For Jonathan Cohen, clarinet is a family tradition

Clarinetist Jonathan Cohen

This season, several guest musicians will perform with us regularly. We know audience members are interested in knowing more about the new people they see on stage. This week, we introduce Juilliard-trained clarinetist Jonathan Cohen.

When did you start to play the clarinet? What drew you to it?

I began playing the clarinet when I was nine years old. Both my parents are musicians: my mom is a cellist and my father is a clarinetist, as was my grandfather. When it came time to choose an instrument, it happened that we had an extra clarinet lying around! With these family connections, I was particularly drawn to the clarinet.

Where has your training and career taken you?

Learning to play the clarinet has allowed me to travel to some really exciting places. My journey began when I left home to study at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for boarding school. From there, my studies continued in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. During the summers, I was able to travel to Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and abroad in Spain, Japan, and Brazil. Prior to moving to Saint Paul, I was also able to play some concerts with the Virginia Symphony in Norfolk, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Traveling is a great passion of mine, and I’m so thankful for all the great travel opportunities in music.

Which teachers or mentors have been most influential in your life?

I am deeply grateful for all the encouragement and training I’ve received from my esteemed teachers. Foremost, I owe so much to my father who first taught me from when I was just learning fingerings to my first time playing the Mozart Concerto. He was always patient with me, and perfectly played two roles: an encouraging father and a demanding teacher.

After him, I am extremely grateful to have studied with Nathan Williams, Yehuda Gilad, Mark Nuccio, and Anthony McGill. These great teachers taught me everything I know and also how to continue learning and improving after my time with them. Many other lessons, chamber coachings, and concerts also helped shape me into the musician I am. I firmly believe that every opportunity in music is a chance to learn, and I’m very excited for the chance to grow more with my great colleagues in the SPCO.

What are your interests outside of music?

Outside of music (when there is time outside of music!), I love going to museums. I enjoy reading, especially fantasy and science fiction. I’m a big fan of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. I love to travel, especially to try new and delicious foods. I look forward to pursuing new interests and discovering what Minnesota has to offer.