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Iowa City, IA

Performs On:

Boston Classic RH-14k Gold Flute with 14k Gold Keys

Artist Bio

Nicole Esposito

A charismatic and versatile flutist, Nicole Esposito is the flute professor at The University of Iowa. She has achieved a career as a soloist, teacher, chamber and orchestral musician on an international level having been featured across the United States, Europe, Central and South America. Esposito has performed at numerous events including the National Flute Association Conventions in Orlando, Washington DC, Nashville, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Anaheim, Charlotte and Las Vegas, as well as regional conferences including the Oklahoma Flute Fair, Florida Flute Fair, Madison Flute Festival, West Virginia Flute Fling and the Iowa Flute Festival. Recent and upcoming invitations include appearances at the San Francisco International Flute Festival, The Texas Summer Flute Symposium, Festival Virtuosi, Brazil, the International Flute Festival sponsored by the Brazilian Flute Association, the Santa Maria International Winter Festival, the International Flute Festival of Costa Rica, the Spanish National Flute Convention, Bogotá Flute Festival, the International Flute Congress of Argentina, Chilean Flute Encounter and the European Piccolo Festival in Slovenia.

In addition to her teaching position at The University of Iowa, Professor Esposito has served on the faculties of the Five Seasons Chamber Music Festival, the All-State Program of the University of Michigan at Interlochen, the Interlochen Arts Camp, and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.  Sought after as a master class teacher, she has recently given master classes for the Young Musicians Foundation in Evanston, Wyoming, and at numerous universities all across the United States. Abroad, Esposito has given master classes at  National University and National Institute of Music Costa Rica, Milan Civic Music School, Madrid Royal Conservatory and the Geneva Conservatory. Recent visits to Brazil include classes at the Escola Municipal de Musica, Faculdade Canteriera, and the Baccarelli Institute in São Paulo. In 2011, she inaugurated as host, performer and teacher the Iowa Piccolo Intensive, a four- day advanced workshop for the piccolo at the University of Iowa.  In 2012, Professor Esposito held a two week residency as guest faculty at the University of Michigan for the flute studio of Amy Porter.

As an orchestral musician, Esposito has performed under some of the worlds leading conductors, including James Conlon, David Zinman, Gunther Schuller, and Robert Spano. Former principal flute with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, she has also performed with the Quad City Symphony, Cedar Rapids Symphony, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony, Youngstown (OH) Symphony, and the Johnstown and Westmoreland (PA) Symphony Orchestras. Esposito has held the Piccolo Fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival and has also been Principal Flute of the Ohio Light Opera, with whom she can be heard on three recordings (Albany Records). She has participated in a number of other music festivals including the Brevard Music Center, The Youth Orchestra of the Americas, and the National Orchestral Institute.

Professor Esposito holds degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan.  She has been a finalist or prizewinner in several prestigious competitions including the National Flute Association’s Young Artist, Piccolo Artist, and Orchestral Competitions, the WAMSO Competition sponsored by the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Competition.  Additionally she has published articles on, The Flutist Quarterly, Flute Focus and Flute Talk Magazines and has served as president of the Eastern Iowa Flute Association.  Her primary flute teachers include Jeanne Baxtresser, Amy Porter, Marianne Gedigian, Jennifer Connor, and Catherine Payne, with additional study with Mark Sparks, Alberto Almarza, and Doriot Anthony Dwyer.

Nicole Esposito performs on the solid 14k Miyazawa flute and the Hammig Piccolo.

Artist Interview

Nicole Esposito

We had the opportunity to ask Nicole a few questions. Click on the link to hear her thoughts on preparing for an audition, balancing a full time teaching and performing career as well as what qualities are essential for musical excellence.


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

The biggest lesson that the flute has taught me is that hard work and perseverance indeed pays off.  I have built my career from the ground up, and beyond any accomplishment, this is what I am truly proud of. When I was in my student years I do not think that I was a natural or extreme talent on the flute; I witnessed others far more talented than me. I did however recognize my strengths and weaknesses and I have worked very hard to optimize those strengths while keeping my weaknesses in check. I do recognize that, for example, I have the gift of learning languages, communicating, I have a good ear and I have an affinity for working with people. Recognizing these qualities has certainly made my ability level on the flute possible but it has also made me realize that the flute is just a small part of my greater goal of creating a positive experience for those with whom I interact.


2. What qualities do you think are most essential to musical excellence?

See response to question #1! Hard work and dedication are two qualities that are absolutely necessary for excellence in any field, and music is certainly no different. The other quality I believe is necessary is curiosity. Having the ability to think, investigate and to go above and beyond what is necessary for success will not only make you successful but also open the doors for creativity, new discoveries and a greater sense of confidence. One must marry the skills of absolute mastery of the flute with artistic knowledge, savvy and finesse. Every time we open the flute case we should do it with the idea that we want to be and do better both flutistically and musically. It is easy to simply play the instrument well and to “express yourself” when forming a musical interpretation. When speaking a spoken language, the definition of interpretation is translation. When speaking the language of music we must try our best to translate the composer’s intentions rather than simply giving our own take on them. Obviously we ultimately may not know if our translation is exactly what the composer intended however constantly asking ourselves questions about what the music really holds and needs, and having the flute skills necessary to carry out these discoveries, is of the utmost importance for a successful interpretation. To do this, we must often get out of our comfort zones: perfecting our non-vibrato style for baroque music or our gritty or jazzy sounds for pieces with extended techniques. In our practicing, simplifying the music harmonically to find the phrase structure or transposing a passage to better understand the intervals and challenges. If we always take that extra step, the journey is wonderfully infinite.


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


I’m noticing a trend. See response to question 2! The thing that I try to emphasize the most in my teaching (and my own playing) is the idea that effort and preparation are not always the same thing. So many students put in long hours, and are trying very hard to do well, but often their effort is focused on the “trying” aspect and not the actual result. I aim to teach my students not only that they need to work hard, but also how to do it: how to deal with time management and efficiency and how to get the maximum result from their effort. I also put a lot of emphasis on fundamentals. Anyone is only as good as his/her basic skills, and we practice in order to remove the technical and music limitations. I have always tried to teach my students to work for long-term success, not only short-term goals and results. A balanced must be found.


4. How do you balance a full time teaching & performing career on top of all of your university-related responsibilities? 

Hmmm…Insanity? Ha! In all seriousness the only way to balance the rigors of any job is to simply love what you do and on top of that, be committed to doing it extremely well. I love to play the flute, but much more than that, I am passionate about excellence in education and having a positive impact on the lives of others. Good organizational skills also come in handy. 


5. What does a typical daily practice session look like for you? 

As you mentioned, balancing a hectic performance and travel schedule on top of a full time university teaching position is not always a simple task, so practice time is a usually at a real minimum. I rarely am able to practice more than an hour a day, five times per week, and when I can do more it is a real luxury. I am so thankful for my days as a student when I woke up every day to practice at 4:30 am. I worked for a solid 2-3 hours every morning before classes began only on tone, vibrato, articulation, scales, arpeggios, etc, as well as technical and melodic etudes. I did not view these tasks as warm-ups, however as daily exercises that strengthened my fundamental skills as a flutist and musician and would do so for years to come. Also, in my undergraduate education at Carnegie Mellon University, we had three teachers and a pianist in every lesson with Jeanne Baxtresser. We moved through repertoire at an extremely fast pace, therefore we had to constantly be on top of our game. Today, as a university professor, I spend most of my practice time when I do actually have it, working on my fundamentals to make sure that I am ready to go in any musical circumstance. In the past few years as an active performer, I have had to step in and do things such as play Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” on two hours notice, or do an international concerto performance of a work I had not previously played on less than a week’s notice. I am only able to do these things because I am constantly evaluating and reflecting on my basic skills as a flutist and musician even when time is an issue and my other responsibilities are in need of attention. 


6. How would you advise flutists to begin practicing for an orchestral audition and/or competition? What advice can you give to those preparing as far as nerves/performance anxiety are concerned?

See response to question 5! FUNDAMENTALS! I can’t stress them enough. When preparing for an audition or competition, it is easy to do too much “test” practicing, where you simply repeat the music over and over again. Obviously consistency and endurance are an issue, but that should be addressed when working on your basic skills as well. The two technical factors that often separate a good from a great candidate in any audition or competition are pitch and rhythm. Practicing with a metronome and tuning device is extremely important, but beyond that, one must begin to fully internalize rhythmic pulse and subdivision and intervallic pitch placement. I also recommend practicing both with and without the flute. Studying the full score, listening to a multitude of recordings for varying tempi and stylistic possibilities, playing along with orchestral recordings, conducting the music, etc. When practicing the excerpts themselves, one must have a clear musical and technical strategy. Ask yourself why a specific excerpt is being requested, what will the committee most likely be listening for, and what are the most common pitfalls of each piece. In the end, we must remember that these small snip-its are part of a larger musical work and we must know the piece in it’s entirety to understand the context. Imagine how it would be if you were sitting in the orchestra playing these pieces. Imagine the orchestra around you and the conductor in front of you and that will make the process of practicing the excerpts much less sterile. 


In terms of nerves, again, I think the more solid and confidant one is in his/her own fundamental skill, the least likely nerves are to come into play or cause a problem. When we fully understand what we are doing in the practice room on the levels of what, how, and why, we have an overall better sense of confidence on stage. We all become nervous or anxious on some level, this is simply part of being a performer. I believe we must accept the nerves as normal feelings, and not fight against them. When fighting against them, we create a bigger sense of conflict within ourselves and this tension is what can manifest itself in a performance. So, accept your nerves as the part of the exhilarating process of performing and understand that everyone in the audience is rooting for you. Know yourself and your own physical manifestation of nerves and come up with creative ways to solve the issues meeting your own needs. 


7. What excerpts/pieces do you find to be the most challenging and why?

I try very hard not to quantify music in terms of difficulty. To me, it isn’t hard or easy, it simply IS. Some of the simplest sounding gestures can often be problematic, and some pieces that sound incredibly difficult are actually quite simple harmonically and structurally. When we label the music as easy, we can often let our musical guards down, become complacent and lesser our commitment. If we label something as very difficult, we tend to put up barriers and limitations. Whether I have to play a simple folk song, or a complexly notated contemporary piece, I aim to always bring my full commitment and dedication to bringing the music to life.


8. How do you incorporate piccolo into your practicing? Is it separate from your flute playing? How do you prioritize? Also, how does piccolo playing affect someone’s flute playing? Does it enhance it or change it at all in your opinion?

Playing the piccolo has always come naturally to me for some reason, and I have loved to do it since the first time I picked it up, so I have never experienced much difficulty switching back and forth. I often give recitals in which I perform on both instruments. I do understand that not everyone experiences this same ease, however, I also feel that one should adapt a balanced approach in their practicing and every flutist should familiarize his/herself with the piccolo and with the alto flute as well. In the end, the piccolo, like the flute, tuba, banjo or kazoo, is simply a vehicle for making music. Part of being a great artist is overcoming any technical limitations on the instrument in order to achieve the ultimate in music making. I think that I tend to focus on the possibilities of what the instrument can do and not it’s limitations. If you approach the instrument with fear and uncertainty of course problems will arise. Look to find the voice within yourself  and have clear musical intentions so that no matter which instrument you are playing, these aspects will be heard. 


9. We are always evolving as people and as musicians. With this in mind, what is your musical vision moving forward?

I believe awareness is key. Study the past, look to the future, and be in the present as much as possible. As a performer, if you want to have success in the field, you must understand the field itself. If you want to sell yourself as someone who has something to contribute to the world of music, you must know your market. As a teacher this is doubly important so that you may guide your students not only from your own experiences, but also by understanding the present circumstances they will face when entering the profession. Progress and change can be both daunting and exciting, however if there is little risk, there can often be little reward. The future depends on the risks each and every one of us is willing to take.


10. Do you have any new projects in the works?

My biggest continual “project” is teaching. There is always something new to discover: new ways of learning, new ways of sharing ideas, new ways of helping students conceptualize and absorb information. I love performing and have concerts and appearances around the world throughout the year and I have some recording projects in mind for the near future. The University of Iowa School of Music is undergoing a huge transition as we move into our new state-of-the-art school of music building this summer. This will open new doors for exciting projects on-campus as well. In 2017, I look forward to hosting the Iowa Flute Festival and the next installment of the Iowa Piccolo Intensive summer workshop.


11. Who is your biggest influence as an artist?

As an artist I think it is in our best interest to take inspiration from all kinds of people and all types of different sources. I am very grateful for the flutists that have paved the road for me, my peers and future generations of young musicians; however I try to avoid the idea of “hero worship”. Of course I have individuals, including my own teachers, that I admire greatly, but I want the art that I contribute to the world to reflect the full spectrum of my life’s unique experiences. Preserving traditions is important, however it is also important to understand the context and conditions of the time in which someone finds success. If we only try to emulate the experiences of a few, we will only have a small glimpse into what is possible.

12. What is the hardest part about being a musician? What is the best part?

In a previous question, I mentioned that I try not to qualify experiences as easy or difficult. It is usually a waste of time to do so and distracts from what needs to be done. The task I am given as a musician just IS, and I have to BE, to embody the music. With this outlook I try my best to dive into the fundamental aspects and intimate details that make the music the music. We are unique and innately have our own voice and outlook, but we must use what we have developed to understand the composer’s point of view and find greater meaning. This is honestly what I feel is the best part about being a musician. We are given the power from composers to be a variety of different voices and characters. It is like being an actor that has been given the opportunity to play a multitude of fantastic roles.

13. What do you like best about performing?

That is a very simple question to answer- human connection and interaction. In general, this is what I love most about traveling to perform and teach. It provides me the opportunity to come in contact with wonderful and interesting people around the world.


14. You’ve recently incorporated what is called ‘Honesty Hour’ with your flute studio at the University of Iowa. Can you give us a glimpse into what this is and/or means?

The first step to improvement in an area or facet of life is complete honesty about where you stand in the present moment. As musicians, we must be very honest with ourselves about our own capabilities, to take stock of what we are able to do, and how we can also use this to further develop our skills. I started “Honesty Hour” with my University of Iowa Flute Studio as a twice a week early morning session to spend extra time with the students to help them get to know their own playing better. As a teacher, it is very easy to prescribe a scale routine, or tone exercise regiment, or breathing exercises, or so on and so forth. The student will practice and improve, but in some cases, there may be a lack of further exploration on the part of the student if his/her sense of curiosity is not being developed as well. In this hour, I try to make it as question based as possible. I want the students to search for the answers themselves rather than simply tell them how to do it. My goal through this method is that the student can build confidence by realizing that they often know more than they may think and eventually become their own best teachers. Confidence also comes with trust. Students must cultivate trust in their own abilities, not simply by doing, but by understanding why things are working well. No one else should know the ins and outs of your playing better than you do. Honesty, awareness and curiosity, in addition to a strong work ethic are the key elements for true improvement.


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

I have had the pleasure of living in Iowa City now for a number of years and I have gotten to know the wonderful team at Miyazawa, who’s U.S. headquarters is housed at West Music in Coralville, IA, just around the corner. Over the years I have witnessed the incredible dedication this team has to their customers and also their commitment to offering the very best product possible on the market. They listen to the advice of skilled flutists and work tirelessly to make the Miyazawa flute better if at all possible. When I first picked up my solid 14k Miyazawa flute, I instantly fell in love with its silken tone, ease of projection, and possibility for tonal colors matched with a superb mechanism that can’t be beat. When performing, I truly feel one with my instrument. When you choose a Miyazawa you have the strong sense that your voice and contribution matters and you are not just another customer number. You are part of a wonderful family that treats its members with care and affection.


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

You have to be willing to work harder than anyone and you have to make sure that your worst is still better than most people’s best. Never settle for mediocrity and do not let any resource go untapped. Develop your talents but also learn how to be smart, savvy and flexible. Know your strengths and weaknesses and learn to turn the weight of disappointment into the strength of positive energy moving forward!


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