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By E. Tammy Kim
May 15, 2014
The great clarinetist Anthony McGill has made history by becoming the first African-American principal, or section leader, in the New York Philharmonic, effective this fall. His appointment is among several changes at the symphony reported this morning by The New York Times.
McGill and bassist Timothy Cobb were both poached from New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, where they served as first chairs. The Philharmonic will announce several more hires in the coming months, including a violinist to replace outgoing concertmaster Glenn Dicterow.
Although the Philharmonic is regarded as the standard bearer of American orchestras and has recently updated its image with contemporary repertoire and multimedia staging, under the leadership of young conductor Alan Gilbert, it has made slow progress in terms of racial diversity. In 1962, violinist Sanford Allen became the first full-time African-American member, and there have been few people of color, other than Asians or Asian-Americans, since.
According to Aaron P. Dworkin, president of the Sphinx Organization and a leading advocate for inclusion in classical music, McGill’s “talent and artistic excellence exemplify the future of America’s classical music landscape.”