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.
As of May 2016