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Artist Bio

Janette Erickson


Janette Erickson is the Principal Flutist of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra (since 1978) and Principal Flutist of the Fresno Grand Opera. Ms. Erickson is the founder and flutist of "Moment Musical," a professional chamber group in Fresno, California. Highly sought after for her "most expressive and beautiful tone," Ms. Erickson is also active in a wide variety of musical activities, which include teaching, conducting and publishing.

Ms. Erickson is the Music Director of the flute choir, "Les Flutes Enchantees," made up primarily of her private students, past and present. She maintains her own large studio of private flute students. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Flute Performance and received her Master of Arts in Music Theory from California State University, Fresno. Her main flute teachers include Lloyd Gowen (formerly with the S.F. Symphony), Russell S. Howland, and Frank Langone. She has studied with Doriot A. Dwyer at the Tanglewood Institute, Walfrid Kujala at Northwestern University and Julius Baker. She is also a pianist and has studied conducting with Nicola Iacovetti.

At Fresno Pacific University Janette instructs a flute choir, "Flautas Pacifica," private flute students and is Founder/Director of the International Flute Choir Festival at Fresno Pacific University. This February 16-17, 2007 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the flute festival.

Janette conducted "Les Flutes Enchantees" on their first CD and is also editing and publishing the Russell S. Howland Flute Choir Library. Eleven pieces have been edited and published (ALRY Pub. and Southern Music Co.). The first Three Pieces won the top award given by the National Flute Association in 1995. Besides performing with "Les Flutes Enchantees" in the 1988 Convention, Janette has conducted at the Boston Convention in 1992 and again, in 2006 conducted at the San Diego National Flute Convention.

Ms. Erickson soloed with harpist Laura Porter, on the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto with the F.P.O. on subscription concerts in 2002. The review included: In the cadenzas "nothing distracted from the soloists, and each carried her part through to perfection. Erickson came alive and filled the hall with her beautiful tone." The Fresno Bee, Jan. 27, 2002.

Artist Interview

Janette Erickson


We had the opportunity to ask Jan a few questions. Check out her thoughts on keeping inspiration for orchestral excerpts, influencial flute players, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.

 

1.  What does a typical day look like for you?                                                                                   

A typical day starts with warm-ups and the hardest piece I'm working on. Then, I run errands. I come back, practice, teach students and go to rehearsal or concert. Weekends are much the same, without the students, but there are dress rehearsals and concerts. If there is a double rehearsal-concert day, I come home and rest a bit before the evening.


2.  What is your typical practice routine like?

The typical practice routine starts with the Rampal warm-up. I've done this for many years. It's basically a G major scale in octaves, slowly slurred in 2's, then tongued, and then I like to double-tongue it in octave jumps. It's a great embouchure warm-up. Rampal believed that if you warm up heavily in the low octave below low G or in the high octave, above high G, that it was a strain on the lips.
After this, I do scales and arpeggios. I have these in levels for my students to pass, from easy to difficult. I like to vary them. Sometimes I'll do all scales with repeats twice around. Sometimes I play to the highest and lowest notes of the tonic triad of the key. I always play some Russell S. Howland climbing scales. (They are in the major exactly like Taffanel, no. 4. There is harmonic minor and then melodic minor, which he wrote only in those variations. I try to do one in a breath.) Some days, I play the Moyse Daily Exercises, either ABCD or EFGH. If I need it, then I like to play some Andre Maquarre Daily Exercises from No. 2. This keeps a great flexibility in the embouchure. I also like to play the Karg-Elert Caprices. Etudes of some kind are a must for any musician.

After warm-ups I practice my symphonic solos and passages from whatever we're playing (Fresno Philharmonic Orch.). If I'm playing Opera, I run some solos and general passages. Then, I work on any solos or ensembles I'm preparing for Moment Musical (chamber ensemble). I'm doing Vivaldi's La Notte next.

A couple of times a week I try to rehearse and run some of the harder orchestral studies. If there is another performance of something else, I fit it in. I always try to warmup even just 10 minutes before I leave for a major concert, usually checking solos and big leaps in passages.

 

3. Who or what has been your greatest influence?

 I've had many great influences. 1. My former teacher, Russell S. Howland: I try to achieve the excellence he always presented in teaching and in performing. 2. My former teacher, Lloyd Gowen (formerly, S.F. Symphony): Effortless technique, and always being prepared by studying parts and scores! 3. Jean-Pierre Rampal: I loved his sound when I was a teenager. He was always so elegant. He had great wit and playfulness too.  4. Sir James Galway: The epitome of great flute playing. His hard-practice discipline.  Every time I listen to him I learn something new. 5. Julius Baker: I loved the way he could change his sound on a dime and bend it into a different direction. 6. My former teacher, Frank Langone: His intensity! 7. My first piano teacher, Zenora Swanson, studied at Julliard. She was always so exact in all markings. And 8. My last piano teacher, Ena Bronstein, from Chile: She is so elegant and so daring!
I hope I've captured some of all of my teachers.

 

4.  What is the most valuable lesson that the flute has taught you?

The most valuable lesson I've learned from playing the flute is that hard work pays off. You are what you do. If you study the score, listen to a recording, see how your part fits into the piece, then you can really play your part well. If you live with that music for awhile and reflect on some of its problems or think outside the box, then you can consider and experiment with your own contribution. Sometimes, it just means being able to reflect on what you need or what you can accomplish. I'm studying the Italian language, and I realize that my advancement depends on my effort to a huge degree. Luckily, I have a wonderful teacher. And, I've had incredible teachers in my life. I've been extremely lucky there.
An addendum: We learn as musicians to react quickly. Sometimes we have to quickly change something in a performance. Perhaps it's like dropping a plate on the floor in a restaurant if you're a waiter. You have to move and fix it, not stand there and cry. We have to react quickly.

 

5. As a seasoned orchestral musician, what advice do you have for flutists who are interested in following this path?

Advice? Get the best teacher or teachers. Work hard with goals. Perform as much as you can, even in free concerts at first. Get to be known. Meet other musicians and people who support music. Start your own groups. (I started 2 woodwind quintets, 3 flute choirs, 1 flute festival and 1 chamber group.) Have a website. Have business cards to hand out and a scrapbook of pictures and concerts to show clients. Remember to be a support to students and kind, with any sort of accomplishment they achieve.
Take "joy" in your playing. Be intentional, thoughtful and daring. Be ready to change any concept for a conductor. Be courteous to your colleagues. Be approachable and accommodating to other musicians. Practice and work hard. Enjoy what you do.

 

6. What flutist has been the most influential on your playing?

The most influential flutist early on was Jean-Pierre Rampal, and later, Julius Baker. Jean-Pierre Rampal was the only solo flute player I heard growing up. He had such a beautiful, focused sound, played elegantly and looked so poised. He said that "you should dress for a concert as though it is a celebration, not like going somewhere to have a sandwich." I remember him playing a gold flute and wearing a burgundy jacket - no flutist or performer looked like that back then. His playing was magical!

I studied several summers with Julius Baker at Carmel Valley Music Seminars in CA. His tone colors were phenomenal but you really needed to be there in person to hear all that he could do. There were changes that happened in his phrasing that were truly exquisite. I used to call many of his changes "pivots." Julie's magic really was in hearing him and remembering the moments. I think I can still hear him playing (as he did when he ended his classes).

As a teacher, I studied with Lloyd Gowen (retired, San Francisco Symphony) for nine years. He really helped shape my orchestral career. Lloyd Gowen was amazing technically. He also had such a wide variety of tone colors and his teaching was superb. He prepared you mentally and musically. He was a very caring teacher!

Another teacher at CSU, Fresno was Russell S. Howland, whose flute choir library was given to me. Eleven pieces are published from this library. Russell was unusual because he could play every instrument. There are not many musicians like him as he could make any instrument work, or play anything technical on any part. The most amazing thing about his playing and teaching was that music really moved him. You could tell that he was trying to share that appreciation of beauty with the student. He especially loved Ravel and Debussy, and his arrangements were deftly done, very much like Ravel.


7. Focusing on orchestral music year round, what do you do for inspiration when playing the same repertoire and solo excerpts over and over again?

Personally, inspiration comes from a steady practice routine, which is usually an all-day thing for me. When there are problems to be solved, it is best to live with them for awhile and work them out. I play as much as needed for a particular concert, even if it means practicing late hours. I divide up my projects into groups, starting with the most current pieces coming up. I teach, play and rehearse most of the day so a change for me is when I am conducting (at FPU and Les Flutes Enchantees).

Inspiration also seems to come to me when I am quietly working alone in my studio. I think about what I am doing. If there is a particular problem, then I concentrate on a new or different approach to take. It seems as though a light bulb goes off occasionally when I pursue another direction for solutions. Look for a peaceful time for inspiration.

Live in the moment. During a performance, the most important thing is the moment when you are creating your part on stage. When I am soloing, I take a deep breath and begin to weave what I am feeling and thinking at that moment. It is often very similar to the performance the night before, but sometimes there are differences. The conductor may go faster or slower. Something may be different in the orchestra or even in the pitch with other soloists and my reaction may be different. I really try to "say something" fresh each time!


8. Many flutists are currently preparing excerpts for orchestral auditions, what excerpts/pieces do you find to be the most challenging and why?

The most challenging orchestral excerpts are anything by Stravinsky, Prokofiev or Strauss as they all wrote technically challenging flute parts. I feel that Classical Symphony is the hardest excerpt to get down at a fast tempo. The high C#'s and D's make it more difficult for younger flutists because they are new fingerings and resistant. I studied with Walfrid Kujala at Northwestern years ago and he was invaluable with advice and fingerings! Check out his book as well as Jeanne Baxtresser's book on Orchestral Excerpts. The Firebird by Stravinsky is very difficult because the 1st variation has fragmented solos, which are little facets of diamonds to me. Memorize these as well as Peter and the Wolf, and any Beethoven and Brahms symphonies.

Go over these excerpts occasionally, even when you’re not required to play them. Approach them in several ways and use a metronome! Make sure that every rhythm is accurate (i.e. Firebird). Listen to the recording with a score or a part, knowing all of the parts and how they fit together. Know who you are playing with (especially so you can react to tuning differences). Work at different tempi and particularly work the most challenging parts with different rhythms (i.e. dotted, etc.). Tadeu's 3 Steps to Glory is also great to get down the tough parts! Visualize yourself in a comfortable setting and the performance unfolding as you wish.


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

I tried Miyazawa Flutes because a sales rep was travelling through Fresno, CA and wanted to have my students try them. I really liked them and several of my students started to purchase them. I played an old Powell (with the old scale) with a Brannen-Cooper headjoint. It was a beautiful sound, but hard to tune. Then, I bought another top-name brand that just didn't suit me at all. While I was selling this last flute I was asked if I wanted to try Miyazawa Flutes for myself. It out-played everything else. I was sold!


10. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?

Be mentally prepared to play on stage for any conductor in any situation. You must be confident and strong in order to present yourself well as a soloist or an orchestral flutist. Be extremely well-prepared (Lloyd Gowen advice), study every piece with a score or part along with a recording before you play anything new.

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