For the final week of Summer@Eastman 2022, the school is bright with the sounds of flutes – eighteen to be exact — as we host the return of The Artistic Flutist: the Bonita Boyd International Flute Masterclass. Held for the first time in 2016, this event, a major one for young and aspiring flutists, is returning “live” for the first time since the COVID pandemic.
This year’s masterclass brings those young flutists to Eastman to study with a faculty that includes celebrated Eastman flute professor Bonita Boyd ‘71E, and fellow Eastman alumni: Anne Harrow ‘81E, Associate Professor of Flute and Piccolo; and guest faculty members Ann Choomack ‘99E, piccolo of the St. Louis Symphony, and Maria Harding ‘93E, principal flute of the Omaha Symphony.
In addition to master classes and other presentations, The Artistic Flutist offers a number of recitals. The first day concluded with a faculty recital, and the week winds up on Thursday and Friday evenings with participant recitals in Hatch Hall. (The public is invited; see details at the end of the article.)
We learned more about the masterclass, its origins, and this summer’s activities, in an interview with its program director and founder Luke Fitzpatrick ‘10E, professor of Flute at Purdue University of Fort Wayne (PFW) and its namesake, Professor Bonnie Boyd.
Now that The Artistic Flutist has returned, can you tell me how it all began?
Luke: I studied with Bonnie at Eastman from 2006 to 2010, and afterwards, while I was out and about in the flute world, I noticed that so many flute performers and teachers had their own, very successful, masterclasses. I knew that a Bonita Boyd masterclass would be an enormous success!
That remained a lingering idea until several years later, when I attended an event in L.A. with Jim Walker [former principal flute of the Los Angeles Philharmonic] called “Beyond the Masterclass.” He spoke about how he ran it and how he got it going, and that led me to call Bonnie and ask, “Will you let me do this?” and to help her create it. About 20,000 emails later, the first version of The Artistic Flutist was held at Eastman in 2016!
Bonnie: I would never have done this on my own, not in a thousand years! The imagination, the actual work of creating this event, the heart of the event – that is all Luke.
Luke: I wanted to feature Eastman alumni, students of Bonnie’s, who had successful orchestral careers – and that was a large pool of people. We have had many, and they have all been excited to get back to Eastman, to reconnect with Bonnie, and to perform again in our iconic recital halls. It is an effective way to highlight and show off our alumni.
Bonnie, do you take part in the event directly … or are you just an inspiration?
Bonnie: Oh yes! I’m excited to perform too. I take part in our faculty recital and in the master classes themselves.
Luke: She’s the main draw! Everybody wants to play for Bonnie Boyd, and the kids love to see her perform.
Tell me more about the specific events during the week.
Luke: The meat of the program is of course the classes with Bonnie, Anne Harrow, and our guest artists. Each morning has a physical warm-up session with Sue Callan-Harris.
Bonnie: We also have presentations and panel discussions on topics relevant to careers in music: how to prepare for auditions, how to handle performance anxiety.
Luke: And how to practice effectively. I find this is an often-overlooked area. Many musicians go to the practice room and close the door, and then have no idea what to do!
Bonnie: We also have exhibits and presentations by important flute makers, such as Flutistry from Boston, and Burkart Flutes and Piccolos. They show instruments and music and give clinics on flute repair. This is a very important aspect of the event.
Why is it important to have the participants’ recitals?
Bonnie: This is also a very important component! Everybody who is a participant during the week takes part in the recitals. It’s their opportunity to put into practice everything they’ve learned during the week.
Luke: It really ties the week together for them. Not every master class out there offers this opportunity. The students are high school students and college undergraduates; they can learn from each other, make new friends, and can see for themselves, “Look, I’m not that different after all.” By the end of the week, it’s like a big family. And since 2016, at least a few have come back to Eastman to audition for the flute studio.
Have you started planning your 2023 session?
Luke: We’ll be bringing in more alumni, making improvements, and adding new activities. We’ve had actors from Geva come in for classes on conveying vulnerability on stage.
Bonnie: And we do want to bring in more people from the industry for mock auditions, and to give students an opportunity to experience what it feels like to be a professional musician.
Any final remarks about The Artistic Flutist?
Bonnie: I think what Luke has created something completely incredible — an event that is a great deal for our alumni, and for flutists.
Luke: My time at Eastman changed my life. I’d do anything to support Bonnie Boyd and the University. And in a few summers, we have turned into a destination for flutists!