"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. Last year marked your 25th Anniversary of teaching at UC Santa Barbara. In honor of that, the UC Santa Barbara Flute Summit was organized with colleagues and students from around the world to join in on the celebration with two full days of classes and concerts. What was the highlight of this experience and/or your 25 years of teaching at UC Santa Barbara?
One highlight was reflecting on, through the lenses of my former students, the many facets of my career I have been able to explore as a Professor in a research institution-as a recitalist, chamber musician, recording artist, teacher and mentor. The two recitals showcasing the successful UC Santa Barbara alumni flutists were both affirming and inspiring to my current students. Some of my best friends joined me for a memorable seminar weekend complete with tributes, stories and humorous skits. Because of the generosity of my great friends, we established the first flute scholarship at UC Santa Barbara!
2. Your current student, Azeem Ward, just experienced an internet phenomenon becoming well known overnight, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel of all things. What has this experience been like and what advice can you give for other students that are Azeem's age?
Yes, we call it the “Azeem Meme.” Azeem is now known as the “Viral Recital Flute Guy.” After Azeem made his Facebook page public announcing his senior flute recital, 110,000 people responded they were attending (in a hall that seats 100!). Jimmy Kimmel heard about this and featured Azeem in performance and interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live the night before his recital. 2.147 million viewed the late night show and 55,000 computers live-streamed the recital the next day. People even camped out in front of the hall the evening before the recital to make sure they got a seat for what Jimmy Kimmel called “the most anticipated flute recital in the history of our country.” Two British students who were instrumental in starting the viral activity even flew over to attend Azeem’s recital.
The internet is a strange and wonderful thing. Viral sensations can be created overnight and anyone can become an international celebrity. Azeem and his recital collaborators were prepared and poised to succeed, and they delivered confident and exciting performances. The recitalists embraced the fact that you perform optimally whether in front of 2 or 2 million in the audience! Azeem has been contacted by agents and has been interviewed by local radio and television shows and by the BBC. There is talk about producing a CD and tours through the UK. This instant fame for Azeem has been handled admirably and responsibly. Also acting charitably by starting a Go Fund Me campaign for Nepal, Azeem is experiencing this attention with extreme humility and exemplary professionalism.
3. You've commissioned hundreds of pieces during your career. What is this experience like and how do you go about adding to the list?
The activity of supporting commissions, co-designing new repertoire and making new music come to life through premieres has been the most rewarding part of my performance career. Each commission is unique. Some commissions are presented to me as gifts, and for other commissions, I initiate the process. Working with living composers keeps performers challenged, inspired and connected to the current art scene.
The latest commissioned piece, Winds for Change, by Cynthia Folio, for 2 flutes and chamber orchestra, was a joint commissioning consortium project with my flute duo ZAWA! as the lead commissioner. When Claudia and I talked with Cynthia to propose a two-flute concerto, we wanted to expand awareness on environmental issues with the new concerto. We chose global warming and climate change as the theme. After much dialogue with the composer, the work turned out to be very programmatic with sections titled Canyon Winds, Hazy Sunrise, Morning Mist, Summer Storm, Glacial Calving, and Ocean Spirits. We premiered the chamber orchestra version in November of 2014 and premiered the chamber music version in May of 2015. We are presenting the concerto with the Serafin String Quartet at the National Flute Association Convention in Washington, D.C., in August of 2015.
4. With your continued success and experience, what advice can you give to the placement of students?
Aim for the broadest education possible because one may shift career directions a few times in one’s life. I encourage my students to develop a secondary interest or cognate in degree programs in addition to the primary focus of artistry development. This year UC Santa Barbara made it more feasible for music students to pursue double majors. I believe that critical thinking and a humanistic approach to the study of music makes for a well-rounded musician. With a broad education that includes a focus on the solid fundamentals of musicianship, students will be informed so they may funnel their creative energy into personal passions.
5. Entrepreneurship is a must these days. How have you evolved in this ever-growing field and what advice do you have for students who will need to have entrepreneurship skills when they graduate in order to be successful in our field?
Becoming entrepreneurial gives you the power to exercise your art and connect with your community immediately upon graduation. I have often mentioned that instead of giving out diplomas for music students, we should hand out blank canvases, so that each student can create his/her own career. Artistic directions and passions will evolve, and being an entrepreneur will allow a musician flexibility to stay engaged in the many parameters of music making.
Entrepreneurship can encourage an artist to be proactive and engaged as an enlightened citizen. My proudest moments as a teacher have been witnessing students launch a chamber music career, become a CEO or an arts manager, win an orchestral post or develop a teaching career. This kind of success can only be achieved with an entrepreneurial spirit.
6. What does a typical practice session look like for you?
:) :) :)
As I am currently serving as Chair of the Department of Music in addition to teaching flute, I have to say that practice is a luxury! Honestly, I enjoy a few good 20 minute segments when I can fit them in. A perfect day of practice for me would be four 50 minute sessions ideally spaced throughout the day. I spend most of my time preparing for the next recital, concerto, chamber music performance or recording. I include the exercises of my Extreme Makeover: Flute Edition routine and incorporate slow practice of repertoire. I have been relying on mental practicing much more since becoming Chair two years ago. With daily Chair activities juggling curriculum plans, curriculum revisions, budgets, hiring and evaluation of personnel, creating and implementing initiatives, and general campus administrative duties, I am grateful for the moments I get to connect with my flute.
7. 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 focus on 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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... I am currently wrapping up the school year filling out progress reports for students, writing letters of recommendation, teaching lessons, preparing for master classes this summer, 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 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.
11. Can you tell us about your most recent recording projects?
Dianne Frazer and I “fused” lovely pieces together to make “mashups” that combine standard flute pieces and transcriptions with compatible classical and popular works. The title for our CD is Fusion, and features our arrangements along with standard repertoire presented in a flowing and merged style. In the past year, I recorded the World Premiere of Wa-Edah Ma, a new work for flute, oboe and bass by Matti Kovler on Diana Gannett’s CD entitled Artemis in the Oak Grove. ZAWA! contributed two World Premiere recordings of works by Cynthia Folio, Z3 and Elegy, on Cynthia’s CD Inverno Azul.
12. What is included in your 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.
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 “Cliff Notes” 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!!!
13. 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.
14. 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. I also own a Brögger System platinum flute with gold keys and a Brögger System gold flute with silver keys.
15. 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!