Michael Alampi Artist Interview
What are your top five career highlights?
- So far, it would have to be playing Principal flute under the late Krzysztof Penderecki. He is an icon for his respected compositions and also a conductor. It was two concerts of Dvorak’s 8th Symphony and his Horn Concerto in Spain. I remember being really nervous leading up to it, but it was an incredibly exhilarating and rewarding week.
- Performing Harrison Birtwistle’s Duet No. 4 at Wigmore Hall in London.
- Playing an exciting show where both Andrew Lloyd Weber (Phantom of the Opera) and Claude-Michel Schönberg (Les Miserable) were sitting in the audience!
- The culmination and completion of my Bachelor's degree at the Royal Academy of Music.
- Yamaha Young Performing Artists Winner.
What has your schedule looked like for the past several months, and what does it look like overall?
Working as a freelance musician in the New York area changes each week, but I have been doing various gigs, orchestral work, recordings, teaching, and preparing auditions. In the past weeks, I have done opera, a Latin music video, recording sessions, orchestral work, and even some jazz. Each week in the school year usually consists of private online and in-person teaching. I always stay consistent with my practice and find time to get out in nature as much as possible. During the week, I also do private Human Design and Astrology sessions for people.
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
To become a better musician, flute player, and person.
What inspires you the most in life?
Music and its ability to really make us feel. The opportunity to create something that can actively impact and inspire others.
What has been your greatest personal challenge?
Belief and overthinking! The mind tends to wander a lot, but over the past years, I have dived more into meditation practice and the study of esoteric philosophies that have helped with this. Human Design and subconscious reprogramming have been two great tools.
Who were your music mentors, what was your experience like, and what did you learn from them?
I am currently doing diploma studies with Elizabeth Mann. The philosophy so far in lessons is that if you can play one thing really well, then you can replicate this pristine flute playing to other pieces, studies and exercises. Having a home base of really good flute playing is the focus (sound, control, technique, and awareness). So rather than getting through four etudes and several pieces, you really solidify the highest level of playing in one study or excerpt at a time. It is important to learn quickly as a musician but having a solid pristine foundation to always work from with each piece or exercise you play gets you there quicker in your development. This teaching has allowed me to really hone in on each work or etude I need to prepare with more efficiency and control. We want to be more aware in our practice.
Judith Mendenhall, my professor for my Masters degree, has put everything together on what it takes to be an informed, prepared, and intelligent musician. Having her as my flute teacher, chamber coach, and wind class professor, I absorbed many insights on the flute and how to be a great wind player and orchestral colleague. Studying with Judy really crystallized my artistic voice; she helped me become the musician and player I have always wanted to be. One who plays with conviction, finesse, and great style. Judy’s energy, tone, and innate musicianship have greatly impacted me as a musician.
Michael Cox installed in me that the highest level of music making and artistry is what we are here to serve through our instrument. That the music and the audiences are our goals and main ambition. We want the audience to feel something - to have the hair raised on one’s arms. As musicians, we are not here to focus or worry about achieving or impressing others. We are here to focus on the music and its musical message. To allow the music to speak for itself to the audience and to deliver the composer's message through our instrument.
Karen Jones helped me refine my flute playing and better understand how to practice more efficiently. In this part of my development, I better understood what practice categories I needed to cover to improve my playing and musicianship. We spent most of my first year relearning how to play and approach the flute. I gradually learned how to divide my practice time by working primarily on tone, flexibility, finger technique, scales, studies, pieces, and excerpts daily. Still, to this day, I hear Karen in my practice room as I approach my technique, pieces, and excerpts!
Pat Morris made me more aware of playing what’s on the page. It’s as simple as that. The composer is giving you the master key and instructions for the music, so don’t take it for granted! When it says ‘pp,’ really do ‘pp’ - if it has an accent, make sure you are playing it. Pat also got me thinking about how an accent in Shostakovich differs from an accent in Ravel. Many people will leave out the written details from the composer, and it’s a great reminder to really follow what the composer has instructed to better elevate the piece. I am also thankful to Pat for her piccolo teachings.
Linda Chesis was my teacher in the pre-college at the Manhattan School of Music. She made me more aware that I do have a diaphragm! Not only did she focus more on my diaphragm and support, but she also brought me into the flute repertoire, new etudes, and Moyse exercises. Her flute playing and musical style have greatly influenced my playing and approach. I feel she embodies the modern-day French school of flute playing in the US. Her sound and musical style have always stayed with me.
Besides playing the flute, you mentioned you do sessions in Human Design and Astrology - can you tell us more about this?
Yes! Human Design comprises several ancient pearls of wisdom, including the I’Ching, Astrology, Chakra System, and Kabbalah Tree of Life. It shows us an energetic blueprint of our energy and approach to life. Like Astrology, it is calculated based on the moment of birth showing details of natural talents and abilities and a guideline on how to move through life more easily and avoid burnout. Human Design can tell us how we make decisions (our intuition) and about our best environment and innate learning styles. It has even helped me with practicing and how I absorb music and information in the most efficient way.
How did you get into this?
Years back, I heard of Human Design, but it didn’t really appeal to me until I learned my chart's basics. I had a reading with a Kabbalistic Astrologer that completely shifted my thinking about life. I was surprised by the accuracy of the detail they knew about me solely from a chart. It blew my mind, and I was hungry to learn how to read these charts to better understand myself and the others around me.