© Mark Sparks

About

What made you start playing the flute?

When they opened the flute case it smelled really good! We took it home. I was about 8 yrs. old.

 

Who was your first teacher?

Hungarian flutist Josef Juhos at Cleveland Institute Preparatory Program,  He was very formal; a real gentleman. He taught me respect for a focused tone right away.

 

What flute do you play now?

Brannen 9k.

 

Have you always played that flute, and how is it different from other flutes?

No, I have tried many different flutes over the years. It seems to come down to an issue of how much resistance you want within the instrument.

 

Who or what inspires you and why?

Renee Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, Riccardo Muti, Jimi Hendrix, James Galway,  Mitsuko Uchida , Emmanual Ax, Radiohead, Sting, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Pat Metheny, Paul Winter, Nat King Cole, and many of my colleagues have been inspiring. As to what is inspiring, only one thing: music’s power to transform energy.

 

What’s your approach to practicing?

I go with what is inspiring at the moment, or I’m task-oriented:  getting the job done, whether it involves learning lots of notes in creative ways, studying the piece, or growing the sound in a particular way.  In the end, things have to feel good.

 

What is the main difference between playing in orchestra and playing solo?

Playing solo is like playing golf; orchestra is like basketball.

 

How do you handle nerves?

I try not to “handle” nerves. I respect them and try to understand them; when they knock at the wrong time I ask if we can discuss later.  

  

What achievement are you most proud of?

Becoming myself as much as I have so far!

 

What have been the main milestones in your musical life?

Being Principal flute of a great orchestra was and still is my dream every day, so I’m living it.  25 years playing and teaching at the Aspen Music Festival has been very unique.

 

What have been the biggest challenges in your career and how have you overcome them?

For me, like all flutists, the biggest challenge is to find your true sound. Still working on it!  I am developing my sound now by playing all sorts of great melodies and passages from the orchestra pieces I love.  My new Exploring Sound book series is about that.

 

What advice would you give to a musician embarking on a career today?

If you want to work hard at something you love without guarantee of satisfaction, success or wealth, it might be a reason to consider the career; but I’m not at all sure “reason” is the operative word!

 

Apart from performing/practising, what other tasks form part of your professional life?

I’m  doing some arranging for flute and piano.  Also I am publishing some innovative practice books. Oh, and the rehearsals of course; they are pretty constant.

Extended interview for The British Flute Society
Flauti al Castello

Flauti is so much about authenticity…Sergio and I offer participants a unique, boutique European master class experience.  Authentic Tuscan culture, authentic cuisine, and authentic teaching and performing.  It’s the real deal.

DePaul University

At DePaul we are really training flutists for their careers, with a positive, constructive, top-notch program in one of the world’s great cities. Contact time is maximized through weekly classes with all the flute faculty.  I love teaching, I work hard for my students, and I expect them to work hard too.  It’s successful!

Aspen Music Festival

Aspen is a true gem in the world’s music festival crown.  It is unique in every way, and a gateway to the top flute careers.  I love playing with my students in the Aspen Chamber Symphony.  We have a blast!

Saint Louis Symphony

I am privileged every day to play in the great SLSO.  It is a remarkable, challenging, and thrilling musical journey, learning from so many awesome players and playing such a huge array of great repertoire. I enjoy every concert to the fullest.

Let's talk about Tuscany!

I am not good at this, but I will make a little food and travel blog detour, to show you a few shots of our awesome flute class in Tuscany:

Castello di Sorci (The castle of the Rat)...where the magic happens!
Just a simple lunch in the near by village!
They are ready for us with dinner!

You can have a life changing flute lesson, an encounter with a ghost in a castle and the best pasta ever, all in one day. Add abundant practice and study, intensive daily masterclasses, spending time with friends, and fun gelato excursions, and you have a truly unforgettable summer class experience!