John Marcy, Assistant Principal Cello
John Marcy was born in France and raised in South Bend, Ind. He began playing the cello at age 10. He holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin Conservatory, where his teachers were Norman Fischer and Richard Kapuscinski. He also earned a master's degree at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Pamela Frame.
Marcy has performed and taught in a number of summer music festivals, including the Colorado Music Festival, the Luzerne Music Center and the Stringendo School for Strings. Along with his wife, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra principal oboist Judy Christy, he performs in the Christy Oboe Quartet, which recently released a CD of music by Mozart, Britten, J.C. Bach and James Stephenson. He and his wife have two young children. Marcy has been a member of the Naples Philharmonic since 1991.
I was born in France to an American mother and a French father. We moved to the U.S. when I was a toddler, and I grew up in South Bend, Indiana. I attended Oberlin College, where I studied both music and Spanish, and then went on to get a master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music. I finished school in May 1991, auditioned for the Naples Philharmonic in August and joined the orchestra that fall.
What has been your most memorable moment with the orchestra?
One of my most memorable concerts with the orchestra was when we played Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 with Emanuel Ax. This piece has been one of my favorites since I was in high school and heard it for the first time, sitting in the front row in a live performance by the South Bend Symphony with none other than… Emanuel Ax! I mentioned this to Mr. Ax backstage before one of our concerts and, despite the thousands of concerts he has played in the intervening 30-odd years, he actually remembered the event as it was apparently his very first performance of this concerto.
What inspired you to become a musician?
I began playing the cello following a recruiting visit to my fifth-grade classroom by my elementary school’s orchestra teacher. Once I had decided to join the orchestra, the next step was to choose an instrument. One of my French uncles, Marcel Bardon, was a cellist, so I picked the cello since I knew what it was! Once I had tried it, I was hooked pretty quickly. I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to go into music as a profession; by sometime in high school, it was just a given for me.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
For me, the most enjoyable part of my job is my colleagues. Our orchestra is very congenial and, besides the professional respect I have for my fellow musicians on stage, I can also count many of them among my close friends. First among those is of course my wife, Judy Christy, whom I met when she joined the orchestra five years after I did. I also enjoy the variety of what we do and the fact that we play a good deal of chamber music.
What’s challenging about playing your instrument?
One challenge of playing the cello (or any string instrument) in an orchestra is to make a blending sound. While wind and brass players generally each play individual parts, in the cello section, depending on the concert, there may be eight or 10 of us playing the same line. Ideally, we should sound like one big cello rather than eight or 10 individual players. This involves not just playing the same notes at the same time, but playing them in the same style, matching note lengths and vibrato, playing in the same part of the bow, etc. At the same time, we are also trying to match and coordinate with other sections which may be some distance away. Orchestra players are constantly multitasking—we must simultaneously focus on our music, the conductor and all the players around us.
What are your favorite compositions?
My favorite compositions… I always have trouble answering this question because there are so many. My list will also vary depending on what I’ve been playing or listening to recently. A few off the top of my head (aside from the Brahms concerto already mentioned) in no particular order: the Bach solo cello suites, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major… just about any Beethoven string quartet or Mahler Symphony, and anything by Shostakovich.
What have you been listening to recently?
What I listen to most often is upcoming repertoire, particularly repertoire for our chamber and Masterworks concerts. I find that for my own preparation before the first rehearsal, it is very helpful to listen to recordings so that I understand how my part fits in with everyone else’s.
Are there other musicians in your immediate family?
My mother and father played a little violin and cello, respectively, when they were young, but neither of them had played for years by the time I was born. My sisters both played violin in high school. My wife is principal oboist of the Naples Philharmonic, and both of our children play violin.
What do you like to do outside of work?
As the father of a teenage daughter and a nearly teenage son, I spend a lot of time driving my kids to various activities, helping with homework, etc. I don’t have any real hobbies, but I am a voracious reader.