How did you choose the flute?
I grew up playing piano because my father was a part-time piano teacher. I was nine years old and my father suggested I look into another instrument. Finally, I saw a flute being played up close. All the nerves in my fingers began to tingle. I had to try it. In the first three days of playing the flute, I skipped the first three classes in the summer band program. Somehow I knew right there that I had been given the greatest gift in my life.
What was your first flute?
An Armstrong at age 9 and a silver Muramatsu at age 12. (After that, I never looked back.)
Please tell us about any musical influences.
In the beginning, it was my parents, of course. They held classical music above all. And being from Wilmington, DE, I would have to say the greatest influence was Philadelphia – everything about it. I enjoyed the Philadelphia Orchestra concerts. I loved playing in the Youth Orchestra, and at Settlement Music School. I had lessons with Deborah Carter Smith, and her husband, Philadelphia orchestra conductor William Smith, would talk to my father in the living room while I had a lesson. I was impacted by listening to recordings of James Galway, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Yo-Yo Ma, Claudio Arrau, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera on the radio to name a few. My alma mater, the Tatnall School allowed me room to grow. After entering Juilliard, my teachers – including the non-flutists – were patient and encouraging. My dream slowly became reality.
Tell us about where you studied flute and the teachers you studied under.
In Delaware, I studied with Virginia Atherton and in Philadelphia, with Deborah Carter Smith. Samuel Baron (BM) and Jeanne Baxtresser (MM) from the Juilliard School. Mozarteum Summer Academy with Alain Marion and Peter-Lukas Graf. Trudy Kane in New York post-Juilliard.
What is a typical work day for you?
Wow! When? Where? It could be anything! Every day is new. I wake up always by 7 AM and am doing exercise, Training with a trainer on Tuesdays/Thursdays, or running 4 miles, spin class, yoga, whatever… I have to do it for so many reasons so why not mix it up? I have a lot of career business to attend to every day, combined with teaching, practicing, travelling, school administration, having a personal life, keeping up with a dog and a 100 year old house – no day is really typical. I like it that way!
Tell us what is in your CD/Ipod player right now.
I use the IPOD to work out to Diana Krall, Rhianna, Madonna, Aerosmith. I like the dance music when I run. But jazz is what I really hold in high esteem. In my I-Tunes I have every genre under the sun.
Who is your favorite composer?
I love all composers. They write for me a lot so I can’t pick a favorite. They have all influenced me in some way. I know I learn a lot by practicing Bach every day. I know I love Brahms and Prokoffiev and Daugherty but I can’t really pick a favorite.
Do you have a favorite flute piece/recording?
Again – no favorites – but I think we all are influenced by Jean-Pierre Rampal and James Galway’s wonderful recordings. And I like listening to the viola da gamba play music of Marin Marais and I like listening to Fritz Wunderlich sing Schubert Lieder. And I try to keep an open mind and approach to all music. I love it all. So I suppose I can’t give you a favorite anything – except my favorite flavor of ice cream. And then it would have to be, hands down, mocha almond fudge.
What qualities do you think are most essential to musical excellence?
The ability to combine practice with theory. The ability to sing from the heart and express what words cannot.
Through the years, what has been the most valuable lesson that music has taught you?
Music has taught me to move on. Move through. Keep moving. Air moves, life moves, change is inevitable. Keep creating yourself, just like a new interpretation of an old song.
Do you have any amusing early career stories you would like to share?
Read the old Flute Talk article interview of me from 1987 or 1988… I learned the Bach Sonata in E minor for the Flute Talk Competition. The night before the competition, in the dorms , I overheard someone playing the E major Sonata of Bach. I ran to look at the requirements again and there it clearly stated Bach Sonata in E Major. What a moment of clarity realizing I had learned the wrong Sonata! Thank goodness I had the edition where they are published together. I had just worked on the E major with Sam Baron. I quickly released the key of E minor from my brain and I was able to work the E major Sonata back into my fingers and memory and win the competition. Afterwards, in the interview, the magazine recounted the story for the readers. But, for me, the most embarrassing part was how that article began. “Amy Porter didn’t practice that day.” I learned several lessons in that situation that I will teach for a lifetime!
How about some non-flute stuff:
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I will always love the here and now. So I am happy wherever I am in the world!
What is the last book you read?
“Insatiable” by Gael Greene. I am a foodie so THAT was a fun read.
What is the best dish you can cook?
Not a fair question! I love to cook! How about this: Sea Bass in black & white sesame seeds poached in carrot/ginger juice. Or how about butternut squash risotto? Or a fun (bran, berries, etc) muffin? Hungry?
What is your favorite movie?
I like the Christopher Guest movies. “Waiting for Guffman”, “Best in Show” and his others. I am more of a book-worm than a movie buff.
If you could play any other instrument, which would it be?
Trumpet – again. It’s a true story. I played for eight years, less seriously than the flute, in various ensembles but not in the orchestra!! I loved it, until one day, I could no longer get away with it. It had negatively affected my tone. Now I only play it on April Fools Day or Halloween. I think I still have a little brass player in me!