FeaturedInterviewsIssuesMarch 2023

Clare Southworth Artist Interview

Clare Southworth is one of only a few flutists to have launched a successful career as solo performer, orchestral musician, professor of flute and author. Having won the NFA Young Artist Competition, she then became one of the youngest Professors of Flute in the UK at the Royal Northern College of Music and then at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Her many publications are used by teachers and players worldwide and you can hear her most weeks on the Talking Flutes Podcast chatting about all things flutey. 

What are three pivotal moments that were essential to creating the artist that you've become?

  1. Winning the NFA Young Artist Competition – 1st prize in this prestigious competition gave my confidence an enormous boost. Being judged by flute players is far harder than being judged by other instrumentalists. I was also the first overseas player to win this competition. 
  2. Becoming a Professor of Flute at the Royal Northern College of Music when I was 26 years old. This was a massive responsibility at a young age, helping shape the lives and careers of students not much younger than I was. I also ran my own summer school for over 20 years, which was hugely rewarding, coaching players from around the world. 
  3. Seeing my first flute tutor books in print. I started my own flute residential course in 1988 and made booklets full of exercises to give out to the students. Those booklets became Flute Aerobics, followed by Light Aerobics and Sequentials. I remember coming to the NFA and giving a morning warm-up class using Aerobics and afterward sold about 500 books! This was just the confidence boost I needed to say I was doing something right!!

Since then I’ve written Flute Reboot, a book of music and exercises for established players: Kickstart Flute, a beginners method: The Expression of Colour, a tone method on colour, dynamics, vibrato and emotional playing.

What do you like best about performing?

I don’t perform now, but when I did, I loved the freedom that performance gave me. The freedom to express the music, the emotion, the communication and connection with the audience. I was very much aware of having such a privileged position, being able to share my love of music with others and travel the world.

CD releases:

I have two solo CD’s; Sonatas and Classic Touch with Tim Carey on piano.

Sonatas: 4 classic flute sonatas by Martinu, Franck, Damase and Donizetti.

Classic Touch: JS Bach, Widor Suite, Hamilton Harty, Caplet, Schumann and Griffes.

The Bad-Tempered Flute: Works by Andy Scott. Flute Sonata, Flute and Harp Sonata.

Miyazawa Plays Caliendo: 3rd Sonata of Christopher Caliendo.

What does your schedule look like for the next 6 months?  

I’m semi-retired now, so my time is spent preparing my Talking Flutes Podcast and writing more flute books. 

What are your goals personally?

Personally, I am always trying to reduce my golf handicap!!! That helps me with my other goals of staying fit and healthy, along with walking my 3 golden retrievers, weekly gym sessions and most importantly looking after my one year old grand-daughter.

Professionally, I am constantly writing down ideas for new books and new ideas for the Talking Flutes Podcast.

What inspires you the most in life?

Inspiration comes in many ways. My family: two children, one a doctor and the other a publicity manager and my husband Rolf who has supported me throughout my career. Living by the sea which feeds my soul on a daily basis!

What has been your greatest professional challenge?

In my early days of trying to carve out a career, there were no computers, internet or social media. The challenge was to let people know about you. This meant writing lots of letters and getting very few replies, but never giving up. That was the secret, to keep communicating and contacting those people who could provide a platform. 

What has been your greatest personal challenge?

Personally, contracting Menieres disease 5 years ago, which put a stop to my playing career almost overnight. It was also one of my greatest professional challenges, because I had to find a new path, a new direction. Stopping wasn’t an option and that’s when I began the Talking Flutes Podcast and began to write more. 

Who were your music mentors?  and what did you learn from them?

My mentors were Geoffrey Gilbert, William Bennett, and Sir James Galway. Geoffrey was so generous with his time and patient. I spent many hours each year, listening to him talk at a summer school when we both had free time. I wish I’d written down all his advice and stories. Wibb was an inspiration every time he played, the most wonderful musician. Sir James changed the landscape of flute playing, not only inspirational to listen too, but encouraging many students to learn the flute and so give all of us a teaching career. 

Can you give us five quirky, secret, fun (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?  

I love playing golf! Playing golf has many similar links with music: Balance, rhythm, timing and practice. 

Living by the sea has given me the chance to swim, although the water is very cold, I’m sure it’s doing me good!

LOVE gadgets! I’m what people call an early adopter.  

Cooking is a passion of mine, I cook from scratch every day and it gives me and my family joy.

When I was (very) young I loved Andy Williams! He had a heavenly voice and incredible musicianship. Listen to him on YouTube!

What three things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?   

1. Practice – there is no quick fix, or easy route. If you want to be a fabulous flutist, you have to put in all the hours. I am a firm believer in achieving success if you work at it. Keep trying, persevere and take advice from those people that can help you.  

2. Listen to world music played by different instrumentalists and singers. You learn by listening to others. 

3. Learn from rejection or failure. We learn from our mistakes and if you were to ask any top performers, they would all have had experience of failure. It’s how you deal with it that counts. 

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