Teng Li is a diverse and dynamic performer internationally. Recently Ms. Li was appointed as Principal Violist of the LA Philharmonic after more than a decade as Principal with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. An impassioned teacher, she is the Artistic Director of Morningside Music Bridge, teaches at the Music Academy of the Colburn School and continues to give master classes at conservatories worldwide. Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Ms. Li taught at the University of Toronto, Royal Conservatory of Music, and Montreal’s Conservatoire de Musique.
Ms. Li is also an active recitalist and chamber musician participating in the festivals of Marlboro, Santa Fe, Mostly Mozart, Music from Angel Fire, Rome, Moritzburg (Germany) and the Rising Stars Festival in Caramoor. She has performed with the Guarneri Quartet in New York (04/05), at Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall) and with the 92nd St. “Y” Chamber Music Society. Teng was also featured with the Guarneri Quartet in their last season (2009), and was also a member of the prestigious Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society Two Program. She is a member of the Rosamunde Quartet (led by Noah Bendix-Balgley, Concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic).
Ms. Li has been featured as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Chamber Orchestra, the Santa Rosa Symphony, the Munich Chamber Orchestra, the Haddonfield Symphony, Shanghai Opera Orchestra, the Canadian Sinfonietta and Esprit Orchestra. Her performances have been broadcast on CBC Radio 2, National Public Radio, WQXR (New York), WHYY (Pennsylvania), WFMT (Chicago), and Bavarian Radio (Munich).
The brilliant Italian born pianist Rodolfo Leone was the first-prize winner of the 2017 International Beethoven Piano Competition Vienna. Described as “a true sound philosopher” (Oberösterreichische Nachrichten), Rodolfo released his debut album on the Austrian label Gramola in May 2018. The all-Beethoven disc features two pillars of the piano repertoire: the “Hammerklavier” Sonata and the “Waldstein” Sonata. His playing has been described as having “impeccable style” and “absolute technical control.” (Il Nuovo Amico).
Rodolfo’s 2018–19 season included debuts with the San Diego Symphony (Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1) and the Pasadena Symphony (Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21); he also performed Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Colburn Orchestra. In May 2019, he gave a recital tour in Austria, culminating in a performance in Vienna at the Brahms-Saal of the Musikverein. He also performed recitals in Los Angeles and Naples, Florida, and appeared on the chamber music series Le Salon de Musiques in Los Angeles. As a 2018–19 Performance Today Young Artist in Residence, Rodolfo’s live recordings were broadcast nationally throughout the United States.
A native of Turin, Italy, Rodolfo made his orchestral debut in 2013 performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento (Italy). He toured Italy with that orchestra the following year performing Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Rodolfo made his North American debut in 2014 performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Toronto Concert Orchestra. Since then, he has performed with, among others, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra with Stéphane Denève and the Colburn Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall; and recitals at Festival Napa Valley and the Soka Performing Arts Center. He has also performed chamber music with Lynn Harrell, Fabio Bidini, Andrew Schulmann, and the Viano String Quartet.
Rodolfo has performed extensively throughout Europe, North America, and China. These performances include debuts in venues such as the Musikverein in Vienna, Steinway Hall in London, the Music Hall of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Politeama Theatre in Palermo, the Mozart Concert Hall of Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna, and the BASF Gesellschaftshaus in Germany. A top-prize winner of several major piano competitions, Rodolfo was awarded top prizes at the 2014 Toronto International Piano Competition and the 2013 Busoni International Piano Competition. Pianist magazine described his concerto performance during the 2017 International Beethoven Piano Competition as a “communion with the orchestra” that “was raptly convincing… robust and joyful.”
Rodolfo is currently based in Los Angeles where he previously studied at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. He holds both a Master of Music degree and an Artist Diploma from Colburn, where he studied with Fabio Bidini. He previously studied at the Hans Eisler School of Music in Berlin, Germany and at the G. Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro, Italy.
Louise Borden is an experienced educator with over 25 years working as an instructor of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) and ESOL program coordinator at the primary, secondary and college levels. She has worked with students of all ages and backgrounds to provide English language support so that her students can find success both academically and socially. She earned her undergraduate degree in Russian at Vanderbilt University and obtained her MS Ed. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. Ms. Borden founded Best Fit Education LLC in 2015 in order to provide individualized instruction to her students to help them achieve their language and academic goals, specializing in preparing students for the TOEFL and IELTS. She has expanded Best Fit Edu’s individualized instructional approach to include personalized guidance through the college selection and admissions process.
Joan Kwuon, whom The New York Times describes as “fiery, intensely musical and impassioned,” enjoys a critically-acclaimed performing career appearing with leading international orchestras. She was previously head of the violin department at Cleveland Institute of Music, where she also currently teaches, and was on the violin faculty at The Juilliard School.
Ms. Kwuon made her debut at the invitation of Sir André Previn at the Tanglewood Music Festi-val in 2000 and was presented at Lincoln Center the following season. Since then, Ms. Kwuon has been engaged by celebrated orchestras, including playing Mozart Violin Concerti with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Mozart’s 250th birthday, performing the Sibelius Violin Con-certo with the London Symphony Orchestra and Previn, and appearing with Previn and the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She has also appeared with NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Seattle Symphony, Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Jyväskylä Sinfonia of Finland, Moscow State Radio Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Chicago Philharmonic, Janáček Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela, Bilkent Symphony Orchestra in Turkey, Festival Internacional Cervantino in León, Mexico, Buffalo Philharmonic, Richmond Symphony, Bulgarian National Academic Orchestra, Orchestra Europa, and Busan Philharmonic.
An avid recital performer, Ms. Kwuon has appeared at the Metropolitan Museum with Previn, the Library of Congress with Sergei Babayan, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts with Previn. She has also performed at the Ravinia Festival, Caramoor’s Great Artists Series, San Francisco Performances, the Peggy Rockefeller Concerts in New York City, Krannert Center, Hoam Art Hall in Seoul, and the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia.
In duet with Tony Bennett, Ms. Kwuon performed jazz classics at Lincoln Center Jazz and the Grammy Awards MusiCares Gala. As an active chamber musician, Ms. Kwuon has collaborated with members of The Juilliard Quartet, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson, Sergei Babayan, and Cho Liang Lin on series including the 92nd Street Y, Nevada Chamber Music Festival, and La Jolla’s Summerfest.
Born in Los Angeles, Ms. Kwuon began playing violin at age six. She attended Crossroads School and studied at Indiana University with Miriam Fried, The Juilliard School with Joel Smirnoff and Robert Mann, and Cleveland Institute of Music with Donald Weilerstein. In addition to her faculty positions at CIM and at The Juilliard School, Ms. Kwuon regularly teaches and performs at numerous music festivals including Heifetz International Music Institute, The Round Top Festival in Texas, Interlochen Violin Institute, Borromeo Music Festival in Switzerland, Great Mountains Music Festival in South Korea, and Bowdoin International Music Festival, as well as featured masterclasses for The Juilliard Starling-Delay Symposium and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.
Signing a multi-disc contract with Azica Records, her upcoming release of recital works by Strauss, Mozart, and Previn will be followed by a complete Beethoven Violin and Piano Sonata recording project.
Hailed by The New York Times as “a brilliant soloist, … [who] played with extraordinary precision and luminosity,” violinist Fabiola Kim is one of the most dynamic players of her generation with a wide variety of repertoire from classical to contemporary music. Her recent engagements include a CD recording with Munich Symphony Orchestra that will be released summer of 2019, engagements with Munich Symphony, Nuremberg Symphony, Berlin Symphony, and Owensboro Symphony Orchestra.
After beginning her studies at the age of four, she made her concerto debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra just three years later. Ms. Kim is the winner of various awards and competitions, including the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s Concerto Competition as the youngest competitor in the history of the competition to win. Since then, she has won the Aspen Music Festival Violin Concerto Competition, Livingston Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Concerto Competition, the Kumho Prodigy Music Award, an award given to the most promising young musicians in Korea, and was a prize winner at Corpus Christi International Competition and the Irving M. Klein International Competition for Strings.
She has collaborated with conductors such as Alan Gilbert, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gilbert Varga, Jane Glover, and Nicholas McGegan. Her past solo performances include engagements with the Seoul and Suwon Philharmonics; a European tour with Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra to the Bruckner Festival in Linz and Merano Festival in Merano, Italy, The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Philharmonia, the Kangnam, Korean, Broward, and Prime Symphony Orchestras; the Livingston Symphony; Koln Chamber Orchestra; North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, Orquestra Sinfonica OSUANL, the Budapest Symphony Orchestra MAV, the Hofer Sinfoniker, Berlin Symphoniker, Korean Chamber Orchestra, Westdeutche Sinfionia, Munich Chamber Orchestra, and Colburn Orchestra.
An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated and performed with renowned musicians such as Lynn Harrell, Cho-Liang Lin, Paul Neubauer, Frans Helmerson, Marc Coppey, and Ida Kavafian at festivals like Ravinia’s Steans Institute and La Jolla Music Society Summerfest. As a fellowship student, Ms. Kim has been accepted to the Ravinia’s Steans Institute, Ishikawa Music Festival in Japan, the Courchevel Music Festival in France, and the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado; she has also taken part in Verbier Festival Academy, the London Masterclasses and the Mozarteum Summer Academy where she took master classes with Gyorgy Pauk, Zakhar Bron, and Vadim Gluzman.
Ms. Kim is an Artist Diplomia recipient at the Colburn School under the guidance of Robert Lipsett, and she is a Bachelor and Master of Music recipient of Juilliard under the tutelage of Sylvia Rosenberg and Ronald Copes. Her former teachers and mentors include Kyung Wha Chung, Namyun Kim, and Choongjin Chang. She is now on faculty for Community School of Performing Arts at the Colburn School.
Praised by critics for her “passionate…polished and expressive” performances, pianist HyeJin Kim is one of South Korea’s most thrilling young classical stars. Born in Seoul, she began playing piano at age five, and later enrolled at the prestigious Yewon Arts School. She furthered her studies in Germany, earning her master of art in musical art as a “Konzertexamen” (highest distinction) from Berlin’s Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler. She recently received an artist diploma at the Colburn School in its Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Fabio Bidini.
Ms. Kim first attracted international attention at age 17 when, as its youngest participant, she won third prize in Italy’s prestigious Busoni Competition. Andrea Bonatta, the head of the jury, said ‘I am thrilled about her flawless musicality and technique, which promises success as an internationally recognized pianist.’ Since then, Ms. Kim has received numerous awards including prizes at the 2008 Hong Kong International Piano Competition, DAAD Prize, Steinway and Sons Advancement Award Competition, and Toronto International Piano Competition. She has performed and toured with numerous orchestras such as the Russian State Philharmonic, Konzerthaus Orchester, Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Praha Broadcast and Budapest Symphony Orchestras; Bohuslav Martinů, Seoul, Dae-jeon, Pilsen, and Moravian Philharmonic Orchestras; and the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg, Nürnberger Symphoniker, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, and Hessischer Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester. She has worked with noted conductors including Eliahu Inbal, Carl St. Clair, Christoph Poppen, Achim Fiedler, Yehuda Gilad, Tomáš Hanus, Shi-yeon Sung, Dae Jin Kim, Jiri Malat, and Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
Ms. Kim has been invited to participate in international venues and music festivals including the Konzerthaus of Berlin, Herkulessaal of Munich, Rudolfinum/Dvorak Hall and Smetana Hall of
Prague, Seoul Arts Center, Marvão Music Festival, Napa Valley Festival, Klavier Festival Ruhr, Korea Symphony Festival, Cesky Krumlov Festival, Praha Spring Festival, and Kotor Arts Festival, among others. Ms. Kim has participated in master classes with artists such as Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Jerome Rose, Robert McDonald, Aquiles Delle Vigne, Bernd Geotzke, John O’Connor, Arnold Steinhardt, Clive Greensmith, Martin Beaver, Robert Lipsett, and the Opus One Quartet.
Ms. Kim made her major label debut in 2013 with her recording of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra led by Eduard Topchjan, on
Sony Classical. In 2016, Ms. Kim made her Carnegie Hall recital debut performing music of Scarlatti, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Barber, and Gershwin. She made her west coast debut with
George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with MUSE/IQUE. Last season, she appeared on the live broadcast program What Makes It Great? hosted by Robert Kapilow on National Public Radio, chamber concerts with the Salastina Music Society including the west coast premiere of Fanny Mendelssohn’s Easter Sonata and a U.K. tour of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto with the Russian State Philharmonic under the baton of Valery Polyansky.
In fall 2018, Ms. Kim began teaching at the Community School and pre-college Music Academy divisions of the Colburn School.
A native of the northern coastal city Qingdao in China, Mingjia Liu was born into a family of art and literature. He studied with Weidong Wei, Professor of Oboe at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and graduated with the highest distinction in 2006. He continued his studies in the United States at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he studied with Robert Walters from the Cleveland Orchestra and Alex Klein, Principal Oboist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 2009, at the age of 21, Mingjia Liu won the position of Principal Oboe of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Stern. During that time, he collaborated with such artists as Gil Shaham and Emmanuel Pahud. Liu’s playing drew the attention of critics in Kansas City—the Kansas City Journal of Performing Arts wrote: “Principal Oboist Mingjia Liu displayed especially brilliant and eager playing in his featured melodies…”; and in the Kansas City Star: “Principal Oboist Mingjia Liu was notable for his wonderful solo lines …”. In 2010, Liu left Kansas City to join the San Francisco Opera Orchestra as Principal Oboe, where he is recognized for his charismatic performing skill and “singing ability” on the oboe and has been hailed by critics: “The standout was Principal Oboist, Mingjia Liu, who plays his solos exceptionally well. This however comes as no surprise as Liu’s technique is always clean and flawless in the pit …” (GB Opera Magazine). Nicola Luisotti, Music Director of the San Francisco Opera, characterizes Liu’s playing as “… having his sound come from God.” In addition to playing with San Francisco Opera, Mr. Liu has also appeared as a guest artist with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and the China National Symphony Orchestra.
In 2011, Mingjia Liu made a critically acclaimed debut with the Qingdao Symphony Orchestra. On his most recent tour of China, he was lauded as an emerging star of Western classical music. Recognized not only for his outstanding performing skills, Mingjia Liu is gaining considerable recognition as a teacher both in the United States and abroad. In 2013 he was invited by the Central Conservatory of Music to give recitals and master classes at the First Beijing International Oboe Festival. Liu regularly appears as a special guest teacher at his alma mater, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Prior to joining the Colburn School as Professor of Oboe, Mr. Liu was on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2018, he was elected as the Vice President of the International Double Reed Society and joined the faculty at the Aspen Music Festival.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
How did you find Colburn?
I found Colburn through Yehuda. Ever since I met him in 2012 at a clarinet festival in Mexico, it was my goal to study with him in high school. It took me three years, because two years before coming here I applied to another school that I was accepted to, but I couldn’t attend. I really, really wanted to study with him there, but it was kind of impossible because of money. Then, I came to Pasadena for a competition, and I won that competition. The prize was just money, but the judges were former students of Yehuda so they asked me, ‘What do you want to do? What are your plans?’ I told them, ‘I just want to study with Yehuda.’ And they called him and I got a surprise. Besides money, they gave me a lesson with him in his house and he told me, ‘You need to apply to Colburn. I know you, you have been accepted by me. You need to apply to the Academy.’ This was three years ago. So that’s how I found out about the Academy.
What was it like moving from home?
At first I felt a little sad because I was alone and didn’t know a single person here. I only knew Víctor, another clarinetist, because I met him at a competition in Europe. But I remember the first time I got here, I was really, really scared. This is the first music school that I’ve been to. When I got accepted, I was talking to my mom and I said, ‘Mom, I don’t know what I’m going to do besides having lessons. I have no idea how things work here.’ But Colburn is great, and you’re surrounded by great musicians. Listening to them motivates you to do more, like during Performance Forums every Thursday. I love to go every week to listen. It’s very inspiring. And Los Angeles has everything that I never thought I could have, like these great concert halls, the opera; you just have everything. It’s a really amazing experience being here.
What’s your favorite thing about Colburn?
Well, everything’s great, but I think the best part is the great faculty and the level of students. Every single student, no matter if they’re getting a Bachelor’s or an Artist Diploma, plays great and has something really special about them. You can get help from anyone, from a teacher or from your chamber coach. You can even play for your classmates, like, ‘Hey I have an audition, can you listen to my excerpts?’ So you can get thoughts from everyone. You don’t have a competitive environment where people are like, ‘Oh I don’t want to help you because I want to win this.’ Everyone lives here, including me, so it’s very exciting to have that kind of support. It’s like a big family.
Chamber music here is something so exciting that I have learned. I played a little bit before coming here, but it’s exciting to have the opportunity to play every single week for your coach. He has helped me a lot and has taught me how to work in a group. It’s very hard for me, since I don’t have a lot experience working in groups, so I’m learning a lot.
Why did you pick the clarinet?
I wanted to play both saxophone and clarinet when I was young. I still play saxophone, but not with a good quality of sound because I’m not taking saxophone lessons. I started because I wanted to imitate my cousins. They’re in a group that plays music that we play in Mexico, like cumbia and banda, and they play both saxophone and clarinet. When I was a little kid, I used to go to parties where that group was playing, and I could be there for five hours just watching them play. I always wanted to play both, but I couldn’t play the clarinet back then because I couldn’t even hold it. My fingers and arms were too small at that age.
My cousin was my first saxophone teacher, and I started clarinet lessons when I was 10. But he told me, ‘You need to go to the orchestra.’ I wasn’t born in the classical world, I didn’t know anything about classical music. But he told me, ‘You need to start playing with people your own age and play with a youth orchestra because you need to be in your own environment.’ I was just starting to play clarinet and I wasn’t that good, and I didn’t know how to play it that well, which is why I started with the saxophone in orchestra. But since there isn’t a lot of repertoire for the saxophone, I was playing repertoire for the second horn. One day, the conductor told me, ‘You have studied clarinet for one year now and we don’t have a clarinet, so can you please play the clarinet?’ And that’s when I started playing the clarinet in orchestra. Now that I’m focused on classical music, I don’t play saxophone that much.
Why did you decide to pursue classical music?
I didn’t know anything about classical music when I started playing. I didn’t even know Mozart, or Beethoven—I mean, I knew Beethoven because of the movie, but not as a composer. When I first got to the orchestra, I searched for clarinet music and I remember listening to a famous piece from a Mexican composer, Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez. The beginning is a clarinet solo, and when I listened to it, I was like, ‘Wow I need to play this solo.’ After that, I listened to a Mozart concerto that I fell in love with. I remember starting to practice that concerto, but I didn’t know that an A-flat clarinet existed, so I was playing it with a B-flat clarinet. And like that, I started to search more and more and play different pieces, so now I love classical music.
Why do you love music?
I was born with music. My mom told me, ‘Since you were 9 months old, you were always holding your baby bottle with your fingers like you were playing a trumpet.’ Everyone in my family, almost all my cousins and uncles, is a musician—but not a classical musician. I’m the first one. All my family was always listening to music. I was born with it, so that’s why I love it. I can’t just leave music, it’s inside me.
What are your plans for the next few years?
I’m a senior, so I need to audition, but I want to stay here and start my Bachelor’s. But in the future, I would love to be in a major orchestra in the US or Europe. That’s my goal.
What are some of your hobbies outside music?
I like baseball. My dad was a baseball player when he was young, never professional, but just for fun. I love to watch baseball. I follow the Dodgers all year, and in the winter, we have the Winter League in Mexico where I follow my team. I also love horses. My family is from a small town where the main industry is ranching. I’ve been riding horses since I was 2 or 3 years old, and I love horses. It’s something that I love to do when I go back because I don’t have that here. I think I love more horses than baseball. I also like to do sports and run.
The weekly Saturday Spotlight series highlights our outstanding faculty and staff from across the school. Read other spotlight interviews.
Acclaimed Canadian pianist Micah Yui has appeared with orchestras, in recital, and as a chamber musician on three continents. She has performed for dignitaries of Japan and Canada and has been awarded three Canada Council Grants, the Edmonton Civic Award, and the Alberta Achievement Award. A winner of numerous competitions and prizes, her recording of the Bloch Concerto Symphonique with the London Symphony was awarded Record of the Year by Stereophile Magazine.
Ms. Yui has performed recitals in cities including Zurich, Tokyo, New York and Copenhagen, and has collaborated with artists including Matt Haimovitz, Daniel Heifetz, James Buswell, Paul Coletti, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. With Matt Haimovitz and Andy Simionescu, she has performed numerous piano trio concerts, including the Beethoven Triple Concerto.
Ms. Yui received the Bachelor of Music degree at The Juilliard School where she was one of three students of the pianist, Bella Davidovich. She received her Artist Diploma at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and a Master of Music at the University of Toronto. She received a Graduate Performance degree from the Peabody Conservatory where she was one of six students in the studio of Leon Fleisher. She received her earliest training from Boris and Inna Zarankin and has worked with Marietta Orlov, Giovanni Valentini in Pesaro, Italy as well as solo and chamber music with Menahem Pressler.
Equally committed to mentoring the next generations of artists, Ms. Yui has served on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Peabody Preparatory, Heifetz International Music Institute, and the Music Institute of Chicago. Ms. Yui currently teaches piano at the Colburn School’s Community School of Performing Arts.
Few other flutists in history have made such indelible marks in so many musical circles. From jazz to pop to classical, television to film to the concert hall, Jim Walker has never met a crowd that didn’t love his powerful, “stand and deliver” performances.
A star was born in 1969, when Jim was named Associate Principal Flute in the Pittsburgh Symphony after a stint playing in the US Military Academy Band at West Point. He quickly gained the admiration of colleagues and audiences in Pittsburgh and set his sights on Principal Flute jobs. After eight years he won the Principal Flute position in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and never looked back.
To be Principal Flute of a major orchestra is to sit at the pinnacle of the profession. Most flutists who reach that height are content to spend the rest of their careers there, but Jim but Jim felt an eagerness and aspiration to move his music-making forward yet again. After seven successful seasons of performing, recording, and touring with the Los Angeles Philharmonic—during which time the New York Philharmonic briefly borrowed him as Principal Flute for their 1982 South American tour—Jim left the orchestra, diving off the mountaintop into the world of jazz and studio recording.
Jazz had been one of Jim’s puppy loves, and he was inspired to get back to it by LA’s lively club scene. After a few years of avid listening in dives, gaining confidence undercover in the practice room, he organized his jazz quartet Free Flight. Flute, piano, bass, and drums playing jazz-classical fusion, Free Flight took the music world by storm. Jim’s unique combination of vision and determination pushed the group to multiple appearances on the Tonight Show and the Today Show and brought them a number one record (Slice of Life). By the time Jean-Pierre Rampal—the granddaddy of modern classical flutists—called “Jimmy” his “favorite jazz flute player” in the 1990’s, Jim was a bona fide jazz flute superstar.
Life has been equally good for Jim Walker in LA’s famed studio scene. He has been a first-call studio flutist for the better part of two decades, and his bold, expressive playing can be heard on hundreds of soundtracks and commercial recordings. His playing has become the gold standard from Hollywood to Carnegie Hall and has unlocked the door to studio and concert collaborations with everyone from John Williams and Paul McCartney—“the thrill of a lifetime,” says Jim—to Leonard Bernstein, James Galway, and the LA Guitar Quartet.
After all the reviews have been written and the stage and studio lights dim, however, Jim has said that the one aspect of his career he could maintain to the grave is teaching. He has been filling his students’ lives with music for four decades now, just as his own parents—Bob, a jazz clarinetist and public school band director, and Barbara, a church organist—filled his upbringing in Greenville, Kentucky, with piano and flute lessons. He went on to become a graduate and “Distinguished Alumnus” of the University of Louisville as well as the University’s first “Alumni Fellow” from the School of Music. To this day Jim credits a parade of flute teachers with helping him rise through the ranks, from Sarah Fouse and Francis Fuge in Kentucky to the Metropolitan Opera’s Harold Bennett, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s James Pellerite, and internationally renowned flutist and conductor Claude Monteux.
Jim’s gratitude to his teachers is returned to him by his students. As Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Flute Studies at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and Instructor of Flute and Chamber Music at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, Jim devotes at least twenty hours a week to steering the careers of young flutists. Before coming to Los Angeles, Jim’s teaching career included positions at Duquesne University, Carnegie-Mellon, and the University of Pittsburgh, and since arriving in Southern California he has been invited to be visiting professor at the University of North Texas, the University of Texas-Austin, and Arizona State University.
Jim has taught hundreds of flutists at these terrific institutions. Many of them have gone on to successful orchestral careers, holding Principal Flute chairs in major symphonies from Phoenix to Boston to Beijing. Still others have careers in fields as varied as gospel music and arts administration. Jim is not interested in simply training musicians; he inspires each pupil as a whole person, and students leave his tutelage feeling empowered, reaching for the stars. With such a legacy, it is no wonder that students on four continents have flocked to hear his recitals and master classes. Jim’s creativity allows him to reach not only these students but also others he never sees with his editions of flute masterworks on the Alfred Music Publications Young Artist Series. He is also completing a set of flute method books filled with unique, fun, highly instructional exercises so that future generations can continue to benefit from his wealth of knowledge and generosity.
Jim Walker is living proof that with enough creativity and determination, anyone can reach the stars. He is a living legend, and a true Renaissance Man of the Flute.