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Learn about our updated health and safety guidelines, and read A Promise to Our Audience.
Biography
Anthony McGill

Anthony McGill joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Clarinet, The Edna and W. Van Alan Clark Chair, in September 2014, becoming the Philharmonic’s first African American Principal player. He is the recipient of the 2020 Avery Fisher Prize, one of classical music’s most significant awards, given to musicians who represent the highest level of musical excellence.

Hailed for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character” (The New York Times) and “exquisite combination of technical refinement and expressive radiance” (The Baltimore Sun), he is recognized as one of the classical music world’s finest solo, chamber, and orchestral musicians. Mr. McGill also serves as an ardent advocate for helping music education reach underserved communities and for addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in classical music. He took part in the inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece written for the occasion by John Williams alongside violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Gabriela Montero.

Anthony McGill appears regularly as a soloist with top orchestras around North America, including the New York Philharmonic, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony. As a chamber musician, McGill is a collaborator of the Brentano, Daedalus, Guarneri, JACK, Miró, Pacifica, Shanghai, Takács, and Tokyo Quartets, as well as Emanuel Ax, Inon Barnatan, Gloria Chien, Yefim Bronfman, Gil Shaham, Midori, Mitsuko Uchida, and Lang Lang. He has toured with Musicians from Marlboro and regularly performs for The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. Festival appearances include Tanglewood, Marlboro, Mainly Mozart, and Music@Menlo, as well as the Santa Fe, Seattle, and Skaneateles Chamber Music Festivals.

McGill has recorded Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, led by then Music Director Alan Gilbert, released on Dacapo Records. He has also recorded three albums released by Cedille Records: one with his brother, Seattle Symphony principal flute Demarre McGill, and pianist Michael McHale; another featuring the Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintets with the Pacifica Quartet; and Winged Creatures, recorded with Demarre McGill and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras led by Allen Tinkham. McGill collaborated with Gloria Chien on his first album, which featured music from France, Russia, and America.

A dedicated champion of new music, Anthony McGill premiered Richard Danielpour’s From the Mountaintop in 2014, written for him and commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and Orchestra 2001. In 2021 he joined the Pacifica Quartet to perform the world premiere of James Lee III: Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet. He served as the 2015–16 Artist-in-Residence at WQXR and has appeared on Performance Today, MPR’s Saint Paul Sunday, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He has appeared on NBC Nightly News and MSNBC in stories about the McGill brothers. In 2020 his #TakeTwoKnees campaign protesting the death of George Floyd and historic racial injustice went viral.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Anthony McGill previously served as principal clarinet of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and associate principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In demand as a teacher, he serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, and he is artistic director of the Music Advancement Program at Juilliard. He is on the Board of Directors of the Harmony Program and on the advisory council of the InterSchool Orchestras of New York.

“Performing at President Obama's inauguration was a highlight of my life and career. It was surreal seeing a million people on the National Mall in a moment that would be important for the rest of time. I was extremely proud and inspired.”

Q&A with Anthony McGill

THE FACTS: Born in Chicago, Illinois. Bachelor of music from the Curtis Institute of Music. Prior to the Philharmonic: principal clarinet of The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Current teaching posts: The Juilliard School, Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, Bard College Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Curtis Institute of Music. Most recent recordings: Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, and Brahms and Mozart Clarinet Quintets with the Pacifica Quartet. At the Philharmonic: Joined September 2014.

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSERS? Mozart and Brahms: they wrote the greatest music for clarinet. Mozart’s music touches every realm of possibility and genius.

WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY? My brother, Demarre, practicing flute: he was seven and I was three. I wanted to be just like him. I started clarinet at nine and asked my mom if I could switch to flute, but she refused: she didn’t want us competing. He was my earliest mentor — and is now principal flute of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIECE OF MUSIC YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH? Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, when I was 11. I’d go to bed listening to the recording.

TELL US ABOUT PERFORMING AT PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INAUGURATION ALONGSIDE YO-YO MA, ITZHAK PERLMAN, AND GABRIELA MONTERO: It was a highlight of my life and career. It was surreal seeing a million people on the National Mall in a moment that would be important for the rest of time. I was extremely proud and inspired.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE ON MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD WITH YOUR BROTHER WHEN YOU WERE 15? I was a huge Mister Rogers fan growing up. I felt like I already knew him: he was just the same as he was on TV.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH THE PHILHARMONIC? Playing Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto in my Philharmonic solo debut. I was excited, nervous, and grateful. I first performed it when I was 15 at Interlochen, where I won the concerto competition. Coming back to it years later was like meeting an old friend: you’ve changed, but the love and challenges are familiar.

WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW? I just finished Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, about shame resilience. I talk about this idea with my students: if you’re upfront with your insecurities, you can accept them and free yourself to develop more confidence and dare greatly — as a person and as a musician.

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