Student spotlight: Clarinetist Ini Oguntola ’19

When people think of the clarinet, they may conjure images of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Pete Fountain or Sabine Meyer.

On Friday, May 11, 2018 however, audiences will be treated to the talents of MIT’s own Ini Oguntola, who will be featured in the 2018 Great Clarinet Summit at Kresge Auditorium.

In Defense of an Oft-Overlooked Instrument

Posed by MIT’s Director of Wind and Jazz Ensembles Fred Harris as “a defense of one of jazz’s most oft-overlooked instruments,” the Summit (which is the season finale of the MIT Sounding Series) features the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and MIT Wind Ensemble along with standout soloists like Oguntola, MIT’s Head of Music and Theater Arts Evan Ziporyn and Professor of the Practice in Music Technology Eran Egozy, as well as local legend Billy Novick, Israeli-American virtuoso Anat Cohen (just named Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association for the 12th year in a row), and Grammy-nominee Don Byron.

As Oguntola’s clarinet instructor, Novick speaks highly of his talented student, calling him one of the most natural and expressive improvisors he has ever encountered.

“He never fails to surprise me,” Novick says. “I feel like I learn more at his lessons than he does.”

Why the Clarinet?

Having studied piano before picking up the clarinet, Oguntola was “excited” about the opportunity to explore new sounds, but was not quite sure which one to try. “I was stuck between the saxophone and the clarinet,” he admits, explaining that he made his decision “for the sole reason that the instrument was small enough to fit in my backpack.”

Since then, however, the double major in computer science and math has come to appreciate much more about his instrument, including its dynamic range. I can play over three octaves,” he says proudly, noting that his repertoire includes “basically… any jazz that I can get my hands on.”

Ini Oguntola’s Inspiration Abounds

Among his jazz heroes are Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, and while neither of them are known for playing the clarinet, Oguntola is still able to play and take inspiration from their compositions.

“I draw inspiration from a variety of jazz musicians of all instrument types,” he explains, also mentioning such legends as Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Chet Baker, Art Blakey and Bill Evans.

An Eclectic Concert

The eclectic concert brings together jazz, classical music, a surprise 70s pop classic, and even world music. The concert finale is the premiere of Ornament Of The World, by MIT alumnus Jamshied Sharifi. Inspired by diverse cultural landscapes, this composition celebrates the clarinet and the spirit of collaboration by bringing together Oguntola with all the Summit soloists along with the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble and the MIT Wind Ensemble, and 100 clarinetists participating from the audience—a tour de force celebrating the clarinet and musical ingenuity at MIT.


The Great Clarinet Summit

Friday, May 11, 2018 / 8:00pm
MIT Kresge Auditorium
48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Posted on May 8, 2018 by Matthew Robinson