"Felber was stunning... not only refined but also full of fun."
- The British Journal PAN
JILL FELBER has been hailed for her "beautifully finished performances" by The Detroit News and has been praised by Musical America for her "handsome performance." "The incredible flutist...the dazzling flutist...the radiant flutist Jill Felber," (The Independent, Santa Barbara), is known to excite audiences everywhere in concerts and recitals "played with flair" (The Los Angeles Times). "The outstanding American flutist Jill Felber" (Gazeta Rybnicka, Poland) is acclaimed worldwide for her "consummate musicianship" (Fanfare).
Ms. Felber has performed solo recitals, chamber music, and concertos on four continents and has held residencies in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy and the United States. Also a tireless promoter of new music, Ms. Felber has inspired many composers to write solo and chamber works for her and for her flute duo ZAWA!, and is currently engaged in several commissioning projects. She has premiered over three hundred works for the flute and has released world premiere recordings for Centaur Records, CRI, Neuma Records, and ZAWA!MUSIC.
In demand as a guest clinician because of her extraordinary motivational teaching style, Felber is currently Professor of Flute at the University of California, Santa Barbara and performs as Principal Flute with Opera Santa Barbara. Holding degrees from University of Michigan and Bowling Green State University, Ms. Felber has taught on the faculties of Ohio University, Capital University, and Wright State University. Her teachers include Keith Bryan, Judith Bentley, Samuel Baron, and James Galway.
We had the opportunity to ask Jill a few questions. Take a look at her thoughts on balancing a teaching & performing career, advantages to teaching at a college as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. What's the most important thing to teach an upcoming flutist/student?
Awareness and Accountability: To be your own best teacher
My goal with students is to stress issues of technical and aesthetic awareness so he/ she can accept responsibility for his/her own progress. My hope is that the flutists with whom I work feel they have the tools when they leave to become his/her own best teacher. The perception and awareness skills have to be refined before the ability to achieve will improve. When the parameters for refinement are understood and embraced, much can be accomplished.
2. Why did you choose to play the flute?
I began with piano lessons, but I wanted to participate in the public school band program, which included an impressive summer band program. My older sister played the flute and sometimes it was out of the case and on her bed, so I had the opportunity to try it out a little. I enjoyed the silvery and shiny visual characteristics and the sparkling and enticing tonal qualities of the flute. Having an instrument that was easily transportable and one that could be play outside also factored into my choice.
3. What are the advantages/disadvantages of being a college flute professor compared to a full-time orchestral player?
Teaching flute is a very gratifying profession. It is fulfilling to have an impact on young musicians who are beginning careers in the field. As a university professor, I can combine my performing career with my teaching career. Working in a research institution (University of California, Santa Barbara), I have the flexibility, resources and grant money to tour, record, perform chamber music, and generate new works with the commissioning consortiums to which I belong. My job is personally adjustable. I can determine when I work, the music I wish to play and record, the musicians with whom I would like to work, and the students I wish to teach.
4. How do you balance your teaching & performing career on top of all of your university-related responsibilities?
This is a very interesting time to answer this question… the perfect storm has hit! I am currently writing letters of recommendation for many students, teaching a full week of lessons (including preparing 5 flutists for our university concerto competition), organizing master classes for Summer 2011, meeting with prospective students, and answering emails to potential students about our program and about the audition process at UCSB. In addition to these responsibilities, quite a bit of time is dedicated to university activity that is not related specifically to the flute, such as reading and evaluating files for faculty personnel cases at my university, attending weekly faculty meetings and participating in committee meetings. Just as in college, I have to schedule my practice time into my day, otherwise it won’t happen.
I am also practicing for a new recording project and preparing for upcoming tours. I am currently touring with the amazing pianist Dianne Frazer. She and I have been playing recitals together since 1985 when we were colleagues teaching at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Throughout the years we have performed at universities and music schools across the nation including the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools of Music, USC, Northwestern and Peabody as well as at flute societies and national music society’s conventions. Last year we were showcased at the famous Crystal Cathedral in California! We have been presenting between 15 and 20 recitals for the past 3 years throughout North America and have a full schedule of performances booked in 2011.
Dianne and I have been jokingly subtitling this year’s tours as “Silver and Gold.” As this marks our 25th year of collaboration, I am performing on my Miyazawa 14K gold flute with silver keys. Just coincidentally, Dianne’s hair is silver, and (with the help of my hair colorist) my hair is gold! To document these 25 years, we are recording a special CD of beautiful melodies and medleys in early February of 2011.
5. Can you tell us a bit more about your upcoming recording project?
We have had great satisfaction in “fusing” lovely pieces together to make “sets” that combine standard flute pieces and transcriptions with compatible classical and popular works. The title for our CD is Fusion, and will feature our arrangements along with standard repertoire that will be presented in a flowing and merged style. We are recording in February of 2011 and hope to have something out by the following summer.
6. What is included in your new trademarked seminar, entitled WHOLE FLUTES®?
WHOLE FLUTES® is a synergistic seminar where flutists benefit from flute master classes, technique classes and special seminars including guided meditation, breathing, yoga, stretching and flute fitness. I present multiple workshops that incorporate stretches and bodywork designed to reduce tension in the body when performing, breathing exercises to improve breath management, guided meditation and progressive relaxation workshops to help calm the mind and the body, and mental focus workshops which address performance anxiety. For the technique classes, I present my EXTREME MAKEOVER: FLUTE EDITION workshop, which is designed to build flute fundamentals and skills. All of these workshops are presented along with a recital and one or more master classes. Some seminars are done in one day, and for this second year, I am offering an extended 4-day seminar at Boise State University in early June of 2011 with Professor Nicole Molumby.
EXTREME MAKEOVER: FLUTE EDITION is an intense practice regime that I put together in 2005 when I began teaching summer session at University of California, Santa Barbara. As an intense 6-week program, I worked with adult amateurs, advanced high school students, professionals, and collegiate and graduate students who were enrolled in other universities and conservatories during the academic year. I admitted only serious students who were committed to make major changes in his/her playing. This routine of 16 exercises encompasses the entire range of flute playing focusing on flexibility, tonal control and consistency, embouchure strengthening, technical facility, extreme dynamics, and versatility in expression. In the first week of the 6-week program, I met each student every day and was amazed by Day 4 at the improvement in tonal projection and technical control. After the first week, I met with each student once a week and was excited to find such great development in endurance and increased ease in executing the demanding exercises. With each student working on the exercises for 2.5 hours a day, there was remarkable progress by week four, and by week six every student was able to impressively sail through the entire rigorous routine. Additionally since 2005, I have been presenting EXTREME MAKEOVER: FLUTE EDITION as a one-hour seminar (yes, the “CliffNotes” version!) at flute festivals, college flute programs around the country and now as part of WHOLE FLUTES®. Receiving emails from students that have noticed vast improvement within the first week is very rewarding. I love sharing this exercise routine and hearing such positive feedback… some flutists have even begged for EXTREME MAKEOVER; FLUTE EDITION #2!!!
7. Many high school students are currently preparing for entrance auditions to music programs. Would you offer some insight to what you expect to hear at undergraduate auditions at University of California, Santa Barbara?
Auditions at UCSB are held on our campus in late January and early February for prospective undergraduate performance majors for the following academic year. At the audition, I expect to hear approximately 15 minutes of standard repertoire, such as a movement from a Mozart Concerto or from a Bach Sonata, and/or a French piece similar to Enesco;s Cantabile et Presto or Gaubert’s Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando. Any major sonata would also be appropriate, however, I usually hear auditions without accompaniment. Choose pieces and movements that are contrasting in style and tempo to show both musical expression and advanced technique. Guidance from a private teacher for your selected repertoire is strongly encouraged.
Thorough preparation must be evident. I listen for a developed tone in all registers and clean execution of major and minor scales, along with the chromatic scale. Convincing interpretation and commitment to the style of each of the chosen works is also considered. During the audition I assess competence, confidence and commitment. I often engage in a mini-lesson and/or a short interview with each student so that I may determine how responsive a prospective student will be to my suggestions. Given that there are many qualified and prepared students, two of the most important attributes of a competitive auditionee include exhibiting a positive spirit and possessing a passionate attitude toward learning.
8. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
I had known many professional flutists who played Miyazawa flutes. My flute duo partner (Claudia Anderson from ZAWA!) was playing a Miyazawa flute when we established our duo. I was struck by the colors that were possible and also struck by the versatility and flexibility that could be achieved with the instrument. I wanted a Miyazawa flute! I immediately bought a Boston Classic GS and then bought a gold Boston Classic. Recently, I purchased a Brogger System Platinum flute with gold keys.
9. If you had one piece of advice to give for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
Imagine… believe… and don’t lose sight of your dream and of the joy of playing the flute!