Aralee Dorough is Principal Flute of the Houston Symphony and serves on the faculty of the University of Houston and the Texas Music Festival. She was a soloist with the orchestra this fall playing her own edition of Sarasate's Carmen Fantasie, which included solo parts for the entire flute section. Aralee enjoys creating orchestral rep content for her YouTube Channel.
What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?
This month the Houston Symphony is playing a program every week as we close out our subscription season: Mahler 2, Copland 3, Thaik 4 and Beethoven 9. Summer is busy for us with special concerts like Harry Potter with film. But I'm hoping to take off a few of those weeks so that I can finish writing a piece: the Houston Symphony flute section will be performing at the NFA convention in August, and we'll play all new pieces and arrangements for 4 flutes. Judy Dines, Kate Ladner and Matthew Roitstein are my colleagues and we started recording these arrangements during the pandemic. It will be bittersweet as Matthew Roitstein will be leaving us to become the principal flute of the Saint Louis Symphony. I am also hoping to launch an online course on breathing technique during the summer, or at least complete the work to be ready to offer it in the fall.
Right before the convention I'll be at a wonderful music camp that is NOT for classical music. It's in the Catskill mountains of New York and this will be my family's 6th time to go there. At this camp I will listen to lots of great prog rock, participate in a few classes playing an unusual guitar-like instrument I am learning, and possibly even sing a Schoolhouse Rock song. I have a terrible singing voice, but this is the kind of place where it is safe to do it! My dad was musical director of Schoolhouse Rock and it has become a tradition in the short time I've been going there to perform a medley of my dad's songs. So they'll want to hear me sing "Figure 8".
After the Convention, some R & R in my hometown in rural Pennsylvania, some hiking and kayaking. At the end of August our season will get underway again: Verdi Requiem, Shostakovich 5, and more, and University of Houston will be in session again. I'll have 4 new students joining the 2 who are returning. My current studio will have 3 doctoral students, one Performance Certificate student (a 2 year degree) and one undergrad.
How has the Pandemic affected your career?
What a heartbreaking time 2020 and 2021 was, but I was so fortunate. My paychecks never stopped and the Houston Symphony was adamant about getting back to the stage as soon as possible. We were one of the first, if not the very first, orchestras to perform again, in July 2020. This was due to a herculean effort from our staff. They created a complex set of protocols to make this possible. We had to enter the hall through separate entrances and un-case in specific areas so that we were never together. On stage we sat with about 10 feet between each player.
This was a very difficult way to play, but we figured out how to do it. We played an entire season this way for small audiences and the repertoire was very unusual. Wonderful chamber works we don't normally get to play and lots of soloists from the orchestra. I was featured in the Bach B Minor Suite and a few other things. Another upshot of it all was the development of the Livestream series. We are still offering livestreams every Saturday and the production value is excellent. (It costs $20 to access the link, and I highly recommend it.) I think it's made the orchestra play even better because we get the rehearsal audio to listen to. It kind of blows my mind, it's such an asset, and it didn't exist before. "I wonder if I'm playing too loud there? Am I together with the strings?" Now these questions can be answered, before the concert!
To sum things up, I have come back to the full orchestra refreshed and with new ideas. I also had time to work on some individual projects.
What creative ways have you focused on to combat the challenges brought forward by the pandemic?
I learned to do recording with Logic ProX and video editing in Final Cut. This allowed me to record at home and do remote projects, like our flute quartet videos. I also some ground work towards creating online courses on flute technique, breathing and orchestral repertoire. I have a website and other things set up but not completed.
What is the most exciting thing in your life right now?
One of the most exciting projects I've ever done is my new album, called Voyage of Blacwyd. It's part of my goal to create and record my own original music. After all these years of interpreting the music of others, I have an interest in exploring my own musical ideas. I found a mentor, Markus Reuter, a really terrific musician I met at the summer camp I mentioned above. He's a highly respected electric guitarist and composer of experimental music and has also written string quartets and orchestral works. And he's a great teacher. It was his idea that I do...an entirely...improvised...solo flute recording. At first I was flabbergasted, but then I realized, of course I want to try this. It exceeded my expectations. I think it's really something different. Flutists, as a group, are very open to new music and interesting combinations of genres, so I'm confident it will find an audience.
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
Personally, I need to declutter and I want to get better at staying connected with friends. Professionally, I want to create videos which share my tips about playing.
What do you wish you knew at age 19?
Flute-wise, if only I knew even a fraction of what I know now about how breathing and air works.
Personally, I wish I understood how much can be accomplished with even just a short amount of consistent work. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. If only I'd kept working on the piano 10 minutes a day...
What inspires you the most in life?
Being around people who are excited about music and art and learning
What has been your greatest challenge?
Keeping weight off and staying fit.
What is keeping you busy these days?
My pets: 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 tarantulas, 1 husband and 1 young adult.
If you had a super power, what would it be?
I have radar and sonar when I am in the orchestra.
One habit you wish you could break?
Biting my nails.
What is your Spirit Animal?
My spirit animal is: the dog, because dogs radiate joyfulness when they run, when they greet each other, and even when they nap.