FLUTE Member Of The Week
September 20 to 26, 1999
I am Julia Vasquez of Missoula, Montana. I’ve been an avid reader of the FLUTE list since Flute-m. Getting to know other flutists has been wonderful along with learning something new everyday. I have been piccolo/acting principal/2nd flute of the Missoula Symphony and principal flute with the Missoula Children’s Community Theatre for the past 13 years.

I'm not sure anyone is interested in my 'life story', but here goes...


Music could always be heard in my home. My father put on classical music the instant he arrived home each night. He was a french horn player (Illinois Valley Orch), my mother was a trombonist (but not since high school), and my siblings played trumpet and oboe. I was born in Dekalb, IL, where my father was attending Northern IL University. I began piano lessons at age seven with my grandmother. Every morning for the next 11 years(!) I would get up before everyone else, and practice piano. (I didn't think this was unusual until I had children of my own.) We lived in Wood dale, Ottawa, and Elmhurst, IL.

At age nine, I started playing cornet with the Elmhurst, IL school band. After two weeks I decided to try my aunt's old Artley flute instead. Love at first sight! I can't believe I played that instrument for five years before getting a new, open hole Gemeinhardt for Christmas. (Now I have two Miyazawa flutes, Brannen and Weissman piccolos, and an Armstrong alto flute.) After a year in the Elmhurst band, we moved back to Ottawa. I started private flute lessons at age ten and played in the outstanding band programs in Ottawa through high school. I also began teaching flute lessons in high school. For my lessons with Glen Riggin, I drove to Dekalb (one hour each way) every week. I was in All state, the usual festivals, and pit orchestras for musicals. Union pay was good and I loved every job. One of my favorite gigs was playing in Bob McGrath's backup band.

For college, first I attended Luther in Decorah, Iowa. I switched to organ instead of piano and played for the first time in full orchestra, under Doug Meyer. The flute teacher was Roz Trotter and band director Fred Nyline. Roz was a great teacher! I met my husband-to-be in band (he's a bass trombonist). High points at Luther included: band tour in Europe, playing solo alto flute with the Nordic Choir in Washington, DC, and of course, orchestra. Roz encouraged me to consider flute performance as a career, and to switch to a music school. I was accepted at New England Conservatory and Tanglewood as a student of James Pappoutsakis.

Tanglewood was wonderful, and I learned how to practice for eight hours a day. I was principal in the chamber orchestra, and loved my lessons with Mr P. Watching the Boston Symphony rehearse was fascinating. I would chat with Doriot Anthony Dwyer about our hometowns in IL.

My junior and senior years were spent in Boston. What a great place for students! We had a blast. Many of the other conservatory students never left the school or dorm, but my roommate (a harpist) and I explored all we could. After I got my first car, an old Saab for $250, we traveled around New England as well, and freelanced as a flute/harp duo. I also taught flute at the Norwood public schools one day a week, which paid for all my tuition. Living expenses were earned by playing flute duets in the subway (that was fun!).

Describing life at a music conservatory could be a book in itself. It was perfect for me, with so many performance opportunities. I studied contemporary flute with John Heiss in addition to my regular lessons with Mr P. In my senior year, Mr P's health really began failing due to emphysema. He only taught a handful of us, who traveled to his house via subway. Mrs P would pick us up at the station, and our lessons were in an upstairs bedroom. Mr P was on oxygen, but could still get beautiful sounds out of his flute.

Of the many performances at NEC, one I can never forget was playing in a large flute choir (with fellow listers Renee Krimsier and Trygve Peterson) where each person played a different note in the chromatic scale - building up to a huge, screeching 'chord'. Orchestra was fantastic with many different conductors, wind ensemble under Frank Battisti was so enjoyable, and my varied chamber music coaches were inspirational. A week after graduation, I started work on my Masters degree at Northern IL University, where I was teaching assistant to Peter Middleton. Peter's teaching was an excellent contrast to Mr P: technical and analytical instead of intuitive and metaphorical. Orchestra director was Jacques Singer, close friend of Isaac Stern, who played a concert with us.

A week after graduating from NIU, I got married to the aforementioned trombonist (yes, we survived a three year long-distance relationship)! We lived in Iowa City, and I was fortunate to win my first pro audition, piccolo for the Cedar Rapids Symphony. This was a fun position, with Jan Boland and Jane Walker on flutes. Director was Rich Williams, and later, Christian Tiemeyer. Some high points were: pops concerts with Beverly Sills, Dizzy Gillespie, and Peter Nero, televised concerts, private flute students, teaching at Cornell College, working at Systems Unlimited with disabled children, and the birth of our first child.

We lived for a couple of years in Waukesha, WI, where our second daughter was born. I spent most of my time raising the children, but did play in the Waukesha band with Cynthia Stevens, taught privately, and subbed in the Waukesha Symphony.

Our next move was to Montana, where my husband got a job with the Western MT Clinic (Lolo satellite). We lived in Lolo for five years, then moved into our log cabin north of Missoula, near Snowbowl ski area. I started playing with the Missoula Symphony (Joseph Henry, director) right away and established my private studio. We also welcomed our third daughter to the family when she was three (my husband's niece). We love Montana's unlimited backpacking, hiking, and skiing opportunities. (Come visit - company's always welcome!)

During this time I've enjoyed attending the NFA conventions, especially playing in the Pro Flute Choirs and the opening concert flute choirs. One of my students played in the NFA high school flute choir and also was chosen to be in the All Northwest Orchestra. One of my adult students has just commissioned a piece by Jennifer Higdon, to be premiered by Laurel Ann Mauer in April 2000. I've given many solo recitals around MT and the Midwest, freelance for weddings, etc. and have been principal flute for the MT Chamber Orchestra and the Missoula International Choir Festival Orch. I enjoy playing several musicals each year with MCT, and have been soloist with the String Orch. of the Rockies. I am a founding member of the Missoula Community Concert Band, and have soloed several times with them.

A new and enlightening experience was being on the Beta Blocker Research Committee and helping write the completed paper available through the FLUTE list and published by Pan (British Flute Society). It was great getting to meet most of the committee, plus Helen and Larry, at the Chicago convention. Besides the conventions, I was able to attend the Victoria Music Festival one summer (along with list member Mary Byrne) and study with Bonita Boyd.

Besides my performance work, currently I teach the new flutists at our local grade school, volunteer at the high school, and adjudicate at district festivals. I can be heard on two CDs: Handel Sonata in C Major on á"áHandel for a Summer Eveningá"á and on the á"áMontana Power Symphony Premiere Concertá"á. This has gotten WAY too long, sorry about that. Thanks to everyone who has submitted their stories - they've all been fun to read!

Julia Vasquez


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