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First flute of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra

What do think of Principal Chairs?

Do you find this to be a useful resource for flute students and professionals?
Congratulations; it is an extremely interesting site with lots of information, which can help students to get better and to get advice from great people! Bravo!

I wish I had had this information, brought by such amazing players, when I was a student. For my first orchestral excerpt-exam when I was a student, I was hardly prepared. We had a lessons (the first one on this repertoire) in the morning, and in the afternoon, there was a small exam. It was not taken very seriously. We had no chance to try a piccolo and of course had no lessons on this very important instrument.

Nowadays it is very different, and Principal Chairs helps a lot with this development of taking the orchestral repertoire very seriously. I am thrilled that great orchestral players take the time to talk about, and demonstrate this wonderful repertoire.

Who, out of your teachers, has helped you the most with the the audition preparation for you first job in a professional orchestra and how?

Two of my teachers were, and are still, great orchestral musicians. Philippe Boucly, principal Flute in the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, worked lots with me on this repertoire, and also made me understand what it really meant to prepare for an audition.

Jeanne Baxtresser, former Principal Flute of the Montreal, Toronto and New York Philharmonic Orchestras with her book, her CD, her recommendations, and the way she worked on this repertoire helped me to learn about the repertoire, but also about myself and the way I functioned towards auditions.

I think they both, from their orchestral perspective, helped me a lot to prepare and to understand what was important to these auditions. With Professor Graf we mainly worked on the repertoire for competitions and basic education, musically and technically. It was a different perspective, also because I was very young when I came to him (only just 19 years old, and I had already graduated from the Brussels Conservatory). I was of course very talented, but also very inexperienced and knew no repertoire at all, and we had a lot of basic technical and basic musical issues to deal with. Professor Boucly worked with me a little later, and Ms Baxtresser in summer classes and private lessons.

Organising your practice time is always tricky! I try to find time every day before orchestra or teaching for doing basics, and to practice the repertoire as much as possible, but I do it basically whenever, wherever and however. We have to learn to work quickly, efficiently and to the point.

How do you prepare your students for auditions? Do you have a special system that you use?

First of all, all the basics must be OK. If there is a problem with one of the basics, like sound, intonation, articulation or any other, you will be commented on this by any jury in an audition panel.Play the audition repertoire also with the piano book (Mrs.Baxtressers and Mr Dohns book on excerpts with piano accompaniments) and repeat them until students can play them any time in any condition.

Accuracy, good intonation, rhythm, sound, phrasing, style, technical assurance and much more are also required. I work on all basic repertoire for auditions including both the Concertos by W.A. Mozart and of course the standard pieces such as the Concertos by Reinecke, Nielsen, the Sonatine by H.Dutilleux, the Ballade from F.Martin, the Reinecke Sonata etc. Then of course many many excerpts, essentially on flute as I have assistants who deal with the piccolo playing. We have seperate exams for Orchestral Excerpts: 8 excerpts in the Bachelor years and Mozart & 8 excerpts in the Master years.

We (Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp) also have, as probably the only school in Europe, a Masters Program for the piccolo with my dear friend and collegue Peter Verhoyen, who works together with me in the orchestra. The students are mostly people who have done 4 years of second instrument Piccolo (usually studying with 2 former students of ours who hold Piccolo chairs in renowned orchestras.) Then after this people can go on to a Master Programm for the Piccolo for another 2 years. I also started and run an Orchestral Academy between our Orchestra and 12 Higher Education Institutes in Belgium and Holland. I loved seeing the result of so many young people growing! That’s what teaching and education should be about- having all these young people growing in to our colleagues. Our chief Conductors, Edo de Waart, Jaap van Zweden and Philippe Herreweghe, conduct them.
Orchestral repertoire is very important and difficult. I work on this repertoire all the time and my students prepare it, and come into my classes with it.

We have heard that you were planning to write a book with basic excercises for children, music schools and young professional students. Is that still in progress?

Yes. It is merely the idea that for every basic technique there is a simple exercise you can do. The book is essentially for the advanced amateur (14 years and above) and the pre-professional or young professional. Unfortunately, the editor who asked me a few years ago to write this book actually merged with a much bigger company, and now the interest seems to be gone from their side so we will see! I think any basic book should cover all aspects of playing. The daily program I use for myself and my students (which evolves all the time) is trying to cover it all. It is a kind of “simplified, easier” version of P. L. Graf’s CheckUp, with the same philosphy, but for younger flautists and players who may have less experience with basic programs. I do it myself every day! It keeps me fit.

Timothy Hutchins: Interview, Dec ’19

Timothy Hutchins: Interview, Dec ’19

I did my audition in May and started officially in September. I did one crazy week in the summer. It was a great way to start: playing in a park, playing the Carmen solo with roller coasters and screaming people in the background. It was low stress…

Robert Aitken: Interview, Nov ’18

Robert Aitken: Interview, Nov ’18

Unlike most string players, and quite possibly most orchestral players, flutists often seem to focus on orchestral careers and not on being soloist or playing chamber music. Why that is is a topic for other venues but the fact that orchestral playing….

Tom Ottar Andreassen: Interview, Jan ’18

Tom Ottar Andreassen: Interview, Jan ’18

I had the good fortune whilst still at a special music school to meet composers and literally ‘grow up with them’, so that contemporary music was a natural part of my background. When I was 15…

Claudia Stein: Interview, Oct ’17

Claudia Stein: Interview, Oct ’17

I had the good fortune whilst still at a special music school to meet composers and literally ‘grow up with them’, so that contemporary music was a natural part of my background. When I was 15, my classmate John Rausek wrote a piece dedicated to me. Later on I developed a close relationship to the composition…