London based, Hungarian flutist, Noemi Gyori is an Associate Tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music, is flute tutor at The University of Manchester and is the first flautist to hold a PhD in Flute Performance from the Royal Academy of Music in London. She studied with Andras Adorjan, Barbara Gisler-Haase, and Henrik Prohle. She is equally in demand internationally as a soloist, chamber musician, and pedagogue.
How has the Pandemic affected your career?
Although I was closely following the events in China from the beginning, the pandemic reaching us in London so quickly still came as a shock. It was worrying to see so many friends get ill, some of them very seriously. My husband (Gergely Madaras, conductor and flutist) and I work internationally, which normally comes with a crazy travelling lifestyle, but which in return always used to give me the impression that we stand on as many feet as possible. It was therefore extremely distressing when parallel to the worsening health situation, concert life suddenly stopped across the globe for an unforeseeable period of time. I could never imagine such a scenario before. Needless to say, we lost a huge amount of revenue due to cancelled concerts and freelance work, but we consider ourselves extremely lucky as we not just stayed healthy, but were able to maintain our financial security thanks to our salaried positions and good network of connections.
The silver lining for us was definitely the time we could spend with Gergely during the four initial lockdown months which was a true gift to our family. We did a lot of activities at home and just enjoyed being together in a way that otherwise our schedules normally never allow.
Having said all of this, the pandemic brought a whirlwind of changes into my life. Once stages started cautiously reopening and streamed performances began, engagements reemerged very quickly for both me and my husband, and especially for him, it meant continuous weeks and months of travelling. I had to bridge long periods of time on my own with the girls, having an extremely limited amount of external help. I often had to homeschool our older daughter, take care of the younger toddler, do everything in our household, while practicing and teaching - for periods often as long as 6-7 consecutive weeks. Being in charge 24/7 and being the only adult in our household in such an ‘on edge’ and charged situation was often really challenging and sometimes absolutely exhausting. Then, due to strict quarantine rules in the UK, once my husband was finally able to return home for a week or so, he always had to stay at home, so couldn't help with things that involved being outside.
While performances paused, I continued teaching online (even took on extra students from various corners of the world) and - most importantly - was also able to defend my PhD thesis and complete my doctoral studies at the Royal Academy of Music. With this, an important chapter of my life concluded. My Haydn and Mozart Quartets album was also released during these initial months of lockdown and although the CD launch concert was postponed a number of times, we were finally able to mark the release with a celebratory concert at the Liszt Academy in Budapest a few weeks ago.
What creative ways have you focused on to combat the challenges brought forward by the pandemic?
I used time to improve my skills in the online world and in technicalities. Although I did give skype lessons sporadically in earlier years, I never managed to learn to teach effectively in this form. I now feel very confident and know that I am able to deliver valuable knowledge from my living room as well, which is a great feeling. I also invested lots of energy into learning how to self-record my playing, and how to produce online concerts. One of these recitals (that I recorded with the fabulous pianist, Dinara Klinton and a small technical team) was a tribute to iconic female flute players that paved the way for women flutists today. The title was ‘Iconic Women in Flute History’, and was funded and premiered by The Flute Center of New York, supported by Miyazawa Flutes USA as well as an Enterprise Fund from the Royal Philharmonic Society. The performance was definitely a meaningful project to me during lockdown, and is still available to watch online:
Additionally to these, quite unbelievably, a new album has emerged from this period, too. This one I recorded with my husband Gergely Madaras (also playing the flute this time!) and the excellent pianist, Alexander Ullman. In 2021, Gergely and I celebrated being together as a couple for 20 years, and although during the early years of our relationship we performed over 150 concerts together as a flute duo, during the past decade we mainly focused on our individual careers and only worked together on a few occasions. Recording this album - my fifth! - has been a real celebration of our musical journey together, and I cannot wait to share the result, putting smiles on listener’s faces with the energetic and positive tunes of DOPPLER & KUHLAU - Romantic and virtuoso works for flutes and piano, which will emerge on Rubicon Classics early next year.
Lastly, some of you that follow me online may have noticed that I started to be more active on Instagram in particular and began using it more as a journal, sharing not only professional, but some personal insights about my everyday life. Although it seemed like a never ending process, I also managed to give a facelift to my entire website…
What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?
It is filled with a number of recitals with piano, then various projects with the Jewish Chamber Orchestra in Munich (where I have been principal flute for over a decade) and the Octandre Ensemble in London, as well as a Noemi Studio Masterclass in Budapest and my regular teaching schedule at the Royal Northern College of Music Junior department.
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
My main personal goal is to be able to maintain a well functioning, lively family: to raise my daughters in a way that they can feel the world is full of endless possibilities, to stay in a mutually supporting relationship with my husband, where we are able to nurture and help each other grow individually, as well as together. I also hope that in the years to come, I will have the chance to enjoy more time with my parents, something I very much missed during the past year and a half.
On the professional side, I of course have many specific goals and dreams, such as wishing to record certain pieces or performing with certain orchestras at certain venues - and the list goes on. However there are three things that are at the forefront of my thoughts at the moment. Number one: getting a chance in the near future to start and build my own flute class on a university level as well. I am extremely interested and motivated to nurture the next generation of flutists and to be able to guide them in their preparation for auditions, competitions and their career in general, as their main professor. I am very much hoping to join the faculty of a conservatoire or university where I feel my artistic vision is welcome, and where through my personality I could also contribute to the overall atmosphere of the institution. Secondly, I am interested in learning and experimenting further how I can best balance family life with career and hope to initiate more dialogues about this within the classical music industry. And lastly, I would like to become a performing artist who has the capacity and ability to stay on stage till her mature years, so I am drawn to study the aspects of flute playing that may contribute to the most relaxed technique, to a healthy ergonomically sustainable, ‘power saving’ way of flute playing, where all energies are channeled in the right way.
How are you able to balance your professional life with your family life? Any helpful tools or useful ideas?
I am not entirely sure there exists a real balance... I tend to always feel that I could have or should have done so much more on one or the other front. I am however learning not to underestimate the power of ‘good’ and ‘good enough’. I slowly learn how by letting go of my expectations for ‘perfect’ relaxes me and others around me and in the end often allows positive vibes to dominate and opens up opportunities for things to work out unexpectedly well. On the whole, I guess when there is a generally positive flow of energies between these two aspects of my life then they can reinforce, inspire and feed each other. When this works well, being a mother for example allows me to perform better as a flutist and vice versa. It feels like one or the other field will hold me up, to stay on top of the waves with my imaginary surfboard.
On a more practical level, time management, above all, economical use of time, maintaining and looking after your health are things that have key importance. I also delegate quite a lot of tasks to my daughters, so they feel included in our team on many levels and are able to and are encouraged to contribute to our everyday family life. Once things get intense, it is important to always continue with whatever you are doing, a little step every day (whether this is practicing the flute or trying to improve your child on a certain subject, etc.). The little steps do add up and once you see how you have the capacity to grow things, you will instantly feel how worth it is to hang in there and not lose motivation even on the hardest days. At least these are some strategies that work for me.
At the same time, I have to admit that just as everyone else, I have my own ups and downs. There are days where I feel disappointed, overwhelmed, where I don’t see a clear direction of things and feel that all my hard work is in vain. Or when I feel that it is generally harder for women to thrive in so many different roles and achieve what they want, and that living up to my own expectations is overwhelming. The good thing about not being a young adult anymore is that by now I am more skilled at finding comfort and knowing that this will pass and better moments/days will come. With years passing it feels that I also learn to honor what it means to be a woman on a deeper level and to cherish and celebrate feminine capacities.
What has been your greatest challenge?
When I was about eight years old, I injured one of my lower front teeth. This seemingly small injury has had long lasting consequences: as the tooth died away during the years, a serious inflammation developed underneath that grew into my jaw bone. Apart from ending up with a lifelong autoimmune disease that was induced by this persisting inflammation, I also have had to undergo repeated dental operations which have posed a great challenge to my playing. The next procedure is planned for December. (I spoke about these experiences on a Tedx talk a few years ago, which you can view here:
Apart from these things happening, there have been other deeply challenging situations in my life too. But what I am most proud of is that I would hesitate calling any of these my ‘greatest challenges’. I have continuously focused on ‘working’ with these situations, rather than letting them overtake my life, so they have become part of my story, part of who I am and in the end contributed to my growth rather than remained as mere great challenges.
What is the most exciting thing in your life right now?
I feel that I have finally come to the point where I have the means and capacity to show my real abilities. There is a sweeping drive in me to create, to actively help grow all the things in my life which is a really empowering state. I am hoping to transform all things I have built so far to a next stage within the decade to come, while enjoying each fully packed day of our adventurous life.
What are you completely bored with right now?
I usually love cooking and experimenting with food in general. This changed dramatically with the repeated lockdowns where I felt I needed to constantly cook. Everyone in my household seemed to be hungry and out on the hunt for food at all times… I finally signed up for a health programme, which includes recipes for every single meal of the day. This has tremendously helped me to step away from being annoyed and bored of cooking and not least importantly, helped me to shed a lot of mommy weight that I gathered after giving birth to my two daughters. I am now nearly back to where I was in my early twenties! However I am still at the ‘bored state’ with cooking and for the moment just enjoy following this routine of recipes - certainly have lost interest in the experimenting part of preparing foods. I hope this will reemerge at some point though, as it used to be a really great and playful part of household chores for me.
What is keeping you busy these days?
Practicing, finishing an article for Flöte Aktuell, the last edits of the Doppler and Kuhlau disc as well as my girls - as always!
One habit you wish you could break?
My older daughter is an avid ballet dancer, therefore she has the most beautiful posture in general. She holds herself tall and straight, which really radiates her youthful health and makes her look confident and very feminine in my opinion. I have so many times sworn not to hunch my back when sitting, yet most annoyingly I find myself doing it all the time. I feel that growing up, I was surrounded by so many women that have not looked after their postures and it bothers me that I am not able to break this example and go against this habit in my own everyday life.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
It would definitely be the power to be in several places at the same time. I am lucky to be surrounded by absolutely amazing, versatile and extremely active people. This means that I not only have FOMO, but I AM actually constantly missing out on a number of things. Most recently, within a week of time, I wasn’t able to be there for my husband’s concerts with the Budapest Festival Orchestra in the Palace of Arts in Budapest as well as his performance in La Scala in Milan with the Orchestra della RAI. Also during these days I missed the launch of my father’s newest book and an award giving ceremony for my mother. And this is almost a constant state and will probably worsen as the girls are getting older and are doing more and more of their own things. My superpower would also allow me to travel to different places of the world just out of fun, as I fear that a lifetime is not enough to visit all the exciting places I wish to see.
What is one thing you wish you knew at 19?
At that age, I haven’t quite understood yet how many things we are unable to control in our lives. This was striking for me later on when it came to health issues, building a family, pursuing certain career goals, but also during this last period while the pandemic was unfolding. With every year of my life, I understand a little more about unpredictabilities and our vulnerabilities and interestingly enough, together with that, our strength to overcome these and make the most of what is out there to be appreciated. I think seeing these aspects of life in perspective at that age would have helped me to learn to appreciate the very moment for what it is earlier on in life.
What is your Spirit Animal?
Funnily enough, I never thought of this before. I would say that my spirit animal would be the fox at the moment. London is full of foxes and we have a stunning family of foxes living in the shared back garden of our house. They play around in the garden, sometimes hunt or sunbathe on the grass and I cannot help but look at them and admire their beauty and silky movements. I was never drawn to foxes before moving to this very place where we live now - foxes in the city don’t tend to be so graceful and beautiful as this family.
Looking at it from a more spiritual point of view, I feel that the quick, swift and flexible fox moves as well as their habit of being most active at night, but also being day animals describes my life perfectly at the moment. I feel I often need sharp thinking, adaptability and the ability to move quickly through obstacles and resistance, but do so with grace. I am definitely also very active at night, working on a lot of my creative projects and perhaps by doing so, I keep being connected to my inner dream world. These are certainly inspirational aspects of foxes that I can easily resonate with.