I started my relationship with music back when I was only six years old and my grandmother placed my fingers on the keyboard of her piano. I spent middle and high school listening to classical recordings in my free time and driving to my flute teacher’s home for lessons after school. At my teacher’s encouragement, I left my hometown of San Antonio, TX to fly across the country to study flute at the Eastman School of Music.
As grateful as I was to attend the music school of my dreams, I couldn’t help but feel the pressure to fit into the school’s prescribed path: to win a coveted full-time job with an orchestra. My love for music would not pay the bills or put food on the table; at the end of conservatory, I needed to either continue with further degrees or win a job (which, for flutists, meant flying all over the country with the hopes of being the ONE person chosen from a pool of at least 100 talented musicians).
With that knowledge in the back of my head, I pushed myself harder than ever before. Every note of every orchestral excerpt had to be perfectly in place, perfectly in tune, perfectly articulated. The competitive environment of music school only made me want perfection more. I spent my senior year of Eastman consumed with fear that I wouldn’t be accepted to graduate school.
And then, when I did begin graduate school at New England Conservatory, I raised my personal stakes even higher. I wanted to be achieving my smaller goals within the “right timeline” (I now realize there is no such thing). I tried so hard to do what my teachers and mentors asked me to do, and at the times when I was physically unable to make my instrument sound the way it should, I felt as if I had let them down.
Somewhere in my pursuit of perfection, I completely lost the joy in music, and I knew I had to get it back somehow. As obvious as it sounds now, it took me awhile to realize that my musical path was up to me — it didn’t have to take the form of someone else’s dream. My flute career could be made up of many different facets instead of following the straight career path that someone else told me I should take. I began to find joy in chamber music and solo work, and I chose pieces because I liked them, not because they were listed on an audition repertoire sheet. When I took away my self-inflicted pressure to be perfect and stepped away from the traditional orchestral career path, I found the joy in music again.
Enter Symphony Nova. When I finished my master’s degree, I was extremely lucky that the opening for Nova’s flute fellowship had just been posted. Here was a group that believed the same things I did — that a music career isn’t something that happens to you, but rather it’s something that you create. That you don’t have to wait around for someone to tell you you’re accepted or move across the country — instead, you have to market yourself and proactively find and create opportunities right where you are.
Now entering my second year of the fellowship, I am loving my time with Symphony Nova. I have the chance to meet other Nova fellows, peers who are also trying to make sense of their place in the music world. Symphony Nova is such a friendly, welcoming, and challenging environment, and I feel that it’s a safe place to enjoy learning and growing.
Now when I pick up my flute, it’s a choice instead of a chore. And this season, I can’t wait to share the new joy I’ve found between the notes!