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A Conversation With ‘Citizen Musician’ Anthony McGill

Anthony McGill, the principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, performing at Avery Fisher Hall. He was recently awarded the Avery Fisher Prize.
Anthony McGill, the principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, performing at Avery Fisher Hall. He was recently awarded the Avery Fisher Prize.

The study of the arts, music, and theater has often been linked to numerous benefits, including better mental health and an increased cognitive ability. But when schools face financial struggles, those arts programs are oftentimes the first to get cut.

In school districts serving predominantly low-income students of color, those cuts can mean a lack of access to creativity and those health benefits.

For Anthony McGill, it’s time for that to change. As the principal clarinetist for the New York Philharmonic, he’s working to advance access to a music education. McGill is also the first African American in the ensemble’s 178 year-old history to helm the seat, and has not shied away from  addressing racial injustice. At the height of the civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd, McGill challenged his fellow musicians to address police violence through the #TakeTwoKnees challenge. You can watch his rendition of “America the Beautiful” below.

McGill was also recently awarded the Avery Fisher Prize, and we’re talking to him about what comes next.

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