Areon Flutes, a professional flute chamber music ensemble, provides audiences a fresh new outlook on traditional chamber music. Noted for innovative programming and collaborations, Areon is quickly establishing itself in the USA as a premier chamber music ensemble. In addition to utilizing the traditional "four C flutes" model, Areon Flutes incorporates every member of the flute family in its programming. The group's performances are notable for creatively engaging its audiences with unique staging, theatrics and choreography.
Areon Flutes members Jill Heinke, Kassey Plaha, Amelia Vitarelli, and guest artists have received high praise for their remarkable performances. Their New York debut in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in September 2007 received rave reviews: "These players know what kind of new music pleases audiences and critics alike" and "The group itself was memorable; they are a treat to all the senses" (Anthony Aibel , New York Concert Review). In May 2008, Areon Flutes was awarded the Bronze Medal at the prestigious and internationally recognized Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in Notre Dame, Indiana. This recognition marked the first time in the competition's 35-year history that a flute chamber music ensemble reached this elite position.
Part of Areon's mission is to make flute chamber music an equal voice in the chamber music world by leaving a new, diversified chamber music legacy. To ensure this goal, Areon has established an International Chamber Music Competition with performance and composition divisions and a year-round Chamber Music Institute based in the San Jose metropolitan area. As a non-profit organization, Areon is dedicated to sharing its passion for chamber music through various educational programs including concerts, camps, and free community and school performances.
Areon is currently recording a full length CD featuring works for the 21st century audience by musicians of the 21st century to be released in 2012. The recording project will include collaboration with contemporary flute pedagogue Robert Dick on his piece Gossip Cats are Dancing. Areon's CD from 2005, Flat Out, can be heard on iTunes. Areon Flutes are proud to be Miyazawa Artists.
We had the opportunity to ask Areon a few questions. Take a look at their thoughts on preparing for competitions, how to market yourself, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. How did you all meet and how did Areon form?
The members of Areon met at different times in their flute careers. Jill and Kassey met at UC Santa Barbara in 2001 while Kassey was pursuing her graduate degree and Jill was pursuing her undergraduate degree. Kassey and Amelia were introduced to each other through Jill Felber during the summer of 2002. Soon afterwards, Kassey and Amelia began working together on numerous chamber music projects and decided to form their own group in 2005. Areon finally became a solid group when Jill joined in 2006.
2. Where did the unique ideas of the summer institute, chamber music institute and the chamber competitions come from? How did you learn how to market it and yourselves so well since those skills are rarely taught in college?
Areon began as a non-profit organization and several educational programs were developed to implement our mission statement. Part of Areon's mission is to make flute chamber music an equal voice in the chamber music world leaving a new, diversified chamber music legacy. The Areon Summer Flute Institute is an extension of the week-long summer masterclass sessions that various other artists do. However, we thought it would be more beneficial to include younger students for exposure to in-depth technique, ensemble playing skills, music theory and music history instead of the basic masterclass format. The Areon Chamber Music Institute is an idea that developed as a way for us to share our passion for chamber music with future generations of flutists. The Areon Chamber Music Competition has two divisions: Performance and Composition. Both of these competitions are a way for us to help create opportunities for flute chamber music to flourish now and for the next generation. The new compositions generated from our competition greatly enhance the small body of good literature that is currently available.
In terms of marketing we spent a lot of time on developing our image as a group, and all of our marketing materials reflect who we are. Everything else just falls into place.
3. Who or what has been your greatest influence?
We all love non-classical music and want to be as in touch as possible with today’s audiences, so we’re constantly looking for ways to satisfy our goals as a group while appealing to a wider audience. This is why we are always commissioning and continue to hold our annual composition competition--we take pride in staying fresh. Our last album (released May 2012) includes lots of electronic beats, as well as a pop remix, mixed in with extended technique atonal pieces. Our past teachers, particularly Jill Felber and Claudia Anderson (both Miyazawa artists), have been endlessly inspirational and supportive from our outset. Their careers and professionalism showed us that we could also pursue our dreams of being a successful, unique, boundary-pushing chamber music group.
4. What does a typical practice session look like for each of you?
For individual practice, we spend a lot of time with warmup and technique exercises, like Moyse Daily Exercises and Taffanel + Gaubert. We collectively feel that if you feel in shape in general, you can play almost anything with greater ease.
5. Do you have any projects/goals you are currently working on?
We have so many exciting events and performances coming up, including performances at the Switchboard Music Festival in San Francisco in March and at the Texas Summer Flute Symposium in June. Additionally, we’ll be holding our annual Summer Institute this July, and we are looking forward to a world-premiere performance of last year’s composition competition winner at the NFA Convention in New Orleans. We absolutely love recording, and will most likely start planning our next album very soon.
6. What keeps each of you busy outside of Areon?
Kassey has a baby daughter (9 months) and Amelia has two young ones, age 7 and 3, who keep them on their toes! Jill is in a nationally touring rock band. All three have full private studios in the San Jose area.
7. What is the most important thing for the students at your summer institute to walk away having learned and/or experienced?
We seek to offer students a very motivational experience: students’ comments typically include how much they grew as a musician in a single week. We want students to understand, be exposed to, and come away inspired by the full capability of our awesome instrument. Additionally, our Institute emphasizes chamber music skills and each student performs with a chamber group at the end of the week. Often the Institute ends up being either students’ first and/or only experience with chamber music and we want students to know how fun and gratifying it is!
8. You recently won the Bronze medal in the FISCHOFF National Chamber Music Competition, (the first flute group to even advance to the finals.) How did you prepare for this and how do you recommend preparing for competitions in general?
We don't all live in the same city, so we met in different locations for bi-monthly rehearsals. For every big concert and competition that we perform in, we always decide on a set warm-up schedule that we all do together and separately. Before our preliminary recording for the Fischoff Competition, we decided to perform the competition music in several different venues as a way to work out any final issues. We also wanted to "practice" the actual performance so that we knew how it would feel with the added energy, adrenaline and nerves that are only found in live performance. In addition to the music, we always decide our fashion and staging based upon our repertoire. We work together to plan out almost every detail of our daily regime including everything from the pre-performance foods that we eat, our daily time schedule, and our hair and make-up routines. We always have an emotional check-in so that we can be on the same wave-length for the performance.
9. How did you all come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
Collectively we have been playing on the Miyazawa flute for 50 years! We love our Miyazawa flutes because they allow us to portray every color and expression imaginable. As an ensemble we can match and blend our tones EFFORTLESSLY. The mechanical craftsmanship is amazingly consistent!
10. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
Follow your dreams with hard work and conviction! Perform as much and as often as you can.