Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I began playing the cello at age 5 in my mother’s Suzuki programme in Shreveport Louisiana. It was a very fun social activity for me to attend group classes and progress through the Suzuki books with my peers. When I was 12 I heard a performance of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations and that really got me hooked on practicing more and learning more difficult repertoire. I’d say this performance was the spark that ignited my love for music and for the cello repertoire. Over the years I’ve been very lucky to have a number of wonderful teachers, all of whom have impacted my musical life equally. From a young age I was also an audiophile and loved listening to recordings for hours and hours. To name any one musician would be much too difficult!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I’m sure everyone can relate to this, but by far the greatest recent challenge has been the Covid pandemic. I was very fortunate to have won the Prieto Competition in 2019 and received an award from the Classical Recording Foundation that summer as well. It was the boost that I felt my career needed and led to some great concert opportunities for the following year, which were unfortunately halted by the pandemic. I’m sure everyone reading this could agree that pressing pause on life is very difficult, especially when you are a young musician trying to build a career.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Right now I am most proud of the debut album (Dialogo) that I was fortunate to record alongside pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion, with Adam Abeshouse as our producer. Out of all the musical experiences I’ve had, this was one of the most exciting because it really felt like we were making something that would last beyond just one concert. One of the beautiful things about music is that it exists more finitely in time than say a painting or sculpture, so to make something like a recording that will hopefully live on after we are no longer around feels very special.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I think being very curious is something that really helps me as a musician and as a human being. I love learning about how the world works, about all sorts of topics from astrophysics to philosophy to magic tricks and beyond. There are nuggets of information and inspiration everywhere we look, and opening our eyes to that is one of the most enjoyable things about being alive.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It used to be that my repertoire choices were based on “gaps” I wanted to fill in my list of pieces to study. If I hadn’t played a certain concerto I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing out on it so to speak. Now I try to think about how different works compliment each other and how they could provide an audience with a particular concept or theme. For example, on my debut album I tried to focus on the concept of dialogue and how the instruments carry out this theme of conversation throughout each work.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
There is a hall a few blocks from my home that I played in every week growing up in the Suzuki programme. This hall not only sounds marvellous, but also is a kind of musical temple for me since I played there from such a young age. It was the first hall I ever performed in!
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
I think that getting to know artists on a personal level is paramount to this goal. Growing up I wanted to learn all I could about my musical heroes, and I would read for hours about their lives, I would find interviews looking for nuggets of wisdom and for things that made them unique. I think opening up to our audiences and being vulnerable as human beings is important to show that we are not just trained performers, but people worth getting to know.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Playing in the Auditorium Du Louvre in Paris. It was quite something to know that we were playing music in the same building as the Mona Lisa and countless other works of mastery.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
My definition of success is definitely evolving. For a while I thought that success would be living up to my maximum potential as an artist. Nowadays, I think of success for me as simply knowing that my music has made a difference in someone else’s life. If I can impact someone emotionally and make them feel something, I believe that is massive success.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Patience and consistency I think are two very crucial things to develop as a young musician. Being able to show up every day helps build the confidence we need as musicians to get up on stage and do what we do. And patience is the thing that allows us to grow over long periods of time.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is my cello. It was my Grandfather’s instrument and to me it represents his legacy. He lived in Austria and fled Europe weeks before Krystallnacht. He was able to smuggle this cello out along with several other instruments and came to the US to start a new life. I feel that this cello is a bond that I have with his memory and every day it inspires me.
John Henry Crawford’s Dialogo (with pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion) is released on 4 June on the Orchid Classics label.
Born in the small Louisiana city of Shreveport, cellist John-Henry Crawford has been lauded for his “polished charisma” and “singing sound” (Philadelphia Inquirer) and in 2019 was First Prize Winner of the IX International Carlos Prieto Cello Competition and named Young Artist of the Year by the Classical Recording Foundation.
At age 15, Crawford was accepted into the legendary Curtis Institute of Music to study with Peter Wiley and Carter Brey and went on to complete an Artist Diploma at the Manhattan School of Music with Philippe Muller, a Master of Music at The Juilliard School with Joel Krosnick, and pursue further study in Chicago with Hans Jørgen Jensen. He has given concerts in 25 states as well as Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Mexico, and Switzerland at venues such as The International Concert Series of the Louvre in Paris, Volkswagen’s Die Gläsern Manufaktur in Dresden, and the inaugural season of the Tippet Rise Arts Center in Montana. Crawford gave his solo debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra as First Prize Winner of the orchestra’s Greenfield Competition and has performed Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Memphis Symphony, Dvorak and Gulda Cello Concertos with the Shreveport Symphony, and Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto with the Highland Park Strings.