ArticlesFeaturedInterviewsIssuesMarch 2024

Viviana Cumplido Wilson Artist Interview

Powell Artist Viviana Cumplido Wilson has served as Principal Flute of The Phoenix Symphony since 2006, and the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder since 2010. She studied with Fenwick Smith at the New England Conservatory and Jim Walker at the University of Southern California. Viviana is currently Visiting Professor of Flute at Arizona State University for the 2023/24 academic year. 

Can you give us 5 career highlights?

Playing in orchestra my whole career I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with some of the greatest artists of our time. Dvorak's Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma & Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with Michelle DeYoung are concerts I will cherish in my memory forever. I've also had the honor of being featured as a soloist with my orchestras and those experiences are always a highlight. Not just because of how fun it is to play pieces like the Nielsen, Ibert, and Corigliano, but because the positive energy surrounding me from my friends and colleagues on stage. They always play their hearts out when I'm up there and I couldn't be more grateful for their support.

How about 3 pivotal moments that were essential to creating the artist that you've become?

What do you like best about playing in the Phoenix Symphony? There are many things I love about playing in The Phoenix Symphony but if I had to narrow it down to one, it would have to be my incredible flute section. They are beautiful musicians, great people, and even better friends. I was pretty young when I joined the orchestra but instantly recognized how lucky I was to have Joe Corral and Brian Gordon by my side. They always treated me with the utmost respect and were so supportive of me. Since Joe's retirement, Jenna Daum has been my indispensable right hand. An embarrassment of riches for sure.

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

While I've been on sabbatical from the symphony this season, my schedule has had a larger focus on chamber music and solo performances. I'm especially looking foward to my first time playing at the Oxmoor International Chamber Music Festival, premiering some new works with my chamber ensemble Urban Nocturnes, and of course returning to the Colorado Music Festival this summer.

What has been your professional greatest challenge?

What has been your personal greatest challenge?  I don't know that this was a big challenge but it's something I've strived towards my whole career and that's making sure I have a good work-life balance. Even in my first orchestral job where everthing was new and I had so much to learn, I knew that it couldn't be the only thing I cared about. Of course I was super focused on practicing and performing well, but I also made sure to carve out time to explore other interests and cultivate friendships. I wanted to be a well rounded person outside of my musician self. Of course there will always be times when the balance is off because work might require more attention, but I always try to get back to a place where I have time to recharge with other activites and spending time with the people I love.

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

I've had such amazing mentors: Fenwick Smith taught me how to be an organized and thoughtful musician. Jim Walker helped guide and shape my musical personality. Catherine Ransom Karoly coached me on orchestral repertoire. Stephen Maxym, brilliant bassoonist and wind pedagogue, showed me how to have control and freedom in my air stream. He said you must first create the resistance, then cancel the resistance. That mantra has stayed with me ever since!

Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions? 

Well, I don't think these are exactly a secret lol, but I've been an avid runner since I moved to Phoenix in 2006. I love running races and challenging myself both in distance and speed, but also running just for the sake of running. During the pandemic lockdown, like so many others I found myself taking comfort in the Great British Baking Show and that sparked my interest in baking. It's turned into a pretty intense hobby but I really do love creating delicious and beautiful desserts for my friends and family! Over the years I've played many Cirque du Soleil type shows with my orchestra and I was always drawn to the aerialists and kept thinking to myself, could I learn how to do that? Well, the answer is yes! Is it pretty? No! But I don't really care about that. I'm just so thrilled that I get to play on the silks (long hanging fabrics) and lyra (hoop) and make little bits of progress over time. Being a true beginner at something is a great learning experience.

What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?

One thing I would advise a young flutist is to practice your technical exercises with a singing sound. Oftentimes young players approach their scales and etudes with a singular focus on the fingers, forgetting about the air. Fast fingers without directional air will always sound clunky. If the air has direction and spins through the technique, it'll carry and shape those lines, ultimately sounding more brilliant. I like to think of my air singing to my fingers so that they're working together as a team. Also, don't be afraid to articulate! As wind players we're very close to our sound and what seems clear up close is often a little muffled at a distance. Approaching it a bit more like diction and really enunciating the articulation will add so much texture and character to your playing. Lastly go to as many live concerts as you can! While I can appreciate the advantages to having concert streaming options allowing us to see things you wouldn't otherwise have access to (I love going to the Met Live in HD broadcasts!), it's still not the same as experiencing that music in a live setting. When I was growing up, my grandmother who loved classical music, took me to many concerts. That immersive experience mesmerized me more than any recording or video could.


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