This past Saturday we got the chance to chat with Tiffany Sun ’18, one of the winners of this year’s Berkshire Symphony Soloist Competition. Tiffany competed this year with the third movement of Jacques Ibert’s Flute Concerto.
What got you playing flute in the first place? Why did you continue for as long as you did?
I originally played piano. The head of my school was a flute teacher. The story goes, according to my parents, that the head saw me play piano, and, I think, said I should play flute instead for one reason or another. And then I ended up taking flute lessons with her too. And I just kept taking them – it was partially out of parental obligation. And then after, I kind of began to enjoy it. And then it felt like I might as well not stop if I’m this far in, so I kept going. I like it now!
What motivated you to compete? What got you interested in playing as a soloist for the Berkshire Symphony?
I did the competition in freshman year and I really enjoyed it. And I never had many opportunities to do that in high school or other places. So I was like, it would be really cool to play with Berkshire Symphony, and then after I won freshman year, I thought I’d really like to try it again but with a different piece. This piece by C.P.E. Bach [which Tiffany performed in her freshman year] is a great piece for fundamentals and it’s very demanding in terms of how you play it. But, I wanted to play something that was slightly more contemporary, which is why I choose the Ibert Concerto. It’s a very energetic piece that requires a lot from me and from the orchestra.
So what were some of the things you thought about when preparing the Ibert that may have been different than what you did when preparing the Bach?
Definitely energy. The Ibert is very fast and very energetic and lively. I’ve heard different things from two teachers: one thinks it should be like a joke and Jackie [Tiffany’s teacher at Williams] says it should be more firm. And so there are really a lot of interpretations. Bach has standards: there’s a certain way it needs to be done. The practicing [for Ibert] is a lot of technical work too because it’s a much faster piece, so there are a lot of notes and technical stuff that I need to work on to make sure that’s there. After that I have to think a lot about phrasing.
So can you tell me more about lines and phrasing?
The piece is broken up almost into three sections: there’s the fast section and then the middle slow section, and then there’s another fast section. Both fast sections are actually almost repetitions of each other, but with different notes. But in order to not sound repetitive you have to choose different ways of making it interesting.
I know for this competition you were asked to perform first. What was your thought process before going onstage?
I generally do like going first for things. Being first is great because you get to be able to set the bar. You’re the first person anyone hears.
What are some things that you are doing now to prepare for the Soloist gala?
I feel that I didn’t have enough practice time before the competition. I am going through some of the technicality stuff. Now that I have an extra couple of months, I can definitely afford the time to play it super slowly, then slightly slowly, then slowly, then a little faster, then fast and then up the tempo, which really helps. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of focus because playing the same thing over and over again gets pretty boring.
Lastly, I know you’re also part of the Berkshire Symphony, so does it have any special significance for you to be able to solo with that orchestra?
Yeah, I’m friends with a lot of people in the Symphony, so it’s really great to be able to know that they’re playing with me. I have a lot of faith and trust in these friendships. I’m with incredibly great musicians, so I’m very happy to be playing with them.
– Interview by Christine Pash ’18