Dr. Brice Smith Artist Interview
Brice Smith (he/they), artist and activist, is principal flutist of the Las Colinas Symphony and Adjunct Flute Professor at Adams State University. Brice is a flute recording artist for the American Composer’s Alliance, Alry Publications, and is a Trevor James Alto and Bass Flute Artist.
Can you give us 5 career highlights?
Some career highlights that immediately come to mind are winning the principal flute position with the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra, performing Malcolm Arnold's Flute Concerto No. 1 with the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, subbing with the New World Symphony and Colorado Symphony Orchestra, commissioning and performing 'Move It' for the NFA Summer Series, completing my Doctorate of Musical Arts in Flute Performance and Pedagogy during a global pandemic, and becoming a Trevor James Alto and Bass flute artist. There are a few more highlights that I will share on social media as they approach!
How about a pivotal moment that was essential to creating the artist that you've become?
I remember quite vividly auditioning at the University of Michigan for my Master's degree. I was a student at the University of Arkansas with extremely limited resources. At the time, I played on a Jupiter DiMedici flute, taped together so that the keywork could seal properly, and a borrowed headjoint from a close friend in my flute studio. As the deadline for prescreening recordings approached, I used every cent to purchase a Zoom recorder. Upon completion, I returned the device to Best Buy so that I could use that money for my plane ticket to Ann Arbor, should I pass the prescreening round. Thankfully, I did!
My flight was scheduled to connect in Chicago in February before flying into Detroit. Unfortunately, my flight was canceled due to a snowstorm. I immediately called the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and informed them of the winter storm. I made it very clear that I was prepared to audition, no matter the circumstances, and would play for Professor Porter over the phone, if necessary. Nothing was going to stop me from my dream. After several hours, the airline booked me for a standby flight with one seat available. During my time at the airport, I befriended a cellist in the very predicament I found myself in. She was also instructed to try and board the flight with one seat. I couldn't bear to fly to Michigan for an audition and leave my friend behind. As I was preparing to turn in my ticket, one more seat opened, allowing both of us to fly.
The next day, I warmed up and, in a nervous frenzy, left my excerpt book in my backpack as I headed to Professor Porter's studio. I remember playing my heart out, piece after piece, and as I was prepared to say thank you and leave, she asked me for excerpts. Realizing that I did not have my book with me, I closed my eyes and played Daphnis et Chloe's solo from memory. My heart knew that faith is more significant than any obstacle, and I put my entire soul into the music. I FELT IT! As I opened my eyes, Professor Porter looked delighted. My cellist friend had also just completed her audition as I left Professor Porter's studio. Days later, we both received the call that we had been accepted to study performance at the University of Michigan. I still get teary-eyed thinking about this story and many others of perseverance.
What do you like best about performing?
I love the energy! As I perform, I can feel the audience. Performance is a mutual experience for the performer and audience—a dance of energy. I often mention how the best seat in the orchestra is on the stage. The vibrations are nothing less than extraordinary. I remember the first time I heard a bass clarinet enter the ensemble texture right behind me. My entire chair vibrated as I was immersed in this oasis of sound. I then knew I had felt a piece of heaven.
What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?
The next six months are looking to be exciting! First, I will be performing for three recitals at the National Flute Association's 50th Anniversary Convention and adjudicating the final round of the Alto Flute Artist Competition. Then, the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra cycle will begin again in October with the glorious Leonore Overture. In November, I will be performing Michael Daugherty's flute concerto, 'Trail of Tears' with the Longmont Symphony Orchestra.
Some exciting additional projects are underway, so stay tuned to Instagram!
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
Personally, one particular goal I have is to write books, ranging from education topics in flute and a memoir. I have many personal stories that I believe can empower other minority musicians or anyone who has ever experienced discrimination.
Professionally, I often say the "Mark Sparks Career" is ideal. He's a phenomenal teacher, orchestral musician, soloist, and publisher, to name a few fantastic things he does!
What inspires you the most in life?
Oh, so many things! I am inspired most by nature. I especially love mountain ranges and oceans. Meditating by the water or in front of the Rockies has been soul replenishing for me. (I recommend it!)
Kindness, authenticity, and good-hearted people inspire me. I cannot stress the importance of genuinely diverse, equitable, and inclusive spaces. Hope and faith inspire me. My African and Indigenous Ancestors, the successes and love of friends and family, also inspire me.
What has been your personal greatest challenge?
I believe my most significant personal challenge is myself. It is imperative not to allow the obstacles and doubts others may project on to us to affect how we think of ourselves or act.
What has been your professional challenge?
I am an African, Indigenous, Queer, and Non-binary flutist. Existing in any professional space has its challenges—some of which I have benefitted from and many I have not. I often find that I am an anomaly, a spectacle even, rather than a human being in some spaces. I am expected (which this has been said directly to me) to represent the entire Black race in classical music. The pressure to perform well can be intense. I feel that for many, it is not about the music but whether I have the aptitude to perform beautifully. After my performances, patrons mentioned that they thought it rather peculiar to see a Black person on a stage and were even more surprised that I played well. And times when I did not play my best, discussions were had that I must have been a diversity initiative for the ensemble to fill the DEI slot.
Who were your music mentors?
I am so fortunate to have had many mentors along my journey thus far. I owe much of my progress as a musician and human being to the many lessons they have shared with me. Some of my mentors were/are Jan Vinci, Ronda Mains, Amy Porter, Thomas Robertello, Christina Jennings, Brook Ferguson, Carter Pann, Jeffrey Nytch, Julee Kim Walker, Willa Loescher, and George Armstrong. Thank you all for loving and continuously challenging me to become the most authentically full version of myself and flutist that I can be.
Can you give us some quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?
-Gymnastics is my favorite sport, and I watch it religiously.
-I have an obsession with incense, candles, and essential oils.
-I spend almost every free moment with my cat, Piccolo! He loves the sound of the flute and has been my best friend throughout the pandemic.
-Social Media is a canvas for creativity, and I have a blast posting content that inspire conversations!
What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?
-Seek out mentors that are doing or have done what you seek in a career.
-Kindness, punctuality and an excellent work ethic are invaluable in every area of your life.
-There is life outside of the flute. Live it!
-Become a sponge for knowledge.
-You are so wonderful and valuable. Remember that competition and audition results do not reflect your worth. There is no such thing as losing. We either win, or we learn.