Getting to Know You - An Interview with Lara Deutsch

Lara Deutsch

Ottawa flutist Lara Deutsch will be performing in the upcoming My First NAC on Tuesday May 29th at 7:30pm in the National Arts Centre Studio.  Lara also participated in the Summer Music Institute in 2010 as a member of  l’Orchestre de la francophonie, and in 2011 as a member of the wind quintet.  I had the opportunity earlier in the season to catch up with Lara and get to know her a little better, including some of her reflections on the Young Artists Program.

AW: A little about you – where are you from?

LD: I was born in Ottawa and lived there until I moved to Montreal to study at McGill for my undergraduate degree.  I will be staying at McGill, where I was offered the Master’s Graduate Fellowship to study with Tim Hutchins.   I love Montreal too much to leave!
I don’t really come from a musical family – my brothers all have commerce or law degrees!   When I was really young I looked up to two older female cousins who both played the flute.  I remember them playing at all the family gatherings.  I told my mom that I had to play the flute; when she called my first private instructor, Cathy, she actually  wasn’t sure how to teach someone so young.  I was only six years old, and it’s quite typical for people to start playing flute around age thirteen – but I’m REALLY glad she agreed to take me on anyway!

AW: Can you remember the first time you made music?

LD: I was really young, so I’m not sure if I remember it.  But I do remember sitting at the piano, probably around the age of 3, and having my legs dangling over the edge of the piano bench, not able to touch the ground. 

AW: What was the first album you bought?

LD: Spiceworld – kind of embarrassing, but then again, it was probably really cool when I was eight.

AW: What is the most memorable concert you have attended?

LD: I went to Europe in high school with the Ottawa Youth Wind Ensemble, to Germany and Austria.  We were at a choir competition in Austria at the Mozarteum. There were eight choirs from around the world, and they were all dispersed throughout the audience.  At the beginning and the end of the concert,  they all stood up and sang "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.  It was real life surround sound, the power of the human voices was amazing, and I haven’t forgotten it.  Which says a lot because I’m not really interested in choral music, I would much rather listen to something instrumental.  But the sound of all those voices in the space of the Mozarteum was incredible.

AW: What are you currently listening to?

LD: "Human Again" – Ingrid Michaelson
Favorite song:   "I’m Through"
It’s simple, beautiful music.   I like it mostly because of the lyrics, it’s about the power of relationships and the human connection and that is something that is really important to me.  Most of the lyrics you hear on the radio these days leave something to be desired (the Facebook song is particularly terrible) so it’s a nice change from that! Ingrid’s not the best workout/running music though – Daft Punk and Red Hot Chili Peppers are my defaults.

AW: What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned so far?

LD: Learning that what we do is 100% subjective.  The only person who knows exactly what you can do is yourself.  You need to be happy with what you do, rather than worry about what other people think. 

AW: Wow Lara, if you’ve learned that lesson already, how old are you?

LD: I’m twenty-one.

AW: It’s an incredible lesson; you are ahead of the game.

LD: I think that’s a benefit of starting so young.  I was in a competition a little while ago and one of the judges ripped everything I played to shreds.  I felt like I couldn’t play the flute at all.  And then the next judge told me to keep doing what I was doing and that I had an extremely promising career ahead of me.   You definitely can’t please everyone. 

AW: You’ve participated participating in the National Arts Centre Summer Music Institute in previous years; what do you look back on most fondly?

LD: One of my favorite moments was a reading session between the YAP [Young Artists Program] wind quintet and the Principal winds from the NAC Orchestra.  It was really incredible to have that experience.  It is not often that you get to sit down with a world-class professional wind section and study the music like that.  You’re usually just working on excerpts in your lesson with your teacher.  It was  exciting (and a little nerve-wracking!)  to be able to experience it in a real life situation outside of the school environment.

AW: For you, what is it to be part of the Summer Music Institute?

LD: It’s a privilege; a fantastic opportunity to work with talented faculty and peers, from whom I learned so much.  I received one piece of advice from Pace [Douglas Sturdevant] last year:  ‘Never forget the basics.  Don’t get caught up in the small details and the competition or rivalry.  By the time you are invited to participate in YAP you can play your scales backwards and forwards, and you know your repertoire inside and out.  Don’t forget about the basics, it’s about how you execute your musical ideas that will make you stand apart.’
One thing I love about YAP is that it’s not about competition.  It’s about learning about yourself and your own potential in a group setting It’s about using the opportunity to learn about yourself as a player and to see what you can accomplish when given the chance to play with high-caliber players.


AW: Any words of wisdom for young musicians? Experiences you’d like to share?

LD: I think it's important for all musicians that we remember where we came from.  As much as we play in ensembles, music has the potential to be a VERY isolating career – hours of practicing can  easily make you forget that there are other things going on in the world!
When I was growing up, my mother did everything she could to create opportunities for me during difficult financial times. I also have many teachers to whom I am grateful for believing in me and for teaching me when I would not otherwise have had the chance to work with them. There is no question that is largely to their credit that I am where I am today. Music has always been my passion and my outlet - and now it's my turn to give others the opportunity to develop that passion. In high school, I was inspired by my volunteer experience at The Leading Note Foundation's Ottawa-based "Orkidstra" after-school program. It is based on the Venezuelan idea of "El Sistema", where children are given an instrument as soon as they are old enough to play and then receive free music education daily in the hopes of encouraging the development of life skills and of preventing their engagement in violence and crime. Regardless of whether they become professional musicians, the program develops a sense of community and responsibility that is applicable to any career; all while demonstrating what can come of hard work and practice. Having worked with both Orkidstra as well as the Montreal Heart of the City Piano Program, it is incredible to see the difference these programs can make to communities in need. Wherever my career takes me, I hope to be involved in running an El Sistema program - or to start one where one is needed.


AW: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming performance for “My First NAC”?

LD: I’m very excited to be performing two movements of the Debussy Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp with Antoine Malette-Chenier and Emilie Grimes.  All three of us were in the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy together in high school (Antoine and I actually played the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto on tour with the OYO in 2008) so it’s been fun to have the chance to catch up and play with them, even though we’re all in different places.   They are both superstar players and great people, so it has been a pleasure to work with them.  As for the piece, it’s typical Debussy: gorgeous!!


You can listen to a recording of Lara playing "Romance" from Charles-Marie Widor's Suite for Flute and Piano, Op. 34 here.