Juan Esteban Martinez

he/him
clarinet

Home Country: Dominican Republic

Alma maters: Peabody Institute, B.M.; Yale School of Music, M.M.

Photos by Matt Dine

Profile

Awards/Competitions: Most Outstanding Prize for Clarinet, 2021 Sphinx Orchestral Partners Auditions (SOPA) Excerpt Competition; Winner, 2019 Coeur d’Alene Symphony Concerto Competition; Winner, 2016 Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition; 2nd Place, 2016 Yale Gordon Concerto Competition

Appearances: National Orchestral Institute and Festival, 2021; National Repertory Orchestra, 2019; New York String Orchestra Seminar (NYSOS), 2017–18; Orchestra of the Americas, Southern Cone Tour, 2017; Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival, 2016

What is your earliest memory of classical music? The first time I experienced classical music was in a CD of the Mozart and Weber clarinet concerti. I remember being amazed by the beauty of the sounds and the clarity in every note. It was the first time I heard the whole range of the clarinet and I immediately decided that I wanted to play like that too.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? It was the first time I attended an open rehearsal of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic. At the time I was playing a lot in band, but hearing the orchestra playing classical music in a concert hall made me realize how much I wanted to be there one day.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? The program should include more living composers, and music that wasn’t performed or recognized during its time. In addition, I think it’s time to transform the concert hall into a more casual venue, changing the formal attire, having more interaction with the performers, and making concerts open to all audiences.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Romanticism, especially Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff. However, I feel I connect the most with Richard Strauss.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Percussion. When I was younger, I always went to play with the percussion section when I wasn’t playing clarinet.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I always imagined myself as a professional soccer player. I was never good enough, though, so I would probably be doing something else around soccer, like a sports analyst, commentator, coach, or even referee.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I started teaching music at the age of nine at my mom’s music school. The first few years we didn’t have other teachers, so my brother and I had to teach all the instruments, for which I had to learn how to play piano, guitar, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. I still remember a little bit from those years.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Stay true to yourself, and don’t let a bad result define you. Make sure to always make music and be as expressive as you can.