Music is fun. And making music on the flute is even better. As a London-based flute tutor with over 19 years of professional and performance experience, I can teach students the skills they need to play music. The key word there is ‘play’. Music making is creative, and creativity is just a mode of play. That’s why you need more than a stuffy music teacher with all the credentials – you need some who brings joy and curiosity to learning.
You need someone who not only has a degree in flute performance, who has 5-star reviews from her students and performs regularly in various settings – you need someone who sings to her cat even though he wishes she wouldn’t, loves learning about different cultures and thinks the flute is the best thing since sliced bread. In short, you need an enthusiastic, very competent, credentialed, curious flute nerd – like me!
it’s half-price 🙂
I started young. But it’s not what you think. This isn’t the story of some five-year-old musical prodigy. No. This is just the story of a goofball who has always loved music and refused to let anyone stand in her way.
Growing up with a piano teacher mother who loves Rachmaninoff as much as the Rolling Stones and an electric bass-welding father who jams along to everything from blues to bluegrass, I have always been surrounded by music. It’s part of my lifeblood.
While in fourth grade my school held a concert by the fifth grade band in hopes that they might inspire some new recruits. The ensemble played the theme song from Jurassic Park and I was HOOKED! If you got to play songs like that, why wouldn’t you join a band? (Incidentally, to this day, I have never performed that theme song in any ensemble… but a girl can dream…)
When it came time to choose an instrument for the school band, I had my heart set on sax. I wanted to wail! The school had hired loads of instruments for us to try, and after honking on a saxophone, the organisers shared a pained look as they ushered me towards the quieter flute. I was heartbroken but determined to still play music one way or the other, so with my sax dreams dashed, I accepted my flutey fate and joined the band. That first year I stunk – I had bagged myself last chair of the flute section – but I quickly learned to love my flute with all its shiny buttons.
I played my little heart out and slowly worked my way up the section.
At the same time, I was just starting to discover how much I loved flute music. I was devouring albums by Jean-Pierre Rampal and James Gallway and Jethro Tull (because everyone needs a bit of rock flute in their lives!). I soon discovered the stunning Irish flute and whistles of The Chieftains, who acted as a gateway to world music. Soon, I was lost deep in the rabbit hole of world flutes: from Native American flutes to Japanese shakuhachi and everything in between.
During my sophomore year of high school, my school hosted a concert by the amazing flautist Viviana Guzmán. She was not only a graduate of Julliard, but a fellow lover of world music! During the concert she played countless numbers of world flutes as well as her concert flute. The idea that I could marry my love of flute and world music was so exciting. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
But if I wanted to be a professional flautist, I was going to need lessons! For Christmas that year, I received more flute CDs and a promise that I could finally start private lessons. I was over the moon!
I started lessons and after a few weeks my teacher asked me what my goals were. When I said I wanted to go to music school for flute, she attempted to be as diplomatic as possible, telling me (in almost as many words) that I wasn’t good enough and that I should really have a backup plan.
So I fired her and got another teacher who believed in me. From that moment I knew that I not only wanted to perform, but to teach, helping other students like me who had the passion but needed to develop the technique and confidence. I not only made it into music school, but graduated highest honours… with a degree in Flute Performance! Take that Katerina!
After graduating I decided to pursue the other half of my loves – world music. I packed my bags and moved from Maine in the US all the way to foggy London town for a masters in Ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies. I loved the programme. I got to learn about different cultures and discover new sounds. And flutes… so many different kinds of flutes!
I got to explore my musical curiosity while studying African and Middle Eastern music. My dissertation was on spirit possession music in Zanzibar (cool, huh?!). It was the best year of my life.
Taking my cue from Viviana Guzmán, I have followed my passions for flute and world music despite the obstacles and have enjoyed creating a career that allows me to continue to do so. Shortly after graduating from SOAS, I starting working on the premier world music magazine, Songlines, while also pursuing my dream of being a flute teacher, helping students of all ages. I worked at Songlines for 12 years, eventually becoming the editor. During that time I got to discover and write about some of the most exciting music happening around the world, while continuing to teach and share my love for the flute with so many students.
What more could a music geek ask for?
And now I want to share all the cool things I’ve learned along the way with you!
Alexandra (BM, MMus) is an award-winning flautist and the former editor of Songlines magazine. As well as teaching online flute lessons, she has performed professionally for over 19 years and enjoys a varied career including orchestral playing, chamber ensemble performance, session work for film, studio recordings, and music for special events.
Based in London, she currently performs as the principal flute in the Camden Philharmonia, Quintakulah Woodwind Quintet, and St Bartholomew’s Orchestra. She regularly deps for other orchestras.
After completing her BM in Music Performance with highest honours (summa cum laude) at the University of Southern Maine in 2008, she received her MMus degree in Ethnomusicology from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
In Maine, Alexandra was the principal flute of the Southern Maine Symphony Orchestra and part of the Mimosa Woodwind Quintet. She has studied privately with Frederic Sanchez, Joanna Soh, Jean Rosenblum, Doug Worthen and Aubrie Dionne, and has performed in the master classes of Emmanuel Pahud, Jeffery Khaner, Gareth Davies, Lisa Hennessy, and Emily Gerace-Stanek. In 2009 she was awarded with the Bay Chamber Concerts’ Summer Music Woodwind Prize.
Meet Humperdink, aka The Dink, my fuzzy little assistant. I got this monster when he was just an itty bitty baby and he’s grown up with my flute playing. Turns out he loves the flute as much as I do! He often pops by my lessons to check in with my students and he loves it when I serenade him with the flute (unless it’s dinner time, of course…).