Saturday, September 28, 2013

Interview with Emi Ferguson, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Flute Performance at UB

Emi Ferguson, a flute player dedicated to expanding the boundaries of contemporary performance, has been hailed by critics for her "tonal bloom" and "hauntingly beautiful performances." Emi's unique approach to the flute can be heard in her use of the silver flute, historical flutes and auxiliary flutes to play repertoire stretching from the Renaissance to today.

Emi was a featured performer alongside Yo-Yo Ma, Paul Simon, and James Taylor at the 10th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony of 9/11 at Ground Zero, where her performance of Amazing Grace was televised worldwide. Her playing can be heard live in concerts and festivals around the world as well as in her adopted hometown, New York City. Extremely passionate about championing new flute works by contemporary composers, she has premiered pieces by Wayne Oquin, Kendall Briggs, Elliott Carter, and even CPE Bach to name a few. Emi has been a featured performer at the Marlboro Music and Lucerne Festivals, and this past summer, performed and taught with Juilliard GlobalPianoSonoma in California, Juilliard Baroque in Germany, and Les Arts Florissants in France. In addition, she was awarded 1st Prize at the National Flute Association's prestigious Young Artist Competition

Emi is currently on the faculty of the Juilliard School and was recently appointed to the faculty of the University of Buffalo where she teaches flute and ear training. She was the first person to have graduated from Juilliard with Undergraduate and Graduate degrees with Scholastic Distinction in flute performance, as well as a second Graduate degree in Historical Performance as a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow.

Please tell us about yourself. Bonus points for an insider's view of Emi, delightful tidbits not covered in a standard bio.

Well, I guess the most important things are that I hate cheese, but absolutely love Japanese food which I blame on my being born in Japan. If anyone wants a partner in crime for Japanese dinner in Buffalo let me know! I also have a serious weakness for English candy since I grew up there. :)

I also play the flute ... I started when I was six and haven't stopped yet! I seriously considered studying epidemiology instead of music but decided to stick with music and sneak in articles and studies about various diseases on the side. Boston is my hometown in the US but I have lived in New York City for the past eight years and love it there!

How did you become interested in contemporary music?

I started really playing contemporary music while as a student at Juilliard.  I worked with a lot of composers there, played in the New Juilliard Ensemble and AXIOM Ensemble (Juilliard's contemporary music ensembles) where I fell in love with the music and the challenges posed and was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who were incredibly enthusiastic about it as well. All of this was solidified for me my junior year where I was so fortunate to work with some of the titans of new music – Elliott Carter, James Levine, and Pierre Boulez – both in New York and at the Lucerne Festival Academy.

Do you still have a strong relationship as a performer and listener with traditional/classical music?

Absolutely! In addition to my work with contemporary music I also play early music on historical instruments, a lot of Baroque and Classical music on those with various groups around the world. I'm also a huge fan of late Renaissance music, which unfortunately doesn't usually have flutes, so I'm just a listener there.  Of course the core of the modern flute repertoire comes from the romantic period onwards so I'm always searching for new gorgeous pieces from that time period to play.

What brought you to Buffalo/UB?

I was contacted by the Department of Music this past summer and the rest is history! I'm so thrilled to be here.

Do you have a "mission" as a performer/musician/artist(/human)? If so, please share.

I believe it's incredibly important for musicians to make sure that they do not live or perform in a vacuum.  It's so easy for us to get caught up in the details of our craft as we strive for perfection, but it is so important to take a step back and see that the most important things are often communication and the power that we have to truly affect people with our music.

What new and exciting things do we have to look forward to this year from Emi Ferguson?

Well, I'll be in Buffalo for one! I'll be playing the October 28th concert with the Slee Sinfonietta, the November 8th birthday concert for David Felder, and will be joining my former teacher Carol Wincenc, a Buffalo native, on her April 15th recital. I also recently finished a record of composer Kendall Briggs' flute music, much of which was written for me, which should be available sometime this year.

For performance listings, audio and video recordings and more, please visit:

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