The Flute Academy

Fluterview with Lyndie Leviston

Apr 05, 2016

Lyndie Leviston is the Director and Coordinator of the Australian Flute Festival being held 2-5 October 2015 at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. In this Fluterview, we find out more about what drives Lyndie to create such a successful event.

How long have you been involved with the Australian Flute Festival?

I have been involved with AFF since the very first Festival in 2006. It is my ideal job and I love that my world is so full of flute related activity.

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

I always wanted to be an orchestral player. My time in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra was a dream come true. The opportunity finally came my way 12 years after I graduated. I was pregnant and had my second daughter Kate, during the orchestra break. I started work when she was only a few months old, but it was something I knew I had to do. Playing in an orchestra was everything I thought it would be – challenging but exhilarating. My daughter Kate is studying to be an orchestral player (oboe) and it’s wonderful to be able to share her journey with her now.

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

Consistency. I run marathons in my spare time. The process is similar to preparing for a recital or an exam. There is no way you could or would run a marathon without training, so why would you play an exam or recital without practicing and being prepared???

Who are the flute players you find inspirational and why?

William Bennett and two of his students – Lorna McGhee and Denis Bouriakov. The emphasis is always on the music and how to achieve what the music requires of you. There is no ego with these guys. When you listen to them play, you hear the music – you are not distracted by ego or technique. Obviously, each of these players brings something of their own personality to the music, but it never gets in the way of the music. In the classes that I have attended with William Bennett, I am always impressed at how dedicated, persistent and patient he is. He will work with you until you discover how to play a phrase musically or how to breathe in a way that doesn’t disturb the music.

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

After all these years of playing the flute, I know exactly where my weaknesses are, so when I start up after a break, I go straight to these. For me it’s the g# key (I played inline for years and think it suits my hand better, but changed to offset G a few years ago) so I always have to realign my left hand position after a break as I tend to miss the G# key completely. I will play lots of the Machiavellian studies in Trevor Wye’s book and I play lots of melodious studies and pieces in A minor and A and E major.

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

My teacher used to send us to play in retirement homes before our recitals and exams. He warned us to never underestimate our audience. He was right – there would invariably be one person who would come up to us afterwards and tell us they had been a concert pianist or conductor or music teacher. You have a responsibility as a musician to honour the music you are playing, so you should always be well rehearsed.

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

I try to steer away from the idea of ‘practicing’ because it often has negative connotations. I encourage them to play their flute everyday. A little bit, regularly, goes a long way. Obviously, as you get more advanced, you have to spend time practicing technique, but it should always be with the end goal in mind - technique helps us play the music. A bad technique gets in the way of the music.

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

Don’t limit your possibilities - when I was a student, I never imagined I would one day run the Australian Flute Festival. I only ever wanted to be an orchestral player. Playing the flute has taken me to some amazing places and I have been fortunate to meet some incredible musicians. I never tire of listening to great musicians like Wibb, Lorna and Denis, so although I might not play as much as I would like to anymore, I still feel completely fulfilled as a musician.

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

I’ve never had injuries. I believe it is because I’m sporty. I remember Felix Renggli telling me that he goes to the gym so that he can play his 24 carat flute without getting injured. Being physically fit helps flute playing on so many levels - breathing, coordination, strength, endurance……..I also believe it makes you a well rounded person. Being a musician can be very insular. We need other activities to balance that.

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

I divide my practice time into 3 areas - tone, technique, pieces. I don’t get a lot of time to practice these days, so I try to make sure that I cover all areas of my playing. But I also want to just enjoy the music! I try to learn and perform at least 2 new pieces every 6 months. I’m always learning one melodious study and a technical study. I’m fortunate in that I love playing scales. I think they are fundamental to a good technique and the capacity to work within keys.

What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you as a professional player? For example, while teaching, rehearsing, performing or on tour?

When David and I were in London, we met Wibb [William Bennett] and Michie for lunch. Wibb was playing the Brandenburg Concertos in the St. Martins in the Fields with the Academy orchestra. We attended the rehearsal (thank goodness) and Michie offered to give us her tickets to the concert which were the best seats in the house. After many hours of travelling (from Australia), a full tummy and the regular pulse of glorious baroque music, we were overcome with jet lag and woke up at the end of the concert - our heads tilted backwards and our mouths hanging open! We were bitterly disappointed and extremely embarrassed!

Is there anything else you wish to share?

I still go for lessons (with Geoff Collins). I love my lessons as they keep me from establishing bad habits. I’m always learning new things about music - recently I learnt a piece by Gaubert. I was delighted to discover that my interpretation was completely wrong! That light bulb moment when you discover the right way to do something energises and inspires me.


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