Mission: To seek and share inspiration


Spotlight on Jonathan Gunn

Principal Clarinet


Spotlight on Jonathan Gunn


Growing up in England, Jonathan Gunn’s excellent school music programs allowed him to dabble in different instrumental choirs and orchestras. He began his musical training on violin and piano. At age 11, he and his family moved to the United States. Though he wanted to play trumpet in his new school band, his parents and band director decided clarinet would be a better fit.

Jonathan continued performing with his school band through high school and started to think about continuing his clarinet studies in college. He began college with a double major in electrical engineering and music. “Halfway through the degrees doing both, I literally woke up one day and thought that if I’m going to continue playing clarinet and try to make it a career, I needed to commit to that and drop the engineering degree,” he said. “It was really an ‘aha’ moment.”

He started playing with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra in 2004 as Associate Principal and E-flat Clarinet and, after serving as Acting Principal Clarinet for three-and-a-half seasons, he was officially named Principal Clarinet in December of 2014 after a national audition. “Being Principal Clarinet of the CSO is a highly sought-after position and, after filling the position temporarily for several years, I’m thrilled for it to become permanent. I look forward to many more years of making music with Maestro Langrée and my CSO colleagues.”

“One of the things I like the most about playing with this Orchestra is the variety of things we get to play,” he said. “From chamber music to the Pops, huge orchestras to small orchestras, this Orchestra is great at switching gears.”

Mr. Gunn seeks (and finds) inspiration from his colleagues in the Orchestra, particularly when something “gels” in a special way while playing together. “It’s great when those moments happen, and they continue to inspire me,” he said.

High points particularly come when playing chamber music with his colleagues. “Playing chamber music when the group is right is really unbeatable,” he said. “We should always feel like we’re playing chamber music though, even when playing with a big orchestra.” The diversity of repertoire this Orchestra performs is what makes this job particularly special. “I wouldn’t want any of the various elements of what we do to be missing [full symphonies, chamber music, Pops, etc.],” he said.

A recent concert highlight for Mr. Gunn was in October of 2014 when Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin and Kodály’s Dances of Galánta appeared on the same program. Both pieces heavily feature the clarinet, and he had not played either in a concert setting. “To have them together on the same concert program was both amazing and daunting,” he said.

When not rehearsing and performing with the Orchestra, Mr. Gunn keeps a busy teaching schedule at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and tries to fit in a round of golf when possible. Otherwise he’s traveling to and from Chicago, where his wife plays piccolo for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s truly amazing that I get to make a career out of what I’ve always wanted to do. After 21 years of playing professionally, there are still genuine moments where I think, ‘I can’t believe I get to do this.’”

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