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Charleston, SC

Performs On:

Boston Classic RH-9k Gold Flute with Silver Keys

Artist Bio

Jessica Hull-Dambaugh


Known for her technical expertise and rich tone, Jessica Hull-Dambaugh has quickly established herself as an avid orchestral flutist, chamber musician, and teacher. She is currently the Principal Flutist of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina, a position she has held since 2004. She is an active member of the Charleston Chamber Players and has also spent past summers playing flute and piccolo with the Central City Opera Orchestra in Colorado. Prior to her move to Charleston, Jessica held the position of Principal Flute with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and performed regularly with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra in Washington, D.C. 

Jessica has frequently performed as a featured artist in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Bar Harbor Music Festival, and Charleston Bach Festival.  She has also performed as a soloist at the annual NFA convention and at numerous recital series around the Charleston and New York metro areas.  She is a featured soloist on Carnegie Mellon's Fanfare recording, which was compiled as a part of the Carnegie Corporation's Centennial celebration and has also appeared as a soloist with Pittsburgh's River City Brass Band as the first flutist ever to perform with the ensemble in their 25 year history. Jessica has also appeared as a soloist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Long Island Philharmonic, among others. 

Jessica has toured extensively throughout Europe, the Netherlands, China, South America, Latin America and has attended the prestigious Schleswig-Holstein Orchestral Academy in Germany, the Music Academy of the West, the National Orchestral Institute, and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas Orchestral Training Institute. 

As an established teacher, Jessica has served as adjunct Flute faculty at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., has been an adjudicator for numerous competitions, and has taught master classes in both New York and in Washington, D.C. She currently maintains an active studio in Charleston and serves on the board of the South Carolina Flute Society. 

Originally from Long Island, New York, Jessica received her B.M. in Flute Performance and Music Education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam where she was a student of Ken Andrews. As a full scholarship and graduate assistantship recipient, she earned her M.M. in Flute Performance at Carnegie Mellon University where she was a student of Jeanne Baxtresser, Retired Principal Flutist of the N.Y. Philharmonic. Other former teachers include Alberto Almarza, Jennifer Conner, Alison Hubbard, and Robert Bush.

Artist Interview

Jessica Hull-Dambaugh


We had the opportunity to ask Jessica a few questions. Check out her thoughts on preparing for auditions, performing with Yo-yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis, as well as advice for upcoming flutists.


1. Currently Principal flute of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina and former Principal of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, how did you go about preparing for and winning these auditions?

When preparing for any auditions, I try to be as thorough as possible. I do extremely detailed work with a tuner, practice matching pitch colors, knowing exactly what I would like to say with the phrasing and vibrato, all while being rhythmically accurate. It is also important to listen to recordings of the entire piece to know where the flute part fits with the rest of the orchestra. I learn each excerpt like the back of my hand, backwards and forwards. This gives me the confidence to go into an audition and play at the best of my ability. I always keep in mind that each audition committee is looking for a specific type of flutist with a certain musical style. If I have shown who I am as a flutist and musician, than it is the best I can do.


2. What was your experience like touring/performing with Yo-yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis? How did this come about?

I have been lucky enough in the past to have been a part of many wonderful Orchestral Festivals where we studied under some of the best conductors in the world and have played with some fantastic soloists. At Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, we performed a number of concerts with Wynton Marsalis and his ensemble.  I particularly remember doing movements from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker – we would play a movement, and Wynton Marsalis’ band would play their jazz version of the same movement.  It was such a unique performance and a ton of fun.

At the Youth Orchestra of the Americas Orchestral Festival, we had the opportunity to perform with Yo-yo Ma. He played the Dvorak Cello Concerto, which has a big flute and cello dialogue in the second movement. Playing that cadenza with him and feeding off of his energy and musicality has been one of the highlights of my career. It was a fabulous experience, and one I will never forget.


3. What is your typical practice routine like?

My typical practice routine involves a lot of warm-ups and exercises. On a day when time is not a factor, I will do about 45 minutes of exercises as my first session of the day. These will include tone exercises, vibrato exercises, and technical exercises that I rotate every few days. My second session of the day usually involves learning orchestral music for any upcoming concerts I may have. In the orchestra, we perform different music every week, so I am constantly learning new music and listening to recordings of upcoming pieces we will be performing. On days when I do not have much time, I will usually abbreviate my warm-ups and exercises to take about 15 to 20 minutes. I'll then spend another 20 minutes practicing the more difficult portions of pieces for upcoming concerts. When I don’t have much orchestral music to learn, I love to break out my etude books and just play for fun.


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

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is discipline. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work to be a professional musician. First, you must have the drive and discipline to practice for hours on end to elevate your playing to a professional level. Then once you are established, you have to juggle the demanding schedule of rehearsals and performances with finding the time to practice and perfect all the music for your upcoming performances (for me, there is always a stack of 4 or 5 folders of music that will be performed in the next 2 to 3 weeks). I also find it takes a great deal of discipline to maintain my skills and fully stay in shape if I have some playing down time, especially during the summer when the Charleston Symphony is not in season. This is when I have to get creative with my practicing and create a list of goals which include pieces, etudes, and technical exercises I would like to focus on and learn by end of the summer. This usually helps me stay on track until our orchestral season starts again in the fall.  I believe drive and discipline are qualities every musician must possess in order to be successful.  

 

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

I find the greatest inspiration is when we get to play with new conductors. The CSO has had a variety of great guest conductors over the past few seasons, so it has been a wonderful experience to learn from and be challenged by each conductor. Even when you get to a point in your career where you've performed most of the standards over and over again, with a new conductor, it adds an element of surprise because you never know the exact tempi they will take, where they will add rubato, additional dynamics, etc. If I find myself falling into a lull with certain pieces or excerpts, I try to find an additional challenge for myself to always improve on something. An example could be the tone on a specific technical passage, or to work more with perfecting the pitch throughout the piece/excerpt.  

 

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

For me, I have the hardest time with excerpts that present breathing challenges. For this reason, I think Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from a Midsummer Night's Dream and Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun are the most difficult for me. Breathing is something I constantly struggle with and have to work on. I have found that while some excerpts are easier to play in the orchestral setting rather than in an audition, the ones that present breathing challenges are more difficult to perform in the orchestral setting because you have to project through the orchestra. When practicing these types of excerpts in preparation for an orchestral performance, I always be sure to play with the same amount of sound I will need to project in the orchestra. This type of work helps keep the breathing where it needs to be for the orchestra and also allows the breathing to feel easier once you are alone on stage for an audition.  

 

7. What do you think is the most important thing for you to emphasize in your teaching and in your own playing?

I believe tone and vibrato are extremely important. From the very first note any musician plays, the first thing any listener hears is your tone. Even if a flutist is rhythmically solid, very musical, and exactly in tune, I still have a hard time listening to them if their tone is not full and beautiful. Oftentimes the upper register can tend to sound closed and restricted so with my own students, I emphasize opening the jaw and teeth to really get that open, solid, and consistent sound as they play through each register. The next step is adding vibrato to the core sound. I feel that vibrato is not the actual tone, but instead, vibrato is an addition to the tone. Having control of your vibrato by having the 'waves' be even rhythmically and depth-wise is very important. The final stage of a great tone is being able to keep the core sound as you work through your dynamic range. Even at your extreme soft sound, the core of the sound should still be consistent and focused, while also not becoming spread and sharp at your loudest dynamics.

 

8. What are your interests/hobbies outside of teaching and performing?  

When I'm not chasing after my 2 year old son, as a second profession I am a certified fitness instructor.  I teach 3 or 4 classes each week at local gyms which range from indoor cycling to kickboxing. I absolutely love the fitness world and enjoy helping people reach their health goals. I also think it's great to get away from the sedentary life of a musician practicing or sitting in rehearsals by challenging the mind and body in a totally different way. It is actually very similar to being a musician in a way -- I am performing in front of a group of people every time I teach a class, and I act as their private instructor on how to have the proper form and technique to improve their fitness abilities. 



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

I bought my first Miyazawa flute in college when I was looking for my first professional level flute (Boston Classic silver with a 14k gold riser, cut 6 headjoint). I bought my second Miyazawa flute three years ago (Boston Classic, 9k Gold, silver keys, platinum riser, cut 7 headjoint). For me, the Miyazawa flutes are the only ones that possess a depth and resonance to the tone while still allowing for the flexibility of different tone colors. The ease of being able to push the tone to its limits or to play softly with a single thread of sound is unparalleled by any other flute. I find the response, solid low register, and intonation are always consistent with a Miyazawa. I can’t imagine playing any other instrument!

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

Music is the art of exaggeration!!! My goal is to always play as convincingly as possible. It is one thing to know how you want to play it, but it is another thing to exaggerate your musical ideas and phrasing enough so that they come across to the listener clearly. Every flutist can learn to play fast notes and get a good tone, but the flutist who can execute a beautifully shaped phrase by using clear dynamics, articulation, and vibrato will be the one to stand out. To quote one of my former teachers, “Be a musician, not a technician."

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