February's Featured Artist 2017Our Featured Emerging Artist for the month is Gina Luciani, described as "One of those amazing young flutists who has all the musical bases covered" by Jim Walker. An avid freelance musician in Southern California, Gina performs frequently in solo, chamber and orchestral settings and can be heard on many recordings in the film and television industry. She has collaborated with legendary artists such as Paul Coletti, Mike Garson, Colin Hay, James Newton Howard, Ronald Leonard, Rickey Minor, Jim Walker and John Williams.
Gina is the flute soloist for the upcoming films The Ballad of Lefty Brown and Birth of the Dragon and has recorded on many other projects including the Warner Bros feature Straight Outta Compton, Showtime's Emmy Nominated Penny Dreadful, Netflix's Emmy Nominated Chef's Table, BBC's Planet Earth II, League of Legends, Kate Nash's Girl Talk and ABC's The Middle. She has also performed with the world famous Wu-Tang Clan at the Coachella Music Festival.
Gina received her Bachelor of Music Degree in Flute Performance from the Colburn Conservatory of Music and her Master of Music Degree from the University of Southern California under the instruction of Jim Walker.
We had the opportunity to ask Gina a few questions. Click on the link to hear her thoughts on preparation for auditions, recording and performing with commercial artists such as Kate Nash and Glee as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. We’d love to hear about your experience performing the iconic “Down Under” with Colin Hay on ABC’s “Greatest Hits”! How did this come about and what were the biggest takeaways from your performance?
This performance was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only is the song known by everyone, it also has a very prominent flute part which is rare for pop songs. I grew up listening to the song on the radio and thought it was so awesome that flute was used in that way.
I almost missed this opportunity because I was supposed to be camping with friends (with no service!) the morning I got the call for the gig. I ended up coming home a day early for a wrap party for a show I worked on. Thankfully that happened, otherwise I’m sure they would have had to call someone else since the rehearsal was the next day.
The performance was for the finale episode of “Greatest Hits” and so there were a lot of incredible artists performing including Adam Lambert, Ariana Grande, Céline Dion, Flo Rida, En Vogue, John Legend, Nelly, New Edition, Richard Marx, Sheryl Crow, Kelsea Ballerini, Smash Mouth and Hunter Hays. It was incredible to be a part of a show with such incredible musicians.
It was an amazing opportunity to perform with Colin Hay and such a talented band. One thing that is very different performing pop music than classical is the way you interact with the audience. When I had my big solo in the middle of the song, the group of people by me were putting their hands up so that I’d give them a high five. I definitely wasn’t expecting that!
2. Diving into recording for tv and films, what productions have you been a part of and how does it compare to other performing outlets that are more common to players?
Some of the most recognized recordings I’ve worked on include Warner Bros feature “Straight Outta Compton”, Showtime’s Emmy Nominated “Penny Dreadful”, Netflix's Emmy Nominated “Chef's Table”, BBC's “Planet Earth II”, “League of Legends”, Kate Nash’s “Girl Talk”” and ABC’s “The Middle”. Recording for television/film/video games is incredibly different than most other jobs you have as a musician.
At least 90% of the time you don’t receive any of the music you will be recording ahead of time, so your sight-reading skills have to be in good shape. It is expected that every take has to be perfect which can be a lot of pressure. It is obviously stressful at times, but I really enjoy the challenges in recording. I have to keep my technique in tip-top shape because I never know what music is going to be put in front of me!
Many musicians dream of one day being a soloist or being in an orchestra. For me, my dream was to be a studio musician. I chose to study with Jim Walker not only because he is an incredible teacher and player, but also because he has played on well over 700 different soundtracks and I felt that I could learn so much from him. Also, the Colburn Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California are both in Los Angeles which is where a lot of studio work is done. I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to already be involved in recording.
3. Recently, you’ve been very active on Instagram, with over 20,000 followers. Can you tell us about the community you’ve built and your personal experience with Instagram?
I decided to have a more professional “flute/career” centered Instagram account a little over a year ago. At the time I had just over 300 followers. I wanted to be able to share my love of music with everyone and connect with others who had similar interests. I never thought it would develop into what it is now. It’s fun to interact with other musicians and music lovers from all over the world. There’s an incredibly supportive and positive community on Instagram and I’m very lucky to be a part of it.
4. What are your goals for your newest project – tutorials for flutists and musicians on YouTube? What types of audiences are you hoping to reach and/or educate?
This new series on my YouTube channel came about due to many of my followers on Instagram asking for advice on many different topics. I’m constantly asked tips on technique, career advice, how to choose an instrument and many other questions. I hadn’t realized that there was a need for flute/musician advice and I wanted to be able to help as many people as I can. With many schools cutting funding for arts programs, I feel that it is more necessary now than ever to provide music education to everyone on a free platform.
Some of my first topics that I’ll be covering are practice tips on how to play fast passages, orchestra etiquette, how to double tongue, and more flute basics such as how to assemble your flute, how to clean your flute and how to take care of your instrument. Within the next couple of months I’ll also be putting out videos on career advice, how to network and helpful tips for college auditions. I want to have a wide variety of videos that are helpful for flutists and musicians that are at any level, from beginners to advanced players.
5. Your website includes options for remote recording. Can you tell us more about this service you provide and the experience(s) you’ve had thus far?
A lot of people ask me exactly what a remote recording is. Remote recording is when I record different projects for clients in my home studio. I have an entire recording setup here and will play any number of different flutes as well as engineer the recording session. For the engineering aspect, I do a number of things including setting up the microphone and running the ProTools session.
I’ve worked with clients all over the world and mostly work on either songs (for a pop album) or film/tv soundtracks. Remote recording is used for a number of different reasons. Sometimes a composer needs a recording done within a day and doesn’t have time to bring the musicians into the recording studio. Another plus is that composers have access to musicians all over the world. They can pick their favorite musicians, no matter where they are located and have them record on their projects as long as the musician has a remote setup.
Projects that I’ve worked on include flute/piccolo/alto flute/bass flute as well as my ethnic flutes which include Dizi (Chinese flute), Ocarina, Bamboo Flutes, Fife, Irish Flute and Crystal Flute. There are times that composers write out exactly what they want me to play and other times that they ask me to improvise.
Each project is always different and exciting. I never know what I’ll be working on next.
6. How did you decide to start playing flute?
When I was really young I accompanied my mom to a music store to buy some piano music. I saw the tiny violins for little kids and told her I wanted to play violin. When she was looking into lessons for me, I was watching my favorite movie, “The Little Mermaid,” and asked her what the instrument was that Prince Eric played in the movie. When she told me that it was a flute, I immediately changed my mind about playing violin and started flute lessons.
7. You have performed with the Wu-Tang Clan at Coachella, recorded with commercial artists such as Kate Nash, performed on Glee, High School Musical 3, and Teen Wolf, as well as recorded for many soundtracks for films, in addition to other exciting projects. How did these opportunities come about?
I get called for my gigs in completely different ways. Most of the time it is through word of mouth and/or networking. You always hear that you should be nice to people you work with and “if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say it at all.” I truly believe in that statement. There are people that I now work with that I met in high school; back then I would have never dreamed that I would ever see them again. Mistakes made in the past will come back to haunt you, so it’s very important to not burn any bridges.
Also, I treat every gig I have like an audition, whether it’s a performance, recording, or anything else (no matter how “important” I think it is). I always give every job one hundred and ten percent. You never know who is going to hear you. In the future, a person you worked with may be in a position to hire you or give a referral. They can either want to work with you again or not depending on how well you did at the earlier gig.
Finally, it’s really important to be a “team player” as my teacher at both the Colburn Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California, Jim Walker, would say. It’s always so much better to work with someone who is pleasant to be around and is easy to work with.
8. As a winner in many competitions and auditions, how do you go about preparing for an important performance/audition? How do you conquer nerves?
While preparing for performances and auditions I organize a practice schedule to allow myself an adequate amount of time to learn the music. I like to be performance/audition ready at least two weeks ahead of the date.
As far as nerves go, I’ve gone through phases. I started playing flute when I was really young, and back then, I never got nervous. I remember seeing the older kids getting extremely nervous before a performance and I really didn’t understand why. Once I started high school, I started to get pretty nervous before a performance. That continued half way into my undergrad. A turning point for me is when I tackled my performance anxiety head on. I asked myself why I was so nervous. Once I figured that out and learned what worked for me to calm myself down (never playing on an empty stomach, meditation, visualization of the performance or audition beforehand) I actually was able to tame my nerves. Of course there are still times that I will be more nervous than others, but by finding out what works for me, I am able to handle the situation.
9. What does a typical day look like for you?
As a musician, I really don’t have a "typical" day. I will have anything from recording sessions (both at recording studios and remote recordings at my home studio), rehearsals, performances, meetings and lessons that I teach. Work always seems to come in waves. For awhile I’ll be extremely busy and then suddenly I won’t have anything for a short amount of time. I find it important to keep in shape when I have time off!
10. How do you approach daily practice? Do you have a specific routine you use?
I always begin with a warm up of tone studies, Taffanel and Gaubert and etudes. I typically practice in the early afternoon because that’s when I find that I am most alert and I get more accomplished.
Many people ask how many hours I practice a day. For me, I set goals for each day rather than practicing a certain amount of hours. In the past when I tried to practice for a scheduled time I would look at the clock and absentmindedly practice.
I figure out what I want to complete that day and practice until that happens. For example, I will give myself one page of a piece that I need to learn really well that day. That might take a half hour, or it might take five hours. If I finish quickly and want to do more, of course I’ll work on other things, but I find that practicing this way keeps me focused on accomplishing goals rather than how many more minutes I have left to practice.
11. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
I am now playing my second Miyazawa flute. Originally I decided on my first Miyazawa flute based on recommendations from my long-time teacher and mentor, Laurel Ann Maurer, who is also a Miyazawa Artist. I acquired my current flute after an extensive search process. I tried several flutes from many different makers and my Miyazawa was the clear winner. The projection and clarity of sound could not be beat and the tone color was unsurpassed. I am very pleased with the beauty and quality of both of my flutes. They have truly facilitated my growth as an artist.
12. If you had one piece of advice to give for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
One thing that is becoming more and more clear is that there is no one way to develop a career in music. It is important to find your own path and your own passions when carving out your career. It is very rare for someone to just be handed a career. You have to make your own opportunities in order to succeed.