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Performs On:

Boston Classic RH-14K Gold Flute with Silver Keys

Artist Bio

Kara DeRaad Santos


Kara DeRaad Santos is Principal Flute of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra as well as acting Principal for the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra 2008-2009 season. Kara is the former Principal Flutist for the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and instructor at the University of Evansville where she performed with the Harlaxton quintet. Dr. Santos received her D.M.A. in flute performance from the University of Iowa in 2005 as a recipient of the Iowa Arts Fellowship. Additional degrees include an M.A. in flute performance from The University of Iowa and a B.M. from The University of Michigan.

Dr. Santos won the 2001 University of Iowa Concerto Competition, was a semi-finalist in the 2002 and 2000 NFA Young Artist Competitions, and won second prize in both the 2001 Frank Bowen Competition and the 1997 NFA Orchestral Audition and Masterclass Competition. She has recently given recitals and masterclasses at The North Carolina School of the Arts, The National University of Costa Rica and Grinnell College. Her major teachers include Robert Dick, Tadeu Coelho, Jeff Zook, Leone Buyse and Claudia Anderson.

Artist Interview

Kara DeRaad Santos


We had the opportunity to ask Kara a few questions. Take a look at her thoughts on preparing for auditions, her approach to practicing as well as advice for upcoming flutists.


1. You recently won two auditions for principal flute within a week of each other. How did you go about preparing for these auditions?

It was definitely a challenge since the two auditions were only one week apart. There was some overlap in the audition lists, which was helpful, but there were also quite a few excerpts that were not on both lists. I tried to prioritize my practice each day by making sure I worked first on the excerpts that I felt less familiar or less comfortable with. I also did a lot of slow practicing, especially on the technical excerpts.

In order to be really familiar with the orchestral works, not just the flute excerpts, I made a compilation of all of the pieces (or the movements, in the case of multi-movement symphonies) from which the audition excerpts were taken. I listened to that compilation quite often in the weeks leading up to the auditions. I considered listening to be part of my practice routine; it was a way to keep “practicing” when my body was tired of actually playing. And of course it also helped in that it gave me a better perspective on the sound of the works as a whole rather than just the flute line, which helped me to play more musically.

Another thing I did in preparing for these auditions that I think was really helpful was that I played my excerpts for as many people as possible. I played for other flutists who could give me specific feedback on the excerpts and also played for people who were not musicians just to give myself as much experience as possible having to play with the added pressure of someone watching and listening. Actually, non musicians often have really interesting perspectives on what they’re hearing and can give you a really good idea of whether you’re actually conveying what you think you are.


2. What advice can you give to others preparing for auditions as far as nerves are concerned?

I have found that being well prepared and confident in my own ability to play the excerpts well is crucial. I remember reading some advice from someone who said that if you’re not nailing the excerpts at home, you’re not ready for the audition. This is true in the sense that in an audition, nerves will probably interfere to some degree in the performance, so if it’s hit or miss at home it will be no better in the audition, and probably worse. That said, I think it’s also really important to take a lot of auditions just to get better at the process. I don’t think a person should wait until he or she can play every excerpt perfectly before ever attempting an audition, but I do think that kind of perspective can help the auditioner to have a realistic view of how prepared he or she is.

I’m repeating myself from the first question, but I think for me, playing in front of colleagues and others has been really helpful in dealing with nerves; not only do they become a little less severe the more I play in front of people, but I get more accustomed to playing the excerpts while feeling nervous, which is something that’s pretty hard to duplicate when you’re practicing by yourself. This is why it’s also important to take auditions, because you just get more used to the whole process and to performing under uncomfortable circumstances.


3. How has your approach to playing changed over time, whether it be performing or practicing?

I hope that I am always improving my approach to practicing and performing! In the last few years, the biggest changes in my approach to these two areas have probably been as a result of the transition from being a student to being a professional. I have found that one of the main differences between being a student and a professional is that as a professional I have much less time to prepare each piece I’m performing, whether it’s a recital, an orchestra concert or an audition (or sometimes all three). Because of this, practice time has to be used effectively in order to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

Regarding performance, I’ve found that as I become more confident in what I’m trying to communicate musically, rather than focusing on the technical, instrument-related issues of what I’m playing, I enjoy performing more and feel that I communicate more effectively with the audience. For me, if I use the technically difficult aspects of a piece as part of a clear musical plan, they become less difficult because they make sense as part of a larger idea. Of course, that’s not to say that difficult music doesn’t require practice time to acquire technical proficiency, it definitely does.  However, I find that if I practice effectively, putting in the time to work out technical problems but also forming a clear idea of what I want to communicate to my audience through each moment of the music, I am able to keep improving as a musician rather than just a flutician. And I find that I enjoy the whole process more and more!


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

I got my first Miyazawa when I was about 9 or 10. It was a gold plated flute and I think it was a case of love at first sight. I had to have it!  Now I play on a Boston Classic 14k model that I’ve had for eight or nine years and I’ve been very happy with it. Actually, that was another case of love at first sight, or rather, first play, because I tried my teacher’s flute, which was the same model, and that was it!


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

Practice!

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