Tommaso Lonquich (BM Clarinet ‘06) is quickly earning international renown as a chamber musician. In 2011, he was appointed solo clarinetist with Ensemble MidtVest, a full-time chamber ensemble based in Denmark that is known for its creative programming and innovative approach to the classical concert. This year, he was appointed to the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society (CMS) under its three-year residency “Two Artists” program. CMS Two Artists are given equal billing alongside seasoned colleagues in the Chamber Society and perform regularly in New York City and on tour in the United States and abroad. With his reputation on the rise, we asked Tommaso about how his career has taken shape, what inspires him, and what advice he would give to our recent graduates.
Why are you a musician, what is your artistic mission?
There are so many reasons why I am a musician! I believe one has to do with my natural fascination with classical music as a child. My father and grandparents are musicians, so I always equated music with the domestic, with coziness and good feelings, like waking up from a childhood nap to the lulling of beautiful harmonies.
As a musician today, I always try to recapture those early feelings of fascination, for myself and for the audience. So the original kernel of my passion for music has also become, quite naturally, my professional mission.
At this moment, what are your career goals?
At the moment, I am just enjoying all the wonderful opportunities that allow me to keep growing as a musician. Throughout my studies, I dreamed of being a full-time chamber musician. I always assumed that if things went well, I would join an orchestra and teach, both of which I would have been reasonably satisfied to do. But incredibly enough, I am experiencing a career above and beyond my original dreams. I hold positions with Ensemble Midtvest in Europe and with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society in New York. These two combined are more than a full-time job. Furthermore, I have several freelance opportunities in chamber music, especially at a number of European summer festivals. And I am very happy to join forces with two great artists, cellist Umberto Clerici and pianist Claudio Martinez Mehner. This partnership results in several concerts every year.
What role did UMD help you play in developing your mission and career goals?
I think the main way that the School of Music helped me to develop was through all the performance opportunities I was offered. I was an active chamber musician through the School of Music’s Chamber Music Connections program, which brought chamber music to local public schools. I also loved the in-depth work that James Ross did with the UMD Symphony Orchestra. Today, I follow proudly the developments of UMSO, and its innovative programming. Professor Ross has a brilliant vision, and when I was at UMD, his enthusiasm and love of music was contagious. This resulted in moving performances, and still does today. As a student, it was a privilege to be part of it.
How does your work with the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center and Ensemble MidtVest facilitate your goals?
My work with the Lincoln Center CMS allows me to open up musical and human dialogue through performance – this is important to me. It also offers exciting concert opportunities in the United States and abroad.
Ensemble MidtVest, on the other hand, is unique, in that it is one of the few existing chamber music ensembles that employ its musicians full-time, and it is almost entirely publicly funded. Moreover, it is a very democratic organization. Most choices are made by the musicians in collaboration with the management, such as our performance calendar, recording projects, programming and career development. The result is a very driven group with musicians who involve themselves deeply in all aspects of the process. Our recording and touring schedule attests to this energy. Last season alone, we presented more than 100 concerts, toured five countries and released three CDs. We are also very active in experimental projects, collaborating with other art forms, and for many years now, with musical improvisation.
What advice would you give to our young School of Music alumni?
It can feel very difficult to find yourself as a recent music graduate. You may still have to work very hard to perfect your performance and your audition skills, and then you may still grapple with a number of unsuccessful auditions. Use these experiences as a source of energy in your search for musical depth and technical solutions. My early 20s were a time of constant searching – and not always finding right away! I searched for new teachers, for new ideas, new technical solutions, and was sometimes disheartened. Today I think that I should probably simply have practiced more and better, and gotten frustrated less.
Most importantly, devote yourself to exploring the language of music, search for the meaning of a composition, of each phrase, for the relevance of a single note. Make music the water you dive in, ever full of colorful creatures, highlights and shadows, bubbles, depths and hidden nooks. And bring it all with you on the stage, so that the audience and your colleagues may taste the sea salt.