It took 173 years for an Afro-American to be a NY Philharmonic principal

It took 173 years for an Afro-American to be a NY Philharmonic principal


norman lebrecht

October 09, 2019

Anthony McGill stays positive about his job.


  • Bravo, NY Phil, and congratulations. – Robert Rÿker, Tokyo Sinfonia

  • Alphonse says:

    Please do not forget Jerome Ashby (1956-2007), associate principal horn from 1979 until his death in December 2007 (and acting principal at various points in the early 2000s when Phil Myers was on leave). An extraordinary horn player and a truly great and noble man- gone from this earth far too soon.

    • Jeff Werthan says:

      Exactly, Alphonse. Jerry was a supremely talented horn player, and a joy to play with. The NYPhil recently (maybe a year ago?) put a video up of the horn section playing the final movement of Mahler’s First. There was Jerry, standing up with his section, blasting away. It gave me goosebumps. He is still missed.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It shows that persistence pays-off.

  • Bone says:

    A talented musician is a principal in an American orchestra. I’m sure this is true in many woke countries like England, Sweden, Norway, France, etc.

  • Alan oke says:

    A really brilliant player

  • PHF says:

    Here we go…

  • SergioM says:

    Actually McGill is the second African-American principal with the NY Phil. Before him there was Sanford Allen who was a principal violinist from 1962-77. Still only two in 173 years is not a great number

  • Jack says:

    It took years to fill Drucker’s position. Every best wish, Anthony!

  • Nana Politi says:

    The title is misleading and unfair.

  • Jasper says:

    Stanley Drucker’s farewell performance with the NY Phil took place in 2009. Anthony McGill was hired to fill the chair in 2014.

    In the interim was the on-again, off-again, aborted-on-again dance with Stephen Williamson (CSO).

    This followed the on-again, off-again dance with Ricardo Morales (who it was rumored wished to serve as the principal clarinet for BOTH the Philadelphia Orchestra and the NY Phil at the same time).

    Nice that with McGill, a semblance of normality and high-level playing now characterizes the NY Phil’s woodwind section.


    • Monsoon says:

      I thought Morales took the NYT job and then later backed out because he wanted to stay in the Philadelphia area for family reasons.

    • D** says:

      There was another type of the on-again, off-again dance with their fine associate principal Mark Nuccio, who later left for Houston and is now their principal clarinet.

      Amy Zoloto, bass clarinet, is another example. Stephen Freeman retired at the same time as Stanley Drucker, but it took the NY Phil about seven years before finally offering her the job.

      Having said this, I’m very happy for Anthony McGill. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the very best.

  • John Kelly says:

    A superb player, also superb prior to the NYPO in the Met Orchestra. Always a joy to hear his playing and wonderful velvety tone. Gorgeous sound.

  • NYMike says:

    Anthony walked across LC plaza from the Met where he was principal to the Phil. After hunting around for clarinets subsequent to Drucker’s retirement for a few years, the Phil finally came to their senses and hired McGill.

  • esfir ross says:

    Finest musician-heard in chamber concert

  • Peter says:


    And it’s going to take another 173 years before I get the job. Perhaps even longer.

  • axl says:

    Personally I don’t like this kind of news. It’s ofc naturally important that every kind of human being can be principal or simply member in famous orchestra but it’s not the most important thing. No matter is the (principal) player he or she or black or white and so on – we are all humans and there are the most best players in the orchestras. So musical skills always first. Remember that!

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Now let’s see some diversity as the Music Director. Does Zubin Mehta count? They have had a few who are gay, but that’s about it.

  • Patrick says:

    Maestro: I knew you years ago at Symphony School in Wisconsin!

  • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

    Why can people not just be colourblind? Also, the title suggests that there was some kind of effort that lasted 173 years. McGill is a fantastic player, period.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Why instead of just congratulating the guy do we have to bring race into it?

  • Georges Sand says:

    He’s been there five years. You just noticed?