Artist Spotlight: Anthony McGill

Photo: Matthew Septimus

Clarinetist Anthony McGill has become one of classical music’s most brilliantly multifaceted figures and is currently serving as the first African-American principal clarinet player for the New York Philharmonic. Hailed for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character” (The New York Times), as well as for his “exquisite combination of technical refinement and expressive radiance” (The Baltimore Sun), McGill also serves as an ardent advocate for helping music education reach underserved communities. McGill was honored to take part in the inauguration of President Obama, premiering a piece by John Williams alongside violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Gabriela Montero. (Hear him talk about the experience and watch a snippet of it here!)

McGill appears regularly as a soloist with top orchestras around North America, including the Metropolitan Opera, Baltimore Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony, and is a favorite collaborator of Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Lang Lang and more. Additionally, he serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music, Bard College’s Conservatory of Music, and the Manhattan School of Music.

Anthony McGill grew up in Chicago and performed in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra as a young child. Now, in paying homage to the orchestra that inspired him as a kid, Anthony recently performed with the Chicago Youth Symphony alongside his brother, Demarre McGill, for their latest Cedille Records release, featuring works from Michael Abels, Franz Danzi, Joel Puckett, and more! (Check out our exclusive interview with Michael Abels here!)

We got the chance to catch up with Anthony to learn more about this fantastic project!

What inspired you to record Michael Abels’ work Winged Creatures?

We knew that Cedille Records wanted to commission a new work, and Michael’s name was at the top of our list. He is a gifted composer who tells a story, and his music is exceptional.

What was the most significant thing you learned as a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra?

As a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony, I learned how to perform in a group setting and perform and rehearse as though you were a professional. The quality of the group was excellent then and is tremendous now as you can hear on this recording.

Anthony and Demarre McGill performing with Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.

What was it like recording this album with your brother, Demarre McGill?

Recording this album with my brother was awesome. He’s always pushing for better and inspires to me to bring my best. Making music together seems right to me. This was our first recording with orchestra, and it was awesome. We started playing solos with orchestra many years ago, and to actually record this album with the orchestra I was in when we first started doing these kind of concerts is amazing. (Check out our interview with Demarre here!)

Which work on the album do you enjoy performing most?

All of them!

Who/what are you listening to right now?

I’ve really been digging Gregory Porter recently.

Thank you, Anthony, for taking the time to talk about this project with Michael Abels and Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra! It was great to learn more about this performance and your involvement with the organization.

Discover Anthony McGill’s performance of Michael Abels’ ‘Winged Creatures’ and more with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra!

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