I notice a lot of musician’s websites have a biography page written about them in the third person. I'd like to share with my students on a more personal level, so I hope you enjoy something different. I'll just chat.
I started playing the flute at age 10 in public school in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra had come to my elementary school and demonstrated all the instruments. I wanted to play the harp, but when I told my Mom, she suggested (strongly) that I “pick something smaller.” Flute was my strong second choice, despite the teacher’s efforts to have me switch to clarinet. Flute and harp remain my two favorite instruments.
I soon began private lessons with the orchestra director, Beverly DelaBretonne. On page 10 of my beginning book, my flute career almost came to a sudden, tragic end. Try as I might, I just could not make any sound above D2—the D on the staff. I tried and tried. All I got was low E and low F, etc. I still remember sitting on the piano bench (I hadn’t yet learned to practice standing up!) with my music book propped up in front of me, sobbing, defeated, and heartbroken. I went dripping into the kitchen and sniffled to my Mom, who was cooking dinner, that I was “quitting flute” because I couldn’t “get those notes to come out.” She barely looked at me and matter of factly replied, “No, you’re not quitting. Go sit down and keep working on it until you get it.” More wailing. Now I was defeated and stuck!
The piano bench was hard, so I kept at it. I moved my lips and jaw and mouth every which way and . . . Wow!!!!!! I did it! I now had a middle register! That effort taught me that no matter what the challenge on the flute . . . it can be overcome.
Soon I was asked to play first flute in the all-county elementary school orchestra, my first orchestra experience. It was a huge group. I was completely amazed at all the different sounds around me, the level of concentration required (I wanted to watch the violins), and how hard it was to learn the “Overture to Rosamunde”. I didn’t consider myself a serious flute student then. (What 5th grader is a serious anything?”) I was more interested in dance—tap, ballet, toe, and jazz.
In 6th grade, when I was twelve, my family moved to Oklahoma City, which might as well have been the moon. I couldn’t find a dance studio I liked and I was completely sad about moving away from all my friends and grandparents, so I turned more inward. The flute became a good friend. I had the privilege of studying flute from junior high through high school with Feodora DeGrasse Steward, flutist with the Oklahoma City Symphony and former student of Arthur Lora, who taught at Julliard. Ms. Steward was a great player and a great teacher, demanding, precise, very musical. Under her training, I really blossomed as a flutist. I was first chair flutist in the Oklahoma All-State High School Band and All-State Orchestra. I earned the highest rating ever given for the Oklahoma Music Educator’s Award for solo competition—a “Superior ++”.
I served as principal flute of the Oklahoma Junior Symphony for three years, and was featured as flute soloist with that group, performing Howard Hanson’s “Serenade for Flute, Harp, and Strings.” In my junior year of high school, I became a member of Local 375 of the musicians’ union (AFM). Gosh, I was proud! I got to play numerous professional recording jobs (exciting stints—sight read once, and record!), formal church concerts, and play in the flute section of the Oklahoma City Symphony with my teacher. I was the featured soloist with the Oklahoma City Symphony for two performances, playing Chaminade’s “Concertino”. Although many flutists today claim to have tired of this piece, it will always have a special place in my heart. I played from memory and had my first, most extraordinary, transformative experience of being, not just playing, music.
All through high school, I taught private students with a studio of twenty, successfully coaching them to superior solo competition performances and college scholarships. Some of them were my peers in school. I loved teaching and helping students overcome their “piano bench” moments.
My senior year, my teacher urged me to audition for music conservatories. I was accepted at Eastman, Oberlin, and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. I was privileged to study flute and piccolo with Jack Wellbaum, piccoloist of the Cincinnati Symphony, former student of Robert Cavally, and author of Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo (Theodore Presser, 1999). Mr. Wellbaum is a wonderful, patient teacher, with lots of practical orchestral playing experience. I won numerous awards in Conservatory competitions, including being chosen over all the flutists (even the masters and doctoral students) as the flutist for the Baroque chamber music trio that was featured at the National Music Educator’s Convention in Anaheim, California. I also won the Conservatory Concerto Competition and appeared as piccolo soloist with the Conservatory orchestra on Vivaldi’s “Concerto in a minor”. The local newspaper review of the concert by J. M. White stated that I "was dazzling in the Vivaldi Concerto in a minor. She combined a whirlwind display of Baroque fireworks with clarity and impressive musicianship all of which was enhanced by her exquisite manner on stage."
During my Conservatory days, I was a member of a baroque trio that had a standing gig at a local popular restaurant and also played for countless weddings, parties, civic events and church services. I continued my private teaching. . . and even continued my dance lessons!
After receiving my Bachelor of Music (magna cum laude) in Flute Performance, I auditioned for a teaching job at the University of Akron School of Music. The audition was interesting . . . not only did I play, but I taught three students in front of a panel of judges. I felt completely at home doing that. They offered me a contract to teach flute at the University of Akron and to play in the Akron Symphony. They offered to pay for me to get my Masters degree at the Cleveland Institute so I would have a higher degree than the students I was teaching.
For family reasons, I instead returned to Oklahoma, where I resumed private teaching. I won the Concerto Competition and cash prize offered by Phillips University. I was featured as the flute soloist with the University Orchestra, playing Gordon Jacob’s “Concerto for Flute and Strings.” I continued to play with the Oklahoma City Symphony, play studio recording jobs and numerous chamber concerts. I maintained a studio of flute students in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa for many years.
I moved from Tulsa to San Jose, California in 2000. There I was featured as the flute soloist with the Mission Chamber Orchestra, performing part of Claude Bolling’s “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio No. 1” with the amazing Dan Levitan, Harpist, who transcribed the piano part. This was the first concert in the new San Jose City Hall. I was also featured as the piccolo soloist with the Mission Chamber Orchestra, again performing the Vivaldi Concerto in a minor, for the Italian-American Festival. I’ve also played flute and piccolo in the woodwind section of that orchestra as well as in the Nova Vista Symphony Orchestra.
I was so lucky to be coached in the Bay Area by Maria Tamburrino, Principal Flute of Symphony Silicon Valley and a former student of Julius Baker. I continually learned (watching her with her other students) new and creative teaching techniques that I passed on to my students. I maintained a private lesson studio in my home and was regularly hired for weddings, church services, and other special events. My November 2007 recital was a great success, a lot of work, but a lot of fun!
In June, 2008, I returned to live in Tulsa to live, where I had lived previously from 1977-2000. I enjoyed teaching many flute students, ranging from beginners to adults (who have had their flutes tucked away for many years) to flutists competing at the highest levels.
I have four fantastic adult children/stepchildren. I am proud to say they are all college grads and gainfully employed in their chosen fields. They care about other people, pay taxes, remember Mother's Day, and make me laugh every time I talk to them.
In late March 2015, I relocated to Austin, Texas to be a local Gramma (and someday, music teacher) for my new granddaughter. Now I have two granddaughters and enjoy teaching students of all ages in Austin, who completed this year with superior solo ratings and All-Region band experiences.