Jake and Gabe Fridkis: Artists Interview

Where did you grow up, and when did you each start the flute? Who were your teachers?

Jake: We grew up in central New Jersey, just north of Princeton. We both started flute at age six. I started first and then Gabe copied me three years later.

Gabe: Yeah, I did pretty much copy Jake. We both started flute lessons at Westminster Conservatory with various members of their faculty, primary a fantastic teacher named Jill Crawford. In high school Jake got the chance to begin studying with Gary Schocker and I copied him there too, starting to study with Gary a couple years after he did. Gary is an incredible musician and teacher and was a formative influence for both of us. The other main teacher we had in common was Mark Sparks. Jake worked with him at Aspen and I went to DePaul University for my masters specifically to study with Mark.

​Did you each always want to play the flute? Was there any sibling rivalry while learning flute, or was it all fun?

Jake: I started flute by chance. I wanted to play drums like any other five year old boy who likes to make loud noises. My dad, realizing what would happen to everyone’s sanity in the family if they gave me a drum set said, “No way! Pick something quieter!” I was taking a local music class for little kids at the time and the teacher also taught Suzuki flute. She was a really fantastic teacher so my mom signed me up for lessons with her. I honestly don’t remember ever having any kind of rivalry about flute with Gabe. We were much more competitive about sports and leftover food.

Gabe: I actually remember that Jake made me a fake flute out of a wooden dowel. He drew keys on it to make it look like a flute. I played with that all the time when I was 4. It was my favorite toy for quite some time. But when it came time to choose an instrument, when I was 5, I ended up with violin. I absolutely hated it and quit after a year., I sounded terrible and it hurt my fingers. After that there was no question that I was going to play flute.

What is it like playing the same instrument as your brother? How do you stay supportive but also competitive?

Jake: It’s the best. There is no better inspiration in the world than knowing that if I don’t keep my practice time up my little brother is going to play circles around me in rehearsal. Can’t let that happen! For me it’s always been easy to be supportive and I’m not competitive at all with Gabe. I want him to sound amazing all the time. Honestly, I want all my flutist friends to do well and to play as well as they can. There are plenty of jobs to go around. I’m more concerned about keeping myself in good shape and making sure I live up to my own expectations than worrying about competing with others.

Gabe: Seeing Jake’s successes as I was going through music school was incredibly motivational. It’s so easy to get discouraged in school, especially if you’re someone like me who didn’t go to big conservatories with recognizable names. To see the work Jake was putting in and the rewards he was reaping always kept me working hard and looking to the future with a positive attitude. I’ve also benefited a lot from Jake’s teaching. I joke that I’m his guinea pig student for him to test all his ideas on. He’s able to be more honest and direct with me than any teacher could be, just because we’re brothers and he knows I won’t take it personally. Now that I’m older and a more capable flutist I’m able to return the favor by giving him unsolicited advice all the time.

What makes each of you unique in your playing? Do you have similar or different sounds and styles?

Jake: I think we are very similar in almost all ways. I tend to rev up the vibrato a little harder and Gabe plays more on the cool relaxed side but tonally we are very similar. And he can bring the vibrato when it is called for.

Gabe: We’re always bouncing ideas off each other. Not just when we’re together playing duets or running excerpts for each other, but all the time. When I was in school or at a summer festival I would call Jake after every lesson to tell him what I learned and talk it through. I know it helped me process everything I was learning and I hope it was good for him too. I think because of this we ended up with very similar sound concepts and musical styles, but at the same time we’re different people and individual musicians so the end product of our personal playing styles is unique.

How has your relationship made you learn how to be good colleagues and peers?

Jake: Honestly, I think having a younger brother who plays flute has made me much more supportive of friends who play flute. I’ve always had the approach with Gabe that it’s not us vs. each other and more about how we can feed off of each other’s energy and passion for what we both love to do. I definitely have that with many of my flute playing friends also so I feel lucky to have learned that attitude at a young age from sharing what I do with my brother.

Gabe: When Jake and I play together in orchestra we interact in the same way we do anywhere else. We have fun and joke around but we are also focused and push each other to uphold a high standard of playing and professionalism. And on top of that we’re very honest with one another and never sugarcoat. If something needs to be said, it gets said immediately and the section benefits from that. That’s how I try to be with all my colleagues whether in orchestra, chamber music or any other setting.

Growing up, did you practice a lot together? (if so, do you still practice together?) What did you learn from that experience?

Jake: I think we practice together a lot more now than ever before. We’re both at a stage where we are individual musicians who both can be pretty picky about everything. So it’s more helpful to play for each other now than when we were younger and just kind of figuring out what we wanted to sound like.

Gabe: What Jake said.

What are each of your top 3 orchestral flute duets?

Jake: Shostakovich 5 (which we are playing in May), Shostakovich 11 (which we played a couple years ago) and Daphnis and Chloe. The entirety of Daphnis is a giant flute duo. We performed the second suite in Fort Worth in October this year and it was one of the musical highlights of my life.

Gabe: My answers are a little biased towards audition excerpt duos since I’m coming fresh from the audition process. So right now it would be Mendelssohn’s 4th Symphony. I love the harmonies in the 3rd movement and the opening of the 4th is just fun to try and play as fast as you can. Bach wrote some of the best music for the flute and the duet from the Mass in b minor is just gorgeous, we recently tried our best to do it justice in a quick video for Instagram but it’s a piece I hope we get to play in full one day. And I know we have a lot of Shostakovich on the list already but I have to add his 7th Symphony. It’s one of my favorite pieces ever and it’s full of great flute duets. I’ve played the piece before but I hope to get to play it again in the section with Jake!

Any future projects coming up? Maybe an all Doppler album? 

Jake: We would love to record a CD one day and have plenty of ideas for different projects if that day comes! But as for right now we’re both just really excited to be playing together in the Fort Worth Symphony and are staying primarily focused on that.

Gabe: Like Jake said, we have so many ideas for different projects we want to pursue down the road but for right now I’m just incredibly grateful to be joining the FWSO and looking forward to starting this month. With both of us working full time major projects are hard to put together, but definitely keep and eye on the Flutebros Instagram page where we will be posting any number of duets that we’ve been recording just for fun!

Who is each of the following?

Jake:
* more musical- easily me
* more technical- totally me
* more fashionable- definitely me
* a better teacher- 100% me
* a better soloist - without a doubt.... Me
* more competitive- Gabe

Gabe:

* more musical- Me for sure
* more technical- Gotta be me
* more fashionable- Inarguably myself
* a better teacher- I feel like...me?
* a better soloist - not even close, me
* more competitive- Competitive? Us? Never!

Follow on Instagram: @flutebros

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