Sean Flynn

Viola

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Alma maters: University of Texas at Austin, M.M. in Music Performance; University of Oregon, B.M. in Music Education

Photos by Matt Dine

Profile

Appearances: Austin Symphony, substitute, 2018–19; Britt Festival Orchestra, 2018–19; National Orchestral Institute, 2018; Oregon Mozart Players, 2015–17 

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Listening to a “Mozart for Babies” CD in the car on my way to middle school

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? I think I knew early on that it would be a part of my life in some way or another. I earned a degree in music education, and although I think the skills I gained from that are still very valuable, I decided part way through that degree to focus much more on my performance abilities. I am lucky to have had many great experiences in both teaching and performing and am looking forward to whatever comes next!

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? I heard about it a few years ago through word of mouth. I thought that it sounded extremely appealing with its great and varied performance opportunities, as well as its focus on making sure that its musicians are well-rounded and well-informed before they leave the program and start their careers.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? They should be inclusive and accessible and, in general, have music played from a much more varied set of repertoire. There is still a time and place for the more traditional, formalized concert experience, but I think the ratio should be shifted towards more casual concert-going experiences. The audience should ideally feel at ease and open to anything the orchestra wants to present to them, including pieces they may have never heard before. 

Who is your biggest inspiration? My wife, Nico. It is safe to say that I would not be where I am today without her support.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Some of my favorite composers are Brahms, Prokofiev, Ravel, Beethoven, Britten, Glass, and Shaw.

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Lately, I’ve loved listening to Vadim Borisovsky’s arrangement of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for Viola and Piano. I am a bit biased towards this piece as a violist, but the tunes are so amazing and this arrangement showcases them, along with the varied capabilities of the instrument, extremely well.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? A great recent experience was working through the Brahms String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat major with a quartet in Austin. I felt like we had great musical chemistry and really got along well. Finding three other people who you can work well with for long periods of time in close quarters is easier said than done!

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? Plenty, although in hindsight those are the experiences that really motivated me to improve.

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Relax a bit, and focus more while you practice scales.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Björk, Frank Zappa, The Mars Volta 

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? Double bass

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I would try to be a film critic

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why? Chongqing, China. My wife and her family are from there and I had some unforgettable experiences while traveling there. It is such a culturally rich city with amazing food, sights, and people.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Paul Thomas Anderson, Dave Chappelle, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. All are/were masters of their craft and it would be great to hear anything they had to say. I’m always fascinated by the parallels in philosophies between musicians and other kinds of artists.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I played bass guitar in a heavy metal band all through high school.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Always have a clear idea of the message of a piece before you even begin playing it.