Charles Gillette


Hometown: Antioch, IL

Alma maters: Eastman School of Music, B.M.; New England Conservatory, M.M.

Photos by Matt Dine


Appearances: National Orchestral Institute, 2019; Chautauqua Institution, 2014

What is your earliest memory of classical music? My mom taught piano lessons out of our house my whole life and we went to a lot of Chicago Symphony concerts at Ravinia when I was very young.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? At some point during high school I realized that I couldn’t envision myself doing anything else.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? I hope more people have access to classical music. Orchestra audiences have historically been from a similar demographic for a variety of factors, so I hope more orchestras make an effort in the future to encourage more accessibility for people of varying backgrounds.

Who is your biggest inspiration? My mom. She gave me my passion for music, supported everything I’ve ever done, and worked hard to help me realize my dreams. 

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Definitely the late-Romantic/20th century. Some of my favorite composers are Mahler, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Messiaen, and Steve Reich. 

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? I don’t know if I have a favorite, but Mahler’s 6th Symphony is the first piece I fell in love with. 

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? During my undergraduate degree recital I knocked over a glass bowl I was using for a piece and it shattered all over the stage floor. 

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Be kinder to yourself and trust the process. 

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Radiohead

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Cello. I’m jealous of its expressive range; it sounds awesome playing Bach or the gnarliest of contemporary pieces and everything in between.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? I love going to new baseball stadiums. I’ve been obsessed with baseball my whole life and going to games makes me feel nine years old again.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Be grateful you get to have music in your life.