The Flute Academy

Fluterview with Jessica Lee

Apr 05, 2016

Jessica Lee is a Sydney-based freelance performer and teacher. She has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia and the Macao Orchestra. She also appeared with the World Youth Orchestra in Italy.

What do you think are your greatest achievements as a flute player?

I feel really proud that I've done lots of different things as a musician! I teach, compose, learnt the Baroque flute, and play professionally in orchestras. Relocating to London for a number of years was a big move but granted me some amazing musical experiences being in such close proximity to all of Europe! Every achievement along the way is so important though- each one gives you the motivation and confidence to go for the next goal! I felt absolutely thrilled when I got into the top band at my school, when I got into SYO, then into AYO, etc.

What do you think are the most important attributes in a student who you believe could be successful as a professional flute player?

I think it really is survival of the fittest- it's mentally draining to go for audition after audition! If you want to be a professional musician, you need to commit yourself to that goal. Perseverance and an open, flexible mind are key.

Who are the flute players you find inspirational and why?

Emmanuel Pahud of course is incredible- an amazing musician irrespective of the instrument itself- when you hear him you can really hear music, not just beautiful flute playing. Margaret Crawford- an inspirational person from whom I learnt so much about music and life in general, not just the flute! Both these people embody passion and energy- that's what people find truly inspiring!

When you’ve had some time off, how do you quickly get your playing back up to standard?

I remember one of my teachers early on saying that she could bounce back into shape after a couple of days because she had done all the legwork in her early years- I think that's true now! Your body retains kinaesthetic memory. I focus on the basics- I call it 'Flute Fitness'! Harmonics, Undertones (Ghost Harmonics), Diminuendos, Increasing intervals, and Finger work.

What is the best advice you’ve ever had from a teacher?

- You gotta be in it to win it! - Believe in the work you've done- (assuming you have!)

If you were to give a beginner flute student one piece of advice, what would it be?

Play a little bit every day- please :)

If you were to give an advanced flute student one piece of advice, what would it be?

Maintain a well-rounded education- I think this is SO important. Life experience absolutely enriches your music making- this is really tangible when you hear someone playing. Music is just one of the many art forms which are interlinked throughout history- isn't it worth understanding its broader context?

Do you have any advice that has helped you to prevent repetitive strain injury?

Alexander Technique! This really changed my life at the Con. I have had injuries before associated with increased workload but never when I was having regular AT sessions! My body also always feels better when I have been practising yoga so I try to incorporate that into my warm up if I'm not feeling too lazy! There are some great Apps around these days with 10-15min workouts which is adequate to wake your body up.

What sort of daily exercise do you practice on the flute?

This has evolved over the years- I always discover some forgotten gems when I look through old notebooks! I have a mental checklist of things I like to stay on top of in my 'Flute Fitness' routine! I also love flute method books- most recently I was reading through The Gilbert Legacy- a collection of Geoffrey Gilbert's teachings and Michel Debost's The Simple Flute is next on the list.

What's the funniest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you as a professional player?

Last year, I played a kids prom concert in Auckland where we were treated like rockstars. When we entered the hall the kids went nuts- screaming and cheering like crazy. Those in the front few rows even high-fived us as we walked to our seats- that was really fun!! Costumes are always great too- I've worn a few funny ones for Baroque performances and I donned a blonde wig recently for the on-stage banda in La Boheme!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Experiencing music can have an incredibly positive effect on someone's life and last for the rest of their life- I think that's an amazing thing. Music is an absolute asset to society and music educators like Benjamin Zander and Richard Gill are a true inspiration.

Photos courtesy Jessica Lee


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