Students from across Iowa attend Iowa Flute Festival

Devin Wilmott

Around 200 students from institutions across Iowa attended the annual Iowa Flute Festival this year on March 29. Iowa State has the opportunity of hosting the festival every five years due to its rotation between Iowa State, the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, Grinnell and Drake. This year’s events took place at Iowa State’s Music Hall and lasted from all day, from 8:30am to 6:30pm.

Upon arrival, flutists were greeted with a schedule of classes and activities to partake in. Several Iowa State music majors volunteered to help ensure the festival’s smooth running and all attendees had the option of ordering lunch to carry them throughout the daily activities. 

The festival headlines a special guest every year to teach a masterclass and perform a solo-recital for all attendees to hear and learn from.Well-known professor and performer Amy Porter was this year’s special guest. She is highly sought for her teaching and versatile masterclasses.

“Amy is an electrifying performer. I mean, she is just amazing. She’s a real powerhouse and very demonstrative. She is so energetic and I also think she’s a phenomenal teacher. Amy is very methodical while her instructions are very clear and easy to understand,” said Sonja Giles, associate professor of music and this year’s event coordinator.

Porter has conducted masterclasses for local flute clubs throughout the United States along with conducting in Sweden, France, Brazil, Luxembourg, Japan and Taiwan. She has also published and produced an array of sheet music arrangements, DVD study guides and CDs, and served on the 2005 jury panel of the Kobe International Flute Competition as well as several other competitions hosted by the National Flute Association. 

“I am honored to represent Iowa State at the 2014 Iowa Flute Festival and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with Professor Amy Porter during the masterclass for which I will be performing,” said Irissa Hubka, senior in music and Dr. Giles’ chosen advocate to participate in Porter’s masterclass.

Hubka plans to pursue a master’s degree in flute performance at Pennsylvania State University where she has also accepted the flute teaching assistantship position. She has been playing flute for nearly 16 years and previously represented Iowa State as a freshman in the 2011 Iowa Flute Festival, playing in a masterclass for Stefan Ragnar Hoskuldsson, Principal Flutist of the Metropolitan Opera. 

Dr. Giles currently instructs 14 music majors as flute students, Hubka being one of them. When looking for a student to represent Iowa State in the festival, Dr. Giles listens to her students during individual lessons to determine who’s “kickin’ butt.” She then decides from there, along with the other four universities who also choose a student to represent their university. 

“For the students it is such an exciting experience because they get to work with someone new and famous, yet also nerve wrecking because you have no idea what they’re going to ask of you,” Giles said.

But Hubka stressed her excitement with, “I am not at all nervous, and I love performing.”

Each student had around 30 minutes during their masterclass to play a seven to eight minute piece and work with Porter for the remainder of the time. 

“My masterclass went splendidly,” Hubka said. “I learned so much from Professor Amy Porter and I had a wonderful time.”

It was hard to pick a favorite part of Saturday’s events, but Hubka noted that she, “enjoyed each part for different reasons.

“Performing for Professor Amy Porter’s masterclass was definitely a highlight. We have a lot of talented and hardworking flutists in Iowa and it was special to be able to perform with some of them and listen to several others as well,” Hubka said.

The day did not stop there. Even though the masterclass may have been a signature highlight of the event, Dr. Giles had the opportunity of performing a piece written for five flutes composed by JUNO & ECMA award-winning composer and flutist Derek Charke. The piece was originally commissioned to be written and premiered at the 2013 National Flute Association Convention in New Orleans. Dr. Giles performed this piece along side colleagues from ISU, Grinnell, Simpson, and a group called In Sterio on March 29. 

After a long, “flute-tastic” day, students from across Iowa returned home with new ideas of flute music to play, ways to teach and methods to approach pieces in hopes of only advancing their knowledge of music and artistry.