[People & Work] Flutist Jamie Yoo, Symphony Nova

I met with Jamie Yoo (29) who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently a flute fellow with the Symphony Nova.

When did you start to play flute?

I first saw a flute at my friend’s house, when I was in middle school. She showed me her flute and played a beautiful melody of Bizet’s Carmen, and I was immediately captivated. My first impression of the flute was that it was shiny and it delivered a unique, beautiful tone and sound. I had been learning to play the piano since I was four, but I never felt that this was “my instrument”. Flute was different and I felt an immediate connection.

You received your doctoral degree from the University of Illinois. What were some of the challenges while studying abroad?


I came to the United States to study at Indiana University after passing the Korean equivalent of the General Educational Diploma exam. I heard that this has become more prevalent for musicians recently, but back in 2005-6, when I was preparing to study abroad, transitioning directly from homeschooling to a college was unusual. I felt like I was starting from scratch. My family was unfamiliar with this field, and I had little information about the process. I felt anxious, as I had no way knowing whether I was on track or not. My parents’ unconditional support throughout the process was tremendously helpful and gave me courage.

I thoroughly practiced speaking and writing English before coming to the United States, so I did not have problems with the language. But, since I didn’t go to an art high school, I was not well prepared to quickly master fundamental music theory, history, aural skills, and ensemble performance. That kept me really busy and I was laser-focused on keeping up with the coursework. By the time I started to pursue graduate studies, I could manage the school workload much better, although grad school was far from being easy. My experience in school has strengthened myI believe that getting things done well is always difficult, and hard work is alway rewarded. No, I can’t say that studying abroad was really stressful.

My understanding is that getting a job as a foreigner is very difficult. How did you find out about ‘Symphony Nova’?

I was very lucky to have the permanent residency approved last year. By the end of the contract with Civic Orchestra of Chicago at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I accidently found out about the Symphony Nova audition that was scheduled just in a week’s time. In order to make it to the audition, I rearranged my performance schedule and concert commitments and bought the flight ticket the day before. I was so lucky that I was selected as one of the Symphony Nova fellows.

Can you explain more about Symphony Nova? What are its strengths?

Symphony Nova performs orchestral and chamber works in the Boston area. The core group consists of ten Fellows, five string musicians (two violins, viola, cello, and bass) and five wind musicians (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn) who are selected annually through an audition and interview process.

In addition to the performances, we also engage in educational outreach activities in the Greater Boston area by visiting schools and introducing instruments to the K-12 students as well as running sectionals for the local youth orchestra. We even get to put together our own concerts by selecting the repertoire, working on the marketing and speaking to the audience – all skills that are useful to today’s musician.

The music director of Symphony Nova, Lawrence Isaacson, supports us throughout the season. One of beneficial things he does is seminars on important topics for the musicians. We discuss practical issues such as taxes for musicians, finances, second job for musicians, as well as musical advice, such as how to find your own musical path. I consider him my mentor as well as advisor.

What is your most memorable performance?

In November 2016, I had my debut recital at the Chicago Cultural Center, sponsored by the International Music Foundation. Every moment on stage is memorable, but this recital was special to me, since this was the moment that I’ve been dreaming of since my undergraduate years. I was a bit nervous, after I found that over 500 people came to listen to my recital, but I enjoyed and learned much through this recital.

How many hours do you practice everyday?

I used to have a strict, self-imposed rule on practicing at least 5 hours per day, when I was an undergraduate. As I am connecting more deeply with the music I play these days, I have come to realize that non-musical experience are as important as practicing. Playing in a small room without windows all day long is not inspiring.

I practice at least three hours every day. Recently, I started to practice etudes and focus on the improvement of my tone quality.

What are your plans?
I’ll play in the Spoleto Music Festival Orchestra in Charleston, SC in May, and teach at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in August. I look forward to expanding my musicianship through diverse concerts.


marieInterviewer: Editor, Marie Hong