Claudia Anderson's brilliance and originality as a solo performer ("vast range of sonorities"—Giornale di Sicilia; "flute playing of the highest echelon"—Concert Artists Guild; "has not only a tremendous technique, but also those rarer qualities of warmth, fun, charm and understanding"—William Bennett) have graced audiences in the U.S., Europe and South America since the early 1970's. After graduating from the University of Michigan with honors and participating in the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass, Ms. Anderson went to Italy on a Fulbright scholarship and remained for several years to play principal flute in the Orchestra del Teatro Massimo in Palermo. Since her return to the U.S., she has toured many states as a recitalist as well as guest artist and clinician for state and regional flute festivals.
From early experience with the language of new music (Michigan) as well as the world of opera (Italy), Claudia developed in her recital programs the elements of drama and creative use of performance space common to both disciplines. Her workshop "Taking the Stage" incorporates the use of body language, self-image and creative staging into a comprehensive definition of stage presence. Her participation in many premieres during her career has involved duo collaborations (with cello, oboe, and guitar), and presently – with Jill Felber as members of the flute duo ZAWA! -- she and Ms. Felber are commissioning and recording new works for two flutes.
In 2006, Ms. Anderson founded the ground-breaking New Prairie Camerata; a unique concept that brings together music, architecture, local history, and community participation. Three artists with national and international careers – flutist Claudia Anderson, harpist Jeanmarie Kern Chenette and violinist Nancy McFarland Gaub – joined talents to form the musical core of New Prairie Camerata. Each of the five programs of the inaugural 2006-2007 season will reflect its choice of setting through the music as well as the visual and culinary arts, exercise science, and local histories of business and fashion. Concert goers will enjoy a multilevel cultural and sensory experience - a rich palate of sounds, sights and tastes.
Ms. Anderson has participated in the National Flute Association as performer (at seven national conventions), adjudicator (for the Chamber Music, Professional Performers, Newly-Published Music, High School Soloist and Young Artist Competitions), and was Coordinator for the Chamber Music Competition from 1993 to 1998.
Teaching positions have included Grinnell College, Universities of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Ithaca College and University of California at Santa Barbara (1998-99). Her advanced degrees are from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Iowa. Major teachers include Severino Gazzelloni, Thomas Nyfenger, Geoffrey Gilbert, Betty Bang Mather and William Bennett. Ms. Anderson has recorded for the Centaur, Golden Crest and CRI labels. She currently serves as Principal Flute of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra.
We had the opportunity to ask Claudia a few questions. Take a look at her thoughts on studying with Severino Gazzelloni, differences in performing with chamber groups vs orchestral settings, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. Berio Sequenza is a monumental piece, but can be very intimidating as well. As a recognized expert, do you have any suggestions on approaching this piece? Also - You had the experience of studying and performing in Italy for a few years. During this time, how did Severino Gazzelloni influence the way you approach music and playing?
When I first studied with Severino Gazzelloni in Rome as a Fulbright scholar, fresh out of college, my goals were strongly linked to the training I had just received in America. Performing a lot of contemporary music at the University of Michigan had helped me secure the Fulbright (Gazzelloni was the most important performer of new flute music during the 1950s through '70s), but what I really wanted was to study more traditional repertoire and prepare for orchestral auditions. Ironically, my first lesson with Gazzelloni was on Berio's Sequenza, which had been written for Gazzelloni in 1958 - ironic because at the time I was impatient to do standard solo repertoire and did not appreciate the incredible opportunity before me.
As it turned out, Gazzelloni also taught the traditional rep., and my wish was granted to study Mozart, Schubert, Vivaldi, Prokofieff, to name a few of the "old" composers. As I worked through these pieces, I began to understand the reason for Gazzelloni's fame as an interpreter of new music - He used many colors, a wide range of dynamics, and "neon-highlighted" expression in interpretation of the standards that I had never heard before; technical and expressive extensions that he carried over from the contemporary music world. This was the turning point for me in how I regarded both new and old music on the flute, as it dawned on me that we did not have to make a huge demarcation between the two. Gazzelloni had opened my ears to a vivid palate of expressive tools which he used for everything; his teaching was exciting and invigorating, and if I didn't always agree with him, I always felt challenged and encouraged towards the piece I was studying to come up with my own interpretive variation.
Gazzelloni's view of performance was very democratic, both in terms of the music and the audience. He felt you could play anything for anybody if you were honest in communicating the essence of the music and did not play "down" to a public that might be uneducated. I witnessed his concerts outdoors in tiny towns in the Italian countryside, performing for nobility and farmers alike - he could win them all over on a piece written the week before just as much as with a Vivaldi concerto. An article I wrote a few years ago for Flute Talk on approaching Sequenza as opera came from this experience of Gazzelloni as a consummate entertainer. The atonal language of Sequenza is initially difficult to access, but once you can hear the gestures and larger shape of the work as highly animated, theatrical discourse, it becomes much easier to approach. It's best to separate the piece into its major sections and tackle each separately at first. As for the extreme dynamics, articulations, interval leaps, I use traditional exercises and repertoire (Moyse 24 Melodic Studies, Telemann Fantasies, Taffanel & Gaubert) with my own additions - when needed - of extended techniques; this reinforces the notion that our contempoary technques come from principles grounded in our traditional approach to fine flute playing.
2. Chamber music can be a completely different experience than orchestral playing. How do you separate the two and what changes do you need to make in your playing to adjust?
To me, the difference between playing chamber music and playing in an orchestra comes down to two factors: a conductor (or not) and the differences in sound production. In the orchestra, you are subject to another person's interpretive decisions and you must adapt your sound to project over a large group. You are also working equally with your colleagues within the orchestra, making decisions about technical and musical points when necessary; in this way, it is similar to chamber music, though the ultimate decisions in all these matters rest with conductor. With chamber music, you are all truly equal members of a kind of musical cooperative, contributing ideas and working out musical and technical issues together. Learning both diplomacy and firmness in expressing your ideas, as well as flexibility and openness to others' ideas, results in musical growth that doesn't occur as readily in orchestral playing. I love both performance modes and have learned an incredible amount over the years about balancing ego with giving up control in order to learn and be part of a marvelous product.
3. What is the most valuable lesson that the flute has taught you?
That the flute was the "glue" holding together my life through good and bad times, the thing that gave me an identity even when being a flutist was the last thing I wanted. The rare attempts to leave music and the flute showed me how futile this was, because it became clear that this was the best thing I had to offer the world. The flute has been a constant thread in almost all aspects of my life - you might say it has been my best friend.
4. If you could identify the moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to be a professional musician, what would that moment be?
I was a sophomore at the U of Michigan and played in several top ensembles there. It wasn't one single moment, but the demands made of me as a solo performer that year showed a world out there with seemingly limitless possibilities, and I loved the sensation of immersing myself in all of it. I was resident flutist of the Contemporary Directions Ensemble, soloed every night for two weeks with the famous Michigan Symphony Band on tour with a Vivaldi piccolo concerto, and played principal in an elite chamber orchestra comprised of faculty and top students. By the end of that school year, I switched my major over to performance and didn't look back. I could not imagine doing anything else at that point!
5. Who are your favorite composers?
Favorite composers, currently, would probably be Jennifer Higdon, Cynthia Folio, Greg Patillo, Robert Dick, and Ian Clarke in the flutist/composer world; Jacob ter Veldhuis, Erwin Schulhoff, Debussy, Lowell Liebermann as 20th-21st-century composers who have either expanded concepts of our instrument or presented it in a uniquely personal way; Berlioz and Stravinsky as superb orchestrators with such rewarding flute parts; and New Age composers Brian Eno, Deuter, flutist Paul Horn, and Liquid Mind (Chuck Wild).
6. What are your other interests outside of music?
Riding motorcycles with my husband (mine is a Triumph Bonneville), writing (am working on an interview project about artistry and writing the book this fall), discovering the delights and enormous health benefits from juicing!
7. What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day has me spending more hours than I would like in the morning at the computer. Since one of my roles is program administration at Rocky Ridge Music Center during the summer, during the other months I am working on program content, faculty hiring, and student recruitment. I try to spend at least an hour on my writing project, an hour on arranging travel for tours and guest visits, and two hours for practice. The rest of the day will get eaten up with students, most likely, and evenings are spent with orchestra rehearsals a week to ten days in a month.
8. How has your approach to playing changed over time, whether it be performing or practicing?
Over time my approach to life in general has changed, to include what I hope is a more balanced and less frenetic emphasis on playing. As it becomes clearer what it important to me as a performer, which includes finding and commissioning great new works as well as locating chamber music that is wonderful but less well known, I spend fewer but more directed hours practicing. With performing, I go out of my way to find repertoire that will create a unique and compelling program. This often puts a standard piece together with something unknown or "out there" but that shows off each work to better effect by having it next to the other. I feel more and more that the art of great programming is essential to successful communication with my audience.
9. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
I was not happy with my flute back in graduate school at the University of Iowa. I began hearing about the Miyazawa flute at that time (late 1980s) and tried some Miyazawas. I was impressed with the fine workmanship and aspects of tone color I had been unable to achieve with my old flute. Over the next decade and more, Miyazawa experimented with many changes in their flute design and headjoint production. I witnessed all these changes and became more convinced wtih each one that Miyazawa was becoming one of the finest flutes on the market for a wide range of players. I have played several combinations and currently perform on a 14k Brögger system with an MZ-8 headjoint with platinum riser; it is a superb flute that gives me power as well as subtlety of tone color, with a luminous warm quality that I love for all modes of performing - solo, chamber and orchestral.
10. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
Be true to yourself. For an emerging flutist today, this means knowing your own personality traits, sounds and styles of playing you are drawn to, honesty regarding your strengths and weaknesses, and the commitment to discovering what your original contributions will be to the flute community. This is often not easy when you are just coming from strong influences of teachers and players you admire; they are necessary in forming your musical and flutistic self, but you may not be ready to see that self for what it is yet. Pay attention to signs that point to something different and unique about your playing or choice of repertoire or performance venues, etc. We all must find our path to fulfillment in a very competitive environment. When you realize that the competition drops off dramatically once you find your niche, you're on your way to health and happiness as a flutist in the 21st century!