An Incredible Experience

“Yesterday I had the great honor to sample some of your wonderful flutes. It was an incredible experience! The staff were knowledgeable and friendly in helping me find great models and even putting up with my endless stream of questions. Every model that I had a chance to play was inspirational! Miyazawa is certainly top notch, I know that someday I will have the joy to call a Miyazawa my own.”


David Le

We had the opportunity to ask David a few questions. Check out his thoughts on preparation for auditions, his approach to daily practice as well as advice for upcoming flutists.

1. What is the most valuable lesson the flute (or music) has taught you?

The value of hard work and persistence. Not only in music, but in all aspects of life. Learning to be disciplined and patient in my musical education has helped me become a more successful person overall. I don’t think of myself as someone who is an extreme talent, but I do have an extreme passion for music. I’m learning every day and enjoy the work it takes to achieve my goals. In short, never give up! Keep trying and your hard work will never betray you!

2. What music are you currently inspired by?

Of course, I find inspiration by listening to some of the most famous musicians in the world. I love to listen to pianists and violinists, and am especially drawn to the artistry of Martha Argerich and Anne-Sophie Mutter. However, I am also inspired every day by the artistry of my dear friends and colleagues. My friend Sarah Howard (you may know her as “The Lifting Flutist”) is a great source of inspiration. If you know Sarah, you also know that she has a huge personality, loves to laugh, and can play the Mendelssohn “Scherzo” while dragging a ton of weights across the floor! I recently had the pleasure of hearing Sarah perform the Ibert Concerto in memory of her mother, which was such a gorgeous and touching performance. I was so drawn to her personal and intimate musicianship. I aspire to be able to communicate like this everyday!

3. What musician has had the largest influence on your playing?
I don’t think it is possible to only name one influence. I believe everyone is a product of many influences that have impacted them equally. Of course, my three teachers have all been enormous influences on me. 

My first teacher was Barbara Prescott, who taught me the the value of strong fundamentals. She always told me that without them, I could never do the music justice. I didn’t start taking lessons until I was 15 and by then, had developed a bad habit of not counting when I played. I can still hear her voice shouting, “ONE-AND-TWO-AND…” until I gained the ability to do it on my own! We sightread duets at the end of every lesson which helped me learn to listen and be accountable for my own playing. When I left Florida, I passed many of my students on to her and am so happy they get to have the same experience I had. We still play duets when I visit home.

Dr. Kim McCormick was my teacher at the University of South Florida, where I completed my undergraduate studies. Of the many lessons she taught me, I think the most important one was to “work hard and be a good person.” We still talk often and she is a huge source of support for me in my life and music. Dr. McCormick taught me how to set goals for myself and how to solve problems in a way that kept music-making a positive experience. She had high expectations for me but was always kind, pushing me to be better. We covered a lot of the repertoire and I was allowed to express myself freely. 

Currently, I am studying with Marina Piccinini at the Peabody Conservatory. When I stumbled upon her recordings of the Bach Sonatas and Franck Sonata in 2012, I was immediately inspired by her virtuosity and expression. Studying with her is a dream come true and I never imagined it would be a reality. Marina has an incredible way of bringing the hidden artistry of out each of her students. I’ve learned to be more focused in my work and she continues to encourage me to look at music from all the possible angles to find my independent voice. There is no limit to how much we can learn and how well we can perform. With Marina, the possibilities are endless. She is an incredible inspiration in life and music and I am looking forward to continuing my education with her.

4. As a winner in many competitions and auditions, what preparation tips can you give others on how to go about preparing for an important performance/audition? How do you conquer nerves?

Practice, practice, practice! I think competitions and auditions are a great way to learn how to set goals. Before you begin, get well-organized. Write down the repertoire requirements and application information for every competition you are interested in. This way, you can have a timeline in mind of how much time you have to prepare, when recordings need to be made, what repertoire can be used for more than one competition, et cetera. 

As you become more comfortable with the repertoire you are preparing, start performing for others – and do it a lot. Play for friends, teachers, even strangers! When I was preparing for graduate school auditions, I asked all the conductors and wind faculty at my undergraduate institution if I could play mock auditions for them. This is a good way to overcome nerves. The more I performed for others, the more comfortable I became. I still got nervous but with each performance, I learned to tame it – the feeling of anxiety diminished as I gained confidence. I suggest recording your performances so you can listen back to make notes on what went well and what didn’t go well each time. A week before the performance, play through your program for a different person everyday. 

The audience is on your side. The panel of judges in a competition are all supportive; they understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. Don’t be afraid, everyone wants you to succeed. Finally, be sure to have fun on the big day! Believe in the hard work you’ve done and all the preparation will pay off!

5. What upcoming performances do you have that you are currently looking forward to?       

I’m looking forward to performing a few recitals during the summer. I’m performing for a charity event benefitting United States Armed Force Veterans in my hometown of Tampa, Florida in July. The recital features an all-American program with works such as the Copland Duo, Liebermann Sonata, and Carter Scrivo in Vento. I’m also performing an “East Meets West” program sometime during the summer that will include the Uebayashi Sonata, Fukushima Mei, and Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.

6. How do you approach daily practice? Do you have a specific routine you use?

Since I’m still a student, I have a lot of time to practice. I practice about 4-6 hours a day, depending on my schedule with classes and any rehearsals. Plenty of time is spent on securing and improving my fundamentals through daily exercises. I’m a morning person so I start early everyday with a five minute warm-up. I enjoy playing something lyrical like the Aria from the Taktakishvili Sonata or the Barber Canzone. It’s a nice way for my flute and I to say, “Good morning!” After that, I continue with long tones, harmonics, vibrato, and wide intervals. Then, on to Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises to cover the major/minor/chromatic scales, as well as thirds/fourths/sixths, and the whole tone scales. I like variety in my daily exercises so as weeks go, I add exercises from different sources such as Reichert or Maquarre. Time is also devoted to articulation with things such as the second movement of Bach’s C-Major Sonata and the orchestral excerpts from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Saint-Saen’s Carnival of the Animals! I always start the day off with work on my fundamentals. If I can give the most basic aspects of my playing attention every day, applying them to my music makes it easier. 

Once I’ve completed daily exercises, then I practice repertoire, school assignments, orchestral excerpts, et cetera. I always have a journal in bag to write down everything I’ve done, as well as make notes on my own thoughts and discoveries. 

7. What are your plans after graduation and/or what are your career goals?

In addition to a career in performance, I’ve always known that I want to be a college/university flute professor one day. Teaching is an especially important part of my musical life. During my undergraduate studies, I maintained a private studio of twenty students. Currently, I am on the flute faculty of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program. Inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema, OrchKids brings music into the lives of children from underprivileged backgrounds. Teaching is such a rewarding experience for me. It brings me joy to be able to pass on the lessons my own teachers taught me and help students on a path that allows them to grow as a unique individual. After graduating from Peabody, I have aspirations to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.

8. What are your other passions outside of music?

I’m a huge, huge foodie. I love to cook and explore new restaurants. When most people travel to a new city, they’re excited about discovering landmarks, museums, et cetera. I get excited about where I’m going to eat and more importantly, WHAT I’m going to eat! Growing up, I enjoyed cooking for my family and now that I’m older and living on my own, I enjoy throwing “food parties” at the apartment for my friends. It sounds mushy, but making food for my friends and family is just another way I can express my love for them. If you don’t believe me, check out my Instagram (dleflute)…my delicious meals are all I ever post! (Well, maybe a few music-related posts here and there.)

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

The first time I ever tried a Miyazawa flute was at the 2012 National Flute Association Convention in Las Vegas. I was in the market for a new instrument and when I played that flute, I was amazed by the wide palette of tonal colors and the fast action of the Brögger Mechanism. After the convention, the family at Miyazawa sent me two flutes along with a whole selection of headjoints for trial. I knew it was meant to be when I realized the serial number of the flute I ended up buying matched the flute I tried in that exhibit hall! I love my Miyazawa!

10. If you have one piece of advice for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?

Never give up. As a musician, rejection will become a common experience. However, no one can make you give up your love for music and the flute. If you ever feel upset about it, think about what brought you to the flute and music in the first place. The most successful people in any path in life are the ones who can get back up after being knocked down. I think of rejection as a learning experience, a chance to reflect and improve. Work hard and try again, your perseverance will pay off in the end! 

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