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Garland, TX

Performs On:

GS Model-RH with Silver Keys

Artist Bio

Jenifer McKenzie

Jenifer McKenzie is a professional flutist currently residing in Garland, Texas. She has been a member of the Dallas Opera Orchestra since 1989, and during that time, has also pursued an active free-lance schedule, performing for a wide variety of audiences. Many of the programs she has developed are “Meet the Instrument” programs for young school children, and music education programs for adults.

Ms. McKenzie has always enjoyed teaching private lessons to all ages of students and currently maintains a large private studio. She has also taught on the faculties of California State University, Fullerton; University of Veracruz, Mexico; Texas Women's University; and Texas A&M University, Commerce. She has extensive experience in conducting flute clinics and master classes, judging competitions, organizing and conducting flute choirs and teaching summer flute camps.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from California State University, Fullerton and a Master of Music Degree in Flute Performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music. Before coming to the Dallas area, Jenifer was Co-Principal Flute for six years in the Jalapa Symphony Orchestra in Jalapa, Mexico.

Artist Interview

Jenifer McKenzie

We had the opportunity to ask Jenifer a few questions. Check out her thoughts on how performing in a pit orchestra differs from playing on stage, the most important thing you can teach a young student as well as what her students have taught her about her own playing.

1. As a member of the Dallas Opera Orchestra, how does it differ playing in a pit orchestra (with singers as well) as opposed to being on stage?

Playing in an opera orchestra is distinctly different than playing on stage. An opera orchestra always plays in an orchestra pit which is located in front of and just below the stage and sometimes is partially under the stage. The singers and chorus are all on stage so it is up to the conductor to put it all together. Because of the distance between the orchestra and the singers, it is a big challenge to get the timing and balance just right. Following the conductor means being ready for any change at any moment. There can be many variables in any given performance, so opera musicians get very good at seeing the music and the conductor at the same time, all of the time.

Opera performances are usually a three hour event with some operas being even longer! Musicians need to be well rested and able to concentrate fully for those long rehearsals and long performances. Being able to play extremely soft with a beautiful sound and in tune is a challenge that all musicians work on, especially in an opera orchestra.

Musicals and ballets also use a pit orchestra, but my favorite is the opera. The huge voices of the solo singers, the great set designs and the beautiful stage lighting make for a very magical experience both for the musicians and the audience.

2. You have extensive experience conducting clinics and master classes, what topics do you discuss the most?

When I am invited to do a clinic for students, it is usually to help them to prepare for a specific event. Of course, I always focus on the basics of good solid flute playing which includes tone production, body position, tonguing, technique, breathing, phrasing, tuning and expression. Then I give them suggestions that will help them to deal with the pressures of a competition or audition. How you prepare the music is only the first step. After that, you have to know how to keep the music at a high level of performance and then how to prepare for the actual audition. I find that this is the area where students need the most help because they simply have not yet had enough experience with it.

3. You are currently teaching a full time private studio, what is the most important thing you can teach a young flute student these days?

I think the most important thing I can teach a student today is to love the flute and to love music no matter what level they are currently playing at. I want them to be serious about their progress, to notice and appreciate all the good things in their playing and to not be afraid of the things they still can’t do. The willingness to move forward is a powerful and beautiful quality and the discipline and problem solving that music offers, can be carried over into everything else that we do in life.

4. What have years of teaching taught you about your own playing?

I absolutely love teaching. It is like a creative laboratory that I get to experience each day. I really enjoy coming up with new ways of explaining how to do something. My many years of teaching and observing have given me a lot of insight into the process of learning. I find I am constantly changing how I teach to match the learning skills of the students that are in front of me. Then I apply it all to myself when I am preparing new music for a performance. I can hear myself in my head speaking to me as I play. I guess that when we teach others, we are really teaching ourselves.

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

Years ago, I was at a Texas Music Educators convention and I was in search of a good step up flute for my students. I went to all of the exhibitors and tried out a lot of flutes and then I went to the Miyazawa exhibit. I absolutely loved the flutes. I loved how they sounded, how they felt, and how consistent the quality was in all of the price ranges. I developed a relationship with the Miyazawa representative that day that continued for many years. She was a real flutist who knew the product well and was very willing to spend time with me answering all of my questions and concerns. I was very impressed with the flutes and the company. From that day until now, I have been recommending the Miyazawa flutes to all of my students. Besides getting a great flute, I know that they could call the company and receive the same considerate attention that I received that day. I soon purchased a Miyazawa flute for myself and am currently playing on a GS model with a gold head joint.

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

Believe in yourself, have fun, and enjoy the process of being a better you.

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