December's Featured Artist
Founded in 2007, In Sterio has made their mark across the country inspiring young and not-so-young musicians to find their own creative voice. They have held residencies at elementary, middle and high schools from New Jersey to Iowa, and have been sought after Guest Artists at many Universities including James Madison University, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Milwaukee/Whitewater and the University of South Florida. In Sterio was invited to perform full programs of their original works on two occasions at the 2011 NFA Convention in Charlotte, NC after successful appearances for the past three years in Anaheim, NYC and Kansas City.
We had the opportunity to ask In Sterio a few questions. Click on the link to hear their thoughts on their influences, balancing the friendship and professional aspects of the duo as well as advice for an upcoming flutist.
1. How was In Sterio formed and who or what are your influences?
One of the major musical influences in our lives has been and continues to be fellow Miyazawa Artists, ZAWA! (Jill Felber & Claudia Anderson). We were both lucky enough to study with Jill in Santa Barbara, CA, although at different times. We actually met at Flute Focus, a summer master class program, and became instant friends. After performing together for Shivhan’s Master’s recital, it was clear that we had something special. We spent the better part of a year traveling between Hawaii and California developing the concept of “In Sterio” and learning the ins and outs of each other’s playing. In doing so, we found that our strengths are very different. However, this actually works to our advantage as it allows us to constantly push each other to a higher level.
Another influence of ours is Greg Pattillo and Project. These guys stretch the boundaries of their instruments and make music that is accessible to not only flute players, but to all musicians and non-musicians. As In Sterio, we have shared the passion for bringing flute music to the masses, and we feel that Greg and Project have paved the way. We hope to do the same by stretching and expanding the boundaries of the flute duo repertoire, specifically, while exploring as many styles as possible.
2. With that in mind, your music encompasses many genres of music. What made you decide to go this route, and where does the music you play come from?
We both come from classically trained backgrounds. Shivhan received her Master’s degree in Flute Performance as Jill Felber’s Teaching Assistant, is Principal Flutist of the Ottumwa Symphony and frequently plays with orchestras throughout Iowa. Erica served as Assistant Principal Flute/Piccolo of the Honolulu Symphony for three years, and is currently Piccoloist with the Omaha Symphony and Second Flutist with the Des Moines Symphony. Although we enjoy performing classical repertoire, we feel a deep connection to other types of music as well. Not only is the classical repertoire for flute duo limited, but a large void exists in the repertoire for other genres. Our goal is to fill that void with the highest quality of playing, while creating the sounds of a commercially accessible ‘flute duo’.
We started out by arranging music that we felt filled some of those gaps. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we found this equally limiting, and so began our journey of writing our own music. This has given us the freedom to write any kind of music - whether it be Irish, Pop, Trance, Jazz, World or New Age - while putting our ‘In Sterio stamp’ on it all. Most of our performances are made up of our original compositions, but we still include some of our first arrangements as well as some classical duets.
3. Because of the different genres of music you play, at what kinds of venues do you typically perform?
That’s one of the great things about what we do. It turns out that opening the doors to more genres also opens the doors to more venues. We find ourselves (and our music) equally at home in coffee shops and bars as we are in theatres and intimate recital halls. These are each rewarding in different ways, but our favorite and most rewarding venue is a school. We visit elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and Universities, and nothing beats the look in students’ eyes when they realize the unique possibilities of making music with their instruments. Music programs are suffering throughout the country, and getting students excited about music helps validate those programs. We love nothing more than when we hear that we’ve revitalized someone’s excitement about their instrument, or when they tell us that they never knew the flute could play such “cool” music. If we can inspire just one kid to keep playing and keep music a part of his/her life, then we’ve done well.
4. What is your typical rehearsal schedule like?
This is an interesting question to answer because we have never actually lived in the same state before! When we met, Shivhan was living in California while Erica was living in Hawaii. Presently, Shivhan lives in Iowa and Erica in Nebraska, so it's a little easier to get together. On average, we probably see each other once or twice a month. The rehearsals are pretty intense, as we have a lot to cover in such a short time. Because of this, we do a considerable amount of individual work so that our rehearsals can be detailed and efficient. However, we are in contact on a daily basis, mainly through emails, since there is a surprising amount of work that has to be done ‘behind the scenes', outside of the music.
5. Being best friends, how do you balance that friendship with the professional side of In Sterio?
Very carefully! There is definitely a balance that is necessary to make our situation work. While our friendship is one of the main things that makes In Sterio unique and ultimately successful, it also has the potential to be problematic when it comes to the 'business'. In addition to being friends and performing partners, we are our own managers, booking agents, marketers, sound women, accountants, travel agents, etc… so, we need to be each other's main cheerleaders and supporters.
Our friendship came before the duo, and was easy from the start. We've always been on the same page with big picture things in life, and that has translated well to our duo. Since we are so alike, we are rarely in conflict when it comes to the vision, path and goals of In Sterio. But, we are different enough that we each bring something special to the table. We've found that the key to a successful partnership is to respect and appreciate those distinctive qualities, so that we can use both our similarities and differences to elevate our work. Our friendship, however, always comes first. As a result, there are MANY bouts of hysterical, out-of-control laughter in our rehearsals and time together… which is the most important thing: to have fun doing what you love!
6. Do you have any new projects in the works?
Yes! We are always working on something new. Currently, we are in the process of publishing some of our original music as well as releasing another CD in 2012. We will be collaborating with some exciting artists for this CD, as well, so it should be an exciting year!
7. Who are the most played artists on your ipod?
Shivhan: I definitely listen to a wide variety of music and who I listen to does change from time to time. Recently, however, I've been listening to a ton of Adele, Marconi Union (electronic/ambient music), Koplant No (jazz/electronic fusion), Amy Winehouse and Björk. Other staples include Damien Rice, Erykah Badu, John Mayer, Cranberries, Boards of Canada, Andrew Bird and Air. I really don’t listen to the radio often. But, my all time favorite will always be Michael Jackson. In my opinion, he is still the greatest entertainer of all time. Growing up, he was one of my main musical influences and had a huge impact in my development as a musician.
Erica: I listen to the radio a LOT to hear what the newest trends are in pop music and end up drawing inspiration from the hit-makers of today. I won't deny that I rock out to girl anthems ;) … But, the artists who will always have a place on my playlists are Sting, Michael Jackson, Ephraim Lewis, Muse, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson (guilty pleasure!), Scissor Sisters, Stevie Wonder, Adele, and Regina Spektor (to name a few…).
8. What are your interests/hobbies outside of music?
Shivhan: This is a difficult question for me because my life pretty much revolves around music! I’m constantly surrounded by music – both at work and at home. I don’t really watch TV other than a couple of shows on DVD (Arrested Development & Sex and the City, etc). Iowa City has a really great live music scene, and I usually go see live music about once or twice a week (typically jazz or soul/funk). There’s nothing like being out with friends and being surrounded by great music played by great musicians. I also really like to do yoga and tai chi and mainly go to classes taught by a specific teacher because I really love the music she plays during the class. Art is another huge love and interest of mine. I love visiting modern art museums & incorporating visuals to music. And I can always go for a good card game as well!
Erica: Since the newest addition to our family came into our lives, a beautiful baby girl named Avery, most of my interests revolve around learning about this tiny and fascinating person! Outside of that, I love wine, food and a good conversation. The precious moments we get to spend with friends are always centered around those things. When the weather permits, my husband schools me playing tennis and I pretend to know what I'm doing. I've recently begun learning Chess, and I'm totally addicted to Words With Friends! (username: E.Peel) :)
9. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
Before we even met each other, we had individually searched for the perfect flute. It was exciting to find that after trying every brand of flute, we had both come to the same conclusion: Miyazawa was clearly the best! As soloists, we each have a unique sound yet when we play together, we are able to blend effortlessly. Having the freedom to play anything from classical music to Irish, pop, rock, jazz and funk, we have found the versatility we need in Miyazawa! We are confident that we are playing the absolute best instruments out there, supported by an amazing company - we love our Miyazawas!
10. If you had one piece of advice to give an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
Probably the most valuable lesson we’ve learned during our time together is to be true to who we are and what we love, even if it doesn’t please everyone. We’ve been told that our music is not classical enough, and we’ve been told that it’s too classical! Whatever it is, it’s “us”. It’s who we are and what we love, and that’s the important thing. If you stick to that, then most people will see it and appreciate you for it.
Another important lesson we’ve learned in our individual lives is to embrace opportunity and change. If at some point your life’s “master plan” doesn’t feel quite right, listen to your gut. We’ve both gone down different musical paths than we had planned, but by being honest with ourselves about it, we’re now doing something exciting, original and incredibly rewarding. And, we’re having a blast doing it!