Delandria Mills Artist Interview
Tell us a bit about your flute career. What are some career highlights?
I am a multi-genre flutist. Over the years I have performed with many ensembles such as The Houston Symphonic Band and the Maryland Defense Military Band. After undergraduate school at Prairie View A&M, I auditioned and served as principal flutist of The Baytown Symphony in Texas but after two years I decided to go to graduate school at The Peabody Institute. Being able to win national and international competitions, tour the world, record albums, and perform with musicians such as Tye Tribbett, Hubert Laws, Roy Hargrove, Warren Wolf, Todd Marcus, and Billy Harper, was and has been a dream.
Where did you study the flute? What was the most important thing you learned in your education?
I began playing the flute when I was seven years old at Longfellow Fine Arts Elementary School and took classical flute lessons in 7th and 8th grade. I continued my flute studies at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. In my last year of high school, I took lessons with Horace Young and Hubert Laws. For some odd reason, I did not trust my foundation enough to dive right into music upon graduating. After three years of being an Engineering/Pre-Med major at Prairie View A&M University, I coincidentally went to a Hubert Laws concert on a Friday night. After being inspired by the music I decided to change my major to music that following Monday and never looked back. With the wonderful guidance of my instructors Dr. Wendy Bergin and Dr. Vicki Seldon of Prairie View, I began taking auditions and served as principal of Baytown Symphony. I substituted often for the Woodlands Symphony, and again while teaching full time I began to travel throughout the states taking auditions, but also felt inclined to earn more education so I went on to the Peabody Institute and received both a Masters in Classical Flute and a Graduate Performance Diploma in Jazz (Black American Music) Studies. There I was under the tutelage of Emily Skala, Gary Thomas, Paula Hatcher, and Marina Piccinini. During my summer breaks, I enjoyed programs such as the Litchfield Jazz Camp and Festival in Connecticut, the Oberlin Conservatory’s Flute Masterclass where I worked with Michel Debost, and the Julius Baker Masterclasses at Western Connecticut State University, where I first met Marina Piccinini.
The most important thing I learned was to focus and be true to myself. I love classical and I love jazz and I was determined to study them both because I love them equally.
Do you enjoy teaching the flute? How would you describe your approach to teaching?
I began teaching young children and housewives when I was 14 years old and discovered that teaching came very naturally to me. When I changed my major in undergrad I took on forty-two private students at four schools throughout the greater Houston area in order to purchase my first Powell.
I simply love the flute and its vast repertoire: from the various etudes, methods books, sonatas, concerti, the standard French pieces, and everything in between, I love guiding budding flutists of all ages. My approach can be very different from student to student. Once I become accustomed to a student’s learning style I “follow them” in order to guide them.
What social media platforms do you use to connect with musicians? Which do you find to be the best for networking?
I am still finding my rhythm. I feel that Facebook is ideal for sharing more personal content, Twitter seems to give a voice to the unknown journalist in each of us, and I have yet to really dive into Instagram and TikTok. If you have the time Instagram is like a digital resume. It is great for presenting professional content, providing a space for displaying some of your day-to-day activities, which can be fun and engaging for your followers. Due to motherhood and my teaching schedule, social media has taken a back seat but I do feel it is crucial in this day and age. Clubhouse is an amazing platform for connecting you with people to who you would not generally have access. Personally, I believe that Instagram and Linked In are the best platforms for the purpose of networking.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience on ClubHouse? How did you start using this platform and what are some of the benefits for musicians?
I started on January 1st of 2021 when a dear friend of mine from grad school reached out to me and sent me an invite to the app. Right away I saw the benefits of it and began co-hosting a club called Instrumentalists of Clubhouse with my friend and violinist, John Adidam Littlejohn. On my own, I started operating a club called Flutists of CH (Clubhouse). I did not include a genre in the title because I did not want to limit my discussions to only classical or jazz flutists. I feel very comfortable discussing the appropriate approach to Baroque flute performance, the French school of Flute playing, Taffanel and Gaubert, Karg-Elert, Prokofiev, and Orchestral Excerpts while jumping right into a topic about jazz improvisation and the language of greats such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Clifford Brown, Eric Dolphy, and of course Hubert Laws.
The Clubhouse app is my favorite so far because it connects people from all over the world, of various professions, in an instant. I can reach out to my dearest friends in the UK, Poland, Croatia, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston without the stress of fussing with my appearance and that’s awesome! Clubhouse cuts to the chase, as far as connecting with people who are eager to collaborate after a year of quarantine, social unrest, and downright uncertainty.
What types of ClubHouse chats have you participated in/hosted?
I have lead discussions on proper teaching materials, discussing our approaches to staying in shape (musically), how we chose our flutes and why, and preparing and showcasing concertos and commissioned pieces among other topics. I have most recently begun hosting special guests and friends. It has been very fun, exciting, and inspiring. The discussions are called, Community Flute Check-In, Artist Spotlight, Friday Flute Geek Out, and Sunday Brunch: Coffee, Tea, and Etudes.
What are your recommendations for a musician just starting to use the platform?
Seek individuals you admire and perhaps want to glean from. Keep in mind that the people you choose to follow will influence the topics Clubhouse presents to you. It is a lot of fun if you are following people who you share interests, within or outside of music. In short, I would say, ‘Come on in the water’s fine!’
Flutist, educator, and author, Delandria Mills is a native of Houston, Texas. She is a graduate of Houston's High School for the Performing & Visual Arts and earned both her Masters in Classical Flute and Graduate Performance Diploma in Jazz Studies from the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore where she now teaches in the Preparatory Department. Mills is the founder of Kingdom Flute Works intensive program which is held annually. She has won national, as well as international, competitions and has nine recordings of her own. In addition to Demi’s Flute picture books for young readers, Mills is the author of "Demi’s Flute: Entering the Realm of Sound" series. For more information please visit DelandriaMills.com