A native Houstonian, flutist Julee Kim Walker remains an active performer and pedagogue in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. She is Associate Professor of Flute at Texas A&M University-Commerce, President of the Texas Flute Society, and Artistic Director of the Texas Summer Flute Symposium.
Can you give us 5 career highlights?
Visiting and teaching in Cubatão, Brazil, a very underprivileged area, and meeting all of the amazing students and teachers, is one of the memories I will never forget in my career. In addition, I had the opportunity to perform as soloist with the Banda Sinfonica Cubatão (comprised of mostly teachers from Projeto Cubatão).
Performing and teaching at Xinhe High School in Shanghai, China, and working with their flute orchestra and flute students was quite the experience. There were over 60 students in the flute orchestra and they sounded fabulous!
Receiving tenure and promotion at my university job in 2019 is one the my biggest highlights of my career to this day.
Performing with my faculty woodwind trio in Zagreb, Croatia, and having the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country, is another very memorable career highlight. I hope to visit Croatia again soon.
Performing in Talca, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina with my wonderful piano colleague in September 2019 was the last major recital and masterclass tour I gave before the pandemic hit. I am so grateful that I was able to perform and travel so much before everything shut down.
How about 3 pivotal moments that were essential to creating the artist that you've become?
In high school, I attended a summer music camp in Houston called American Festival for the Arts for three summers. There, I had the opportunity to work with amazing young faculty, who are now principals of major orchestras and music professors at major universities. It was during my first summer attending, as a sophomore in high school, that I knew I wanted to be a musician for my career.
Moving to San Francisco and studying with Tim Day for my Master’s degree was such a pivotal moment in my growth as both a person and musician. Prior to this move, I had lived in Texas all my life. The culture and beauty of San Francisco really influenced me artistically, and studying with the amazing Tim Day opened up a whole new vision of artistry and love for the flute.
Starting my doctorate with Terri Sundberg at the University of North Texas was crucial in shaping my career to where it is today. Prior to this point, I was going back and forth, deciding between focusing on an orchestral career, a military band career, or a career in academia. Having the opportunity to teach and mentor such talented college undergrads at UNT made me fall in love with teaching. My time at UNT was difficult, as I had many doubts, hardships, and failures, but having a mentor that was (and is still!) fully supportive of my goals, doubts and failures was crucial to my success.
What do you like best about performing?
Performing has taken me all over the world and I have collaborated with some amazing musicians. The ability to speak to an audience through our own interpretations and life experiences is something I strive for in performance, and I enjoy that aspect of it very much.
CD project is in the works, stay tuned!
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
Personally, I would love to continue to travel the world and see as much of it as possible. I want to continue to grow and learn from my students and life experiences, so that I am constantly striving to be the best version of me.
Professionally, quarantine has taught me that it is ok to slow down! I am learning to say no, and that it is ok not to be busy 24/7. Taking social media breaks have given me a lot of mental clarity and focus, and I highly recommend taking these breaks to everyone.
What inspires you the most in life?
God, gratitude, family, and my students are my great sources of inspiration in life. As of recent, seeing my students thrive, especially during a pandemic, has been amazing and very helpful for me personally. Traveling the world has also inspired me both in my teaching and my performing career. Lastly, living my life to the fullest with no regrets and no fear of judgement has also been such a liberating and inspiring feeling.
What has been your professional greatest challenge? What has been your personal greatest challenge?
Becoming a caregiver to my husband in my early 30s and managing my blossoming career was the greatest combined personal and professional challenge. My husband was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare blood cancer, in August 2015. For the next 6 months I had the difficult task of figuring out a career-life balance while nursing him back to health as his primary caregiver. It was also the height of my blossoming career, but you soon find out what is more important in life. I made difficult decisions and do not regret them one bit. I will never forget the friends that helped us during the most difficult time of our lives. In December 2016, he received his bone marrow transplant, and I became caregiver again, but only for a couple of months. He recovered quickly and has been in remission for 4 years now! We are so grateful and blessed.
Who were your music mentors? and what did you learn from them?
Terri Sundberg – The Art of Listening and Teaching
Tim Day – The Art of Phrasing and Expression
Christina Jennings – The Art of Sound and Creativity in Music
Karl Kraber – The Art of Baroque and Classical Style
September Payne – The French School and Moyse’s teachings
Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?
I love to cook, and during quarantine, I discovered my passion for making and baking sourdough bread and pizzas! I feed my sourdough once a week, and for a while was making 4 loaves of bread and 2 pizzas a week.
I love to eat (ask my friends) and am a major foodie. I love traveling just to try new restaurants.
I love to travel and plan trips! I have a separate Instagram account that I created for safe non-air travels: @theroadtrippingflutist.
I have a gift for planning. Whether it be a birthday party, a flute festival, or travel, planning is a gift that I have learned to utilize, offer and enjoy.
What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?
Ultimately, success comes from your own happiness. Having a well-balanced life is key. Remember, flute is just one small aspect of your life. Live and love your life to the fullest and don’t be afraid to experience all parts of it. Life is a journey and not a competition.