Laura Strickland is one of the most talented flute players in the Valley, with multiple master’s degrees related to music and performance chops with several ensembles. You can catch the Fountain Hills resident with orchestra Arizona Pro Arte, where she serves as principal flutist and executive director, and as part of flute/guitar duo SoSco.
Strickland also teaches flute lessons at Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place (SNAP), when she’s not working as a business strategist for the FrameShift Group, a health care quality improvement and change management consultancy. Strickland talked about her passion for music and flute performance, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.
What brought you to Arizona?
I’m from Seattle and came to Arizona to start my undergrad at ASU. I absolutely loved it here, but as a junior, I transferred colleges and moved to Chicago to study with a flute teacher I wanted to study with. I moved around a lot as I went to different colleges but always wanted to come back, so once I got married and had an opportunity to move wherever I wanted, we decided to come here.
What’s your earliest memory of being interested in music?
One funny story about my early interest in music was going to to the band intro class. I was so excited because I already knew for sure that I wanted to be a flute player. I went to the area where all the kids were trying out the flutes, so excited to finally get started. To my horror, while all the other kids quickly could make a sound on the flute, I left that night still not being able to get any sound at all. Obviously, I didn’t let that discourage me much.
What instruments do you play?
I play flute; piccolo; alto flute, although I don’t own one; Baroque flute, a wooden instrument with all open holes and just one key; Shakuhachi flute, a Japanese traditional, vertically-blown flute; and Eastern Indian flute, all open holes and no keys.
How did you get involved in Arizona Pro Arte?
I helped found the organization a few years ago when the director, Tim Verville, and I saw a need for a more flexible, collaborative ensemble in the valley.
We will be presenting concerts at Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center starting next season. We will be performing winning pieces from our Call for Scores competition, where we got over 900 applicants from all over the world, and the winners were both Chinese.
Concerts for the upcoming season will be held August 1, September 26, January 16, and March, 2016.
We will also be performing chamber music at Terroir Wine Pub in Scottsdale to bring music to people in a more up-close and personal, casual, interactive atmosphere. Dates for these intimate performances and discussions are scheduled for October 17, January 16, and March 19, 2016. These wine tasting/music events will be Saturday afternoons starting at 3 p.m.
What do you enjoy about playing in your flute and guitar duo, SoSco?
We play for a lot of seniors at care homes. It’s very rewarding to be able to interact with the residents and be the part of their day that’s special. And it’s so touching to hear how the music is meaningful to them. Sometimes the families are there, too, and they tell us things like, “My mom hasn’t come alive like that in months, and now she’s actually smiling when you play.”
Why are you passionate about playing music?
Trying to create a special experience for people through music is a very rewarding challenge. I find that experiencing music with other people is a very unique and powerful way of connecting with people, whether it’s with one other person I’m playing with, or whether I’m playing for a large audience.
I believe music is one of the fundamental aspects of the human experience, shown time and time again, as music is heard at the most poignant moments in life — weddings, funerals, celebrations and holidays. After a recent performance, an audience member came up to me and told me, “I loved every minute of it. It brought me such joy.” Hearing words like these just feeds my passion for music.
What makes you stand out as a performer?
I believe every note has a purpose, and every note should be paid attention to. Not that every note has to stand out, but every note has to be considered as to its musical purpose. This means my goal is to never just play the notes, but to always play the music that the notes on the page represent.
What do you hope people take away from one of your performances?
I hope that audiences leave my performances feeling that the time they spent listening was meaningful and valuable in some way, that it touched them in some way — that it brought them joy or comfort or peace or beauty or a sense of curiosity or energy or some other sense of what it is to be human.
What’s your favorite piece of music to play, and why?
I couldn’t possibly choose a single piece that’s my favorite, but if you ask me today, my favorite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich, a 20th-century Russian composer. His music has so many contrasts but always seems so complex, reflective and powerfully moving.
How would you describe the Valley’s music scene?
It seems to me there are small pockets of enthusiasts but not one huge fan base for any single genre in the Valley. In classical music, there seems to be a preference for standard classical works with not much interest in more modern works.
I feel like musicians in Phoenix, as well as in the rest of the country, need to find new ways to engage audiences in different types of music, especially classical, which has so much to offer people but is often perceived as intimidating. AZ Pro Arte is trying to break down that perception by collaborating with other types of arts–dance, theater, fine art — and by making concerts shorter so there is not so much to digest of something people aren’t familiar with, and by bringing music to the people –- at a wine bar.
What are your goals with music?
I hope to introduce classical music in a way that novices can relate to so they can broaden their scope of music that can be meaningful to them. For those who already do find meaning in classical music, I hope to offer them opportunities to have more meaningful experiences with music.
What advice would you have for an aspiring musician?
Learn a variety of styles, and keep an open mind about the types of musical activities you participate in. Look for new opportunities to present music and the arts to people in ways that resonate with today’s audiences.
Why would you encourage people to come to an Arizona Pro Arte performance?
We’re always experimenting with unusual content and collaborations, and we always play at a high level, so you’re guaranteed to have an entertaining, meaningful experience with and exposure to musicianship at a very high level.
Learn about other Valley music professionals and performers:
Learn more about Arizona Pro Arte conductor Timothy Verville here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about pianist Eric Lin here on Phoenix People.
Learn more about The Downtown Chamber Series founder and Phoenix Symphony violist Mark Dix here on Phoenix People.