FLUTE Member Of The Week
June 28-July 4, 1999

 

That's me (Judy Sammel) on the left, with the bass flute, with a newly-formed flute quartet called the Charles St. Quartet.  I'm really pleased to have been chosen as a Flute Member of The Week.  The Flute List has been such a great source of information for me; the wealth of talent and knowledge among the list members is really astounding. 

 Here is an excerpt from the Allegro from Reicha's Sinfonico for Flute Quartet, performed by the Charles St. Quartet (RealAudio)

I grew up on Long Island, New York, and I started playing flute in the New York state public schools in third grade.  Like my sister and most of the other kids in the neighborhood, I wanted to play clarinet.  I went to the first day of instrumental music class, and the teacher took a look at the huge gap between my front teeth and said, "Why don't you play flute, instead?"  I remember going home and bursting into tears about not being able to play clarinet; but in the 30-odd years since then, I've come to the conclusion that having had terrible teeth was the best thing that could have happened to me, musically speaking, since I really love the flute, and am not terribly crazy about clarinet.

My family moved to Baltimore when I was 12, and I continued to play in public school band & orchestra, including several painful seasons of  marching band in high school that I would just as soon forget.  I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Preparatory Department of the Peabody Institute, where I studied flute with Kathleen Clarke.  The Prep was a wonderful place to study.  We were offered music theory and keyboard harmony classes, as well as the opportunity to participate in recitals, repertoire classes, and a variety of ensembles.  I almost played in the Prep Orchestra, too. I went to the first rehearsal, and since there were only two flute players who showed up, the conductor (a Peabody Conservatory grad student) told us both that we could play with the group that semester.  By the second rehearsal, another flute player had suddenly decided he wanted to play, and I was unceremoniously dumped.   I recall giving the conductor a serious Piece of My Mind about this shabby treatment.  Well, look where it got me.  I'm playing occasional amateur gigs around town, and he's conducting the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra [Hugh Wolf].  Oops.....

From 1977-1981, went to Towson State University in Maryland.  I started as music education major where I ended up having to learn to play a little bit of everything:  oboe, piano, guitar, percussion, and trombone (except for 7th position, because my arms aren't quite long enough).  I studied flute with Robin McKee and briefly with Sara Nichols.  During my undergraduate days, I bought the flute that I'm currently playing on--a handmade Haynes--which I still enjoy playing very much.  In my junior year, I switched into the mathematics program at the University. (One day, a light bulb went off in my head, and I decided it would be easier to make a living doing math, and have music as a hobby, rather than the other way around.)

Almost immediately after graduating, I started work as a mathematician for the U.S. Government. I started gravitating toward Computer Science after I'd worked there for a few years, and managed to pick up an M.S. in Computer Science during the evenings. I've been with the Government for 18 years now.  In 1988, I took an assignment in Stuttgart, Germany. Besides all of the exciting opportunities for European travel, I had some outstanding musical opportunities there as well.  I played in pit orchestras for musical theater with some of the other U.S. Government employees stationed there, performed with the Herrenberg Stadtorchester (a community group), and did some perfoming/arranging/synthesizer/sound effect work with an English-speaking theater group in the German community. My participation with the group in Herrenberg was an excellent example of the phrase "Music is the International Language".  I knew very little German at the time, but I walked into a rehearsal one night and asked if I could play.  My flute spoke for me--I was able to participate in the group without any problems.  I also performed regularly for church services at the chapel on the military base at which I worked, and performed solos on two recitals. I performed flute duets with a friend on the Königstrasse in Stuttgart a couple of times, and earned enough change from passersby for drinks afterward; it was lots of fun.

I returned to Maryland in 1992, but then took an assignment in the Boston area in 1993. What a wonderful place for flutists! I performed on alto and bass flutes with the Indian Hill Arts and Nashua (NH) flute choirs, including a couple of performances with Paula Robison as soloist, where the flute choirs played accompaniment.  Since I lived fairly close to Paula, I was given the privilege of driving her home from one of the performances.  I was a bit nervous, so I ended up babbling the whole way home.  So, after an hour or so with Paula Robison, I still know next to nothing about her, but she knows all about me! I purchased alto and bass flutes during my stay in Boston, and found out that this is an excellent way to get invited to play places, regardless of your level of talent.  I performed on flute and piccolo with the Longwood Symphony and Harvard University Summer School Orchestras while I was there. In what is one of the most memorable highlights of my musical experience to date, I  was given a solo bow by Longwood's excellent conductor, Francisco Noya, for the piccolo part in Tchaikovsky's 6th after a performance we did in Boston's Jordan Hall.  I did some desktop publishing for the Longwood Symphony and the Greater Boston Flute Association while I was there. (Again, I found that having a laser printer gets you opportunities, regardless of your level of talent.)  I also performed flute duets with a friend for Afternoon Tea at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, and on the street in the town of Ayer.  So, my current claim to fame is that I've been a street musician on two continents.

I moved back to Maryland in 1995. Since then, I've performed with the Columbia Concert Band (including as a soloist), the Frederick Flute Choir, and have filled in with the Gettysburg Symphony, Columbia Orchestra, and Baltimore Philharmonia Orchestra on occasion. In 1996, the Concert Band did a concert tour to the Netherlands which was sponsored by the Koninklijke Stadharmonie Phileutonia, a wonderful musical organization in Helmond in the Netherlands.  In 1997, I participated in the American Flute Orchestra tour of France, where I was the official Internet geek, and assisted a few participants with sending e-mail home from Cybercafes (and a Cybercave) in various places we visited. For the past four years, I've played flute and piccolo in the pit orchestra for the annual  Hexagon charity show in Washington, D.C.  This year, I was able to play the show on a brand new piccolo that I've just purchased (a Burkart-Phelan). I like the instrument very much--Rossini overtures, here I come! My latest endeavor is participating in a flute quartet (the Charles St. Quartet, pictured above.)

In the computer/music arena, I do some music engraving with Finale®, some MIDI sequencing, and  play around with an AKAI 3020 MIDI wind controller and Kurzweil PC88MX performance controller (keyboard). I'm also a certified Internet junkie.

I had an interesting few months starting last November (1998), when I faced erroneous criminal charges for cable fraud, because I subscribed to Comcast@home cable modem service without Comcast cable television service, and the two divisions of Comcast didn't communicate well enough to realize that I was not stealing service from them. This incident has been getting some media attention lately (among Internet geeks, anyway.)

When I'm not working or playing flute or extricating myself from The Law, I like to spend time relaxing in my hot tub in the backyard. I also enjoy international travel; I took 3 months off in 1992 to visit most of western Europe, a couple places in Russia, and the Middle East.
 

Judy Sammel
visit Judy's home page


Return to Featured Member Archive