I had so many wonderful experiences as a performer, for which I’m very grateful. With my Imani Winds colleagues performing at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg the first season it opened. We made our Carnegie Hall debut last spring on the prestigious Carnegie Hall Presents series. In 2022 my first recording with the ensemble was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music Performance category. Releasing two solo albums, Flute Sonatas and Solo Works in 2020 and Twofold in 2023, are recordings that I’m very proud of. In 2021 I joined the faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music, and it is the honor of a lifetime to help brilliant young artists on their quest for artistic excellence and to find their places in the world.
I had very great teachers and began my studies in my public school band program, but really began my formal music lessons at an arts magnet school in Dayton, Ohio. Being accepted into that program changed my life and inspired me to become a musician. Moving to New York in 2008 and immersing myself in the city’s vibrant music scene and hearing all genres of music opened up my world tremendously. Prior to succeeding Valerie Coleman as the flutist of Imani Winds in 2018, I spent a number of years performing as a guest with many major orchestras. Performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert and the Hollywood Bowl, with Gustavo Dudamel, and the composer/conductor John Williams, was certainly an extraordinary time of artistic inspiration and musical growth.
Music presents us with such a unique opportunity to bring people together, to uplift, and to inspire, I love bringing music to audiences across the globe and offering them an opportunity to be inspired and find respite from whatever challenges they are facing in their lives. The opportunity to inspire young people by seeing what might be possible for them is incredibly moving.
I have released two solo albums. In 2020, Flute Sonatas and Solo Works features music of Aho, Bach, Boulez,and Prokofiev. In 2023 I released Twofold. Completely unaccompanied, the album features pairings, with each older composition paired with a contemporary one. The composers represented are C.P.E. Bach, Saad Hadaad, Reena Esmail, Shawn Okpebholo, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Claude Debussy and Torū Takemitsu.
Passion for Bach and Coltrane, 2023
Over the next six months, I have a very busy tour schedule with Imani Winds that includes returning to the Kennedy Center in April and premiering a new quintet by Shawn Okpebholo. I have commissioned a new flute concerto that will have it’s premiere with the Albany Symphony in June. In between touring, I will be with the students at Curtis, working with the extraordinary flutists, and coaching wind chamber music.
My personal goal is to spend as much time with my loved ones as possible. I have an amazing community in New York; seeing them gives me so much life. I try to see them as much as possible between tours. In my professional life, I recently helped Imani Winds launch our very own record label, iii media; the first recording on the label was actually won a GRAMMY this year in the Best Classical Compendium category! The company also seeks to nurture young artists from underrepresented communities in classical music, and I am excited to grow and develop the label.
The pursuit of beauty is what drives me as a person. Musically this comes in the form of pursuing beauty of sound in in my playing. Personally this means seeking connection with loved ones and finding ways to bring joy into my life and into theirs.
When I joined Imani Winds, I joined an ensemble that had been in existence for 21 seasons, and had such a rich history, vast repertoire, and robust touring schedule. Learning all of the repertoire and adjusting to life on the road, close to 100 days a year, was a huge adjustment!
I think overcoming self-doubt is something we all experience. We train from a very young age to do something that is so niche and at a very high level. Along the way, because the journey is tough and opportunities are limited, we often worry about finding our place in the world. Surrounding myself with people cheering me on when I doubted myself helped me overcome this challenge.
I studied with a number of teachers over the course of my high school years, college, and well into my early professional years. Michel Debost and Kathleen Chastain were my exceptional teachers at Oberlin, and they had a real penchant for mentorship. They cared for their students in such a special, nurturing way. They taught me to practice well, to develop my own ideas on music, and to try as many things as possible and never limit myself. I studied abroad in Paris while at Oberlin, and Sophie Cherrier, professor at the Paris Conservatory was an important mentor. She encouraged me find my own sound and the best setup for me to have maximum resonance, play with lots of tone colors, and nurtured my love of contemporary music. Lorna McGhee is probably the most significant of mentors in my professional life, as she helped me not only with developing my sound, but challenged me to understand the power of music, the pursuit of beauty, and the to see the bigger picture of what music can mean to performers and audiences.
I love reading contemporary fiction, specialty coffee, making cocktails, strength training, and finding the best restaurants in all of the cities I visit!
Never forget to have fun. It is such an honor to get to bring music to people and we should remember to enjoy it! Listen to your teachers, they are your biggest fans and want help you. I think finding what you enjoy most whether it is orchestral, solo or chamber playing, and finding repertoire that speaks to you is key to a life of musical enjoyment and success. Even if you don’t become a professional flutist, or only want to play for pleasure, the skills you learn will help you in may facets of life and will hopefully bring you lifelong enjoyment. Find your voice and live your truth!