Black New York Philharmonic Clarinetist Shares Anguished “America the Beautiful” Musical Protest over the Death of George Floyd

Anthony McGill. Credit: David Finlayson

African American New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist Anthony McGill leads online musical demonstration #TakeTwoKnees in protest of the death of George Floyd. McGill, the first ever African American principal player of the New York Philharmonic, posted a powerful musical protest video in demonstration against the death of George Floyd and historic racial injustice.

The post received over 50,000 views in less than two days and sparked a movement. In the minute and a half video McGill performs his own arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” with a melody that wavers between optimism and anguish and concludes with a final chord that doesn’t resolve. At the end McGill falls to both knees with his arms behind his back. He accompanied the video with a personal and passionate post encouraging people to #TakeTwoKnees in support of the struggle for justice and decency.

Opera singer Lawrence Brownlee, flutist Demarre McGill, composer and flutist Allison Loggins-Hill, trombonist Weston Sprott, dancer Alicia Graf Mack, and trumpeter Billy Hunter are just some of the artists who have already posted videos in response.

McGill performed at the 2009 inauguration for President Obama with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Gabriela Montero. Prior to his New York Philharmonic appointment, McGill served as Principal Clarinet with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He is Artistic Director of Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program and is a faculty member at Juilliard and at the Curtis Institute.

In his post McGill explains:

Earlier this year, before the pandemic, I performed in Birmingham, Alabama and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The challenging history of those places speaks for itself, but in those two trips, I met some of the nicest people that you’ll ever meet in this country. I also pondered how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go in terms of treating everyone with respect and decency. We live alongside that reality all across America. What the news this week and most weeks of my life demonstrates however, is that black lives didn’t matter in our glorified past, and still don’t matter that much today…Now’s the time to protest…let’s try and #TakeTwoKnees in the struggle for justice and decency. No guidelines. Your message, your voice, your mission, your focus. Just #TakeTwoKnees for what you believe in. Pass it along. Let’s try this again and put a spotlight on this evil.

For more about Anthony McGill please visit or contact Allison Van Etten by phone at (323) 449-5030 or via email at [email protected]

1 Comment

  1. Emily Easterling on June 15, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Absolutely breathtaking!

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