Episode 4: Lori’s Big Leap

I took a big leap! Find out what I did—and what I’ll be doing next with my music. Covering topics from my early and lifelong love of music to my upcoming adventure at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.

Episode 4: Lori’s Big Leap


Hello and welcome to Tonal Diversions. I’m your host, Lori Archer Sutherland, and this is my journey as a multifaceted musician. I’m a composer, clarinetist and more who is navigating the world of is classical music, and I’d love to share my adventures with you.

Episode proper

You did what?

Hello and welcome to the show. I made a leap. After 19 years and ten months, I left my library job. I’m going into music full-time. So you did what? Are you crazy? Maybe. Time will tell. I’ve had a foot in each world for so many years, and it’s just time for me to make a full commitment to one or the other. I need to decide which world I want to live in. I’m not getting any younger and, like so many people during the pandemic, it really gave my husband and I a chance to reassess what we wanted out of life and how to go about doing that. Because of dividing my time, composing pretty much always took the back seat, and I did not spend nearly as much time on it as I wanted to. It wasn’t my intention, it’s just kind of how it worked. I still managed to grow my catalog despite all of that, and I am proud of what I’ve done. I’ve grown my body of work. I’ve done more original compositions and that makes me feel good, but I do want to do more. I’m excited to see what I can do when I actually put my mind to it and focus and spend dedicated time on it. I have a list of ideas for pieces. I have a notebook that has musical ideas jotted down. I’ve started some projects that I’ve never finished, and I’m itching to get to work on those. So, yes, quitting my job is a big deal. There’s no denying that. But music has been a second job for me this whole time, so I’m really not starting from scratch. I’m just building on what I’ve already done.

Early Beginnings

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, especially classical music and show tunes. I was always listening to records of “The Sound of Music” or “The Music Man” and singing along, and sometimes even dancing along. I have old cassette tapes of me around age five or so, just singing whatever songs I was into at the time, which were mostly Disney tunes. I don’t know exactly what made me want to record myself singing because I was so young, and it’s not like that was the age of smartphones where everyone could easily record whatever they wanted to. But it’s all just further proof that music runs through my veins.

Piano and Clarinet

I started piano lessons around age five or six, somewhere around there, and I did take those for several years. I didn’t continue with lessons, but I kept playing for my own enjoyment, and so I did get some progress made. Despite not having lessons in high school, I was a regular accompanist for the choirs, and my senior year in high school, I actually had a job as a church pianist for two tiny little country churches.

Back when I was in fourth grade, I think it was, I’d gone to hear my sister play flute in solo and ensemble contest. For those who don’t know what that is—usually in the spring, schools across the country will hold solo and ensemble contests. So you prepare a solo, or a duet, or a quartet or something, and you play it to get judged. And the judge will rank you on various attributes of your playing, and then you get marks for first, second, or third for your division, and usually first is the highest grouping, et cetera. So it’s a great experience. But I went to go hear my sister play in one of those, and I heard someone playing clarinet, and I was immediately in love and wanted to know what that instrument was because I wanted to learn how to play it. I played around with my sister’s flute a little bit, and I seem to remember that she wanted to teach me whether I wanted to learn or not. She might remember it differently, but I did play around with flute, and that didn’t capture me nearly as much as that clarinet did that one day.

When we got to try out instruments for fifth grade band, the only instrument I listed was clarinet. I spelled it wrong, but they figured out what I meant, and the only requirement that I can remember was that you basically had to be able to make a sound on it. At first, I didn’t make a sound, and I was really scared I wasn’t going to get to play it. And then finally I made a noise and they said I could play clarinet, and I was so happy. If I hadn’t gotten that, I probably would have defaulted to flute just because I wouldn’t have known what else I would want to pick. In hindsight, the read probably wasn’t wet enough, but, oh, well, it doesn’t matter now. I got to play.

I did dabble in oboe, flute and piccolo, and even baritone during high school, partly cause I was the nerdy band kid who was bored with what I was doing and wanted to try everything else. But I always came back to clarinet always. I do remember being frustrated that they wouldn’t let me play bass clarinet because they wanted me on regular. And so finally in college, that’s when I got a chance to play bass and even contralto. And I had such a blast with those. And I still play those to this day.

And so all of this long background information is to say that music has always been such a huge, important part of my life, and one of the most important things in my life I have to give myself a chance to pursue that love. If not now, when?

The Future

What sort of things will I be doing then as a musician?


As I mentioned earlier, I’m really looking to be digging into composing. That’s where I want to spend the bulk of my time. I’m really looking forward to jumping in in January. Right now, I’m kind of playing catch up and doing some prep work for other stuff coming up this month.


I’ll still be teaching private lessons both online and in person. I mostly teach clarinet, but I do some beginner piano as well, specifically for adults. Clarinet, I focus on beginner and intermediate and working toward getting into college.


Well, if you’re listening to this, you obviously know that podcasting is one of the things I’ll be doing, so I do plan to continue this after all, this is only my fourth episode.

Performing and Other Things

Then I’ll also be doing some performing and other stuff. I still play with several local ensembles. I still run my own clarinet choir. I occasionally get paid for performing, and I wouldn’t mind doing a little more of that.

My first really big adventure, though, is going to be attending the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic that’s coming up December 15th through 18th. By the time this episode airs, I will be in Chicago, enjoying myself at Midwest. One of my most exciting things with Midwest this year is I get to participate in composer John Mackey’s exhibitor booth. Big thank you to him. He opens up his booth each year to unknown composers and gets a bunch of us together and we get to man the booth and just chat with each other, chat with the visitors, and just spend time getting to know other composers. I’m looking forward to meeting him in person and all the other composers who are sharing the booth. I think it’ll be just a great time to get to know some other people.

I hope to get some footage while I’m there either in the evenings, just kind of on my own, recording my thoughts, or maybe grab a couple of interviews with people. I have no idea what’s going to happen or what my time will be spent like, but I hope to have enough footage that I can turn my Midwest experience into a future episode.

In Closing

I’m off on my big adventure. I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m thrilled. I’m getting a chance to do this huge shout out to my fantastic husband, who has always been my biggest supporter and my biggest cheerleader and big. Thank you to him for helping make this happen for me. It means a lot that I get to do this. Thank you for listening. Have a happy and safe holiday season and I will see you in January.


Thank you for listening to Tonal Diversions subscribe wherever podcasts are found and share with a friend until next time. Bye!

Related articles from Tonal Diversions:
Musical Ability and the Perspective of Being a Late Bloomer
From Fearing Writer’s Block to the Excitement of Premieres

Lori’s 7th grade contest solo (audio)

Episode permalink on Libsyn

Lori Archer Sutherland

Lori Archer Sutherland earned a Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition degree from the Ohio State University and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She composes, performs, and teaches clarinet. She plays bass clarinet with the Crystal Lake Community Band and the Woodstock City Band, clarinet with Winds Off the Lake Woodwind Quintet, and is the founder and organizer of the Knock on Wood Clarinet Choir, where she plays an even bigger clarinet. Check out her site and podcast at tonaldiversions.com