Episode 018:
Focus & Efficiency in Practice & Performance

Anthony McGill

February 1, 2019

Show notes

In this episode, I chat with with Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist with the NY Philharmonic. 

We have a great conversation about attention and presence, in both practice and performance. Among other things, we discuss his journey to the NY Phil, the importance of absolutely loving music in choosing it as a career, how to nurture focus and make practice more efficient, and how to work towards having more flow in performance.

Anthony elaborates on:

  • His musical path, from the Southside of Chicago to the NY Phil

  • The various institutions he attended – the Merit School, the Interlochen Academy, and the Curtis Institute

  • How important the community that surrounds us is as we develop as musicians/artists/people

  • How to nurture focus:

    • The importance of how loving what you do is in fostering focus

    • The quote that really articulated that concept for him

    • How focus starts from figuring out if you truly love what you do

    • Cultivating quality presence, awareness, and curiosity in the practice room are the keys to solid focus

  • How to make practice efficient

    • How he primes and prepares for a practice session

    • How wanting to practice, having a plan, being aware, and being methodical are at the core of a good practice session

  • How he “tricks” himself to practice (which is similar to the trick I talk about in this blog entry: https://www.mindoverfinger.com/blog/commit-to-ten)

  • How listening to music is important

  • Focus in performance:

    • How to work towards flow and overcome mistakes

  • How important it is to develop our public speaking and self-marketing skills

  • Why we should develop an interest in a hobby outside of music

 

MORE ABOUT ANTHONY:

Website: http://www.anthonymcgill.com/

Find some YouTube videos about Anthony HERE

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mcgillclarinet/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mcgillab/

 

Biography

Clarinetist Anthony McGill is one of classical music’s most recognizable and brilliantly multifaceted figures. He serves as the principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic — that orchestra’s first African-American principal player — and maintains a dynamic international solo and chamber music career.

 

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 and for addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in classical music. McGill was honored to take part in the 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’s 2018-19 season includes performances of concertos by Bolcom, Copland, Mozart, and Strauss with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony, Vermont Symphony, and Austin Symphonic Band. He will also collaborate together with soprano Miah Persson in a performance of Schubert’s “The Shepherd on the Rock” together with Iván Fischer and the New York Philharmonic. Additional performances include a collaboration with the Dover Quartet for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and a recital with soprano Julia Bullock for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with collaborations with the Brentano Quartet for Princeton University and a tour of Asia with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

 

McGill appears regularly as a soloist with top orchestras around North America including the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Baltimore Symphony, San Diego Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony. As a chamber musician, McGill is a favorite collaborator of the Brentano, Daedalus, Guarneri, JACK, Miró, Pacifica, Shanghai, Takacs, and Tokyo Quartets, as well as Emanuel Ax, Inon Barnatan, Gloria Chien, Yefim Bronfman, Gil Shaham, Midori, Mitsuko Uchida, and Lang Lang. He has led tours 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, Music@Menlo, and the Santa Fe, Seattle, and Skaneateles Chamber Music Festivals.

 

In January 2015, McGill recorded the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto together with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, which was released on DaCapo Records. He also recorded an album together with his brother Demarre McGill, principal flute of the Seattle Symphony, and pianist Michael McHale; and one featuring the Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintet with the Pacifica Quartet that were both released by Cedille Records.

 

A dedicated champion of new music, in 2014, McGill premiered a new piece written for him by Richard Danielpour entitled “From the Mountaintop” that was commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony, Kansas City Symphony, and Orchestra 2001. McGill served as the 2015-16 Artist-in-Residence for WQXR and has appeared on Performance Today, MPR’s St. Paul Sunday Morning, and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. In 2013, McGill appeared on the NBC Nightly News and on MSNBC, in stories highlighting the McGill brothers’ inspirational story.

 

A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, McGill previously served as the principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera and associate principal clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In-demand as a teacher, 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. He also serves as the Artistic Advisor for the Music Advancement Program at the Juilliard School, on the Board of Directors for both the League of American Orchestra and the Harmony Program, and the advisory council for the InterSchool Orchestras of New York.

 

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Visit www.mindoverfinger.com for information about past and future podcasts, and for more resources on mindful practice.

THANK YOU:

Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme!  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Also a huge thank you to my producer, Bella Kelly!

 

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