I started taking flute lessons in public school, when I was 10 years old. No one else in my family was a musician, although I heard rumors that there was a famous gypsy violinist on my maternal grandfather's side.
My high-school band director, Lee Harrington, was incredibly influential and supportive of me, both as a musician and a person - he's the main reason I continued on to play the flute for the rest of my life.
While I took to classical flute very quickly, I soon became interested in world flutes, too. People would constantly bring me any wooden, bamboo or ceramic flute that they had found while traveling, and hand it to me - "Look - I found a flute for you!". I was also very interested in Native American art and culture, and taught myself beadwork and leather-tooling. I had never seen (or heard) a Native American flute until I spotted one hanging on a wall in a gift shop in Boulder, Colorado, in the early 1990s, while on a road trip across the USA. As soon as a played a few notes on it, I was completely hooked. Soon after, I heard (and bought) Carlos Nakai's album "Canyon Trilogy", which inspired me to become a much better NAF player. At that point, I developed a real appreciation for "simple" world flutes and the skill it takes to play each one really well. People often would ask me "Are you of Native American descent" to which I would answer "No, not as far as I know!" When I got my DNA analyzed in 2017, I (and the rest of my family) was surprised to learn that I am 2/10ths of 1 percent Native American (one ancestor, tribe unknown), on my paternal grandmother's side. There's an untold story there that I'd like to uncover someday.
What instruments do you play?
I play anything that looks like a flute - including piccolo, alto, bass and contrabass flutes, Native American flutes, shakulute, shakuhachi, bansuri, ocarina, xun, xiao, recorder, suling, quena, pan-flute, Aztec Death-Whistle and a little didgeridoo. I can also play the conch, but only when I want to scare my cats.
What groups do you/have you performed in?
I am the new Principal Flute for the Beach Cities Symphony Orchestra, beginning with the 2015-16 season. I also perform with the groups Los Angeles Flute Orchestra and Pipe Dreams (formerly Flauto Badinage), plus ad-hoc appearances in other ensembles (Carson Symphony, Peninsula Symphony, Southern California Symphony, New World Baroque Orchestra & others). Previously, I was the Guest Principal Flute, Beach Cities Symphony, Principal Flute, Santa Ana Symphony, and 2nd Flute/Piccolo, Hour of Power Orchestra (when it used to be on TV). Got to hear some amazing interviews at HoP, and play with world-class guest musicians.
What instruments do you teach?
I teach modern concert flute, piccolo, alto and bass flute; Native American style flute (including rim-blown Mojave or Anasazi-style); shakulute (western concert flute with a shakuhachi headjoint), beginning recorder (soprano & alto) and beginner pan-flute. For lots more information, see my Lessons page….
Who did you study with?
Everyone asks this question-understandably, to find out a teacher’s legacy. Perhaps a better question is “What did you learn in your lessons?”
These are people I spent significant time with and who influenced my playing - some are famous, some are not. For each one, I’ve listed one important technical skill and one philosophical concept that I learned during my lessons with them…
Lee Harrington (my high school Band Director)
- Learned all my scales, thirds and arpeggios from memory
- “To focus the flute sound, imagine that you are holding a round soda straw in your lips.“ (This was the first time I realized that imagining something that is not really happening, impacts your playing.)
Melissa Sweet (my first private flute teacher during high school)
- Learned to start all notes with a clean attack (no squeaking or wrong octaves) especially in the middle register.
- “Make each and every note in a phrase go someplace!”
College (Lebanon Valley College)
Tom Strohman (of the jazz band Third Stream)
- Learned to experiment with different consonants for articulation, and vowels for tone color and pitch.
- “Do you know how to get to play Carnegie Hall? You just rent it!” Now whenever I read a performer’s bio that makes a big deal about having played at Carnegie Hall, I understand that it is a complex business arrangement, not a "gift". Whether the concert is amazing (or not) is really up to the performer.
Graduate School (University of Southern California)
Roger Stevens (Flute/Piccolo, Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Actually, it’s very hard to choose just two things that I learned from Roger. I cried a lot in lessons, they were so hard, and yet I made the most progress in learning all the things I hadn’t learned up to this point.
- Speed of the air = pitch. Quantity of air = volume. It’s that simple.
- “To make an entrance in tune, don’t just listen – you must pre-hear yourself playing the note.”
Jimmy Walker (Los Angeles Philharmonic, USC, and the jazz band Free Flight)
- Learned how to deconstruct and re-construct vibrato, using his famous Vibrato Chart.
- “Find the story associated with the music, and act it out.” This is actually a paraphrase of something he said that I just can’t repeat, while I was learning the flute solo of the Brahms 4th symphony…
Gary Woodward (Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and USC)
- Learned that the material of the flute is not nearly as important as how it was made. Trying some of his vintage Powell flutes was very educational.
- “You can hear what a person was thinking when they were recording a piece. Sometimes it is the safest version, not the best version, that winds up on the CD.”
Did I see you or talk to you at a National Flute Association Convention?
Probably! I’ve been actively involved with the NFA for many years. I was the Information Booth Chairperson (Los Angeles convention 1992), Assistant Exhibits Coordinator (Chicago convention 1996) and Exhibits Coordinator (Phoenix convention 1997). I’ve performed at the annual convention many times from 2001 to 2014 with various groups including Pipe Dreams, the Los Angeles Flute Orchestra, the NFA Professional Flute Choir and the world-record breaking James Galway Tribute flute orchestra in NYC, 2009.
Do you work with composers? (That is, give them advice or help?)
Yes, I love working with contemporary composers and arrangers to premier new compositions and arrangements for flute and flute ensembles. My latest interest is bringing Native American flute music into the concert venue, and showcasing the unique sound of this indigenous instrument and its musical heritage. I can give all sorts of guidance about notation, NAF tablature (a.k.a Nakai Tab), transposition/transcription, ranges, tunings, etc. for all sorts of flutes.
Do you take adult beginners/ reed doublers/ people who used to play the flute a long time ago and now want to get back to it?
Certainly! See my Lessons page …
Are you a member of any professional organizations?
Of course! I’m a current member of the National Flute Association, the World Flute Society, a voting member of The Recording Academy (the GRAMMYS®) and the AFM Local 47 (Musicians Union – Los Angeles).
I was also a member of the recently-dissolved International Native American Flute Association
Where did you get your education? Do you have a degree in music?
Yes, I hold a BS in Music Education & BA in Spanish from Lebanon Valley College of Pennsylvania (1983), and an MM in Flute Performance from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music (1987). LVC gave me an outstanding Alumni Citation (complete with a big party and a beautiful trophy) in 2017 (am both honored and amazed).
Where was that banner photo taken?
Mono Lake, California, by my photographer husband, Nik Arkimovich
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