What have the Galways been up to this past year during lockdown?
Believe it or not, we have been incredibly busy! As strange as this whole situation has been this past year, we went into automatic gear to think, "how can we help our students?"
We decided to create a free online tutorial series, "At Home," to keep all our flute friends motivated. Having a lot of experience with different situations and schedule changes, of course, nothing like the pandemic, we recognized that students needed help and direction during this challenging time. We immediately filmed tutorials, hosted live chats and masterclasses, which has been our focus this year. It has been a year of change and a time for us to be available and create new projects.
What have been some of the challenges of canceling tours or moving your masterclasses and festivals online?
On March 13th, 2020, we were ready to perform yet another concert on our American Tour. We were asked first if we would like to cancel; we said no because only three of us were on stage, but we had no idea of the seriousness of what was to come. Our manager called shortly after and informed us that the venue in New Jersey and all following venues decided to cancel to keep the public safe. It was a bit nerve-wracking getting back to Switzerland from NYC, and we have stayed at home sheltering for over a year now. We must admit we miss the excitement of making music live with our colleagues and greeting audiences.
After creating small online tutorials, our first question was, "how will we handle the 2020 Festival," which was already fully booked with over 100 students. With our limited knowledge of what it takes to produce a Festival online, but with a fantastic team alongside us, we ventured to take the Festival, as planned, to an online platform. At the time, it was more challenging than it is now - it was all hands on deck. The result was that we could bring what we wanted to the students: encouragement, direction and normality during such an unprecedented time. What surprised us, was how positive the students and guest artists have been. With all the unknowns one year ago, what was so inspiring was how our students gave back and continue to throughout the year with their positivity.
Can you tell us a bit about the Galway Flute Academy LiveLearn series? Who participated, and will you be continuing this series in the future?
The Galway Flute Academy LiveLearn series has been a wonderful online venture which has afforded us the opportunity to bring all of our teaching to students we wouldn't typically reach during this time. We had talented participants from Cuba, Brazil, Europe, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Australia, and the US. Unlike our Festival that only happens once a year, this is a project where we can share our expertise and those of our colleagues, with flutists and music lovers of all levels on a more regular basis. We continue to focus our energy on these masterclasses, Q&A sessions, one-on-one interviews, live performances, and ultimately building a complete platform that will host all Galway Flute Academy online offerings. Some things to expect will be Sir James teaching series on etudes, orchestral excerpts, lessons on Bach, career advice, and more…..so stay tuned!
Can you tell us about the 2021 Online Galway Flute Festival? What should participants and auditors expect?
The Festival is the highlight of our year! We work all year on the Festival, and this year it is one-week taking place June 20th- 25th. Friends, colleagues (old and new) come together in a true camaraderie spirit to learn from the master of the Flute: Sir James. The 2021 Online Galway Festival is our 32nd year of presenting our Festival to flutists, flute lovers, students, both amateur and professional. Started as a simple masterclass in a hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, we are amazed how this one-day event has grown into such a wonderfully exciting time for flute players of all levels to come together.
We are very fortunate to have close ties with the top professionals in our field. One simple email or telephone call, and the answer is always "Yes, we would love to come and work with your students."
This year we will be offering seven days with 13 incredible guest artists:
Emily Beynon - Solo Flutist, The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Denis Bouriakov - Solo Flutist, Los Angeles Philharmonic
Erin Bouriakov - International Soloist
Silvia Careddu - International Soloist
Gareth Davies - Solo Flutist, London Symphony Orchestra
Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson - Solo Flutist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Francesco Loi - Solo Flutist, Carlo Felice Theater Orchestra
Nicola Mazzanti - Former Piccolo/ Flutist, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra
Kersten McCall - Solo Flutist, The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Lorna McGee - Solo Flutist, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Ulla Miilmann - Solo Flutist, Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Karl-Heinz Schütz - Solo Flutist, Vienna Philharmonic
Thaddeus Watson - Former Piccolo/ Flutist, Frankfurt Radio Symphony
Each day will include warm-ups, masterclasses with Sir James, Lady Galway, and guest artists, pre-recorded concerts, Q&A sessions with leaders in the music industry, and new to this year's online Festival we will host regular group chat times for all students and see each other just as though we are together in Weggis, Switzerland.
(Lady Jeanne) On a personal note, I believe that we have achieved something very special, the bringing of flutists together in a very positive and non-competitive atmosphere.
Sir James over his very long career, as anyone will know, has an infectious way of bringing people together through his love of the flute and music. Students call our Festival the Galway Family, and this is what I am most proud of. We are not just a one-day meet and greet type of people. We take you under our wings and guide and mentor you through all steps of your musical career. This is what our Festival is all about.
Both of you have been very active online this past year, performing and teaching. What advice would you give our readers who are still adjusting to this "new normal" of moving online?
Have patience. We understand this past year has been challenging on many levels for us all. However, on the positive side, you have more time to work on things such as the foundations of your flute playing, work on what your career will need, and establishing goals. Is your bio up-to-date? Are you studying online to find resources to see what is available to help further your career? Are you listening to music? Are you studying scores? Are you practicing from memory? The list goes on….
Using your time wisely and calling on the discipline you already have within yourself are two assets that will help you achieve your goals. Please don't waste your time; use it wisely. Create a realistic practice routine for yourselves. We have offered many of these bits of advice on our ‘At Home’ series (available on YouTube). Try to stay focused and choose carefully where you are spending your energy. Be discerning about what you listen to and how your spend your time learning.
What is your next step? Have you been working on putting together a recital, preparing for a competition? You have to have a plan for each milestone. Look at what your next step will be, and consider how you can realistically achieve it.
Being a musician is not just someone who plays technically, but someone who can carry the music to the audience with conviction and understanding. We learn this through experience, and we gain knowledge through trial and error. One bad performance or a couple of wrong notes does not mean that your career is over; it is just another opportunity to learn how to get past this in your practice room. Follow your path, follow your goals.
What is one performance highlight from both of your careers?
This is very difficult, and there are so many! We have been so blessed. The flute has been our airline ticket to see the world. Perhaps playing the maracas with Stevie Wonder on stage in Los Angeles, playing privately for the Empress of Japan, performing in Buckingham Palace, playing the Bach Trio Sonatas at Carnegie Hall, receiving a standing ovation at the Musikverein in Vienna. In addition, Sir James will never forget playing with Pink Floyd at the coming down of the Berlin Wall, performing on Lord of the Rings, or playing a flute duo with Henry Mancini looking out at the Capitol across the National Mall.
Or maybe it is when we play at the chapel at our Weggis Festival in Switzerland, and we look at the smiling faces of our students and realize we have done something right!