Lucas Button


Hometown: Syracuse, NY

Alma maters: Rice University, B.M.; Eastman School of Music, M.M.

Photo by Matt Dine


Awards/Competitions: Samuel Mayes Memorial Cello Award, 2017 Tanglewood Music Center; John Celentano Award for Excellence in Chamber Music, 2016 Eastman School of Music; Winner, 2011 Interlochen Arts Academy Concerto Competition; Winner, 2009 Syracuse Symphony/Civic Morning Musicals Concerto Competition

Appearances: Tanglewood Music Center, 2015–17; Aspen Music Festival, 2014

What is your earliest memory of classical music? My mother practicing passages from Mozart and Strauss horn concerti, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Brahms’ Third Symphony, and other symphonic horn moments.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? I went to summer music camp when I was 14 and the experience of seeing so many young people excited by music made me pine for it all the time. For years I had an aversion to practicing, but all of a sudden I wanted to practice all the time.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? Whatever programs orchestras perform, it is important for performers and audience members to exchange ideas about the music. Performers are sharing an experience not just with colleagues on stage but also with the audience, and likewise audience members are sharing not just with audience members but with performers. If audiences and performers have more opportunities to talk about the music programmed, I think concerts become much more fulfilling experiences all around.

Which composer do you feel you connect with the most? Franz Schubert

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? Learning and performing Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 3, then coaching the same piece with a wonderful group of high schoolers a few years later. It is inspiring to form my own ideas about a work along with my colleagues—and then just as inspiring to see more young musicians approaching it fresh and forming their own thoughtful ideas!

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? I turned one too many pages in a string quartet performance and spent 10–20 seconds (but what felt like an eternity!) finding my place on the correct page while the rest of the group continued playing without their cellist.

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Keep listening to ideas and recordings from lots of different teachers, performers, scholars, and people in general. Your hard-and-fast opinions will indeed change over and over again!

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Paul Simon, Hiatus Kaiyote, Stevie Wonder, Charles Mingus

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Viola or jazz drums

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Sociological research or running a used book store

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I am often found in my kitchen roasting coffee in a popcorn popper.