The go-to clarinet teacher has died

The go-to clarinet teacher has died


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2016

Former students and colleagues are sharing the sad news of the death of Donald Montanaro, a legendary teacher at the Curtis Institute from 1980 to his retirement two years ago.


Donald played in the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1957 to 2005.

A student of Daniel Bonade, the first clarinet teacher at Curtis, he represented a line of tradition that stretched back 90 years and more. His students occupy prncipal positions in many of the world’s premier ensembles.


Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, writes: ‘Deeply saddened by the passing of my dear teacher Donald Montanaro. You are a legend and I’m glad to have had the privilege to study with you. I don’t have enough words to talk about how much you taught me. We will all try to live up to and pass along the many gifts you gave us. Thank you.’


  • Janis says:

    Was he married to a harpist for the orchestra or am I thinking of the wrong people?

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    My early memories of Donald Montanaro’s clarinet playing convinced me that his artistry was indeed worth of emulation. Whether playing principal clarinet in some of the great concerti, or dazzling the audience with his remarkable tone and virtuosity on the Eb Clarinet, and, yes, even on the alto saxophone on occasion, Don was the embodiment of the high standards of woodwind playing established by Marcel Tabuteau, William Kincaid, Daniel Bonade, and Walter Guetter under the baton of Leopold Stokowski.
    When Don was appointed to the Curtis faculty by John de Lancie in 1980, he immediately brought these qualities to the woodwind studios at 1726 Locust Street. What makes a great Curtis teacher? In addition to a career as a master performing artist, he or she must be a virtuoso talent scout with an ear for the potential, sometimes unrealized, that lies within the most gifted applicants. Then the successful instructor must nurture and form that talent while mixing in the traditions of the school and the Philadelphia Orchestra to enable the graduate to embark on his or her chosen professional path as a vibrant musical personality. Donald Montanaro was a prime example of these criteria. He selected and formed many of the finest orchestral clarinetists active today in America and around the world, who will transmit these values to their students, continuing the long tradition of the Philadelphia Sound. Dolce e cantabile describes both the musician and the man.

    Che tu possa riposare in pace, maestro.