FLUTE Member Of The Week
July 31 to August 6, 2000
I grew up in a very musical family. My parents both taught piano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. They were students at the Curtis, and never left. My mother, who is 86, is still on the major piano faculty, and teaches a sizeable private schedule as well. She continues to be such a great inspiration to me. My father, who died in 1997, was a vocal coach and accompanist to many great soloists, such as Anna Moffo, Efrem Zimbalist, William Primrose and William Kincaid. My father was always available and willing to play for me, and we spent many wonderful hours playing through much of the flute repertoire. Talk about being spoiled! I assumed that all pianists know how to follow every nuance and breath, and, until leaving Philadelphia, didn't discover that this is not always true.

    I had musical support in many ways - I was blessed with an early music education. I studied sight-reading and solfège from the age of seven. I started piano lessons at about the same time. This was not easy, with two such accomplished pianists in the house! When my teacher moved away, I begged to be allowed to switch instruments. My mother wanted me to play the clarinet - I pleaded for the harp. Somehow, we compromised on the flute. Mr. Kincaid recommended to my father that I begin studying with John Krell. My mother, familiar with my lack of discipline from her piano work with me, wisely hired students from The Curtis to practice with me 5 days each week. What an incredible help this was. It not only insured that I practiced during those first few crucial years, but also taught me how to practice efficiently.

    I studied for two years with Mr. Krell. He was a remarkable teacher, and especially well versed in teaching breathing, and what we called "diaphragm support" back in those days. I can recall lying on my back with a heavy dictionary on my stomach, at other times blowing all the blue off of a candle flame, and ultimately trying not to be mortally injured when Mr. Krell suddenly poked his flute into my stomach to see if I was supporting! He was a very thorough and devoted teacher, worthy of all the respect and affection that I have always had for him. At 13, I started working with Mr. Kincaid. Because of his affiliation with my father, he would not accept any fee for these lessons. This was not an agreeable arrangement for my parents, so I would take to every lesson a bottle of aged single malt scotch . . . which was never rejected! Two years later, there were to be three openings at the Curtis. I auditioned and was accepted, and started just after my 15th birthday. Curtis had a special tutoring department for younger students, so I finished high school and did my work at the Institute simultaneously.

    I attended two masterclasses with Marcel Moyse, and studied with him for two summers at Marlboro. He and Kincaid were both such wonderful teachers, but so incredibly different. Mr. Kincaid was so reserved and dignified, with such a keen mind. His musical ideas were well thought out, and shared in a very logical and orderly manner. And he was very demanding - I still remember the agony of having to memorize some of Anderson opus 60! Ugh! In contrast, Moyse demanded nothing of me - he was just there if I wanted a lesson. And what a lesson! I think my longest lesson with Moyse was almost 4 hours - he had seemingly endless energies. He would sing and dance around the room to convey his musical ideas, and if I were lucky enough to do what he was requesting, he would give me such a warm smile and an affectionate pat on the cheek. I was extremely fortunate to have studied with a few of the greatest teachers of the twentieth century.

    After graduating from the Curtis, I freelanced in Philadelphia for several years playing mostly for Young Audiences, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the opera companies. There wasn't much work around for flutists, but they needed someone to play piccolo, something that most flutists didn't want to do in those days. I loved it. In January of 1969, while on tour with the Pennsylvania Ballet, I received a call inviting me to audition for the Baltimore Symphony. I won the audition, and had my first rehearsal with the Baltimore Symphony the day the ballet tour ended. I've loved my time with the Symphony. I've worked with several wonderful music directors, Sergiu Comissiona, David Zinman, and now Yuri Temirkanov. I've learned so much from them, so much from the musicians in the orchestra, and a lifetime of learning from the members of my section.

    Four years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The pain in my muscles, particularly my neck and shoulders made it impossible for me to play for several months. I'm told that 86% of people with Fibromyalgia eventually have to change jobs. But we know that performing music isn't just a job, whether or not it's what we do to make a living. At work, I now sit in a special chair that helps support my arms. My section generously helps me cover flute parts that would require me to play flute for long periods of time, as this is still painful. But I'm here, and I love what I do more than ever before. And I have grown to love teaching more than I ever would have thought possible. I feel privileged to share even a small part of someone's musical journey.

    In 1993, Jan Gippo, principal piccolo in St. Louis, asked me to chair the Piccolo Committee of the National Flute Association, a committee he created five years earlier. I accepted and for the next four years tried my best to keep up with Jan's brilliant and creative ideas. During my tenure I am most proud to have had a small part in the commissioning of the Liebermann Piccolo Concerto, premiered by Jan Gippo at the New York NFA Convention in 1996. It's a wonderful piece, and I had the pleasure to perform it with the Baltimore Symphony in 1998. At this summer's NFA Convention, I'll be premiering "The High and the Mighty", for piccolo and piano by Michael Daugherty, on the John Krell Memorial concert.

    My 25-year-old daughter, Genia, has decided to go back to school, and I'm very proud of her. She is a strong, intelligent, sensitive, loving and beautiful young woman who delights me in every way. I share my home with a cat, Suki - but it may be more accurate to say that she shares the house with me. She has me very well trained. She detests the piccolo, but has the good sense to get as far away from it as possible - a luxury not afforded the members of our second violin section. I always carry extra earplugs for anyone sitting in my vicinity, and while I can't quite say that this has endeared me to the second violin section, they do seem to appreciate the consideration.

Laurie Sokoloff


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