SPCO Flutist, Alicia McQuerrey, talks about her experience as a Suzuki student, one of the first flutists to be taught in this method in the US.

Alicia, how old were you when you started the flute?

I was 7. I started piano at 5 and was better at piano until I was about 13 or so.  Now the only thing I can play on the piano is The Hokey Pokey!

How did you decide on the flute as your instrument?

At 7 my dad asked me what instrument I wanted to play in addition to the piano.  He was a high school band director and had a majorette in his high school band that was very nice to me.  She played the flute so I said, “flute, like her!”

When did you learn to play the piccolo?

I didn’t add piccolo until I was 15.  Our high school band didn’t have many at the time and every marching band needs a piccolo, although really, one is plenty!  My mom took me to the National Flute Association Convention in DC the summer before 10th grade and we found a used piccolo that did the trick.  My first was a wood Emerson.

Is it very different from playing the flute?  

The principles are the same but the embouchure aperture is much smaller.  The fingering system is the same however, piccolo players use “fake” fingerings.  These are special fingerings that don’t always work or aren’t needed on flute but that make intonation much better.  I didn’t have a piccolo teacher until Jack Wellbaum, former piccolo player of the Cincinnati Symphony, while attending UC-CCM for undergrad.  I enjoyed piccolo before but he helped me love it.  We had weekly studio classes and I had private lessons with him.  Mr. Wellbaum had a little black cat named Bob that sat on the music stand legs during lessons.  I never asked if he was born deaf or if he became that way from sitting through piccolo lessons.  Poor Bob!  A lone piccolo can play as loud as a full symphony orchestra so it is a powerful position to be in.  I like to think I use my power for good!

We always think of violin when it comes to Suzuki training.  Tell us something about the Suzuki method for flute.

Suzuki flute method was created with Mr. Suzuki by Toshoio Takahashi, who was a student of Marcel Moyese, the famous French flutist.  Moyese’s influence is seen in the Suzuki method from beginning articulation practice to the repertoire in every book. Suzuki flutists first learn to spit rice.  You literally put a piece of rice on your bottom lip and spit it off using your air and tongue.  This is called French tonguing.

How did your parents decide to start you in the Suzuki program?

My dad played 2nd horn in the West Virginia Symphony for 22 seasons and when I was ready to start flute, there was no question with whom I would study.  I was fortunate enough to start flute with June Warhoftig, then principal flutist of the West Virginia Symphony.  June was one of the first flute teachers to bring the Suzuki method to the US.  I believe there were only 3 certified teachers in the US at the time.  I feel so lucky to have started and graduated from the Suzuki method.  I really feel like it gave me the ear that musicians use their whole lives.  Suzuki’s methods are built on the idea that children learn their mother tongue by hearing it, repeating and being encouraged.  Suzuki students practice pieces at home, listen to and play along with recordings repeatedly, play together at monthly group classes and attend master classes throughout the year. Suzuki also uses triangle teaching-teacher, parent and child.  My parents had to come to each lesson and take notes.  They also had to learn to play a little so they could be my teachers during the week, between lessons.

What repertoire do you most enjoy playing with the SPCO?001A-crop

I have so many favorites!  I love playing the Beethoven Symphonies on flute and piccolo.  Mendelssohn always writes really beautiful flute duets within his works, so that’s fun, too.  I love doing really hard modern pieces that require me to play flute, piccolo and alto flute.  I have to totally focus allowing me to escape the daily life (shoveling snow, toddler melt downs from time to time, a dog who decides it’s too cold to go potty outside, etc.).  Recently I got to play a piece by Paul Schoenfield called Slovakian Children’s Songs with Stephen Gosling on the SPCO chamber music series.  It was so satisfying-beautiful lines, jazzy feel plus being very technically challenging, which for me equals a good pay off!  I’m looking forward to the chamber music week in March.  I’m playing Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 for Flute and Bassoon with Carole Mason Smith, and Jet Whistle with cellist Sarah Lewis, both compositions by Villa-Lobos.

( Alicia at age 10 )

Did you know that SPCO violinist, Daria Adams, and her husband, Minnesota Orchestra violist, Michael Adams, are co-directors of a summer chamber music festival in Napa Valley?


How many years has the chamber music festival existed?

This summer will be our 20th season.

What made you want to start your own chamber music festival?

Michael and I love to play chamber music, and have played in many festivals over the years, but decided it was time to create our own festival.  This was an easy idea to come up with, but not so easy to accomplish!

Why did you pick Napa Valley?

Actually, our first idea was to start a festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, but that didn’t work out.  We have family in the Napa Valley area, and have visited the area often, so we thought it would be a great place to start a festival.

Where do you perform?

We perform in different wineries every year, although some are regular venues.  We play at Clos Pegase Winery every year.   The daughter of Walt Disney, who recently passed away, was the owner of the Silverado Winery, one of our biggest supporters.  Other regular venues are Hess, Beringer, Frog’s Leap, Markham, and Merryvale.

What are the dates?   M & D at Tonella's

This summer we are expanding to four weeks.  The dates will be July 29 – August 24.  We will be performing four different programs, and also open rehearsals.

For more information, visit: musicinthevineyards.org



How many trumpets does Lynn Erickson play? Our Second trumpet, Lynn Erickson, answers questions about her trumpets and talks about what it feels like to work with a therapy dog.

How many trumpets do you play?

Two of each of the following trumpets:  Bb, C, D, Piccolo.

One of each of the following:  Eb trumpet, Flugelhorn, Bb Cornet.Lynn wiht trumpets

The SPCO owns the rotary trumpets that we use, as well as the set of natural trumpets.

In addition to having a variety of trumpets, I also have to have a large number of mutes.  Each mute has a different timbre, and it’s nice to have a large selection so you can get the exact sound that you want.

I also use a number of different mouthpieces:  slightly smaller and shallower mouthpiece for the high piccolo trumpet, and a larger, deeper mouthpiece for most of the playing I do in the orchestra.

Trumpets, mouthpieces and mutes are tools, and as players, we need to determine which tools are best for the piece of music at hand.

How are they different?

The repertoire we play in the SPCO requires the trumpet players to be able to play on a number of different trumpets pitched in different keys.  In addition to modern piston trumpets, we also play rotary trumpets and natural trumpets (trumpets that have no valves at all).

The largest trumpet we play in the orchestra is the Bb trumpet, which is also the instrument that most trumpet players learn to play on.  The trumpet we play most often in the orchestra is pitched in C.  The higher the key of the trumpet is, the shorter the length of the instrument. We also use trumpets pitched in D, Eb, F, G, and the piccolo trumpet which can be pitched in A , Bb or C.  The Bb/A piccolo is half the length of the large Bb trumpet, and we use this instrument mainly in Baroque music (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, etc.)

In addition to these trumpets, we also play cornets pitched in Bb or C, and the flugelhorn.  One question that is often asked is ‘what is the difference between a trumpet and a cornet?’  The cornet (and flugelhorn) has tubing that is more conical, the trumpet has tubing that is more cylindrical.  The cornet/ flugelhorn uses a more V-shaped cup mouthpiece, the trumpet a C-shaped cup.  The cornet/flugelhorn are coiled in a slightly different way from the trumpet, and look a little more compact.  Due to the different design of the instruments and mouthpieces, the sound of conical instruments is mellow and darker; the sound of cylindrical instruments is brighter, and can be more brilliant.

The rotary trumpet has rotary valves like a French horn, and has a darker sound that blends well.  The natural trumpet with no valves is the most challenging to play, is not as loud as a modern trumpet, and also has a unique sound.


Why did I choose to play the trumpet rather than the viola?

I started playing the trumpet when I was in the fourth grade, and chose this instrument because I liked the trumpet sound and thought it would be a fun instrument to play.  My parents enjoyed listening to classical music, and I regularly heard orchestral music that featured brass instruments.  The first classical recording I bought was one of the 1812 Overture-brassy stuff!


What is your favorite repertoire to play in the chamber orchestra?

Baroque!  I really enjoy playing the piccolo trumpet.


What steps did you go through to train your dog to be a therapy dog? 

My golden retriever Lacey and I are a therapy dog team, and do volunteer work at Methodist Hospital each week.  In order to become a therapy dog team, you have to first pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.  We went to classes at the Humane Society in Golden Valley, and worked hard to master all of the obedience training required of this test.  Once we passed this level, we were able to register for the ten-week therapy dog training class.  When we had both passed the test for the therapy dog team certification, I explored volunteer options for a therapy dog team in my community.  We now volunteer on a weekly basis at the Melrose Institute, a part of the Methodist Hospital system.  Lacey brings a lot of joy to people with her visits, and also loves the attention that she gets.  It’s an enjoyable and unusual way for me to make a difference in my community.