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“Andrea Oliva is one of the best flutists of his generation, a shining star in the world of the flute”. This is what Sir James Galway said about Andrea Oliva, Principal Flutist at Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome since 2003.

We had a great opputrunity to talk to Andrea when he and his orchestra were in London performing at the BBC Proms. Here is what he had to say:


What were the challenges of bridging the gap between college and professional work?

The hardest challenge I had was buying the music studio for orchestra soloists.  I studies orchestral studies further  at the Imola International Academy, with former Principal Flute for the Scala di Milano, Glauco Cambursano, and the reality of  live orchestra. I mastered all the technical and stylistic approaches of the orchestra principal during my studies, thanks to the precious knowledge given to me by my tutors. Playing with other instruments around you, with harmonies that accompany you, and the context of the symphony or opera is a completely different experience! The hard part (and also fun part!) is to find a way to put the differences of ones aspects of understanding and that of the orchestra and conductors’ ways together in unison. This is why, during my lessons on performance within an orchestra, I prefer there to be an accompanying pianist. It’s very important that the students understand their part, when practicing, within musical context of an orchestra.


Were there aspects of Orchestral playing that you felt weren’t prepared for by the college?

The thing I was not prepared for was the great joy and emotion that one might feel by playing in a professional orchestra, instead of only studying the individual part and bringing it to the lesson. One can only imagine during years of studies how awesome and grand it can be to play along such a musical mass as a symphony orchestra.


You have won quite a few competitions. Do you think it is important doing them?

I have won many awards, and I believe it has helped me in different aspects, such as: preparing the new repertoire to my highest level, mostly by memory; learning how to manage my emotions; always encouraging myself to improve, studying new pieces, especially contemporary pieces; remaining a humble servant of music, and always showing what I am worth in every challenge, even though ones’ self-esteem increases after many successes. Basically, it has “defined” my character and the way I play. I don’t know if this would help everybody in the same way, I believe it to be a subjective thing. I would say that first of all I try to enjoy and let others enjoy, using the right dose of concentration and optimism that is needed to perform at my best. I’m not always pleased with my performances, but most times it makes me happy when I’m able to fully demonstrate the results of my hard-work (which in international competitions always counts for a lot). Personally, I have never gone to a competition thinking about winning, but simply to perform at my best and to perform as much as I could.


How was it playing in the Berlin Philharmonic when you were 23? Scary or fun?

It was both! Obviously the tension and nerves were more evident the first times, but after playing for a while I became more relaxed and happy to find myself in a very professional context. That’s when I really began to have fun, exchanging music with colleagues, as if it was a big chamber music ensemble. It’s like being thrown into a raging river: as long as you let the current take you you’ll be fine, and if you’re well prepared, it’s even easier to play! It was an experience that I will always have inside as an ideal standard.

You have played in many orchestras. How have they developed/changed your playing?

The emotions that one goes through by performing amongst different orchestras are wide and continuous: every orchestra has different ways of “reacting” to music and conductors. To be able to immediately adapt to these different ways of playing one must be very open-minded, have a well trained ear, and be very technically and musically adaptable. This is probably true empowerment. Obviously the opposite is also true, that one’s experiences in other orchestras, is brought to the orchestra in which one currently performs, an experience that one wouldn’t have if they hadn’t performed in different orchestras.


What do you think about Principal Chairs?

I find Principal Chairs to be very useful and easy to use. It’s a specific tool, which we were lacking, that is very useful for students and professionals, and that will definitely have a great success and become well known. I’m honored and proud to be able to be part of this project. I wish to all the creators and users all success in their musical life.

We are very proud to announce that we will be working closely with Andrea in soon to bring our subscribers video masterclasses on auditions on the continent. Andrea’s knowlege of orchestral flute repertoire is wide and varied and he has a lot to offer to flute students around the world. We are very excited about our partnership.  Visit Andrea’s website and check out his recordings. 

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