Diane Barger

Diane Barger began playing clarinet almost by accident. As a child, when her older sister attended band camp, their mother brought fourth-grade Diane along, too;  perhaps the camp instructors would keep her occupied by helping around the classroom. The teachers took that idea a step further, and instead put various instruments in young Diane’s hands.  “First they gave me the flute, and I couldn’t make a sound. Then I tried trumpet, and I couldn’t make a sound. Then they gave me a clarinet, and I made a sound!” she laughs. “The rest, as they say, is history.”

Barger, now Principal Clarinet of Lincoln’s Symphony and Professor of Clarinet at the University of Nebraska, took to her new instrument well. From the start, playing music made a profound impact on her. “I was a really shy kid,” she explains. “I was very introverted. I would bring puppets to school to be able to talk to people more comfortably. Something about music helped me get out of that shell.”

As she came out of her shell, she knew clarinet was something she wanted to pursue. She signed up for private lessons right away, and went to summer music camp every year from eighth grade through high school. Clarinet and making music became her focus. She went on to college, eventually earning her doctoral degree in clarinet performance at The Florida State University. While in Florida, she performed with a number of professional orchestras; she wanted to do more than perform, though. Music, which had gotten Barger out of her shell, was something she wanted to share in other ways. “I loved sharing music on stage in the orchestra, but the knowledge I had gained from my amazing teachers, I wasn’t really sharing with students. I had a strong desire to teach. I’d had some private students before, but I wanted to teach more.”

The position for a clarinet professor at UNL opened up right before Barger’s final doctoral recital, and she enthusiastically applied for the job. Soon after, her passion for sharing musical knowledge at the collegiate level came true, and she packed up and moved to Lincoln. One of her favorite experiences became performing with UNL’s Moran Quintet, a woodwind quintet comprised of UNL faculty—many of whom are also members of LSO. “It is such fun playing with them. It’s so easy to play with them all.”  The position for Principal Clarinet with LSO would be a while coming; the chair didn’t open up for another eight years.  After winning the audition in 2002, Barger felt that in addition to her quintet playing and teaching, it was like “icing on the cake.”

“It’s been so exciting to see how LSO has grown over the past 17 years,” Barger says. “I love our orchestra and Maestro Edward Polochick. I am convinced that every time I play under him, I become a better musician. I am blessed with the Moran Quintet as well, as we make the core of the LSO wind section, and it’s a delight to share the stage with that group. I think my best playing right now in my life is in the orchestra, and that’s because everyone around me, and Maestro Polochick, pushes me to be my best.”

To think, Diane Barger was once a shy fourth-grader who picked up the clarinet by chance. Now, she lights up the LSO stage with every performance. “I really enjoy communicating and collaborating with people without having to say words,” Barger says. At its core, connecting with the community through music is LSO’s greatest passion. “Music is a different way of talking and communicating, and that’s what I get to do with LSO. I’m part of a big family, and I’m communicating with them all, and the audience. It’s engaging and exciting.”