August 2015 Convention
Washington, D.C.

Competition Masterclass with Marianne Gedigian

Attending Marianne Gedigian’s masterclass was a convention highlight for me. As a private studio instructor, I come to these annual conventions to find inspiration and gain new teaching ideas, and this class energized me for the year ahead!

Working with three winners of the NFA Masterclass Performers Competition, Gedigian’s engaging and clear teaching was a delight to observe. After a few encouraging and complimentary remarks about each flutist’s performance, she quickly pinpointed two or three areas of improvement and gave several helpful tips to address the problems—always dispensing her suggestions with a healthy dose of humor.

From left, Irissa Hubka, Marianne Gedigian, Jacqueline Berndt, Turi Scilipoti

photo by Rosene Rohrer

Responding to Jacqueline Berndt’s performance of “Le Flute de Pan” by Mouquet, Gedigian praised her musical sophistication, poise, and pacing, then addressed the topic of tone by inviting Berndt to relax the tongue, direct air over and under the tongue, and create more space between her front teeth. The result was a darker, more powerful sound with no cracking of notes. To help Berndt create a soaring gesture to her phrases, Gedigian pretended to be a baby bird learning how to fly—chirping, flapping its wings frantically, and finally soaring!

When Irissa Hubka announced her piece by saying, “I will be playing...” Gedigian gently chided her and asked that she acknowledge her collaborating pianist by using the words, “We will be playing...” To help with the opening phrases of the Copland Duo, Hubka was invited to engage the middle of the torso in breathing (“take a side breath”), which also immediately relaxed her vibrato. Recalling the words of the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Gedigian asked Hubka to choose one person in the audience and make a connection with that person while playing.

After admiring Turi Scilipoti’s “brilliant, convincing performance” of the remaining movements of the Copland Duo, Gedigian worked to create more consistency in his sound by reminding him to maintain the 90-degree angle between the nose and the flute and to avoid “churning butter” with the end of the flute. She also helped him achieve better articulation by changing the tongue to a fatter, flatter position, “hanging out” against the bottom teeth.

It was, indeed, an inspiration and delight to learn from this master teacher and three very talented young flutists!

—Rosene Rohrer