M.M. Flute Performance, Temple University
B.M. Flute Performance, Shenandoah Conservatory
Studio and In-Home Lessons
I teach flute. I truly feel that Hans Christian Anderson had it right in saying, “When words fail music speaks.” I believe this is the reason why we as a society need music and look to make it for ourselves. I believe for both my playing and teaching that music is communication and it can be learned and practiced like a language. I began studying flute at age 10 and continue to work to become a better flautist. I recently graduated from Temple University with my Masters degree in May of 2016. While I was there I studied with David Cramer the associate principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I was principal flute of the Grammy nominated Temple University Symphony Orchestra, as well as section leader of the Wind Ensemble. I was also the flute player for the New School Wood Wind Quintet for my entire tenure at Temple. For my Undergraduate degree I studied at Shenandoah Conservatory with Mr. Jonathan Snowden, one of Britain’s première flute players, as well as Dr. Frances Lapp Averitt. I was principal flute of the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra from 2012-2014. My primary teacher was Margaret Newcomb who is now a dear friend and mentor whom I still call often. I have played principal flute abroad on tour and in the U.S. in such concert venues as Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia’s own Verizon Hall.
When did you begin playing Flute, and why?
The summer before my 5th grade year, I went to Colonial Williamsburg with my family. The big purchase I made that day was an 18$ wooden fife (something I still have today). A fife is essentially the keyless grandfather of the modern Boehm most flute players play today. I remember walking up and down my stairs back in my childhood home, trying to make a sound, and then a better and better sound. When I learned Yankee-doodle I felt extremely accomplished on this instrument. The week before fifth grade I went to try out some band instruments—I wanted to be in band because my friends were. I tried to make sounds on the trumpet, the saxophone, the oboe, and finally, the flute. I found that I could easily make a nice sound on the flute, because it was just like my fife. I picked flute and the rest is history.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I play the piccolo because every professional flute player has to play the piccolo at some point or another in his or her career. I have dabbled with piano (I had to learn for my conservatory degree) recorder, fife, and for a year — baroque flute. All of these instruments I took up with the goal to help my flute playing. I suppose I’m what you’d call a specialist. Flute is in every sense my main, and essentially my only instrument.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
To always communicate to the best of my ability, and to always work to improve. I truly believe that when words stop music begins—music is a universal language. This always remains my goal: to be more effective in communicating through my music making. That being said I love playing with other musicians, one of my favorites is orchestra.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember when I was in middle school trying to learn how to double tongue (say “different syllabus” into the flute to be able to articulate a passage more quickly). I was learning this technique with my teacher Margaret. I was struggling with speeding up the passage I was working on, and trying to work on getting my articulation synchronized with my fingers. My articulation wasn’t keeping up with my fingers. Margaret eventually said, let your tongue ‘flap on the breeze” and let the air do the work. At this moment for whatever reason, this clicked. I stopped working my tongue muscle so hard and found that I could articulate really fast!
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Two things come to mind—My first real teacher Margaret Newcomb would tell me that I wasn’t allowed to say that anything was “hard” or “I can’t” in my lessons. I was only allowed to say “this is challenging” because she believed that saying “this is challenging” signified that anything is possible– saying “challenging” meant that I viewed a challenge as something to conquer, or a call to action that was empowering instead of daunting.
Snowden (my teacher in college) said “we all have the same problems– some of us just have more experience with coping with those issues. This statement again was really empowering to me. Here was the previous principal flute to the Royal Phil, and the London Phil, telling me that we are alike and that he has the same technical obstacles to overcome. In my travels, experience, and teaching I have found this to be true over and over again.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
Learning how to learn. Honestly, I believe that learning how to learn—and learn quickly and efficiently, is something that is one of the more challenging things about learning to play any instrument. The thinking process of a person who has to learn and is required to change what they’re doing is vastly different from someone else whose mind is not required to be so flexible. Learning an instrument requires a constant check of what your body is experiencing (for flute that would be breath, embouchure muscles and of course ears) and what sounds are coming out vs. what sounds you would like to come out.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
I’m not sure how to answer this—for sure there are milestones in my career thus far, I have played principal in Carnegie hall with a youth orchestra, I’ve been on a radio show, I’ve toured Europe with musical groups a couple times now, and most recently I got the opportunity to record a concerto with a string orchestra—I believe strongly that there is no “this is it” in music, there is only what is happening now and thinking of steps to move forward and to improve.
Favorite thing about teaching?
I love watching people learn—it is so fascinating, and frankly rewarding to help someone learn about the many ways music can move and heal. Watching a student understand that they have a certain level of musical power in this way is amazing to me.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Congratulations’! You have decided to learn to play music! You are already on your way to discovering a new mode of communication and have a leg up on everyone else because you think it is important enough to look for. The world is there for those who see it. If you put in the careful time to practice and keep your enthusiasm whatever you want to do with this musical skill can be yours. To achieve this my advice is (to reiterate from before) that putting careful time into practicing your instrument is key.
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
I’m working on making a recording this summer with my duo partner; a wonderful Australian Pianist, Siang Ching Ngu. I’ll be on an album coming out in March with a recording of the concerto I mentioned above I believe to be called Espejismos.