Memories of Wes Foster

Memories of Wes Foster

If not for Wes Foster, those of you performing on Backun products might never have had the chance. Allow me to explain…

Wes and I both grew up in the greater Vancouver area. We both studied with a wonderful player and teacher who had emigrated from Italy and performed as second clarinet in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO); his name was Dominic Lastoria. The first clarinet during those years was Ronald de Kant. Wes and I also had the opportunity to work with de Kant, who had been a student of the great Daniel Bonade. After working with de Kant, Wes studied with Robert Marcellus, preparing for his career as Principal Clarinetist with several orchestras and eventually winning the Principal Clarinet chair in the VSO.

Wes was meticulous about his equipment, spending countless hours on mouthpieces, reeds, and clarinets. I can still hear his sound in my head.

One day, while I was doing some routine maintenance on his clarinets, Wes showed me an antique C clarinet that he had obtained. The problem was that it was missing its barrel. To complicate the matter, this clarinet was made from a brownish wood, rather than the typical black grenadilla. We both contacted everyone we knew, and every company, looking for a replacement, without success. In what would be a life-changing moment, I suggested to Wes that I make him the missing piece on my trusty Boxford lathe. Wes was very enthusiastic about the idea (he really had no choice), but wanted the colour to be brown, not black. Thus began the search for and experimentation with woods other than grenadilla. Cocobolo to the rescue!

During our early years, Wes play-tested virtually every barrel and bell we made and was a wonderful champion of our work. By another twist of fate, Wes introduced our work to Ron de Kant, who was then teaching at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He subsequently introduced our products to his former student, Ricardo Morales, who has since become an integral part of our ongoing quest to reinvent the clarinet, one piece at a time. And now you know why we’re excited to name our newest clarinet the Model F, in honour of Wes.

Wes left us too soon, but the legacy of his life is well preserved in his wonderful family, his extraordinary students, and the beauty of the music he shared. May it live long in every note played on each Model F.