Interview with 2023 Alum of the Performance Program, Zach Glick

Zach Glick Headshot


Zach Glick—a classical guitarist, clarinetist, and conductor—graduated from the UChicago Department of Music's Performance Program in 2023. Read on to learn more about his time at UChicago, his current work as an acoustics specialist and conductor, and check out a playlist of his favorite tunes!

What are some of your most memorable experiences being a part of the Performance Program at UChicago?

Before beginning my journey as a conductor, my musical identity was largely defined by my studies as a classical guitarist. It was always a goal of mine to somehow break into the world of orchestral music by either learning a concerto or playing one of the (rare) orchestral guitar parts. Throughout my four years at UChicago, I was fortunate to make both of these dreams come true. Even though I was not selected, the process of studying the Guitar Concerto No. 2 by Ferdinando Carulli to a point that I felt confident entering the Concerto Competition felt like a real accomplishment, and the invitation to perform “Ecco ridente” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville with the University Chamber Orchestra was very meaningful and loads of fun.

I am also grateful for Barbara Schubert’s encouragement to add the bass clarinet to my resume. I never would have imagined learning another instrument at UChicago and the opportunities to exercise my new bass clarinet skills in substantial orchestral parts such as those in Ravel’s La Valse and Respighi’s Fountains of Rome only increased my love of orchestral playing and has made me a better musician.

What do you miss most about being a student?

I definitely miss spending time every day with friends I met at UChicago. The campus community is truly special, and the relationships I built while a student remain some of my most important. I will miss unpacking class discussions over dinner, reading on the quad in the spring, and exploring Chicago together.

What are you up to these days?

I am still in Chicago, where I am working as an Acoustics Specialist for Kirkegaard, an architectural acoustics and integrated systems company. Our work focuses primarily on music education projects, concert halls, and worship spaces and has afforded me a unique opportunity to apply what I learned in both of my majors – molecular engineering and music. In addition to my work at Kirkegaard, I am passionately pursuing continued studies in conducting. Now a student at the Music Institute of Chicago (MIC), I am studying with Jim Setapen, Conductor-in-Residence and Artistic Director of the Academy at MIC, and am eagerly looking forward to participating in my first full-orchestra workshop with Maestro Lior Shambadal in Berlin in just a few weeks.

What book are you reading right now or have read recently that you would recommend?

I am currently reading James Agee’s A Death in the Family (and cannot stop recommending it!). My love of classical music has long led me to research the context and history pertaining to any music I choose to listen to. Ever since I first heard it, Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 has been one of my favorite pieces, and it brought me to Agee’s memoir. The prose poem that forms the libretto for Barber’s rhapsody for soprano and orchestra originated as the preamble to Agee’s memoir, a deeply moving and heartbreaking story about how the sudden death of a family member can utterly destroy the peace and comfort of domestic American life.

What are some of the musical pieces that you are dreaming of performing (or conducting) someday?

A colleague at a recent conducting workshop remarked that classical music is an “embarrassment of riches.” I could not agree more, and it is so difficult to narrow down the canon to just a few pieces that I hope to study and conduct. Plus, and I promise this is not simply the answer my teacher wants to hear, every piece studied is such a privilege. Nevertheless, I will try to give an answer anyway. The Sibelius Symphony No. 5, for its formal innovation, and the Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5, for its sincere plea for peace, have remained at the top of my list. It would be a dream-come-true to study and perform either of these masterworks.

For a full list of Zach Glick's dream pieces, as well as other favorites, check out the Spotify playlist he curated here