ArticlesFeaturedJune 2023

SF Flute Society Flutes by the Sea Youth Competition Winner Eli Padgett

Nine-year-old musician Eli Padgett started learning the flute with Cressida McKay Frith at seven, now studies with Michael O'Donnell and Daniel Shao. He also plays the piano, saxophone and is an aspiring composer. Eli plays in the Hong Kong Children’s Orchestra, and is a winner of regional and international competitions including British Flute Society Competition Audience Vote, Singapore Raffles Competition, Grand Prize Virtuoso Competitions and HK Schools Music Festival. 

Can you give us 3 career highlights? 
I entered the British Flute Society online competition when I was eight. I hadn’t learned vibrato yet! My first teacher Cressida McKay Frith encouraged me to apply, to give me something fun to do during COVID lockdown in Hong Kong. She thought seeing other young musicians would be inspiring and the judges‘ comments would be helpful. She was right! It was such a surprise to be commended and win the audience vote prize in the online finalist event. Everyone was super encouraging even though I was very nervous. It gave me a confidence boost and inspired me to do more musically.

After the BFS final, I got in touch with one of the judges that I read a lot about, Daniel Shao. He agreed to give me lessons over Zoom and it’s changed my life. He is a role model for me in many ways. He does orchestral work and is part of Tangram, an award-winning contemporary ensemble which I would love to join one day! He is now a mentor of mine and I always look forward to catching up with him.

Another highlight is being able to go to flute festivals in Slovenia and the Netherlands this year. I was starstruck seeing people like Emmanuel Pahud, Denis Bouriakov and Adam Walker up close, and the experience made me want to do a masterclass myself. My dream has just come true because I will be getting a masterclass at the Galway Flute Festival 2023!

What do you like best about playing the flute? 
I love the different sounds the flute can make, from birdsong to train race. I love French Romantic flute as much as contemporary music, although I have to say my favorite is Ian Clarke's music.

What are your goals as a flutist? 
I would like to play the flute, teach music and compose like Ian Clarke does. I would like to do orchestral work and play with musicians from all over the world. I’d also love to collaborate with instruments such as the guitar, erhu, sitar, etc.

What inspires you the most in life? 
I am inspired by music, nature and art.


What has been your greatest challenge?
Working on the breath and long tones is challenging. Practices after long days of school can be hard to get started. Being in HK especially with COVID restrictions for so long, when I had very few opportunities to perform or play with others was probably the most challenging thing. Luckily I will be going to a specialist music school in the UK soon, so I will have more opportunities to play with other musicians.


Who were your music mentors and what did you learn from them?
I have been fortunate to have so many!


-Daniel Shao, who taught me to always research the composer and the pieces, and think about the feelings of passages and visualize them. He also showed me the possibilities of being a classical musician who also plays a lot of contemporary music. He is very kind and caring, and has encouraged me in many ways.


-Michael O'Donnell, my music teacher at school who is also an amazing flute and piano teacher. I loved his music classes at school, which made me want to become a music teacher and spread the joy of music to children. I have learned so much from him in the past year in 1-1 lessons, he has taken my music playing to the next level.


-My first flute teacher Cressida Mckay Frith, who made me fall in love with learning music. She encouraged me to learn the piano as an aspiring composer. She taught me the importance of music theory to becoming a better musician. She is the most patient person and made learning music fun and engaging. She taught me so much about believing in myself and challenging myself, but also it’s okay to have bad days and take breaks. She would give me personalized homework pointers which made practice very efficient, which means I didn’t have to practice as long to achieve a lot of progress.


-Tete Bae, who taught me at school who also happens to be a professional flute player. She went to Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester before RAM. I wouldn't have auditioned for music schools without her encouragement. Now I’m going to attend her alma mater in September!


Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions?
-I love fish and all sea life. I’m passionate about charities that protect the ocean like Plastic Free Seas which is based in HK
-I like playing train whistles à la Ian Clarke when I'm supposed to practice long tones
-I love maps and geography. I like studying the globe and drawing road/train network maps
-I like to cook and bake, and read funny books
-I like making my own illustrated books, stop motion videos and compose film music for them


What 3 things would you offer as advice for another flutist?
That's hard because I don't know many younger flutists as I am nine. If I have to offer some advice I would say that practicing scales and technical exercises really help, don’t skip the studies! Try to have fun when you practice, always end it with something fun - I like to signtread something new or play some of my favorite pieces. The last thing is be careful with your flute, handle it gently if you are a little kid!


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