Curtis Faculty and Alumni Interviewed on Speaking Soundly

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Midori, Anthony McGill, Ray Chen, Joseph Conyers and Joseph Alessi have all been featured on the popular podcast

Since its debut in 2022, the acclaimed podcast Speaking Soundly, hosted by David Krauss, principal trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, has offered listeners a window into the soul of the world’s most renowned performing artists. Three of Curtis’s faculty members, mentor conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, William R. and Hyunah Yu Brody Distinguished Chair Anthony McGill (Clarinet ’00), and Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Violin Studies Midori, have been interviewed over the past year, along with alumni Joseph Conyers (Double Bass ’04), Ray Chen (Violin ’10), and Joseph Alessi (Trombone ’81).

The podcast features candid and compelling backstage conversations with today’s top musicians and is released weekly on Tuesdays through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and at Artful Narratives Media. Follow Speaking Soundly on Instagram and Facebook.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Three-time GRAMMY Award-winning pianist and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the music and artistic director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, artistic director and principal conductor of the Orchestre Métropolitain, and music director at the Metropolitan Opera where he’s just the third person to hold this position in the company’s 140-year history. In the episode—recorded backstage at Carnegie Hall—Yannick discusses the primary role of a conductor, his calm and friendly demeanor while on the podium (spoiler: he doesn’t know how to be mean!), how he became inspired to conduct at age 10, and why he reclaimed his love for the piano during the pandemic. Yannick shares the importance of taking every opportunity to perform seriously and his deep belief that music can connect and transform anyone who listens.

Listen on Spotify.


GRAMMY-nominated renowned violinist Midori is a visionary artist, activist, and educator who made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 11. She reflects on her decision to “pursue a career in music as a performer” in her twenties, what she learned from mentors: famed violinist Isaac Stern and legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, and why she loves to practice after a performance. Midori shares about her foundation Midori and Friends, which has helped to provide music education to over 300,000 underserved youth in NYC, opens up about her love for her home-away-from-home (the dressing room), and David reminisces about the first time he heard her on the radio.

Listen on Spotify.

Joseph Conyers (Double Bass ’04)

Philadelphia Orchestra principal bass Joseph Conyers discusses his recent promotion and the unusual circumstances of his audition (it’s not every day that one competes with their own students!), reminisces about his early introduction to classical music through his mother, and reflects on the music of his childhood Black Baptist Church and its emphasis on joyful noise, not perfection. At the end of the interview, David calls Joseph “one of the most disciplined people he knows” for reasons you might not expect.

Listen on Spotify.

Ray Chen (Violin ’10)

International violin virtuoso Ray Chen is redefining the role of today’s classical soloist. Using social media, Ray aims to educate, enlighten, and entertain his audience before they get to the concert hall. He credits his grit and determination to his experience of being a first-generation immigrant and likens playing his ten-million-dollar Stradivarius violin to wielding Thor’s hammer.

Listen on Spotify.

Joseph Alessi (Trombone ’81)

Longtime principal trombonist with the New York Philharmonic and Juilliard faculty member Joseph Alessi discusses his musical childhood, the key to inspiring his students, and a recent health scare that jeopardized his career and caused him to consider a life without the trombone.

Listen on Spotify.

Anthony McGill (Clarinet ’00)

Avery Fisher Prize winner and clarinetist Anthony McGill is the first African-American to hold a principal chair in the New York Philharmonic’s 180-year history. He sees his high-profile position as an opportunity to inspire a new generation of diverse musicians. Anthony discusses his work as an artist and activist, the greatest experience of his life, and how Michael Jordan inspired him to strive for excellence.

Listen on Spotify.

Photo credits for top banner image: 1) Portrait of Yannick Nézet-Séguin courtesy of the Orchestre Métropolitain. 2) Photo of Ray Chen courtesy of the artist. 3) Photo of Anthony McGill by Todd Rosenberg. 4) Photo of Midori by Nigel Parry. 5) Photo of Joseph Alessi courtesy of the artist. 6) Portrait of Joseph Conyers by Chris Lee Photo.

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