Awards/competitions: Finalist (in progress), 2020 National Flute Convention Piccolo Artist Competition; Concerto Competition Winner, 2020 Indiana University Woodwind Concerto Competition; 1st Prize, 2020 Indiana University Competition Celebrating Diversity; Performer’s Certificate, Indiana University, 2019; 1st Place, 2018 James and Helen Pellerite Orchestral Scholarship Competition Winner; 2nd Prize, 2018 BIG ARTS Classical Music Scholarship; Winner, 2015 Sunrise Symphonic Pops Orchestra Concerto Competition; Finalist, 2015 Florida Flute Association College Young Artist Competition; Winner, 2014 & 2015 National YoungArts Foundation Classical Music/Instrumental
Appearances: New World Symphony, substitute member, 2019–present; Civic Orchestra of Chicago, associate member, 2020–present; Aspen Music Festival and School Orchestra, 2019; Sarasota Music Festival, 2018; Chautauqua Summer Festival Orchestra, 2017; Miami Music Festival Orchestra & Opera Institute, 2016; Sunrise Symphonic Pops Orchestra, Principal Flute, 2015; Ars Flores Symphony Orchestra, 2012–14
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? I have known ever since I was a child that music was going to be my career. But I did not solidify my decision to be a performer until after my experience at Chautauqua Summer Festival Orchestra in 2017. This immersive, eight-week experience showed me how deep my passion ran and made me connect to my instrument on a whole new level. I made friendships in Chautauqua whom I still hold close today—some of these friends are now in TŌN with me!
Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? My favorite performance setting is within an opera pit orchestra. I love the creative collaboration between the disciplines of voice, orchestra, and set. I especially enjoy Puccini operas (my favorite being La bohème!). The way he orchestrates gives me the chills every single time, and when I play his operas, I feel absolutely exhilarated and so grateful to have such beautiful music in the repertoire.
What has been your favorite experience as a musician? It is hard to pick just one experience, I have had so many memorable collaborations with so many talented performers and conductors! But if I had to choose, my favorite experience was actually not on the concert stage but in a hospice center. I was volunteering as a bedside musician and I was in one of my regular rooms. The man had late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and was nonverbal and unresponsive, but his wife still visited him every day. During my visit, I played the popular Mexican love song “Besame Mucho,” which his wife mentioned was their first dance at their wedding the last time I was there. At first, the man did not stir. But, as I reached the end of the second verse and his wife’s hand was caressing his cheek, the man slowly opened his eyes and made direct eye contact with his wife for the first time in years. Music somehow manages to overcome barriers of age, language, culture, and ability—and that is one of the most powerful facets of music as a tool of service.
Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? I attended a flute workshop in high school, and in one workshop the mentor told us to mark in colored pencil “SPREAD OUT YOUR PAGES” at the top of our solos. I thought that was a silly idea—of course I would spread out my pages before I perform, so I did not follow her advice to write that in. At the conclusion of the workshop was a student recital. I went up on stage, placed my music on the stand, bowed, and began to play my four-page solo. Within the first line, I realized I could only see the first page! There was no time to turn the pages during the solo, so I spent the remainder of the solo trying to move the pages with my elbows, and watching the pages fly to the ground. The last page I played while hunched over, looking at the ground. I’m just thankful the page fell right-side up!
Favorite non-classical musician or band: Ella Fitzgerald! Her voice is just timeless. She has such charm and flexibility, in both range and colors. Little known fact: as a newborn my parents gave me my Hebrew name, Ella Chaiya, after Ella Fitzgerald.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I am a big crafter! I love to crochet, sew, paint, and create art in unique ways. In a world where I was not a musician, I would probably run a small arts & crafts shop where I sold my own projects, but also taught classes to help others create projects they could be proud of.
What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? I had the opportunity to travel much of the country through the Birthright program, and it is stunning how much culture and beauty there is in Israel. I experienced some of my happiest moments in life there, riding a camel and floating in the Dead Sea, but also some of my most introspective and emotional moments, while praying at the Western Wall and reflecting at Yad Vashem.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: For a long time, I thought I was going to be a music therapist for my career. I pursued a double major in Music Therapy and Flute Performance during my undergraduate years, with the hopes of becoming a board-certified music therapist serving a special needs school. While I loved music therapy, and I gained so many beautiful memories even as a student music therapist, my heart was with performance. Just a few weeks before graduation, I ended up dropping my Music Therapy degree program in order to pursue performance full-time!
Piece of advice for a young classical musician: As a growing musician, it is tempting to emulate teachers and recordings completely. This process surely has its merits, but once you have explored their interpretation, make it a priority to find your own voice and play the music the way you think it should sound and the way you think the composer intended.