I grew up in a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania. My mother played piano and I have an aunt who was a church organist. I started playing piano when I was five. Then in the fourth grade, my twin sister and I were able to start taking music lessons at school. She chose the clarinet and I picked the saxophone.
Every day, we would walk home from school carrying our instruments. That sax was so heavy for me! I convinced my sister to take turns carrying it so we could make it home. But a month or two into the school year, she announced that she was not going to help me haul that instrument anymore. My mother suggested that the flute would be light enough for me to carry by myself and that’s how I got started!
At first, I was horrible! I couldn’t make a sound and I got light-headed from blowing out so much air. It was not a good experience at the beginning, but I stuck with it and worked hard every day. I heard other kids making a pretty sound and thought, “If they can do it, I can too!”
My music teachers helped inspire me to work very hard. They taught me to have high standards for myself and be proud of what I accomplish. Little by little, I improved a lot. I realized that working slowly and steadily really can win the race.
Although I sometimes became frustrated by not being the best flute player in the band, I stayed with it because a lot of my friends were in band too. Being a member of the band also gave me an opportunity to represent my school, and I took pride in that.
I had my first private lessons from a professional flutist when I was a high school sophomore. Besides being my teacher, she would drive her daughter, my sister, and me more than an hour to Harrisburg, the state capitol, where we all played in the youth symphony — as first chairs. The chance to play with other good musicians was a lot of fun and showed me how much my hard work paid off.
When I went to college to study flute, my goal was to have a playing job by the time I graduated. I thought if I could just make enough money for an apartment and a cat that would be fine. Everything else would be extra. In the end, I won my first full-time orchestra job a few years after graduation.
The preparation that goes into being a professional is very demanding but it is really satisfying to do your best. Music is so worth it! Playing the flute is a way to express my feelings, whether happy or sad. I don’t have to explain how I feel to anyone. I can just express myself and let music take me to a different place.
Aside from classical music, Jennifer loves listening to musical theater, including Wicked, which she thought was “awesome!” Listen to this piece on iTunes >
In her video profile, Jennifer plays the beautiful flute solo at the beginning of Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Listen to this piece on iTunes >