Based out of New York City, clarinetist, Artistic Director and founder of Phoenix Ensemble, Mark Lieb is today’s “Inside Story” feature, a blog series exploring what makes our artists tick. Read on and get to know them!
Who was your favorite artist(s) growing up?
As a clarinetist, I grew up admiring orchestral players like Robert Marcellus and Larry Combs, and soloists like David Shifrin and Richard Stoltzman (and his chamber group, Tashi). But outside of classical music, I grew up truly admiring Chick Corea. I am still a major fan of his (I just recently saw him play at the Blue Note in NYC). In high school, I was obsessed a bit with his early fusion group, Return to Forever. He just has such well-rounded, “chops”, a wonderful mix of jazz, rock & pop, and classical, and his musicianship and expression are smart and complex. Pretty inspiring.
What was your most unusual performance or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
I did a music festival in Colorado many years ago. It was an orchestra festival, but they had a program where chamber groups could be hired to do jobs in the community for some extra money, so we put together a wind trio and we got a call to do a “run-out performance.” It turns out we were the entertainment for an outdoor barbecue…. in a cow pasture. So they ran us out to the farm, and we set up in this very windy grassy pasture with our wire stands (thank God we had clothes pins to keep our music from blowing away), and we stood and played wind trios of Darius Milhaud and Georges Auric while this family had a BBQ party. To be honest, the host family was great, and the food was the best. We had fun.
If you weren’t a performer, what would you be?
I have always had an interest in science and philosophy, particularly cosmology. I always try to keep up with what is happening by reading authors like Brian Greene and Lisa Randall.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
I live in New York City (in Manhattan), and continue to find it an amazing place for a musician to work, even though the rents are increasing rapidly, making it more difficult for musicians to survive here. That said, I recently visited London, and I think that a lot of important things are happening there in music and the arts. In fact, I know there is a bit of a migration happening; New York artists are moving to London these days, and I can understand why. At this point, I am more than happy here in NYC, though.