Clark A. Chaffee is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and has earned Music Education degrees from the University of Michigan and Northern Illinois University.  A two-time Nationally Certified educator (MENC and NBPTS), he has held adjunct faculty positions at Elgin and McHenry Colleges, National Guitar Teachers Workshops, the Illinois Summer Youth Music program, and the Music Institute of Chicago.  He is the former Vice President in charge of the Orchestra Division for the Illinois Music Educators Association. 

     Clark is an active youth orchestra guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator, with publications including Rhythm Workshop and Key Shapes for Strings.  He has served as a clinician for the American String Teachers Association (at the national level and for both Illinois and Arizona), the Music Educators National Conference, the Illinois Music Educators Association, the Arizona Band & Orchestra Directors Association, and the Texas Orchestra Directors Association. Clark was named the 2011 American String Teacher's Association Illinois Classroom Teacher of the Year.

     Clark made a major impact on the music education community and on the lives of thousands of students as the Director of Orchestras, Chamber Music, and Guitar at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL. With his educational vision and inspiring teaching style, he turned a 33-student orchestra into a multi-level, nationally recognized program with over 200 students and a large chamber music division involved in community outreach. The Stevenson High School Music Department earned recognition as one of MENC's Twelve Model Music Programs in 2006, was a two-time finalist for Grammy in the Schools, was an honoree of Those Who Excel (from ISBE), and was one of four high schools in the country in 2010 to earn the Kennedy Center Excellence in Music Education recognition.

          As a performer, Clark is primarily a percussionist, and has studied under many excellent teachers including Paul Yancich, Jim Salmon, Charles Owen, Don Koss, and Harold Jones. Clark held the position of Principal Timpanist in the Elgin (Illinois) Symphony for 20 years, and performed with the Chicago Civic orchestra, the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony. He has served as principal timpanist in the Rockford Symphony (Illinois), Chandler Symphony Orchestra (Arizona), Hinsdale Chamber Orchestra (Illinois), and the Downers Grove Oratorio Society (Illinois). 

          Clark's performing experience is not limited to the percussion section: he has been a baritone in the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Principal Bass in the Valley Civic Orchestra, and has worked extensively as a freelance timpanist, jazz drummer, and vocalist. Clark has appeared in various amateur orchestras and ensembles on bass, cello, viola, violin, and guitar.


Clark in Italy with the Stevenson High School Tour Orchestra after a successful performance at the Milan Conservatory of Music, 2008

Clark in Italy with the Stevenson High School Tour Orchestra after a successful performance at the Milan Conservatory of Music, 2008


  • Diploma from the Interlochen Arts Academy
  • Bachelors Degree in Music Education from the University of Michigan
  • Masters Degree in Music Education from Northern Illinois University
  • Additional coursework in music education and performance at various universities
  • Level 1 Suzuki Teacher Training and 14 years as a "Suzuki Dad" observing outstanding string teachers in lessons, group classes, and ensembles of students from beginner to university level
  • Additional private studies in performance on violin, bass, voice, and percussion


  • Named the 2014 Distinguished Alum by the Northern Illinois University College of Visual and Performing Arts
  • 2011 Classroom Teacher of the Year from the Illinois chapter of the American String Teachers Association
  • Conductors Guild 2010 American Prize in Conducting, awarded for "Excellence in Music Education" 
  • Conductors Guild 2010 American Prize in Conducting, High School Division - awarded to Stevenson High School's Patriot Orchestra with Clark Chaffee as conductor
  • 2010 & 2011 Grammy Signature Schools semifinalist for Commitment to Music Education, as a member of the A. E. Stevenson High School Music Faculty
  • A. E. Stevenson High School recognized by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a National School of Distinction in Arts Education for its outstanding music programs 
  • A. E. Stevenson High School Music Faculty recognized by Illinois State Board of Education for Excellence in Collaboration
  • Two time National Teacher Certification: NTSB in 2004, MENC in 1991
  • Principal Chair in Elgin Symphony (20 years), Chicago Civic Orchestra, Valley Civic Orchestra, Trinity University Community Orchestra, Rockford Symphony
  • Grammy Award for Verdi's "Requiem & Sacred Pieces," as a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus (Georg Solti, conductor; Margaret Hillis, chorus master)
  • Published author (Key Shapes for Strings and Rhythm Workshop, J. Weston Walch)
  • Frequent Illinois All State Convention clinician on various topics
  • Music Educator of the Year, from Elgin Youth Orchestras
  • Stevenson Music Department recognized as one of the Twelve Model Music Programs in America by MENC
  • Listed for several years in the Who’s Who of American Teachers
  • Curriculum featured by internationally renowned jazz violinist Christian Howes - click here to read the blog