard School, although the school catalog from 1957 lists him only as a saxophone instructor. Allard replaced Vincent "Jimmy" Abato, who taught at Juilliard from the inception of the saxophone class in 1948. According to the records of the library at The Juilliard School, Allard taught there from the 1956/57 school year through the 1983/84 school year.60 Abato then returned to replace Allard as the saxophone instructor after the latter's retirement. Juilliard ceased offering saxophone instruction in 1987.61
Allard became affiliated with other institutions in the 1970s. Many students who were studying with him privately enrolled in these schools in order to continue their studies and earn a degree as well. He taught saxophone at the Manhattan School of Music from 1970 to 1987, saxophone and bass clarinet at Mannes College of Music from 1971 to 1976, and saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet at the New England Conservatory from 1970 to 1987. He was also reportedly an instructor at Long Island University and Brooklyn College, although those schools acknowledge no record of his employment there. Upon his retirement from the New England Conservatory. Allard was awarded an honorary doctorate from that institution His successor at New England Conservatory was Kenneth Radnofsky, a former student of Allard. Radnofsky also had the honor of being the soloist on the premiere performance of Gunther Schuller's Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra, a work that was commissioned by former Allard students in honor of his seventieth birthday.
Joe and Anne retired in 1987 and eventually moved to Haverhill, Macsachusetts. Allard taught students in his home until 1989, when his battle with Alzheimer's disease prevented the continuation of his teaching career. His death on 3 May 1991 prompted a flood of tributes. The sentiments of his students are perhaps best summed up by this reflection: "It is his legacy as a human being and musician that all of his former students carry in their hearts."62 This legacy of teaching, learning and living is being handed down to a new generation of saxophonists and clarinetists. The manner in which Allard's students perform and teach reflects the spirit of the man who encouraged. inspired and empowered them.
13 Allard's siblings from eldest to youngest were Edward, Cora, Mary (called Dolly), Frederic, Leonard,
Ernest, Claude, and Clarisse. At the time of this writing Claude and Clarisse are living.
14 Clarisse Allard Garrity, telephone interview by author, 9 July 1999, Bradenton, Florida.
16 Allard, in Radnofsky, 23 September 1982.
17 Ibid. An anecdote of Allard's experience in the high school band appears in Appendix A
18 Allard, clinic, 17-19 June, 21 June 1963, Lebanon Valley College, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, tape recordings, Hastings College Music Library, Hastings, Nebraska: tape no. 3.
21 Allard, in Radnofsky, 23 September 1982.
22 Allard, clinic, Lebanon Valley College, tape no. 1.
23Allard, in Radnofsky, 23 September 1982.
24 Victor Morosco, "Joseph Allard," Internet, www.morsax.com/allard.html, accessed 15 July 1999.
25 Pamela Weston, Clarinet Virtuosi of Today, (Baldock, Hertsfordshire, England: Egom Publishers, Ltd., 1989): 201.
26 Allard, in Radnofsky, 29 October 1982.
28 Stephen Stroff, Red Head: A Chronological Survey of "Red" Nichols and His Five Pennies, (Lanham, Maryland; Scarecrow Press, 1996): 136.
29 Allard, clinic, tape no. 1.
30 Allard, in Radnofsky, 23 September 1982. Anecdote about his experience with "Red" Nichols appears in Appendix A.
32 John Allard, interview by author, 8 July 1999, Marion, Massachusetts.
33 Allard, in Radnofsky, 23 September 1982.
34 Ibid. Anecdote of Allard's first lesson with Bowen appears in appendix A.
35 Allard, clinic, tape no. 2.
36 The Allard's children are JoAnne (b. 1936), Ronald (b. 1937), John (b. 1940), and Edward (b. 1946).
37 John Allard, interview by author, 8 July 1999.
38 Allard, interview by Kenneth Radnofsky. 30 September 1982.
39 Dan Gediman, "Red Norvo," radio broadcast, NPR Jazz Profiles, 10 October 1996.
40 Allard, clinic, tape no. 2.
41 Allard, in Radnofsky, 29 October 1982. Anecdote about lesson with Wiedoeft appears in appendix A.
42 Anecdote about Allard meeting Hazlett appears in appendix A.
43 Allard, in Radnofsky, 29 October 1982.
44 Paul Lavalle, "From Toscanini to the Band of America," interview by Joseph Estock, The Instrumentalist 28, no. 8 (March 1974): 22.
45 Sigurd Bockman in Joan Waryha Porter, "Joe Allard (1910-1991): A Revered Artist," The Clarinet, (Nov/Dec 1991): 31.
46 Allard, clinic, tape no. 1.
47 Donald Carl Meyer, "The NBC Symphony Orchestra," (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Davis, 1994), 665.
48 Allard, in Radnofsky, 29 October 1982.
49 Joseph Allard, in Paul Pearsall, "Joe Allard," Saxophone Journal 13, no.1 (Spring 1988): 18. The complete anecdote as told by Allard in a different source appears in appendix A.
50 Allard, clinic, tape no. 2
51 Meyer, 6.
52 Meyer, 392.
53 "A Great Orchestra Fights for its Life," Musical America 74, October 1954, 14.
54 "Symphony of the Air Plays Concert without Conductor," Musical America 74, 15 November 1954, 30.
55 Joseph Allard, letter to Anne Allard, 11 June 1955.
56 An excellent historical and sociological perspective of the Symphony of the Air is found in the paper "The Symphony of the Air: McCarthyism and Toscanini's Orchestra," presented by Donald C. Meyer at the American Musicological Association annual meeting, 27-30 October 1994.
57 Joseph Allard in Paul Pearsall, 21.
58 John Allard, interview by author, 9 July 1999.
60 Jane Gottlieb, New York City, New York, to Debra McKim, Hastings. Nebraska, 28 July 1997, property of Debra McKim, Hastings, Nebraska.
61 David Demsey, "The Saxophone at Juilliard," typed manuscript, unpublished.
62 Paul Cohen in James Dawson, "In Memoriam - Joseph Allard (1910-1991)," The Saxophone Symposium 16, no. 4 (Fall 1991): 16.