With an Irish twinkle in his eye and a bounce in his step, Belfast-born and world-revered flutist Sir James Galway conducted a master class at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music on Thursday, entertaining the audience with musical stories from his vast solo and orchestral career, sharing his practice routines, and coaxing student performers to the top of their artistry with a laser-sharp focus on intonation, intent, and interpretation.
The master class was a warm respite in the middle of a long recital tour across the country with his wife and musical soul mate, Lady Jeanne Galway.
A household name with over 30 million recordings sold worldwide, and over five decades of touring and teaching, Sir James, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2001, coached four flutists from the Frost School in the Weeks Center for Recording and Performance. They are all students of Associate Professor Trudy Kane, who was principal flutist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 32 years before joining the Frost School’s faculty.
“The bad news about flute playing is it requires time to be good,” he joked at the start of the class. “I think about Arnold Schwarzenegger in his body-building days. When he posed for a photo, he had all these muscles showing everywhere. He didn’t get them from just doing bench presses! He worked all of his muscles. So, we have to do the same, and practice the nitty-gritty bits.”
Galway trained with famed French flutist Marcel Moyse, whose published Daily Exercises are used the world over. He then performed with several opera orchestras in London, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic, before launching a solo career.
The master class students, Mackenzie Miller, Maria Vallejo, Trey Bradshaw, and doctoral candidate Emilio Rutllant, M.M. ’14, performed repertoire for solo flute and piano by beloved French composers Philippe Gaubert, Jules Mouquet, and Charles-Marie Widor, accompanied by Frost faculty pianist Oleksii Ivanchenko, D.M.A. ’15.
At first Galway coached each on technical matters such as breathing and fingering, but soon moved on to tone and timbre. “We have to train the embouchure, not the fingers,” he said, referring to the use of facial muscles and mouth on an instrument.
Galway praised the quality of Frost’s rising young talent, and encouraged them to shoot high. He suggested Bradshaw perform a line again without taking a breath, even though most flutists breathe in the passage. “As a teacher, I like my students to strive to be better than me,” he shared. “You don’t want to be the same as the guys before; you want to be outstandingly better.”
On interpretation, he advised, “Don’t be afraid to play soft; it is really impressive to the audience. Show off your dynamics, show what you can really do!” At the end of a pastoral passage: “Look for the color. What does this ending mean? Serenity. You have to bring it into the music,” he said.
When asked about his legacy, Galway, now 77, humbly reflects, “I would like to leave behind a number of committed flute players. That is, committed to playing music, not just a dexterous reading of the score… really committed to showing their soul. I’d like to think I’ve shown a few people how to play a phrase from within, to play a good line, to devote themselves to really making music on another level.”
One of the University’s first UM Presidential Distinguished Scholars, the highly decorated Galway will return again in the fall from his home in Switzerland to work and perform with orchestras in the Frost School, and continue his lessons with the flute studio.
“James Galway reveals his soul to the audience every time he performs, and that inspires everyone who performs with him to do the same,” said Shelton Berg, dean of the Frost School. “Students who were in his presence today will never forget it. I know they will aspire to bolder musical heights, and I can’t wait until he returns for an extended time. I’m proud that our University treasures artistic excellence, and is naming musicians such as Sir James Galway as Distinguished Presidential Scholars.”