Zachary Gassenheimer


Photo by Matt Dine


Second Prize, Glenn Gould School Duo Competition; Finalist, Blair School of Music Concerto Competition


Aspen Music Festival E-flat Clarinet Fellow, 2023; Aspen Music Festival Conducting Academy Orchestra Fellow, 2022; Aspen Music Festival Student, 2019; National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute Fellow, 2018

What is your earliest memory of classical music?

My earliest memory of classical music is watching Disney’s Fantasia 2000 in elementary school music class.

Was there a teacher who was particularly impactful/helpful? What made this instructor stand out?

A teacher of mine that was particularly helpful was my teacher at the Glenn Gould School and Aspen Music Festival, Joaquin Valdepeñas. His commitment to music and teaching in general really pushed me to the next level in my career.

What made you decide to become a musician? Was there a particular performance or person that influenced your decision?

I started playing clarinet at age six. Music had always been a part of my life but I never thought I would be able to make a career out of it. In my junior year of high school my private instructor suggested that I pursue a career in music. Luckily I had parents who were very supportive of this decision, and the rest is history.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply?

I heard about TŌN from a colleague in school. I had never heard of the program and decided to apply. I aspire to be a clarinetist in a major symphony orchestra and TŌN seems like the perfect next step in my journey to achieve my goals.

How would you like to see orchestra concerts evolve in the future?

I would love to see orchestra concerts include more visual components to tie in similarities between visual and aural art.

What is the most memorable performance you ever had?

The most memorable performance I have ever had was playing principal in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with the Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra. Having the opportunity to play such an evocative and emotional piece of the classical music repertoire was amazing. Also, I think this was one of my best orchestral performances up to that point in my career.

What is your proudest achievement as a musician?

Winning second prize in the Glenn Gould School’s chamber music competition.

Tell us about a time you almost gave up but didn’t.

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I seriously contemplated giving up on my dream to be a classical musician. I was afraid that we would never be able to perform classical music again and started thinking of other career options. After three months of not playing clarinet I felt a felt a void inside that only playing music could fill. So, I decided to not give up on my dream and persevere.

Do you have a favorite non-classical musician or band?

Luke Combs

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

I think I would pursue my other passion in life, which is cooking. If music and clarinet-playing were not my priorities, I would attempt to make a career as a chef.

What is the biggest challenge and/or surprise about playing in an orchestra?

I think the biggest surprise about playing in orchestra is understanding that you are a part of a team. Regardless of your part in an ensemble, everyone must come together to create a final product. Whether playing principal or another section part, everyone plays a vital and imperative role in the final product.

What advice would you give your younger self or anyone starting out?

I would tell my younger self to have a positive outlook toward failure and hardship. It is through these experiences that we grow the most.

What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?

I wish I knew how much it would take to become a professional musician. Knowing this would not change my chosen career path, however I think it would have given me a greater appreciation for classical musicians in general. Knowing this would have also helped me be more patient with the process of becoming a professional classical musician.