Mackenzie Austin


Photos by Matt Dine


Principal Clarinet at Symphony New Hampshire; Berkshire Opera Festival, 2022; Bard Music Festival, 2022; Brevard Music Festival, 2021; Fort Worth Conducting Institute, 2020–21; Hot Springs Music Festival, 2018–19; Marrowstone Music Festival, 2018; Buffet Crampon Summer Academy, 2017

What is your earliest memory of classical music?

When I was a kid, I absolutely adored Disney’s Fantasia (1940). For a period of time, I remember wanting to watch it every day. The film features the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski blending animated imagery with famous music from the classical repertoire. I believe that’s where my interest in music began. I was enamored by the way music could create a story.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century?

No tuxedos/fancy concert attire, cheaper ticket prices, and serve food!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest musical inspirations are Evgeni Kissin and Luciano Pavarotti.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it?

My favorite piece of music is Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B minor. Not only is it hauntingly beautiful but I also love the story behind the composition. Brahms had retired from composing due to the immense pressure he endured as a successor of Beethoven’s legacy. However, after hearing the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld perform Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, Brahms was so inspired by Mühlfeld’s artistry that he once again took up his pen and wrote four paramount works for the clarinet: a quintet, trio, and two sonatas. These are arguably his most profound and sophisticated compositions. The quintet in particular is a very emotional piece for me as it perfectly captures all of the most beautiful aspects of the clarinet.

Favorite non-classical musician or band

It’s really hard to narrow it down to one band, but some of my favorites from high school (and beyond) include: Radiohead, This Town Needs Guns, Beach House, Anthony Green and all his associated bands, Alex G, Tigers Jaw, Bright Eyes, American Football, of Montreal, Brand New, Crumb, Dads, Chon, A Great Big Pile of Leaves, empire! empire!, Adam and Naïve, and Between the Buried and Me.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

Aside from music, I am super passionate about film. I love the way a good movie lingers in my mind for days, sometimes weeks after watching it. I would love to work on a film set.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be?

Piano! I would love to break free from the confines of a single melodic line. Also, many of my favorite pieces from the classical repertoire are written for piano.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us

Before deciding on a career in music, I was involved in the math and science team at my high school and, in another life, I would have ended up pursuing a career in the field of science/medicine.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician

As a wise teacher once told me, “always solve technical problems with musical solutions.”