By Hannah Haefele
In the spring semester of my freshman year of college, I saw another flute player take on a few piccolo parts in our concert band. Shortly after, I realized the importance of playing the piccolo as a flute major.
With the help of my parents, I got my first piccolo. I played it a ton that summer, but I didn't get to use it in an ensemble until a year later when I joined my university's marching band.
Since then, I fell in love with the piccolo. Playing it has brought me a lot of opportunities, both as a student and now as a young professional.
Here are some examples of how playing the piccolo has helped me and how it can help you.
One of the earliest opportunities I received from playing the piccolo was the chance to play in a couple of masterclasses. Both of these events happened during my senior year of college when a couple of guest artists came to campus.
I played in masterclasses for Shannon Finney and Nancy Mulholland. Both masterclasses taught me a lot about playing the piccolo and the flute, more generally.
As a student, playing in a masterclass can give you good experience. You can play a piece in front of an audience and learn from an expert other than your current teacher.
2. University Orchestra
In both college and graduate school, I played the piccolo in the university/community orchestra. At my undergraduate university, we rotated parts, so I also got to play principal and second flutes.
However, in graduate school, I was assigned the third flute and piccolo part. I started grad school in January, and that semester, I got to play in a side-by-side concert with the Omaha Symphony.
That wouldn't have been the case if I didn't play the piccolo.
And the following August, I was only one of two flute players who auditioned for a piccolo spot. That gave me a competitive edge when it came to getting into the orchestra again. If you don't play the piccolo, you only have a chance at one of two spots, not one of three.
3. University Wind Ensemble
Playing piccolo also gave me more opportunities as part of the wind ensemble in both college and graduate school. As a college senior, for example, I made co-principal flute and was the primary piccolo player in the group.
When I was in graduate school, I wasn't the main piccolo player. However, the woman who was also conducted as she was a conducting student. So when she conducted a piece that called for the piccolo, I took over that part.
Whether you're the primary piccolo player or not, playing both the piccolo and flute can help you set yourself apart.
4. Opera Pit Orchestra
Another experience I had as a student due to playing the piccolo was getting to join the opera pit orchestra during my senior year. We played the opera version of Alice in Wonderland, and it called for the flute player to double on piccolo.
It's the only time I've ever played in a pit orchestra. However, my professor knew I enjoyed the piccolo, so it made sense for her to suggest me for the part. As far as I can remember, my university didn't hold auditions.
Whether you want to play in an opera pit or musical theatre, playing piccolo can open a lot of doors. Playing other woodwinds, like the alto flute, clarinet, and alto sax, can bring you even more opportunities.
5. Flute Choir Solos
Playing the piccolo can also help you access more solos in a flute choir setting. In college, we played an arrangement of Tambourin by Gossec. The piece had a piccolo solo, and I got the part during my junior year.
There are many flute choir pieces with a piccolo part. Sometimes, the part is boring, but other pieces feature it more prominently.
If you're currently in a flute choir, ask the director for the chance to play the piccolo. You may not get to play it on every piece, but you can switch off between it and the flute.
6. Piccolo Blog
In August 2021, I was inspired to start a piccolo blog. I'd already been blogging for about eight years at the time, and I'd recently learned about niche blogs. They can make their owners a lot of money from ads and affiliate sales.
The blog is still very small, but it managed to earn me a few hundred dollars in 2022. All of that income was "passive," and I haven't used the blog to offer a service. In a world with so much uncertainty as a freelance musician, diversifying your income streams is essential.
I can use my experience playing the piccolo to write more valuable articles. That way, the blog can be a great resource for other players.
Of course, writing isn't for everyone, and blogging requires a very specific style of writing. However, it's been a good venture for me. And the specific blog wouldn't have been possible if I didn't play the piccolo.
Playing Piccolo Can Bring You Opportunities
Whether you're still in school or have graduated, playing the piccolo can bring you many more opportunities than only playing the flute. If you don't already play the piccolo, you should learn the basics.
You don't have to become a piccolo specialist. However, having basic command over the instrument can help you access more ensembles, solos, and other gigs.
Hannah Haefele is a flutist and blogger. She has a masters of music from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has performed across the Midwestern US. As a blogger, she runs three different websites to help others with music and online business.
Piccolo site: https://piccoloperfection.com/