August 2008 Convention
Kansas City, MO

The Art of the Second Flute

This panel discussion was at capacity, with many people including myself seated on the floor to hear what five second flutists from around the country had to say about the challenges, rewards, and skills in playing second flute in an orchestra.

Kara Kirkendoll Welch

The panelists—Jennifer Nitchman, Judy Dines, Jennifer Parker Harley, Kara Kirkendoll Welch, and Alicia McQuerrey—each presented thoughts about the topic. Among the many things they described individually, they all agreed that you need to get along and be flexible; be well rounded; play out; and be able to anticipate (psychic ability helpful but not required!), and that the position is a “thinking person’s chair.” Parker Harley noted that there is a misconception that second flutist don’t have a personality and that is just not the case!

Questions from the audience ranged in topic from vibrato, to tuning, to second flute auditions. Vibrato: Most suggested that they use no vibrato. Dines tries to match vibrato like double stops on the violin, but she emphasized that vibrato should never be different from your principal player. Tuning: Panelists agreed you must tune to the principal player and provide a great tuning foundation by playing out. Auditions: Each flutist agreed you must play an audition as a soloist. (Nitchman: “Don’t be a wimp!”) Others suggested getting recordings and playing duet parts with another flutist. In the finals, where you may play with someone else, be sure to listen—listen for tone color most of all—and watch out, because they may try to lose you! Overall, play the flute as yourself.

Each flutist shared ways they maintain themselves. They all do many things outside of the orchestra—perform in chamber groups or as a soloist, play community concerts, teach, do yoga, and cook

—Paula Gudmundson