Letter from Brian Kim
The Paris Conservatoire
In September 2018, I commenced my first year of the “License or 1er cycle supérieur” (bachelors) of Flute at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (commonly referred to as CNSMDP or CNSM). My studies as a first-year student included weekly classes of the history of music, musical training, music analysis, French, and fortnightly classes of sight reading. Above this are the weekly lessons with my professor Philippe Bernold and fortnightly lessons with my assistant professor Florence Souchard Delepine. My lessons with Philippe Bernold and Florence Souchard Delepine have been amazing. I’ve been exposed to so many different musical ideas and interpretation choices to make the music alive and interesting in performance.
Here at CNSM, I am not only learning how to play the flute, but also how to play music. My experiences here have improved my understanding of the history of European music, my aural and sigh-reading skills, my ability to analyse music and my flute- playing both as a soloist and as part of an ensemble. I recall reading the syllabus of my course before coming to Paris to study. In this document, there was a huge emphasis on aiming to develop students as holistic musicians; musicians who are highly-skilled, sensitive to musical ideas, open-minded, practical and professional in the real world. Looking back at my past year, I am more than confident to say that CNSM has delivered to me what they proposed in their curriculum. I feel like I have developed not only as a flutist, but also as a musician.
I would also like to mention the environment in which I am studying at has a huge impact on my studies. Being surrounded by passionate music-loving students is such an inspiration and motivator to me every day. Listening to my classmates’ lessons or class concerts of other instruments, and playing chamber music with friends are very enjoyable. I learn so much from the other students at my school, and I’m sure they think the same too. Focusing on a more physical aspect of the environment, I am fortunate to be living in the student accommodation which is located at the school. This is such a huge advantage because the Philharmonie de Paris is only a 5 minute walk away from where I live. Consequently, I have become a regular concert- goer at the Philharmonie where I have the wonderful opportunity to listen to the Paris Orchestra as well as other orchestras. Also, I’ve had amazing opportunities such as playing for Mathieu Dufour in a masterclass, having a class chat with Emmanuel Pahud, listening to the Berlin Philharmonic rehearse and playing the compositions of our own up and coming composers at CNSM!
16th International Tchaikovsky Competition
It was an absolute honour to have participated in the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition. To be the only Australian in 228 competitors (the entire competition) and 48 (in the woodwinds section) is a very special achievement for me. At the same time, I am so delighted to have represented Australia in this level of competition. We have so many talented musicians and I’m so proud to be part of the up and coming young musicians of Australia. The strings, voice and piano sections were in Moscow whilst the woodwinds and brass were at Saint Petersburg. Playing at the Repino Hall, made by the great Vlaery Gergiev, was absolutely breathtaking (no pun intended)!! It was so exciting and thinking about the event, the location, the audience… It was difficult to contain my excitement and nervousness for the occasion. However, being surrounded by such nice people, the whole experience was wonderful. I met brilliant musicians from all around the world, and made friends with so many of them! I really enjoyed talking with them over dinner, going to the swimming pool, watching each other’s performances… Such good memories! While I was there, I was amazed and incredibly humbled by the musical maturity of the competitors. I looked at each performance and thought to myself, “WOW! In a few years, I wish I could be playing with that level of maturity” or “composure” or “charisma”!
Looking back at it now, it’s really the journey of preparing for the competitions that I’m most happy about. The huge amount of new repertoire I had to prepare in a very limited amount of time was an extremely challenging task for me. Not only were there fresh new pieces, there were also pieces that I wanted to approach with new musical ideas. Preparing for the competition included having individual and group lessons with Philippe and Florence, getting lessons from violin professors at CNSM (for violin repertoire), playing with our class accompanist during lessons, asking advice and opinions of my friends and classmates, and continuous self-critique. I remember recording myself playing pieces, listening back, taking notes, marking specific areas on the score and practising those particular moments. To do all of this, my practice time gradually increased from 3 hours a day to 6, even 7 hours on some days. All of this to prepare in a month and a half was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve done in my life. Evidently, I got so much out of preparing for the Tchaikovsky Competition this year. I would definitely say that the progress I made is the most valuable thing about this whole experience.
Australian Flute Festival Open Competition
It feels absolutely awesome to have won the Open Competition at the Australian Flute Festival. I’ve been to every flute festival since 2011 and I remember watching this competition at my first festival thinking “WOW, Am I ever going to be as good as these people!?!” 8 years later, I’m so honoured and grateful to have won this competition as the whole Australian flute community has been so special to me throughout the years. With very short time to prepare for both the semis and the finals (straight after the Tchaikovsky Competition), I was honestly quite worried going into it. That definitely showed in my performance in the semis where I wasn’t fully focused in the music. Luckily, it was enough to get me through to the finals where I thought this was a second chance for me to fully focus and enjoy the music. I’m so glad I was able to completely enjoy myself in the finals and I believe that showed to the audience. I was very happy with how I played in the finals.
Letter from Sarah Sommerville
Joint winner of the Brian Kim Inspiration Award at the 2019 Flute Society of NSW Eisteddfod
Junior Day at the Australian Flute Festival
The Junior Day on the 6th July 2019 held at the Australian Flute Festival was extremely exciting, challenging and fun! Many interesting tasks were organised that educated us about the flute and how to play better. We were also given a chance to study unique pieces and perform different works as a small group with a similar level to you, and then one large group consisting of everyone who attended the day. Playing music with people who love flute as much as you do is a rare opportunity and this is what we were able to do on the day.
There were many cool activities that we experienced, like finding out what all the different flutes sound like, and we were even able to try some of them! The flutes were all quite different, from the tiny piccolo, to the enormous contrabass, and then there were wooden flutes from all different cultures, incredibly fascinating to see. We learnt some new flute techniques (like The Whale!), watched some incredibly bad performances (which were intended to be bad, of course) which we had to fix up, learning what you shouldn’t do in a performance. We played along to songs from movies, sight reading the WHOLE PIECE! This was a tough challenge, as we didn’t know the music beforehand.
I would recommend any budding flautist to attend the next Junior Day as they will absolutely love it!