Judith LeClair, Principal Bassoon

The New York Philharmonic

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Judith LeClair

Judith LeClair joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Bassoon in 1981, at the age of 23. Since then, she has made more than 50 solo appearances with the Orchestra, performing with conductors such as Sir Colin Davis, Sir Andrew Davis, Alan Gilbert, Christopher Hogwood, Rafael Kubelik, Erich Leinsdorf, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, André Previn, John Williams, and Andrey Boreyko.

Ms. LeClair is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with K. David Van Hoesen. She made her professional debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra at age 15, playing Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante with colleagues from the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, where she studied with Shirley Curtiss. Before joining the New York Philharmonic, she was Principal Bassoonist for two seasons with the San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera.  

Active as a chamber musician, she has performed with numerous leading artists and has participated in leading festivals around the country. She has given solo recitals and master classes at the Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University, New England Conservatory, Oberlin College, University of Michigan, Ohio University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Every August she gives a solo recital and week-long master class at the Hidden Valley Music Seminar in Carmel Valley, California. She performed with the Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet of New York, formed in 2001 with her colleagues from the New York Philharmonic wind section. They gave recitals throughout the country and on the Orchestra’s foreign tours.

In April 1995 Ms. LeClair premiered The Five Sacred Trees, a concerto written for her by John Williams and commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as part of its 150th Anniversary celebration. She later performed the concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and with the Royal Academy Orchestra in London. She recorded it for Sony Classical with the London Symphony Orchestra in June 1996, with Mr. Williams conducting. This, along with her solo New York Legends CD for Cala Records, was released in March 1997. Her newest CD, Works for Bassoon, was released in the spring of 2010.

Ms. LeClair is on the faculty of The Juilliard School, and she will join the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music in fall 2014. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, pianist Jonathan Feldman, and their son, Gabriel.

“I have been Principal Bassoon for 33 years and I find that the most musically satisfying and enjoyable moments are happening right now. It is a joy to perform with all of our new, great players.”

Q&A with Judith LeClair

Judith LeClair, Principal Bassoon

THE FACTS: Born in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Educated at the Eastman School of Music. Prior to the Philharmonic: principal bassoon, San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera Orchestra. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1981. More than 50 solo appearances with the Orchestra, including Weber's Bassoon Concerto in 2005 with Lorin Maazel. Most recent recording: Works for Bassoon. Teaches at The Juilliard School. 

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Listening to a recording of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf when I was about five years old. I was fascinated by all the different sounds of the winds. I began music study at age eight with the piano, then cello at ten. But I was frustrated with the cello and switched to the bassoon the next year — I loved its timbre — and began studying with a teacher at Ohio University at age 12.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? When I was 14: my family moved to Delaware and I began chamber music studies at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. I knew then that I wanted a career in music.

WHO WERE YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCES? My teacher, Shirley Curtiss, with whom I studied privately and who was a coach at the Settlement Music School, and K.D. Van Hoesen at Eastman.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT WITH THE ORCHESTRA: I have been Principal Bassoon for 33 years and I find that the most musically satisfying and enjoyable moments are happening right now. It is a joy to perform with all of our new, great players.

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSERS: Mozart and Stravinsky: they both wrote brilliantly for winds. And I am beginning to love a different genre — some of the great jazz masters.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ROLE AS A PRINCIPAL PLAYER? Keeping the section strong as the foundation of the woodwinds.

DO YOU PERFORM IN OTHER GROUPS? I play a great deal of chamber music, and perform recitals at various festivals and venues.

ARE THERE OTHER MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? My husband, Jonathan Feldman, is a pianist — he is head of the Collaborative Piano Department at Juilliard and on the faculty of the New England Conservatory. Our son, Gabriel, studies jazz piano at the Precollege Division of Manhattan School of Music.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? I spend a great deal of time teaching, and have wonderful students who inspire me every day. I love hearing my son play jazz, and I love cooking and spending time at home with my family and Airedale terrier. 

As of May 2014


Upcoming 2019-2020 Performances

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November, 2019 Saturday

Saturday Matinee: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5

2:00 PM Concert

Saturday Matinee: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5

Program To Include
Mozart Wind Serenade in E-flat major, K.375b
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5
Jaap van Zweden Conductor
Eugene Izotov Oboe
Robert Botti Oboe
Anthony McGill Clarinet
Pavel Vinnitsky Clarinet
Judith LeClair Bassoon
Roger Nye Bassoon
Leelanee Sterrett Horn


May, 2020 Sunday

Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Hall

3:00 PM Concert

Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Hall

Program To Include
Eric Ewazen Ballade, Pastorale, and Dance for Flute, Horn, and Piano
Stravinsky Octet
Dvořák Piano Quintet, Op. 81
Mindy Kaufman Flute
Howard Wall Horn
Zhen Chen Piano
Robert Langevin Flute
Pascual Martínez Forteza Clarinet
Judith LeClair Bassoon
Kim Laskowski Bassoon
Christopher Martin Trumpet

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