As an award-winning clarinetist and the top-ranked high school clarinet player in the nation, Caitlin Poupard originally chose the instrument in the fifth grade because it had “nice, shiny” keys. Although at the time she didn’t know a lot about music, she stuck with it, and in the fall will be studying music performance at Arizona State University.
“I just like the challenge of improving, focusing on getting better,” said Poupard, who also plays piano and flute. “I just like the sound of it. It’s the instrument that’s closest to the voice.”
The senior at Gilbert’s Highland High School has played in the Phoenix Youth Symphony for three years, and also plays in her school’s marching band, school symphony and wind ensemble. Needless to say, she enjoys performing.
“I like that you can have an instrument and create an emotion without using actual words,” said the 18-year-old.
Poupard has been volunteering with KBAQ’s (89.5 FM) Encounters with Young Musicians since the 10th grade. She prepares presentations and gives young, inner-city students a taste of classical music by playing and explaining her instrument. “I like to see their reaction when they hear the music,” Poupard said. “It introduces them to something I think is really important ... Music teaches you discipline and time management.”
Poupard’s mom, Cindy, said she enjoys watching her daughter play the instrument because it helps her grow not only musically, but mentally and emotionally.
“It’s a good inner confidence,” said Cindy Poupard, who met her husband in music school. “You’re more secure to face things.”
Cindy Poupard was studying to be a music teacher, and now is an office manager. Dan Poupard was a professional trombone player who is now a chiropractor.
“We never pushed her into music,” Cindy Poupard said. “We just let her do it. She just came home one day and told us she wanted to play.”
Steve Hanusofski has been Poupard’s private clarinet teacher for the past four years. He said she’s one of the best students he’s had in his 22 years of teaching.
“She’s just very focused,” said Hanusofski, the associate principal and bass clarinetist with the Phoenix Symphony. “She’s competitive in a very healthy way. She’s always curious. She’s always prepared. I think she’s got the drive to do it (play someday with a major symphony). It’s not easy.”