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Stillwater, OK

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Classic RH Heavy Wall and a Classic RH Regular Wall

Artist Bio

Virginia Broffitt


"Virginia Broffitt is one of today’s best young flute players.  She has a wonderful sound, great technique and beautiful artistry.  I am lucky to have had the opportunity to have worked with her.  She is great!"    
                                                                                                              - Brad Garner


Dr. Virginia Broffitt Kunzer is Associate Professor of Flute at Oklahoma State University, Principal Flute of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, Flute Mentor for the Hot Springs Music Festival and a founding member of the Pangaea Chamber Players. A versatile musician, she has established a successful career as a teacher, soloist, orchestral musician and chamber musician. Before her appointment at OSU, she served as faculty at Western Illinois University and flutist in the Camerata Woodwind Quintet. She has also held positions in the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. Dr. Broffitt Kunzer was a faculty member with the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department and served as Guest Artist and Faculty in Residence for the North Carolina School of the Arts Musica Piccola Festival. Among Virginia’s notable accomplishments are winning the National Flute Association’s Young Artist Competition in 2004.

An avid teacher and performer, she has given performance master classes and performed concerts throughout the United States and Europe. Virginia has appeared as a soloist with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra, INTY Ensemble, the OSU Wind Ensemble, OSU Symphony Orchestra and the WIU Symphony Orchestra. She is an active presence in the National Flute Association: performing at numerous conventions, previously serving as Coordinator of the Young Artist Competition and currently serving as a Board Member. An enthusiastic performer of contemporary music, Virginia has had the opportunity to work with many notable contemporary composers on their pieces, including Chen Yi, Derek Bermel, George Tsontakis, Jake Heggie, Michael Fiday and Moritz Eggert.

A native of Iowa City, Iowa, Dr. Broffitt received her Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she studied with Tadeu Coelho. She went on to receive a Master of Music degree and Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Her past teachers include Dr. Bradley Garner, Randy Bowman, Dr. Tadeu Coelho, Jack Wellbaum, and Dr. Irna Priore.

 

 

Artist Interview

Virginia Broffitt


We had the opportunity to ask Virginia a few questions. Check out her thoughts on preparing for competitions and relaxation techniques as well as advice for controlling nerves/performance anxiety.

 

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

This is a tough question - there are so many to talk about! If we focus on the qualities that make an excellent musical performance, I think that musical creativity and interpretation, communication with the audience, beauty and control of tone and pitch, collaboration skills, and technical facility are all incredibly important. Of course, this list could go on and on!

The bigger question is: how do we accomplish this? I believe that curiosity and independence are crucial skills we need to become successful musicians. If students have these skills, they will naturally be motivated and will build self-reliance in the practice room. They will be independent learners by seeking out information on their own and they will be open-minded and willing to try new techniques and explore new repertoire. They will be natural problem solvers in the practice room; rather than being discouraged by hearing someone who is better than them, they will try to find out how that person became so good and work towards that goal.

 

2. One of the classes you offer at OSU is a weekly piccolo class, similar to the class Jack Wellbaum taught at CCM. What types of topics do you cover? For those not familiar with Mr. Wellbaum’s class, can you give us an insight into what that would have been like?

Some of my fondest memories of CCM are from Mr. Wellbaum’s piccolo class. We met every Monday night; all of the students in the studio participated even though it wasn’t required. Each semester, he would give us an excerpt list from a past orchestral audition. We would spend the semester studying the excerpts on the list; in the fall semester, we would also study the repertoire on the NFA piccolo competition list. Everyone played every week, so we gained a lot of experience performing in front of each other. Mr. Wellbaum gave us a lot of insight into performing the repertoire and always had wonderful stories to share about his experiences in the orchestra. He was a very sweet and kind man but also expected us to work hard. He also emphasized that once you got a job, you had to make sure you kept the job. That would depend on 1) continuing to play well and 2) being a good colleague!  

At Oklahoma State, the class is structured very similarly. We use a different piccolo audition list as a guide each semester (the lists will either be for current auditions or past auditions). Everyone plays every week and we talk about different aspects of the excerpt - historical context, musical context, performance issues, etc. We also study solo piccolo repertoire to give everyone a well-rounded experience. I think it’s incredibly important that all flute students be able to play the piccolo, even if they don’t particularly like it. At some point in time, all flute players will need to be able to play it OR teach it. So, I make sure that everyone who graduates from my studio is able to play the instrument well!

 

3. How do you incorporate piccolo into your own 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?

I believe that piccolo playing will always strengthen flute playing. It definitely works on listening skills; pitch tendencies and technical issues on the piccolo are different than the flute, so we have to really work to listen and correct those issues. In order to play the piccolo well, one must be fearless but also quite flexible! These skills all carry over to flute playing. Additionally, I find that piccolo is a good tool to use if someone is coming off of a hand or arm injury. The instrument is easier to hold and weighs a lot less, so it is less taxing on the body than the flute.

Although I don’t play as much piccolo as I used too, I still regularly incorporate it into my practicing. It’s quite important to keep up your piccolo chops in case you get called to play a last-minute gig on piccolo! (I remember once having about 24 hours notice to play piccolo on the Bartok Rumanian Folk Dances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.) I also regularly try to program piccolo pieces on my recitals and encourage my students to do the same.

 

4. Chamber music can be a completely different experience than orchestral playing. How do you separate the two and what changes do you need to make in your playing to adjust?

I actually find that both experiences require a lot of the same skills. To succeed in either of these capacities, you must be incredibly flexible as a musician and you must be able to listen well while playing. A flutist must have the ability to adjust their tone to blend with an oboe, a trumpet, a cello, etc. Additionally, since many wind instruments have different pitch tendencies, we must be consistently listening and adjusting. It’s very difficult to get gigs and find people who want to perform with you if you can’t play in tune!  

I find both orchestral playing and chamber playing very enjoyable, but for different reasons. In chamber music, the musicians have more control over the final musical product, there is a strong collaborative spirit, and I frequently get to work and perform with my good friends. However, sitting in the middle of an orchestra for a Mahler symphony is an experienced that simply cannot be matched by any other type of performance.  

 

5. You’ve volunteered your time and talents for the National Flute Association for many years. What inspired you to get involved and what kinds of outlets within the organization have you been a part of?

The National Flute Association is an incredible organization. They create opportunities for flute players on so many different levels; they also work hard to promote the flute and music to the general public. I feel very passionate about the NFA because of the opportunities the organization has provided to me. I believe that winning the Young Artist Competition in 2004 and participating in the Piccolo Artist Competition in 2006 really helped jump-start my career. I am very grateful that I had those opportunities, so I am more than happy to volunteer with the organization and pay it forward! I first became involved as coordinator of the Young Artist Competition. I met so many amazing musicians in teachers in this process. It was a great deal of work, but was worth it. It has been fun to keep track of people who have competed over the years and see them launch their own careers. Now, I serve as a board member for the NFA. It has been quite interesting to be more involved in the business side of the organization. I believe the NFA is continuing to move in a positive direction, and I’m excited to be part of that!

 

6. As the winner of the 2004 NFA Young Artist Competition, how did you go about preparing for the competition?

I did a lot of physical practice and mental preparation. That summer, I was forced to step back and evaluate my own practice techniques because I knew that I could not waste time or risk practicing mistakes. My practicing became much more efficient and detail-oriented. I began to practice each piece at half-speed or less, ensuring everything was correctly placed, and that my tone color and pitch were always what I wanted. I also recorded myself more often than I had before. I would record myself playing a brief passage and then listen to it critically, thinking “what could I do to make that better?” Then, I would make it better. In each of my practice sessions, I spent as much time listening to recordings and evaluating myself as I did physically practicing. 

But, physical practice and technical preparation were only half of the battle. Preparing for the competition mentally was as equally important. I remember reading the book “Golf is not a Game of Perfect” by Dr. Bob Rotella as I was preparing for this competition. My teacher, Dr. Bradley Garner, had recommended it; even though it is a sports psychology book, 99% of the information was applicable to music performance. I also remember doing a lot of visualization: I envisioned myself performing in a ballroom in front of other flute players. I would think about how I would feel, what thoughts would be going through my head, and how I would deliver the music in a way with which I would be satisfied.

Lastly, I performed in front of people as much as possible. I would find whomever I could in the practice building at CCM and ask them to come listen to me. It didn’t matter what instrument they played, as long as they put the pressure on. This way, I would actually give a live performance of each piece at least once a day. Additionally, I gave a couple of recitals consisting of the semifinal and final round repertoire before the competition. This helped works out some of the nerves and helped me find where I needed to focus more in practice and in the performance.

   
7. Performing in the final round, amongst some of the highest critics: our peers and other great flute players, what advice can you give to those preparing as far as nerves/performance anxiety are concerned?

Play in front of people as much as possible! You need to get used to how your body and mind react to being nervous. Give a few recitals beforehand to work out some of the kinks. Think through your pieces mentally (or even better, sing through them); be sure to remain focused and engaged the whole time. Also, do research on performance preparation and performance anxiety. Each musician prepares slightly differently; everyone must find their own path and what works best for them. But, they must first get the information. There are a lot of great resources out there on this topic, so use them! Here’s the bottom line: It doesn’t matter if you can play each piece perfectly in the practice room if you don’t have the mental stamina to carry it out in performance.

With that said, also remember to enjoy the experience. Trust the preparation that you have done. In a cutthroat world of note-perfect performances, don’t forget to make music, and don’t forget that this is what you love to do!


8. What types of techniques do you talk about in your relaxation seminars?

While I haven’t led a relaxation seminar in awhile, I do focus on relaxation and tension release quite a bit in my teaching. In working on relaxation, I try to ‘displace’ relaxation and tension. If I find someone playing with very tense wrists and/or fingers, instead of asking them to relax their fingers, I’ll ask them to think about relaxing their elbow or to think about relaxing from their elbow. Or, if someone is playing with a tense jaw, I’ll ask him or her to relax their ears or relax their molars. Tension can very easily spread through your body. If one part of your body is tense, chances are, another spot nearby will be tense as well. If you can focus on relaxing something nearby, it will usually carry through to the place where you are noticing tension.

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

Dedication and patience. To find success as a musician, you must work incredibly hard, be very disciplined, and extremely dedicated. But, having these qualities does not guarantee success! Opportunities that you come across may not always work out, but that is not a reason to give up. You just try, try again and need to be patient enough to wait for the right opportunity.

 

10. Who were/are your biggest influences on your flute playing?

All of my wonderful teachers! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study extensively with Tadeu Coelho, Brad Garner, Randy Bowman, and Jack Wellbaum. Each one of them served as an important mentor in different capacities and taught me so much about the flute, music, and life in general. I feel that all of my teachers played an important role in shaping the musician, teacher, and person that I am today. I will always be incredibly thankful for each one of them.

 

11. What's the most important thing to teach an upcoming flutist/student?

Discipline and humility. I think it is very important to be diligent and disciplined in practicing. But, I think that it is equally important to learn how to be a good colleague; part of this is being able to celebrate your peers’ successes externally, and your own successes internally.  

Also, musicians need to learn how to be resilient! We must be prepared to meet a lot of roadblocks along our musical path. We all have them. We just have to find a way to jump over them, or find a detour around them. Usually, it takes quite a bit of work to do that, but it will pay off. Roadblocks are not put in our path to stop us; they are there to challenge us.

 

12. What are the advantages/disadvantages of being a college flute professor compared to a full-time orchestral player?

As a professor, many aspects of my job do not involve playing the flute or teaching (email, university committees, faculty meetings, etc.). So, practice time is certainly limited and very precious! But, being able to teach such fantastic students every day is a huge advantage. I learn so much from each of my students and learn more about myself, as a teacher and musician, in almost every lesson. It has allowed me to evaluate exactly how I play the flute in order to explain it to my students. Through that process, I have discovered many weaknesses in my own playing but have also found many solutions. Additionally, I work with a terrific group of musical colleagues. It is wonderful to have so many talented musicians in the same building that are eager to collaborate on various creative projects.

 

13. What is your typical day and/or practice routine like?

One of the things that I love about my job is that all of my days are very different! It is a variety of teaching, practicing, emailing, rehearsing, etc. I try to vary my warm-up and fundamental work on a daily or weekly basis (I use Moyse, Wye, Taffanel and Gaubert, Kujala, Reichert, etc.). That way, I run the gamut with flute basics and don't get too bored doing the same routine everyday. Even though I mix things up, I always make sure to work on long tones, scales and arpeggios, harmonics, whistle tones, articulation, and breathing every day. The rest of my practice time is occupied by repertoire for upcoming projects, which varies quite a bit. Sometimes within a matter of weeks, I’ll perform as principal in an orchestra; give a series of solo recitals, and give chamber music performances. So, it is a wide range of repertoire!


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

Miyazawas were introduced to me by one of my teachers, Tadeu Coelho. I bought my first Classic model in 1998, and am still playing on the same one. When I needed to buy a lighter flute due to injury several years ago, I tried many different flutes, and always went back to the Miyazawa. I love my Miyazawa! 


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

Practice for the future. I find many students that will dedicate their practicing completely to an upcoming performance or audition and neglect their fundamentals. The primary goal of practicing should be to improve as a flutist and musician, not to simply improve on one piece of music. Practice in a way that will make you better next month, next year, five years from now, etc. Don’t let yourself ignore problems in your fundamental playing for the sake of working out the technique in one measure of your repertoire. Often, if you work out your fundamental technical ability, the issues you encounter in your repertoire will be much easier to tackle.

 

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