Anthony McGill

Anthony McGill

Vítor Matos Reading Anthony McGill 7 minutes

Why I Chose Backun

"I’m thrilled to be named a Backun Artist. The Backun Clarinets allow me to draw that warm, vibrant sound that I’m always searching for,” says McGill. “It is such an honor to be creating my own line of affordably priced, high-quality clarinets. I’m also very excited to share my music with more people through our Backun community events."

About

Hailed for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character” (The New York Times), clarinetist Anthony McGill is one of classical music’s most recognizable and brilliantly multifaceted figures. In addition to his dynamic international solo and chamber music career, McGill is principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic—the first African-American principal player in the organization's history.

He is the recipient of the most recent Avery Fisher Prize, one of classical music’s most significant awards given in recognition of soloists who represent the highest level of musical excellence. McGill was honored to take part in the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece written for the occasion by John Williams and performing alongside violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist Gabriela Montero.

McGill appears regularly as a soloist with top orchestras, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. This season he’ll make his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut performing “You Have the Right to Remain Silent” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis, conducted by John Adams, and will also perform the work with the Britten Sinfonia during his time serving as the Barbican Centre’s Milton Court Artist-in-Residence. He’ll open the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s season and, with the Indianapolis Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, he will perform a new clarinet concerto, Bologne (Chevalier de Saint-Georges): Clarinet Concerto (transcription of Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5, No. 2, transcribed by Derek Bermel). Anthony offered the world premiere of the Bologne transcription during the 2022-23 season when he was the Orlando Philharmonic Artist-in-Residence.

As a chamber musician, McGill is a favorite 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. His festival appearances include Marlboro, Mainly Mozart, Ravinia, Skaneateles, Tanglewood, and the Music@Menlo, Santa Fe, and Seattle Chamber Music Festivals.

This season, Anthony and comedian (and fellow clarinetist!) Kimberly Clark (Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready - Season 2 on Netflix;) debut a unique storytelling comedy project at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara celebrating their shared roots as band kids.

McGill is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, and previously served as the principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera and associate principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

McGill is an ardent advocate for helping music education reach underserved communities and for addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in classical music. He serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School and also at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he holds the William R. and Hyunah Yu Brody Distinguished Chair. He is the Artistic Director for Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program, a weekend program dedicated to students who demonstrate a commitment to artistic excellence, which actively seeks young musicians from backgrounds underrepresented in classical music.

In 2021, The Juilliard School announced a permanent endowment grant of $50 million for its Music Advancement Program (MAP) from Crankstart, which will fund full-tuition scholarships for all MAP students and program expansion. In 2020, in concert with a $30,000 charitable gift from the Avery Fisher Artist Program designated to a charity of McGill’s choice, McGill and Weston Sprott, Dean of the Preparatory Division of The Juilliard School, established the Weston Sprott and Anthony McGill MAP Summer Scholarship Fund so MAP students can take part in summer programs and festivals.

In 2023, he partnered with Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative to organize a classical music industry convening at EJI’s Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, in which leaders and artists in classical music examined America’s history of racial inequality and how this legacy continues to impact their work.

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, McGill launched a powerful musical protest video urging people to #TakeTwoKnees in demonstration against the death of George Floyd and historic racial injustice. His video went viral and hundreds of artists and citizens amplified the message and responded to the protest with their own videos using the hashtag #TakeTwoKnees.

McGill has been covered in The New York Times and The New Yorker and has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, PBS, National Public Radio, Performance Today, From the Top, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He has served as the Artist-in-Residence for WQXR.

McGill recorded the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic. With the Pacifica Quartet he has released two albums, American Stories – featuring works by Valerie Coleman, Richard Danielpour, James Lee III, and Ben Shirley chronicling unique perspectives shaped by the American experience – and also Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintets.

He and his brother, Demarre McGill, joined the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras & Allen Tinkham, to record Winged Creatures, an album of works for flute, clarinet, and orchestra. Demarre and Anthony also recorded Portraits with pianist Michael McHale. Anthony and pianist Gloria Chien, who are longtime friends and frequent recital partners, released Here With You, an album of favorite works by Brahms, Weber, and Montgomery. McGill’s self-titled debut recording, also recorded with Chien, features early 20th century works by Gershwin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and Poulenc.

McGill serves on the board of directors for Cedille Records and the Harmony Program, and on the advisory councils for the InterSchool Orchestras of New York and Time In Children's Arts Initiative. Anthony McGill is a Backun Artist and performs exclusively on Backun Clarinets.

For additional background, please visit anthonymcgill.com.

"It is with great joy that I welcome Anthony McGill to the Backun family of artists. Anthony is an extraordinary talent and wonderful human being, who has created an exciting new voice and elevated the clarinet in a multitude of ways. His accomplishments are too lengthy to list. Stay tuned for more information on this new chapter in the clarinet world and beyond. I am honoured and grateful that Anthony has placed his faith in Backun. We look forward to creating a diverse and unique series of products with him that will be available to everyone who loves the clarinet."
 
 - Morrie Backun, President of Backun Musical Services

Performs On

Lumière Bb Clarinet

Lumière A Clarinet

Photo Credit: Chris Lee

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