FLUTE Member Of The Week
August 16 to 22, 1999
First of all, I was born in Fort Monmouth, NJ in September 22, 1964. My mother claims that it was nearly as hot as most of the U.S. has been this past week; and when she left the hospital a week later my father had to dig the car out of the snow!

My parents met in an English class at the University of Alabama. They went out for coffee and began their relationship. My father now confesses to hate drinking coffee, but was a good excuse to ask my mother out. One of my mothers biggest passion is coffee...

My father has had a couple of jobs in Huntsville, Alabama that involved the space program. Not only did he make parts for Saturn 5, and for the shuttles, but worked on the "Calibration Committee". Some may now know Huntsville for the "Space Camp" at Marshal Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville's fame with space, science and research first started with the band of German scientists, the most important being Werner Von Braun. My father was fortunate to meet him shortly after moving to Huntsville.

I went to Roger B. Chaffee elementary school and later V.I. Grissom High School, named after the astronauts that died in 1967 at the Kennedy Space and Rocket Center. While in high school, I got my first few chances to play professionally with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. I was the young artist winner my senior year,[I played the first movement of the Mozart Concerto in D.] and I played piccolo with the Huntsville Symphony in a run-out pops concert.

I attended Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, MD for my bachelors degree in flute. There I studied with Britton Johnson until my senior year. As a result of Britton Johnson's illness the previous spring, I studied with Tom Perrazzoli for my senior year. From my freshmen year, Peabody had a contract with Julius Baker to come and give six master classes a year as well as private lessons. I opted for private lessons and had many with Mr. Baker.

Peabody also had Steve Underwood, Thomas Nyfinger, Kazuo Tokito, Robert Willoughby (who later became a faculty member at Peabody) give master classes. The Baltimore Flute Club also brought in Trevor Wye to give a master class at Peabody.

Britt was one of my best teachers ever! He was seemingly all seeing, all knowing. He couldn't play the flute after having a stroke a year or two before I met him; and he didn't need to play. He seemed to know exactly how to explain how to play your piece musically and flawlessly. After hearing me play piccolo, Britt encouraged me to spend most of my time on piccolo, studying with big, well known piccolo players, and getting to know the piccolo excerpts. The "Piccolo Practice Book" was not around at the time, nor was Jan Gippo's, "Special Fingerings for the Piccolo" - he was just discovering most of those fingerings at that time.

During my time at Peabody, I played Co-principal flute in the Prince George Symphony Orchestra along with fellow flute list member Marlee Lindon my freshmen year. I, then joined the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra as the piccolo player. Later I was Co-principal flute with Flute list member, Steven Haaser in the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra. Even though I was Co-principal flute there I somewhat reluctantly at the time spent most of my time as the piccolo player.

When I graduated from Peabody, I went to the University of Alabama to work on my masters degree in flute. There, I came to terms with being a piccolo player in my soul, and not one by default. I actually started off only playing the flute. Later in my first year, when everyone discovered that I played the piccolo, I could play nothing else!

I am a rather superstitious person. My birthday is the same as my favorite characters from the Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. I later found out that my flute teacher at the University of Alabama, Dr. Sheryl H. Cohen, has the same birthday!

While there we had master classes with Ransom Wilson (a Tuscaloosa native), Alain Marion, Jim Walker, Robert Dick, Katherine Kemler, to name a few.

I also received a masters of library service at the University of Alabama.

In August of 1995, I joined the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra as Flute III/Piccolo. At many auditions, I run into a few friends who ask about the Huntsville Symphony. I give a list of some of our repertoire: Daphnis et Chloe, Prokofieff Piano Concerto No. 3, The Fountains of Rome, Beethoven Symphony #5,Till Eulenspiegle, Don Juan, Don Quixote, Le Coq d'Or, Verdi's Requiem, Merry Mount Suite, Mosaics, Schostakovitch Symphony #6, The Planets, Afternoon of a Faune, Serenade No. 2-Brahms, Mahler Symphony #4, La Mer, Symphonic Metamorphoses.

Our artists have been: The Canadian Brass, Itzhak Perlman, Julius Baker, Robert McDuffie, The American Horn Quartet, The Dukes of Dixieland, Kathleen Battle, Keith Brion, The Moody Blues, Ransom Wilson, and Van Cliburn, to name a few.

Since beginning with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, I have studied piccolo with Jan Gippo, who has a different approach to playing the piccolo. The piccolo player, traditionally, has been the subservient slave of the principal flutist. Jan feels that the piccolo player fills a dual role as section player, and as orchestral soloist. An example of the soloist idea is in Daphnis and Chloe, the off stage piccolo solo is often played meekly and half heartedly. It is a giant foreshadowing of the flute solo, and should be played confidently and virtuosicly as well as a solo type of piano [Remember it is the only thematic material happening at that time, the rest of the music for those few bars are actually filler chords.].

I have since written an article in the December 1997 Issue of Flute Talk, "Piccolo Trill Fingerings"; and will soon have, "Tremolos for Piccolo" published at least in part, hopefully, this September in Flute Talk. Many other article possibilities are in the works: "Tone Development through Extended Range" (exploring low register development and third octave dynamic control by practicing above C4), "An American in Paris" (covering mistakes in the part and technique suggestions), "Verdi's Requiem (covering mistakes in the part and technique suggestions), "More Special Fingerings for the Piccolo", "More Trill Fingerings for the Piccolo", etc.

I am trying to take the alternate fingerings or special fingerings for piccolo and use them to make, on a higher level, technique and intonation better. Along with this idea, I am striving to create a pedagogy for the piccolo:

  • Tone development for piccolo-maximizing possibilities for a rich, warm tone that is not shrill or strident that blends well. I want to get past the notion of a small, tight embouchure-it makes for a small, strident, choked sound!

  • Introducing new technique by teaching alternate or special fingerings to technical exercises and daily scales. Right now the way to learn special fingerings is to take the fingering choices and introduce them in orchestra excerpts when the intonation or technique is problematic. Not everyone is interested in playing orchestral excerpts; and not all Wind Ensemble or Symphonic Band literature will exploit problems on the piccolo.

  • Finding better sounding, and sometimes more simple solutions to special fingerings and trill fingerings. Some notes are still problematic, such as G3. It is flat and the alternate fingerings are not always playable in a fast passage. I am still not happy with about seven different trill fingerings such as G3 to A3, F3 to G3, F#3 to G#3, etc.

  • Pushing the envelope in terms of instrument development. I am working with one instrument maker on a Wooden G Treble Flute. I have joined Jan Gippo in pressing another piccolo maker to consider making an A=442 Db piccolo. I have also found another maker that will not only make a piccolo with one of my most favorite keys-the C# trill key, they will make a piccolo to low B!

My hobbies include reading science fiction, fantasy, and murder mysteries: Piers Anthony's Xanth series, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, books by Tony Hillerman, etc.

I also love to go to the theatre. Later this week I am going to see Tennessee Williams', "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". While I was in high school, I watched a series on PBS on Shakespeare's plays, alternating this with Carl Sagan's series, the Cosmos; Masterpiece Theatre's, Unexploded Bomb; and a very special series to me, Flambards. I wasn't your typical teenager. As Mrs. Slocumb says, "Speaking for myself, and I am unanimous in this..." I am now a big fan of the Britcom, "Are You Being Served?"

Morgan Williams

Return to Featured Member Archive