Anthony McGill followed in the musical footsteps of his older brother, flutist Demarre, when he began to play the clarinet as a young child. Decades later, they’re still playing – separately as principals in major orchestras, and together in a musical trio, as well as on a new recording with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, an album called Winged Creatures.
They grew up on the south side of Chicago, getting their start taking piano lessons, before switching instruments. “When it was apparent that we wouldn’t be able to afford a piano for the house,” Anthony McGill says, “my brother picked up the flute, and years later, cause he’s four years older than me, when it was my time, I started playing the clarinet.” Their solo careers have taken them to the New York Philharmonic (Anthony) and the Seattle Symphony (Demarre) where they lead their sections. But they’ve always enjoyed playing together. “When I was like 11 or something, we started performing together in and around Chicago, and as we got older, we started playing some concerti and solos with orchestra together. And some of those pieces are on this album. It’s really cool to come back to the start of it all together, as a family, I guess you could say.” There are two pieces written for the brothers to play, helping to expand the rather limited repertoire for orchestra, flute and clarinet. Michael Abels (who wrote the scores for Jordan Peele’s two films) wrote the title piece called Winged Creatures, inspired by butterflies and flight; Joel Plunkett’s Concerto Duo for Flute and Clarinet was dedicated to the brothers, but also, each movement was inspired by a different young child. Having embarked on a musical career with his brother leading the way, Anthony says he’s always looked up to him and his music making. “It has remained an interesting relationship, because we respect each other musically as colleagues now, but I definitely feel like he still has that kind of role as a musical mentor and role model to me.”