FeaturedInterviewsIssuesJune 2023

SF Flute Society Flutes by the Sea Youth Competition Winner Grace Li

Grace Li is 12 years old, and has been learning the flute from Mrs. Monica Song for about 3 years and with Mrs. Claire Johnson for 1 year. Some awards that she has received are winning 1st place in the 2021 and 2022 Texas Flute Festival Competition for both solos and ensembles, 1st place in the Dallas Symphonic Competition in 2022 and 2023, Silver Star in the 2021 Music and Stars Awards, Honorable Mention in the 2022 Flute Society of Greater Philadelphia Competition, 2nd prize in the 2022 Online International BTHVN Wien Competition, 1st place in the Virtual Soloist Competition by Floot Fire in 2022, 3rd place in the 2022 MTNA Competition, and receiving 1st chair in the top band of the All Region competition. In addition to playing the flute, Grace also enjoys playing the piano, reading, and swimming.

Can you give us 3 career highlights?
3 of my career highlights are my first flute lesson, my first time winning a competition, and when I had a masterclass with South Korean flutist, Yubeen Kim. I took my first flute lesson with Mrs. Claire Johnson when I was 8, and she has taught me so many things about the flute. My first time winning a competition was in May 2021 when I won the Texas Flute Festival Competition for solos and ensembles. I had a masterclass with Yubeen Kim a few months ago, and he helped improve my Ibert Concerto.


What do you like best about playing the flute?
What I like best about playing the flute is being able to play my favorite pieces and the ability to express myself through the music. I'm currently working on the Ibert Flute Concerto, Sarasate Zigeunerweisen, and the Mozart Concerto in D Major, and these are all some of my favorite pieces. I can also express my emotions through the pieces I play. For example, in Zigeunerweisen, there are certain places where you need to play with sadness and other places that you need to play happily.
What are your goals as a flutist?
My current goal is to be able to get accepted into my local youth orchestra. Another goal that I want to accomplish is being able to win the MTNA competition next year. However, the most important thing I need to do is keep practicing, so I can achieve these goals.
What inspires you most in life?
I am most inspired by great flute players such as Jasmine Choi, Emmanuel Pahud, and Viviana Guzman to do well. I see the amount of success that they've had, and I want to be able to achieve great things in the world of flute just like they have. They inspire me to work hard, try my best, and keep on practicing.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has been competing at the 2022 MTNA Competition. To compete, you had to play three different pieces, which took me an extremely long time to prepare. I would spend hours just perfecting one measure of a piece and making sure it sounded good. Additionally, the MTNA Competition was the biggest competition I had ever attended, and I was more nervous than I usually was before I competed. However, although I was not able to qualify for the next level of the competition, I was able to improve my technique and skills in performance.
Who were your music mentors and what did you learn from them?
I've had two music mentors over the course of the 4 years that I have been playing. My first flute teacher was Mrs. Claire Johnson. She taught me the very basics of the flute, like how to hold it, the proper embouchure, and the fingering for the notes. She gave me a very solid foundation for my flute career to build up on. My second flute teacher is Mrs. Monica Song, who I'm still learning from. She taught me more techniques, challenging pieces, and helped me improve my performance skills by entering me in many competitions.
Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun hobbies or passions?
Five fun hobbies of mine are swimming at my community pool, eating and watching mukbangs on YouTube(which are where people eat), playing games on my VR headset, taking pictures of my cat, and playing badminton with my family.
What are 3 things you would offer as advice for another flutist?
3 pieces of advice I would offer for another flutist are to practice the tricky parts of the piece at least 100 times, listen to your teacher, and to maintain a good practice schedule. It is really important to practice the hard parts of a piece 100 times (and slowly) because it helps you remember that section and make it sound better. You should also listen to your teacher because they are very experienced and know the flute well. Therefore, they can provide you with good information, so you can improve. Finally, you need to maintain a good practice schedule. It might just be me, but if I don't practice for more than a day, my flute doesn't sound as good as it usually does, so you should definitely practice daily.


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