JPEG Alison Fierst - NPS - Class Photos

Alison Fierst

Associate Principal Flute,

New York Philharmonic


Thank you to the lovely Alison Fierst for walking us through the magic of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune in our first class of the Winter 2021 Session

With so many subtleties to capture and cherish in this excerpt, one can easily get lost in the details and feel discouraged when practicing. 

In this class, Ms. Fierst seamlessly aligned each performer's strengths with these subtleties and revealed deeper layers of expression and intention. She discussed opportunities for rubato and consequently, momentum that naturally emerge within the expressive process, how to use vibrato to heighten or soften the nuances of tone colors and using dynamics in a way that communicates the pure intention of the music as well as spotlights the hidden surprises within each phrase.  

Ms. Fierst's warmth and kindness extend into her beauty of sound and effortless artistry.  It was a joy to feature her in this series!

JPEG - Amal Gochenour - NPS - Class Phot

Amal Gochenour


Baltimore Symphony Orchestra 


Thank you to Amal Gochenour for sharing her experience and expertise with us in her class on Rossini's Semiramide

With an excerpt as familiar as Semiramide, it's possible to become complacent in our interpretation and perception of the challenges in the music.  Sometimes we need a new way of looking at something, or as Ms. Gochenour suggests, "repackaging."  We can take a passage we've practiced hundreds of times and give it a new function, such as repackaging pick-up notes as a rushed gesture to three notes that are an extension of a former idea.  Ms. Gochenour also discussed shape through air energy. This helped performers create more definition in the contour and direction of the phrase.  

It was a refreshing mix of practical and inspiring information. We are so grateful to Amal for sharing her experiences with us and offering methods for practicing and performing on piccolo that make it more approachable!

JPEG - Helen Blackburn - NPS - Class Pho

Helen Blackburn

Principal Flute, Dallas Opera Orchestra 


A special thanks to Helen Blackburn for an impassioned class on Bizet's, Carmen and for sharing endless gems of musical wisdom to take with us to the practice room and beyond.  

Ms. Blackburn's attention to detail transformed big ideas into small and manageable steps for application in practice and performance. She shared quick and simple exercises to target each musical component so they were immediately present in the music. Vibrato, for example, can be practiced  with speed and width in mind as they pertain to dynamic range and register; also the placement of vibrato on critical rhythmic and melodic notes to bring natural shape the phrase; and, the role of vibrato at the start/end of notes.  Again, each with its own unique exercise for ease of application in context. 


Ms. Blackburn's depth of musical understanding and infectious passion for teaching offered participants a thoroughly engaging and memorable class.  We will be referring to our notes from this class for a long time to come! ​