Ory Schneor Artist Interview
Ory Schneor was born in Israel and is based in Vienna, Austria. He is a member of the Geneva Camerata (Switzerland), principal flutist with the Morphing Chamber Orchestra (Vienna, Austria), the founder and flute teacher of FLUTEinWIEN – Intensive Masterclasses, and the author of a successful flute blog.
What are the three pivotal moments essential to creating the artist you've become?
I believe the most influential time for me has been the 5 years I spend studying with Jacques Zoon in Geneva and Madrid. Jacques is such an artist in his soul, and being able to be under his guidance for so long really taught me a lot about music making and using the flute as a tool for creating art.
After the years with Jacques, I met as well Philippe Bernold, with whom I had a week of a masterclass in France. Suddenly many things that Jacques spoke about have made more sense to me after working with Philippe and hearing his ideas from a different angle. The combination of both is probably the strongest influence on my own teaching ideas, concepts, and style.
Other moments are probably the concerts and rehearsals I was playing under 2 fantastic conductors: Alan Gilbert and Fabio Luisi. The way they worked with the orchestra during the rehearsals and the level of performance they achieved from the orchestra were simply incredible to experience and have accompanied me ever since.
What do you like best about performing?
I think the best part of live performances is the possibility of spontaneity. Of course, we practice and rehearse with others in a certain way performances, but I like to change and keep things fresh in every performance. Not only does it make the performance much more fun, but it also makes all your colleagues listen carefully, react and encourage them to suggest new ideas as well – and eventually, it becomes a real artistic dialog without words.
What do you like best about teaching?
I love seeing the progress of improvement in front of my eyes, seeing how the students overcome their fears and difficulties, change their years-long habits and finally succeed and be happy with how they sound. I have to admit I’m pretty lucky with the way I teach. As most of my teaching is done through my intensive masterclasses, I get to work intensively with one student for a short and intensive period of time (almost 3 hours every day for a few days) and can focus solely on him/her. That allows me to witness the results and improvement of the students quickly, which sometimes might have taken weeks or more to notice and achieve.
Your intensive masterclasses concept is pretty unique, what made you create it?
As a student myself, I always felt that the ‘traditional’ masterclasses were not ideal: there was not enough time for me as a student to really fully understand the new information given by the teachers. Too often, I had left the masterclass with more questions than the answers I wished I’d had for my problems.
Students, I believe, participate in masterclasses because they wish to get new tools for the issues they face in their playing. They pay quite a lot of fees, traveling costs, accommodation, etc., and hope they’ll get the answers and solutions to their questions and difficulties. But, the ‘traditional’ concept doesn’t really allow the ideal conditions for that – there’s simply not enough time.
Therefore, I wanted to create a masterclass that allows each student the time to fully understand and apply the new information already during the masterclass. Instead of 45 or 60 minutes of active daily playing time (maybe, not always) in ‘traditional’ masterclasses, we work almost 3 hours daily. We start with 1 hour dedicated only to sound and technique, and then we move on to a repertoire class and integrate the new techniques directly into the pieces the student plays.
This way, I can really be sure the student has enough time to experiment with the new techniques and ideas and that they know exactly what and how they should practice when they finish their masterclass and go back home.
What made you decide to start a blog?
The idea of writing a blog came up simultaneously with the intensive masterclasses. I’m very analytical and logical, I love getting into the smallest details of the flute techniques, and a blog was an ideal way for me to share my thoughts and suggestions with flutists worldwide.
I like to be effective and not waste people’s time. Through my blog, I wanted to provide flutists at home the ability to get immediate success with simple exercises and, at the same time to enable the flutists to really understand the basic mechanisms of playing with a lot of precision and attention to the smallest details.
Writing the blog with such details has helped me tremendously in verbalizing my own playing habits into words, creating many images, metaphors, and instructions that have improved, I believe, not only my student's and the blog readers’ playing but as well my own playing and teaching skills.
What has been your biggest challenge as a performing musician or teacher?
In my orchestra, the Geneva Camerata, we started a few years ago playing really untraditional concerts, learning the pieces by heart, and on top of that, there would be a choreographer/dancer with us, and we had to learn and perform a completely new choreography – while playing. We were basically moving on stage, dancing, running, jumping, lying down on the floor, etc., and everything was done while playing the music by heart. The first time we did such a project, we were all pretty terrified wondering, how would we be able to achieve that? It was so challenging to play the piece well and do all the movements simultaneously that the other piece by Ligeti we had on the program (that would normally be the hardest piece in the program) became the easiest on the program.
Since then, we have been playing Mozart's 40th symphony, Dvorak's 9th Symphony, Shostakovich's 5th Symphony, Beethoven's 7th Symphony, and a Baroque suite by Lully in this manner, and while each project is challenging, it has become really much easier and these are the most enjoyable and successful concerts we have ever played.
As for teaching, I think the biggest challenge is our diversity, every student is a wholly unique world with a different body, different playing habits, different ways of learning, different ability to control the body, etc. While I know exactly where I want to lead the students, there are many ways of doing that, and I have to ‘tailor’ the right solution for the student in front of me. That’s why I find the experimentation part during practicing so important – the students have to try many different ways in order to choose the way that fits best to them and makes them sound at their best. Nevertheless, diversity is a blessing, making my work with every student unique, interesting, and never boring.
Can you give us some quirky, secret, fun (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?
Oh, there are actually a few:
- I love coffee. Not only the drinking and brewing part but also the roasting, and I’m roasting it at home myself.
- I bought myself a camera in the 2nd Covid-19 lockdown here in Austria, and ever since, I’m more and more into photography (and proudly even won a prize in an international photography competition for a pelican portrait I took just a few months after getting the camera)
- I love cooking and baking (and even managed to combine this love with my intensive masterclasses, offering a homemade cake in the breaks between the flute classes).
- Given the choice, I’ll most probably choose to watch a BBC nature film over a Hollywood film
What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?
Every note we play directly results from how you use your muscles to control your air pressure, jaw, palate, lips, posture, etc. Invest a little bit of time now to question your habits, to explore perhaps better alternatives, and to really understand how to control each one of them separately, and you’ll save yourself months and years on your journey of gaining full control of your playing.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice and new ideas from other teachers: too often, I’ve heard from young students that they are afraid of what their teachers might think or how they would react if they knew that the student took some classes with another teacher or participated in a masterclass of another teacher. Your teachers already had their chances to form their own opinions, but now it’s your turn to establish your own. You’ll only be able to do so when you try out new ideas and experiment with them, and the more ideas you’ll be exposed to, the richer you’ll be.
When having new ideas that might be a bit untraditional and unconventional, we naturally go first to our closest circles (family, friends, couple) to get some feedback. While I think we should definitely do that, they might not always be able to fully understand your ideas and their potential. Personally, if I had listened to some of them, my FLUTEinWIEN intensive masterclasses and blog would have never been created, and the international success it has gotten wouldn’t have been achieved. Therefore, trust yourself and trust your ideas. Provide quality and real value to others, and you’ll be recognized for that.