Matthew Griffith


Hometown: Sheboygan, WI 

Alma maters: New England Conservatory of Music, M.M. Clarinet Performance, May 2014–16, G.D. 2016–18; Yale University, B.A., Distinction in Both Music and Computer Science, May 2010–14

Photos by Matt Dine


Awards/Competitions: Winner, 2020 The Orchestra Now Concerto Competition; Winner, 2017 Tanglewood Music Center Gino B. Cioffi Memorial Prize; Winner, 2017 Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award; Winning Quintet, 2016–17 New England Conservatory Honors Ensemble Competition; Winner, 2016 New England Conservatory/Boston Pops Competition; Winner, 2014 Yale University Wrexham Prize in Music and DuPuy Graduation Prize; Winner, 2012 Yale University William Waite Concerto Competition; 1st Prize, 2011 Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra Instrumental Competition; Winner, 2010 “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band High School Concerto Competition; Winner, 2010 United States Army Field Band Young Artists Competition; Winner, 2010 Neale-Silva Young Artist Competition, Wisconsin Public Radio

Appearances: Tanglewood Music Center, fellow, 2016–17; New Fromm Player, 2019; Nashville Symphony, Acting Assistant Principal/2nd & E-flat clarinet, 2017; Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, guest clarinet, 2019; New World Symphony, finalist and substitute clarinet, 2017-2020; Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, 2016–17; New England Conservatory of Music Philharmonia, 2014–18; National Orchestral Institute, 2015; Atlantic Music Festival, 2015; Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, 2014; Yale Symphony Orchestra, principal clarinet, 2010–14

What is your earliest memory of classical music? When my brother and I were children, my mother would play Brahms’ Lullaby on the piano in a different style each night after tucking us in for bed.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? I once toured with a trio that programmed arrangements of Lady Gaga and Radiohead songs right alongside Brahms and J.S. Bach in the same concert. Any music can be made enjoyable if framed in the right context, and building that context requires an active understanding of the audience’s shifting needs and desires. There’s really no right answer, but I am definitely a huge fan of the nationwide trend from the past few years to screen popular films with a live orchestral soundtrack.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? My absolute favorites often have less to do with what the music actually is and more to do with my personal experience with it and the memories it invokes, if that makes sense.

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? During a recital performance, I took a sip of my water bottle between two movements. My hands were shaking from nerves, so I had trouble screwing the tiny cap back on and decided to leave it resting atop the bottle. When I finished the performance I picked up the bottle to take my final bow to the audience. As I bent forward I suddenly heard a “blub blub blub” and saw a puddle of water splattering at my feet with the cap floating downstage!

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Eat healthy, express yourself, take risks, and get more sleep!

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Piano

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I have a (not-so-secret) passion for computer programming and video game production whenever I’m not practicing my instrument.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Gordon Ramsey, Julia Child, and Jamie Oliver, because the dinner would certainly be delicious!!

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: Never have I ever had a cavity.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Never back away from an opportunity to push yourself to the next level.