Strings usually get most of the symphonic glory, but Peoria Symphony Orchestra aficionados know the value of a good flutist, exemplified by the talent of Principal Flutist Kyle Dzapo. The Ohio native—who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, and a doctoral degree from Northwestern University—has lived and worked in Peoria since 1993. In addition to her position with the PSO, she is an associate professor of music at Bradley University.
Dzapo has been principal flutist, one of six endowed chairs, since her arrival. “Just after I accepted the Bradley position, the PSO’s principal flutist moved to Florida. She originally intended to fly back to Peoria to continue to perform with the symphony—principal flute positions are few and far between, and once won, a person is often reluctant to relinquish the job. In the end, however, she decided the commute was too complicated and didn’t return. I auditioned, and after a four-concert probationary appointment, I was hired as principal flutist,” she said.
In her leadership position, Dzapo is responsible for about 50 services each year, including 35 rehearsals, seven subscription concerts, four youth concerts, and two pops concerts. “I play the first flute parts in the orchestra, which contain most of the solos conceived by composers. As principal flutist, I lead the section and work with my colleagues to achieve dynamic balance, technical fluency, and unity of intonation and articulation,” she said.
Her duties at Bradley are divided among three areas: teaching, scholarship, and professional service. “I teach the University’s flute students, currently a group of 12. I also teach one music history course each semester—either Medieval and Renaissance music or Baroque and Classical-era music. In January and May, I participate in Bradley’s International Program, team-teaching a comparative arts course in London. I teach other classes occasionally, including western civilization; music appreciation; and one last summer I particularly enjoyed, music and western society, offered through the Master of Liberal Studies program.”
Dzapo said the scholarship component of her position includes both research and creative production (performance). “My primary interest lies in uncovering how musical scholarship informs performance. Ten years ago, at Northwestern, I began to research the life and music of Danish flutist Joachim Andersen. Every flutist knows of Andersen because he wrote 188 technical etudes we all practice to develop faster, accurate finger coordination. I traveled to Denmark, Germany, and New York to conduct research, published a book about Andersen in 1999, and have now been playing his music, integrating the research with my performances.”
Recent performances included dates in Washington, D.C., Denmark, and London.
She’s racked up several awards for her teaching and scholarship, including the Caterpillar Inc. New Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1998 and the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Scholarship in 1999.
As part of her professional service, she is currently active in the National Flute Association and is a member of the Bradley Strategic Planning Committee.
Dzapo said the best—and most challenging—aspect of her teaching career is helping students achieve more than they thought possible. “Students often believe they don’t have the talent or ability to perform well, when really they simply need proper instruction and inspiration. I love to help students chart a course toward a competition, audition, or recital, and I love the challenge of listening to them each week and helping them refine their playing.”
Dzapo began playing flute in sixth grade, like many kids do, but she had two advantages: incredibly supportive parents and a marvelous flute teacher in Wally Mayhall. “Wally was my teacher for three years and is still a major influence in my life. He was not only a phenomenal flutist, but also a man whose knowledge fascinated and inspired me. I never knew what to expect when I headed to Wally’s house: often, he double- or triple-booked my time so I would sit listening to the other students’ lessons for an hour before it was my turn. Sometimes the next students arrived, and it never got to be my turn. Some night he would ask mathematical or philosophical questions, and I wouldn’t have the chance to play my flute at all. There were times he showed slides of a recent trip to Europe instead of hearing me play. My parents sat in the driveway for hours.”
Though she said she doesn’t have the courage to teach that way, she credits Mayhall with teaching her to be receptive to ideas and opportunities. “The world seemed open to me because of his example and guidance.”
Athletics interested Dzapo growing up—and she continued her running hobby as an adult until sidelined by an automobile accident last year—but she said a career in music was never in doubt. “By the time I began to think about college and a career, I was studying with Mr. Mayhall and absorbed in flute playing. I was interested in all aspects of the professional work Wally did: teaching at the local university, performing in the symphony, and conducting musicoligical research. I never seriously considered another career, but as I look back, I realize I also didn’t set out to be as much like my teacher as I am.”
Dzapo said she enjoys the diversity of teaching, performing, and conducting research, though she admitted to an occasional struggle in finding balance. “In performance, one is always on the edge. It’s exciting because, as in sports, no matter how careful the preparation, there’s always the risk of failure. I’m a better performance teacher because I’m a performer myself. Teaching a music history course is another kind of performance, and I find the interaction with eager, active minds very stimulating. Research and writing balance performance: everything can be honed and edited over and over until it’s just the way I want it. Sometimes it’s a relief not to deal with the excitement of the moment.”
She will be in the limelight, however, during the PSO’s May 3 performance, when Dzapo will demonstrate her skills as a soloist. “Music Director David Commanday likes to include orchestra members as soloists occasionally, and I’m delighted to be playing with Marcia Henry, the Symphony’s concertmaster, and guest artist Charlotte Maddax. In addition, Marcia and I are going to perform a piece for our own instrument and orchestra; in my case, it’s Mozart’s Andante for Flute and Orchestra. The program concludes with Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. I’m thrilled to play solos by Bach and Mozart and a great symphony by Brahms on the same program, especially with David Commanday conducting,” she said.
Dzapo said she’s equally thrilled with her life in Peoria, though future opportunities may lead her to different markets. “I have wonderful students and colleagues and have found Bradley supportive of my interest in combining teaching with research and performance. I’ve been able to develop and participate in international projects, and I love performing with the Symphony. Through my performing and writing, I’ve met professionals around the world who find my work interesting and who bring up possibilities I’ll eventually have to consider. But right now, I’m enjoying my life and work here.” AA!