James Moffitt, Associate Principal Clarinet & Bass Clarinet

Question & Answer

How did you choose your instrument?

I had a friend who played the clarinet (he still plays for fun) and always told me that I should play it as well. When my grade school started a band, the directors said I should play either the baritone or the clarinet. Because of my friend’s consistent suggestions, I chose the clarinet.

What is your Favorite Hawaii Symphony moment?

My favorite HSO moment was our first concert back after the bankruptcy. The audience was so supportive of our return and we were excited to be back. It had taken several years of very hard work to get to that moment.

My favorite Honolulu Symphony moment was our first concert with Seiji Ozawa on February 27, 1988. The atmosphere was electric and the orchestra sounded terrific.

Beside classical, what type of music do you enjoy listening to?
Other than all styles and eras of classical music, I enjoy jazz, from the early Ellington era through about the early 1970s. I really enjoyed playing in my high school and college jazz bands and for a while, I thought about going in that direction with my career.  With my performing responsibilities, I don’t have much time or energy to listen to music other than what I am performing at the time. For each concert I perform with the HSOCMH or other organization, I listen to every piece with the full score. This takes a lot of time and when I have finished, I usually prefer to do other activities rather than listen to more music.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut and a baseball announcer. In college, I was a biology/chemistry double major my freshman year and an education major my sophomore year. I’m not sure what I would do now if I was not a musician.

What is your biggest hurdle faced as a musician?

I’ve never felt a lot of widespread respect in Hawaii for what we do. I think that is one reason we earn so little money, which is a major problem in attracting and keeping musicians in the HSO, as well as trying to live in Hawaii.

What are your activities, hobbies, interests, outside of music?

When I was younger, I coached our HSO softball team for many years. Until I developed an ear condition, I was an active swimmer, participating in 6 Waikiki Roughwater Swims. I enjoy hiking and following major league baseball.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I’m not exactly sure what a guilty pleasure is. I do whatever I want to whenever I feel like it.
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James Moffitt (left), with Esther Yoo (center) and John Renke (right) after HSO’s concert with Oahu Choral Society in spring 2015.

More About James Moffitt

James Moffitt has held the position of Associate Principal and Bass Clarinet with the Honolulu Symphony and now, the Hawaii Symphony since 1981, serving many seasons as Acting Principal Clarinet. Clarinetist with Chamber Music Hawaii’s Spring Wind Quintet since 1986, he served as Acting Principal and E-Flat Clarinet with the St. Louis Symphony for two seasons. He has performed, toured and recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Winds. A former member of the Alabama Symphony, he performed with the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra for 10 seasons and has performed with the Colorado Symphony, the Aspen Music Festival, the Britt Festival Orchestra, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and La Jolla Summerfest.