Meet the Musicians: Michael Arnold

Michael Arnold is a featured soloist in our upcoming concert, "John Williams Greets Our Orchestra"

Advocating for the heart, soul and spirit of music

By Christina Linhardt, Staff Writer

When I finally caught up with principal clarinetist Mr. Michael Arnold, Esq. by telephone, he just so happened to be making a snowman while on retreat at a monastery up in the mountains of the Angeles Crest Forest. This set the tone for the very philosophical and profound conversation we were about to have. Mr. Arnold is the principal clarinetist of the California Philharmonic, and also a civil litigation attorney and certified mediator. "I became an attorney so I could be a musician", he says. He first picked up an instrument at age eight, in the LAUSD music program, a program he laments no longer exists, or at least not in the capacity it did or should. Originally the saxophone appealed to him, but the school didn't have one, so he learned the clarinet. His family was artistic, his father being a professional singer and his mother, a dancer.

Michael attended Hollywood High School, received his Bachelor of Music from USC and then went on to the California Institute of the Arts for his Master's of Fine Arts degree. Then, five years later, he went to Southwestern University School of Law to become an attorney, but never gave up music. Like a true Renaissance man, he balanced careers in both law and music throughout his life pointing out the similarities between the two, "Both involve problem solving. Both involve intuition and creativity. As a musician you have to advocate for the music," he illuminates, discussing the requirement of abstract thinking in both law and music. He continued to discuss the fascinating study of how music developed us as human beings. A study science is now beginning to delve into, though Pythagoras' theory of the Harmony of the Spheres dates back millennia. In an oversimplification, the theory states that planets are in the same relationship to one another as are the notes of the musical scale. Pythagoras claimed he could hear heavenly music of the planets, known as the "wanderers".

Mr. Arnold has played clarinet professionally mostly in the Los Angeles area, though he has also given recitals in Italy and played principal clarinet for the Spoleto Festival Orchestra. He has subbed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and presently plays principal clarinet with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, the West Los Angeles Symphony, the Burbank Philharmonic and soloed with numerous orchestras in Southern California. For the very first summer of the California Philharmonic, Michael Arnold was hired as a soloist to play Rossini's "Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet", but he goes back even farther with Maestro Victor to the Pasadena Pops days.

Mr. Arnold feels that the Cal Phil has a lot to offer Los Angeles by opening up classical music to a general audience in an innovative and refreshing way. "Victor engages the audience, pulls them in and makes them feel a part of it," he says, continuing, "The door opens and people get to walk into the music." One of the strong points of the Cal Phil, he feels, is that it humanizes music. Unfortunately, there have been barriers between audiences and orchestras in the concert experience because often people can be intimidated by classical music. "Classical music should be exciting!" he enthuses. And the Cal Phil makes it relevant, he feels. Victor makes classical music concerts a "living experience". Michael feels that in the Cal Phil the musicians feel free to be creative, bringing their heart and soul to the performances. Unfortunately, in the Symphonic world, at times orchestral members often can feel like they are a cog in the machine, But the Cal Phil makes music living and breathing and manages to touch an important nerve, appealing to something deep inside every individual.

In his legal career Mr. Arnold has worked as a mediator for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Dispute Resolution Program and as a volunteer for the LA County Bar Domestic Violence Project. Presently he teaches Business Law and International Business Law at the University of the West. As if law and music are not diverse and time consuming enough, Michael studied Judo for over fifteen years, is a certified yoga instructor and collects, repairs and restores vintage sewing machines. He says he finds sewing machines to be "fascinating", as they have changed the world in regards to their impact on women's lives in the past, society and the economy.

"Classical music speaks to the heart and soul and spirit," he says, continuing to add that he always went to music when he needed spiritual sustenance. And at that point in our conversation, the dinner bell at the Monastery retreat rang out, the snowman needed to be completed, and principal clarinetist Michael Arnold went back in to meditation, to rejuvenate, so he can return to the Cal Phil and classical music anew. To return to such music that "speaks to the heart and soul and spirit. It communicates who we are as human beings."