Brendan Dooley


Hometown: Boylston, MA

Alma maters: Curtis Institute of Music, B.M.; University of Southern California, M.M.; Yale University, M.M.A.

Photos by Matt Dine


Awards/Competitions: 1st Place, 2017 Redlands Bowl Concerto Competition

Appearances: National Repertory Orchestra, 2019; AIMS Graz Orchestra, 2016; New World Symphony; Music Academy of the West Orchestra; YMF Debut Orchestra, Los Angeles; Symphony in C, New Jersey

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Sitting on my dad’s lap while he played the first of the Goldberg Variations

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? When I was 14, I participated in the Maryland Summer Center for the Arts, a summer program at the local university. It was my first time in an orchestra and I had no idea where to sit, but by the end of those two weeks I knew I’d never get tired of orchestral playing!

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? I have a few friends already in the program, and between their endorsement and the focus on orchestral repertoire, it was too exciting to pass up.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? The modern orchestra concert has to strike the right balance between engagement, classic repertoire, and discovery of new works. The history and tradition of classical music are unlike anything else and were a big part of what drew me to it from the beginning. But this tradition shouldn’t be a barrier between the performer and the listener. Making sure to introduce new works and composers, in addition to prioritizing audience engagement and providing context around all the works on display, can help the audience to feel that they’re all equal participants in the culture of classical music. 

Who is your biggest inspiration? My brother. The example he sets of perseverance and determination in the face of adversity is one I’ve always tried to follow.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? I’ve never been able to pick a single composer that I like best, but the music that I feel I connect with most is Romantic orchestral repertoire. That’s painting with a pretty broad brush, but I find that of the pieces I keep coming back to from Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, and far too many others to mention, all have this much in common.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Like my favorite composer, my favorite piece of music probably changes from day to day. So I’ll just say what I’ve been listening to lately: a flute transcription of Strauss’ Violin Sonata. Flutists love to steal repertoire from other instruments, and in this case the great Emmanuel Pahud has a recording of the Strauss that I’m completely taken with. So I hope any violinists I’ve offended blame Emmanuel, not me!

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? While doing my undergrad, I got to go on tour with harp, cello, viola, and soprano for a program of almost entirely late-19th century and early-20th century French chamber music. We played Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp as well as arrangements of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Ravel’s Shéhérazade. If they had let me choose the repertoire myself it probably wouldn’t have looked any different! Being able to make music with such talented colleagues and faculty members cemented chamber music as one of my favorite forms of performance.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Piano. I find piano to be the most flexible solo instrument you could play, and I’m jealous of the ability to play piano reductions of orchestra or chamber scores. Unfortunately I don’t think I have the talent for playing more than one note at a time, so I’m content to just enjoy it as a listener!

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Take things slow! I understand feeling like you have to play a certain piece or get into a certain school immediately, but in my experience there are always things you feel you need to improve about your playing no matter where you are. Understanding that there’s no particular rush to become the musician you want to be, or think you should be, has helped me come to terms with my own musical strengths and weaknesses.