Ever thought about what it takes to play a woodwind instrument 9,000-plus feet above sea level? Woodwind professor Wendy Rolfe writes in from Ecuador. —Magen
In the first week of June, flutists from two hemispheres gathered in Quito, Ecuador, to flute in the clouds at the “II Convencion Internacional de Flautistas en el Centro del Mundo”. The Convencion was sponsored by the Orquesta de Camara “Luciano Carrera”. Its original incarnation was nineteen years ago, and I was fortunate to be invited back for the fifth time this year. While in Quito, I performed in recital in Quito’s leading concert hall, the Casa de la Musica, with Brazilian pianist Maria Jose Carrasqueira, and gave a master class for about thirty-five flute students. In addition, I met with Fulbright Commission Program Officer Karen Aguilar and representatives from several institutions to plan one of my Fulbright Senior Specialist projects. Last summer, I was approved for the Senior Specialist program as a “Candidate” for two international projects, and had applied with one goal being returning to Ecuador to teach for a longer period of time. I brought along to the meeting a talented graduate of the Berklee International School Universidad San Francisco de Quito program, music educator and saxophonist, Edison Quinatoa.
Playing the flute fifteen miles from the Equator, at 2,850 m (about 9,350 ft) requires careful oxygen planning for those of us who came from sea level (USA), and even for colleagues who came from as far away as Finland, Norway, Peru, and Cuba. We were joined by other instrumentalists from Brazil and Austria for a week of concerts and master classes in the historic Colonial Centro Historico in Quito. Some of Ecuador’s finest professional flutists, led by Maestro Luciano Carrera Galarza, festival director and principal flutist of the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional del Ecuador, hosted us and shared with us their artistry and contemporary Ecuadorean flute music. Much of the Ecuadorean music is inspired by folk and traditional tunes. About thirty-five student and young professional flutists participated in our master classes and the “Coral de Flautas” (flute choir), led by Dr. Angeleita Floyd, professor at University of Northern Iowa. Since first attending the festival in 2005, I have directed the Berklee Flute Choir in performances of flute choir music I was introduced to in memorable “Coral” concerts. While performing in 2006 at the local Basilica in the Andean spa – and volcanic epicenter – town of Banos, we were joined in the church by the local dog population barking “in concert” with one of the accompanying nearby volcanic eruptions. In Quito’s historic Teatro Sucre (see photo) we had a taste of nineteenth century Colonial elegance.
On June 4 this year, I was joined at my Casa de la Musica recital by my colleague and collaborator Brazilian pianist Maria Jose Carrasqueira, winner of the Carlos Gomes prize as “Best Recitalist in Brazil, and of the Sharp Prize, the Brazilian “Grammy”. Among the works we performed were contemporary renditions of famous “choros” by Brazilian pianist/composer Ernesto Nazareth. I began the concert with a “mini-historical” set featuring the one-keyed wooden Baroque traverso flute, and an Irish-inspired piece performed on the eight-key Classical wooden flute. Audience members, students and colleagues, told me that they loved to hear the unique timbres of these flutes which are rarely heard in Quito.
On the day after the final concert, Luciano Carrera and his wife and family took us to the volcanic crater at Quilotoa, where there is a spectacular lake created by the last eruption there, in the eighteenth century.
We have all made many friends and it is wonderful to see students develop as we teach them in master classes over the years. I look forward to returning to work with some of the many talented young musicians in Ecuador, to forge new musical partnerships, and to learn more about a rich musical tradition, high in the Andean clouds.
Wendy Rolfe, D.M.A., Professor, Woodwind Department