I’m thankful for each of my flute teachers who were so influential in my progress. Our lives are like a quilt or tapestry. Each person, or in this case – teacher, adds something to make the quilt or tapestry of our musicality and our lives more colorful and interesting and beautiful. I’ve learned something from each teacher I’ve had, whether it’s one lesson in a masterclass setting or years of study with that person. Here is a highlight of my prominent teachers that I studied with for months and years.
Aside from my elementary school band teacher, I considered Mrs. McAllister my first flute teacher. I studied with her in Junior High and High School. She was very punctual with lessons and had an extremely kind personality. Her husband, now the late Bob McAllister, was a trombone teacher. There would often be flute lessons on one side of the house and trombone lessons on the other side.
Mrs. McAllister took me from playing intermediate level music to college level repertoire. She taught me vibrato, helped build my confidence, encouraged me to attend summer music camps, and provided performance opportunities which led me to soloing with ensembles and earning flute scholarships for college.
My first two years of college I studied with Jilene Burger at Ricks College, which is now called BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho. Jilene was so supportive while I learned how to adjust to college life. While studying with her, I learned how to practice more and studied a lot of solo repertoire such as the Handel and Bach Sonatas, Mozart Concerti, French and Contemporary flute music and other repertoire which would later help me as a teacher. She lined me up with a local junior high where I started teaching the flute students after school.
While at Ricks College, I had my first masterclass with a famous teacher/performer, Gary Schocker, and had another opportunity to solo with an orchestra. Since Ricks College was only a two year school at the time, Jilene helped me prepare for further college auditions as well as summer music camp auditions. Jilene was an experienced performer and teacher, as well as a mother. She would sometimes bounce her baby on her hip during my lessons or our masterclasses. That was important to me because she taught me that you can have a balance of family and a music career at the same time.
So much of who I am, and how I play, I owe to Dr. Wight, my professor at Brigham Young University. I studied with him during my Junior and Senior year of my undergraduate work and also throughout graduate school. I learned so much from him; I’ll need to save some of that for another post.
He taught me how to improve my note grouping. He taught me how to develop longer breath control through tone studies and the importance of exercising to help lung development. Because of his encouragement, I became an avid jogger while in college. He was adamant that I could play the whole opening solo of Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun in one breath. He prepared me for MTNA competitions, in which I earned the title of National Runner-up in the Collegiate Woodwind Competition. I performed a lot of solo recitals. He taught that the recital is not the most important thing, it’s how much you grew from your last recital and all you’ve learned since then.
One summer, Dr. Wight introduced me to the world of flute and harp music. His daughters played the harp and I had fun reading through a lot of flute and harp literature together that summer. He emphasized Moyse tone studies, including Tone Development Through Interpretation, and shared memories he had spending time in classes with Marcel Moyse. He would patiently listen to me play lots and lots and lots of etudes, some of which were very, very long etudes, including repeats. Through this, I learned the value and love of studying etudes.
He taught me orchestral excerpts, which came in very handy when I started playing regularly with the Utah Valley Symphony. I already knew many of the “big flute solos” thanks to Dr. Wight. He helped improve my sight reading through playing duets together. If I got lost while sight reading, he’d keep playing as much as a page, if needed, until I found where he was and joined back in. I considered him my flute father, of which I am extremely grateful to have studied with him for so long.
It was Dr. Wight who encouraged me to continue my studies after graduate school with Michel Debost. I moved across the country to Ohio to study with Michel Debost. Can I just say how much I loved his French accent?! He refined my flute playing through even more tone exercises and what he called “playing in between the notes”.
After having studied with Dr. Wight who encouraged long, long breaths, in regards to breath, Michel Debost would say, “How come you never breathe?” Through this, I learned the best of both worlds – how to utilize long breaths and how to phrase with your breaths.
Debost taught me to use crisper articulations and explained his discoveries of more alternate fingerings. He shared some stories of his associations with Jean-Pierre Rampal which helped me realize even more how the gift of music can touch our lives and be long lasting. I was grateful for Debost’s encouragement to me to further my flute playing career. I considered my training with him as the icing on the cake.
I have fond memories of each of these teachers and at this Thanksgiving season, I express my sincere gratitude for each of them and all that they taught me.
Who has influenced you for good?