Originally from outside Chicago in the United States, Mike Grittani took up the cello at the age of nine. Although he first enrolled in college as a photography major, he finished with a degree in music from Illinois Wesleyan University and continued his studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago with Richard Hirschl.
Over the past few years, Mike has continued his preparation for an orchestral career by studying with various cellists of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and performing with the organisation’s training ensemble, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
Mike has had the pleasure of performing in the International Mendelssohn Festival, Aspen Festival Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra, and Castleman Quartet Program, among others, and has participated in masterclasses with world-renowned cellists including Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Harrell, Arto Noras, Tamás Varga and Brinton Smith.
Still an avid photographer and graphic designer, Mike enjoys working offstage for organisations such as Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Grant Park Music Festival. Mike is grateful for his parents’ generous gift of a 1910 Milanese cello made by Benigno Saccani, and his brother’s gift of a 1928 Morizot bow from France.
Mike is a Leverhulme Scholar, supporting his place in Southbank Sinfonia.
What is your favourite piece of music, and why do you love it?
An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss is one of my all-time favourites. Not only is the tonal intensity huge, but the piece tells a story of a group of mountaineers on an expedition to summit a mountain. As they progress along their route, they pass musical themes on their ascent that signal different points in their journey. When they encounter a thunderstorm, they have to run back down the mountain, passing these musical themes in reverse order. The storytelling without use of words is superb.
What do you think concerts of the future should look like?
The more we take classical music out of the concert hall and into the community, the better. We need to introduce the genre to those who haven’t experienced it, and help them discover that it is relevant to their everyday lives. The way to do this, I believe, is through collaboration with modern artists (of every medium) and adapting creatively to the types of performances each community needs.
What do you do with your time when you’re not playing music?
I entered college as a photography major, which has always been an interest of mine. I have a project going right now to take a quality, artistic photograph each day for a year, all of which I’m posting on my instagram – @cellistwithacamera.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us
I brew beer at home with my dad! Our last batch was a Belgian Pale Ale.