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You have a great portfolio career. Which part do you enjoy the most?

Funnily enough – it’s not actually one thing that I enjoy the most – but rather it’s the diversity of my career which I really value, and the variety of my professional life and experiences that gives me the greatest satisfaction. Playing maybe 60-70 concerts per year – whether this is as a soloist with orchestra; or chamber music with piano; my work within the Heritage Orchestra, which I love and have been principal flute of since 2009; West End work; recording sessions; low flute work with my treasured Kingma bass and contrabass flutes; workshops and masterclasses all over the world; my composing and arranging work; conducting flute choirs all over the world; and of course my work as the European Artist-in-Residence for the wonderful Wm. S. Haynes Co. The variety is the key for me. I consider myself a “moving target” – reluctant to be pigeon-holed into one role. I suppose, looking at it negatively, one could maybe say that I’m a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” – but then the one thing all of these activities have in common is the flute – and that’s what I’m really passionate about in every sense.

How do you manage to keep in shape practice wise in this hectic schedule?

I try to practise whenever I can, and I always wish that I could do more. Luckily I was one of those flute-nerds who in my late teens and all the way through my early and mid twenties arose early, and immediately started practising – regularly putting in eight hours a day – in order to really master the instrument. With the help of some excellent instruction from my teachers and mentors, followed by over a decade of self-discovery since leaving college, I hope that I’ve managed to find my own approach in efficient, necessarily short bursts of practice. I’ve thankfully been blessed with naturally fairly nimble fingers and a tongue which enjoys fast articulation, and my work on explaining the fundamentals of flute tone production to others via lectures, workshops and masterclasses has certainly helped immensely in my own solidity of sound technique.

What is your flute and why is it so special?

My flute! My beautiful, beautiful flute! It makes me sigh with pleasure every time I open the box! it was love at first toot – and as it was custom made for me, I’m very glad it was! It is a Solid 14K gold Custom Flute #54321 made by my dear friends and colleagues at the Wm. S. Haynes Company in Boston Massachusetts. It is a jaw-droppingly beautiful instrument – with B footjoint, C# trill and full hand-engraving. I’m also delighted to say that it plays as good as it looks, and having only (in November 2015) had it for 14 weeks – I’m still discovering new, and wonderful things about it. It’s the sort of instrument that is so good that it makes me think about future generations that will play on it – long after I’m gone. I find it wonderful and very inspiring that this gorgeous creation might have a lifespan not of mere decades, like we players, but of centuries…!

Tell us about your teaching, do you travel abroad with masterclasses, and where?

In the last 12 months alone I have given masterclasses, workshops and lectures in Russia (as part of the team for Yuri Bashmet’s Music Academies) all over the UK (including classes in Cumbria, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, and for Flutewise), The USA (for a class at Yale University and with Boston Flute Academy) as well as classes in Iceland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, France, Hong Kong, Australia and Poland. So yes, quite a LOT of international work!

It somewhat sharpens the mind and forces me to distill my thoughts when working through an interpreter – so it’s quite a useful thing for encouraging clarity and concision! I teach only very little one-to-one – mostly one-off sessions following classes where students would like some individual attention. I enjoy teaching at all levels, but I suppose my weakness is that I have little patience for students who are not interested in learning – the flute is my passion, and as such I get frustrated with people who aren’t interested, or are simply being ’sent’ to flute lessons – they’ve got to be keen! In the future I would very much love to join the faculty of a major university music department or conservatoire as I do very much enjoy teaching at a high level.

 

Do you have any advice for flautists leaving music college these days?

My advice is be organised, be on time (or if not early), listen more than you speak (I was terrible at this), smile and be enthusiastic – nothing worse than an already jaded 22 year old – no matter how cool it might seem, buy the tea/coffee, and join the MU. I’m not sure my career is one that could be easily replicated – but I know that I definitely found that the extra business training which I got through a Guildhall/Deutsche Bank partnership has stood me in excellent stead both for the business/marketing side of my Haynes role and also for my own promotion and the day-to-day business of being self employed. So if there’s a chance to get some business training – grasp it!

Claire Wickes: Interview Feb ’16 (Part1)

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Ulla Miilman: interview Oct, ’15

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