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Get to Know David Pharris

Get to Know David Pharris

Member since: 2005
Position: Clarinet
Hometown: Columbus, GA
Education: Northwestern University

I knew I'd make a career in music when: When I was a junior in high school I started playing in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra with a lot of amazing musicians (including Robert Dorer who is now in the Minnesota Orchestra's trumpet section), and from that moment on I just couldn't imagine doing anything else for a career.

If I weren't a professional musician I'd be: I never really considered any other profession, but I've always been interested in architecture, and I think that's something that I would enjoy doing. Either that or professional baseball (I pitched three no-hitters when I was 12)!

How did you choose the clarinet? I come from a very musical family (except for my brother, who was a tuba player!) Both of my parents were very talented clarinet players and pianists, and my father was my band director growing up. I didn't choose the clarinet so much as it chose me.

Who has influenced you most as a musician? I was fortunate to have three outstanding clarinet teachers growing up, and, coincidentally they had all studied with the same teacher, Robert Marcellus of the Cleveland Orchestra. Marcellus was a lynchpin of the legendary Cleveland Orchestra woodwind section under George Szell, and produced one of the most beautiful clarinet sounds in the world. I was very lucky to study with Mr. Marcellus at Northwestern University.

This season with the Orchestra, which concert is most exciting to you? The Orchestra is in the midst of recording Mahler’s symphonies, and I'm particularly excited about performing the Sixth and Second Symphonies this season.

Which solo or moment in the clarinet’s orchestral repertoire is your favorite? There aren't really many noteworthy solos that one gets to play from the second clarinet chair: however, there are some particularly sublime moments in many of the Mahler symphonies. And Bartok wrote some really interesting, entertaining second clarinet parts in The Miraculous Mandarin and in his Concerto for Orchestra (which the Orchestra performs at an Inside the Classics concert on Friday, March 3).

David Pharris (center) performs in a Minnesota Orchestra concert. Photo by Greg Helgeson.

What are your most memorable performances with the Orchestra? There have been several memorable performances during my time here, but some that have really stood out are our performances with Maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (especially Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony) and our performance of Beethoven’s Ninth at the BBC Proms.

If you could play a different instrument, which would you choose and why? There are several other instruments that I would really enjoy playing (particularly cello, horn and, of course, accordion), but the one instrument I would absolutely not want to play is oboe, unless it came with a full-time reed maker just for me.

Do you have any upcoming performances or other news you want to share with audiences? I am a member of The Musical Offering chamber ensemble, and on February 26 we'll be performing Anton Reicha's Wind Quintet in E minor and Bohuslav Martinu's La Revue de Cuisine at Sundin Music Hall. I will also be performing Nielsen’s Wind Quintet with other members of the Orchestra at a NightCap performance on February 25.

When you’re not performing or practicing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, riding bikes, hiking, going to movies and exploring the many brewpubs in town.

And a fun fact? During my senior year of high school, I was one of two representatives from the state of Georgia in the McDonald's All-American High School Band (why did they ever get rid of it?). With that ensemble, I marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

Pharris, second from right, performs in the McDonald's All-American High School Band. Photo courtesy of David Pharris.

To read more about David Pharris, visit


  • This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
    This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
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    Official Airline of the Minnesota Orchestra