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Artist Bio

Zoe Funai (USA)

Zoe Funai began her flute studies with Bonnie Blanchard at the age of eleven.  Throughout her career, she was blessed to be a part of many great musical opportunities that most could only dream of.  Along with excelling in school, Zoe found music to be an enormous part of her life.

Zoe has competed and performed in many competitions in the Northwest area.  In the spring of 2006, she placed 1st in both the solo and concerto division of the Performing Arts Festival of the East Side, moving on to compete in the concerto playoffs.  In January 2007, she received 2nd place at the regional Music Teachers National Association Woodwind Competition, after receiving 1st place at the state level.  Also in 2007, Zoe made her debut with the Roosevelt Symphony Orchestra at their Side by Side Concert with the Seattle Symphony.  In 2007, 2009, and 2010, her flute duo placed 2nd at the Washington State Solo and Ensemble competition, along with receiving 3rd place for her solo in 2010.  In 2006 and 2007, Zoe placed 2nd in the love division of the Seattle Flute Society Frank and Lu Horsfall Scholarship Competition, continuing on to receive 1st place in the upper division in 2008 and 2010.  Zoe also placed first in the Simon-Fiset Woodwind competition in 2010.  

Along with competing, Zoe has performed in many local organizations in Washington.  She was principal flute with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, a member of the Academy Chamber Orchestra, and principal flute of the Washington All-State Honors Wind Ensemble in 2008.  In 2008, she was a sub for the Greenwood Concert Band, and a guest at the Pacific Harp Institute.  She also participated in her school’s music program, performing in the highest orchestra for all four years. 

Along with studying under her teacher, she also attended many summer camps under renowned flute performers.  She attended Alexa Stills’ Boulder Summer School in 2006, the Oberlin Flute Institute under Michael Debost and Kathleen Chastain in 2007, the MPulse Flute Institute under Amy Porter, and the Marrowstone Summer Music Program in 2006, and 2009 with Jill Felber.  She has also had master classes with Hal Ott, Donna Shin, Leonard Garrison, Jennifer Rhyne, Patricia George, and Ralph Guenther. 

This fall, Zoe will be attending the University of Washington.  She plans to continue studying flute with Donna Shin, and to look further into the many other great opportunities the school has to offer. 

Artist Interview

Zoe Funai (USA)

We had the opportunity to ask Zoe a few questions. Check out her thoughts on preparation tips for competitions and her typical practice routine, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.

1. Why did you choose to play the flute?

When I was in the third grade, there was a school assembly to showcase the older fourth and fifth grade students who had been enrolled in our school’s music program. Like most elementary music programs, there was an army of flutes. More importantly during the concert, one of my friends in the fourth grade stood up and played a flute solo in front of the entire school. At that moment, I wanted to be just like her!

2. What does your typical practice routine look like?

I follow a fairly consistent warm up and practice routine. To warm up, I start with a combination of scales and arpeggios to get my fingers moving and the wind flowing through the tube. I’ve been playing this short exercise since I was in middle school, and it is always the first thing I play after putting together my flute! Next, I move onto playing Moyse long tone exercises. I begin playing from the middle register down to the lower register, then finish by playing from the middle register to the upper octaves. This gives me the opportunity to focus on my tone and breathing; there is nothing more relaxing! I am a very tactile performer. Through consistently playing the Moyse long tones, I am able to feel and gauge any differences I may have in my sound, body, and embouchure. Therefore, I can track any changes in my day-to-day performance. After my warm ups, I dive into whatever work needs to be done for the day, whether it be tackling an etude or working on polishing a piece. In the flute studio at the University of Washington, I am lucky to have great friends and a great support system that will listen to me while I practice and provide constructive criticism and honest feedback. Most importantly during my practice sessions, I take frequent breaks to sight-read new music. Taking breaks to sight-read is especially important for me to do when I find myself overworking myself to master a passage in a piece. Sight-reading and dabbling in repertoire that I enjoy keep things fresh. It’s fun, and it reminds me of why I love the flute.

3. What music are you currently inspired by?

My new musical inspiration comes from violin literature; most specifically, the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky violin concertos. I am in awe of how violin literature can make me feel emotionally. I think it is very important to learn the literature of different instruments. That way, you won’t get your mind stuck in the flute world.

4. What musician has had the largest influence on your playing?

Denis Bouriakov is an artist who has had a great influence on my playing. I watched him perform as the guest artist for the Seattle Flute Society in 2011. Ever since then, I have been following him as an artist and am currently astounded at his technical ability, tone, and musicality. When I listen to any of his recordings, I immediately want to go practice.

5. You have competed in and won many competitions, what preparation tips can you give to others? How do you conquer nerves?

Preparation for a competition is no different than preparing for a concert or a recital. It takes a lot of practice, rehearsal time, and mental preparation. However, when it comes to the day of the competition, it’s a whole other game. From the minute you walk to check in for the competition, you have to walk in like you own the building. From the time you enter until the time you finish performing, you have to act like you are the best flute player in the competition. Walk tall, listen to your favorite music, play your favorite warm ups, and when it comes time to perform, throw down like it’s a piece of cake. Normally, I am very self-critical and can become disappointed in the imperfections in my playing. However on the day of the event, I force myself to become a different person. I force myself to radiate confidence or even bluff confidence; so much so that I even fool myself. Needless to say, we need this winning attitude when we are competing. At all other times outside of the competition, I am very self-critical and analytical of my playing. It makes me that much more appreciative of others’ performances and accomplishments.

6. What upcoming performances do you have that you are currently looking forward to?

Currently, I am working towards putting together a recital for this spring and another recital in the fall for my last academic quarter at the University of Washington. For my spring recital, I am working on Martin’s Ballade, Martinu’s First Sonata, and Demersseman’s Italian Concerto.

7. What are your other passions outside of music?

I am very fortunate to go to the University of Washington where I was able to pursue two additional passions outside of music; communications and sales. I will be graduating in the fall of this year with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance, a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, and a Sales Certificate through the Michael G. Foster Business School Sales Program. In the future, I would like to find a career that provides me the opportunity to blend my passion for the arts and performing with event planning and sales. I would love to explore the opportunities of working behind the scenes for a symphony, specifically in its development or sales department.

8. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?

During my sophomore year in high school, I met with Carolyn Nussbaum with the hopes of finding a new flute. Cathy Miller from Miyazawa, my parents, and my flute teacher at the time, Bonnie Blanchard, were all there to act as another set of ears. Carolyn handed me various combinations of different flute bodies and head joints in a blind test. She would not tell me what brand of flute I was playing, and I wasn’t allowed to peek. After two hours of trying out different flutes, there was no competition to my Miyazawa. As cheesy as it sounds, the flute chooses the musician!

9.  If you have one piece of advice for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?

One piece of advice that I would give to an upcoming flutist would be to not underestimate the importance and value of networking and meeting people in the industry. When I was younger, I was very shy. The idea of networking wasn’t a priority, nor was it on my radar. Honestly, networking is fun; it’s just a fancy word for making friends. I used to be hesitant to approach people. I felt small and didn’t want to waste people’s time. During my younger years, I was fortunate to meet wonderful people such as Cathy Miller from Miyazawa, Carolyn Nussbaum, and my current teacher, Donna Shin. It never occurred to me the influence that these musicians would have on my life many years down the road. Over the years, they have been great role models, mentors, and now we will be friends for years to come. Today, I love meeting new people and am definitely more outgoing than I was when I was younger. Everyone has a story to tell, and it’s amazing to share and learn from the stories of the great community of musicians and flutists that we are all a part of. I would not be where I am today without the support of the friends that I have made through music; and for that, I am forever grateful.

Miyazawa’s Artist Profiles