Megan Ensor

An Interview With Megan Ensor

This month I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing an amazing flutist, artist, mom, military musician, author, and friend. Megan Ensor has accomplished so much and we are very happy that she submitted to our interrogation, er, interview…

K: Thank you for taking the time to let us interview you. So, how did you decide you wanted to play the flute? How long have you been playing?

M: Thank you, Keith, for the invitation. This is SO EXCITING!   I started flute in my parochial-school band program in 4th grade. I was 9 years old, and picked the flute because friends who were a year older than me were playing it and I loved how SHINY it was! I’m 43 now, so I’ve been playing for over 30 years! 

K: You’ve had a quite successful career as a military musician in one of the top military bands in the United States. Was this always a career goal? If not, what would you have done instead?

M: If you have approached me at my college graduation in 2003 and told me that in 5 months, I’d be leaving for Air Force Basic Military Training to become a professional flutist and start a 20-year career that would lead me to becoming the outgoing Principal Piccoloist of the top Concert Band in the WORLD, I would have looked at you like you had 2 heads and told you to go get one of them checked! 

I always wanted to perform, but I never imagined I would actually DO it! I went to school for Music Education and had plans to become the Next Great Middle School Band Director of America. I didn’t even own a piccolo! But I’ve always prided myself in being a person who “does the work.” So, it was no surprise to my colleagues when I won my job with the Air Force Band of Flight right after graduation, because in order for me to be a great teacher, I felt I needed to be a great musician as well. So I worked on my playing equally as hard as my teaching and it paid off! 

K: Were there any cool or interesting places that you got to perform as a military musician? Do you have a favorite performance memory or concert?

M: I’ve been so fortunate to have a job that has a national touring mission. I’ve been to every state in the contiguous 48, and played in more concert halls, community amphitheaters, and gymnasiums than I can count! (over a thousand performances!) I’ve performed at the White House, the Vice-President’s house, Arlington National Cemetery, and for all the major news networks. I’ve marched in Inauguration parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and performed alongside musicians from over a half-dozen countries!

Of all those things, there are two performances that stand out. The first was at the 2019 Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic where we got to play the National Anthem with United Sound, a non-profit peer mentoring program that pairs students with disabilities with peer mentors to help them learn the instruments of their choice at their modified level. The work they do on a daily basis is incredible. Watching those student teams working together alongside professional musicians in front of all their peers, educators and mentors to create such a meaningful product blew me away! It was a National Anthem I’ll never forget. The second performance was when the Air Force Band hosted members of the National Presidential Orchestra of Ukraine for a joint-service concert. We got to spend a full week working under the baton of Col. Masym Husak with tenor soloist Serhii Hurets for a concert showcasing public support for the people of Ukraine. The level of camaraderie, respect, and musicianship was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It was so much fun to meld the musical traditions of both countries. The concert was a historic event that had standing ovations after every single piece! I went home after the concert walking on a musical cloud. 

K: You are quite an amazing piccolo player. How did you get started on the piccolo? Do you have a favorite piece for piccolo that you just love or think should be performed more often?

M: Thank you! I got started on the piccolo the same way most flutists do–in my school band. I played it in marching band throughout high school and college, but never really thought of pursuing it as an individual instrument until I was getting ready to take military band auditions. Once I was in the Air Force and had a quality instrument, I began to study it more closely, mainly, because it was now a requirement of my job. In the regional bands, there are only 2 flutists per band, so they share the responsibility of playing piccolo on the band pieces (alternating between principal and 2nd/picc). In addition, piccolo is the required instrument for outdoor marching and ceremonial performances. I needed to become more than an adequate piccoloist quickly! There was a lot of “trial by fire” in my first enlistment, so I turned to my teachers and let them take the reins on my development. Once I learned that the instrument is truly an extension of the 3rd octave of the flute, it became MUCH easier and mentally approachable, and my playing really began to blossom from there!

In terms of favorite pieces, there are so many good ones out there. In terms of standards, any of the Vivaldi concertos are fantastic! He really knew how to write for piccolo (piccolo recorder in that day) and I can’t think of any other set of works that really sits in the tonal ‘wheelhouse’ of the instrument while giving the performer beautiful, straight-forward melodies that are accessible for any level of player. For new music, the latest piece I have fallen in love with is “Sonata Piccolo” by P.D.Q. Bach. It’s a short 4-movement sonata that is so much fun to play. It’s an accessible piece for performers of any level, and packed with all the witty anecdotes you’ve come to expect from P.D.Q. himself. 

K: As a military musician, you’ve done a lot of symphony band performances. Do you have any favorite pieces, composers, or piccolo solos in the band repertoire that you love to perform?

M: Oh my goodness, there’s a lot! I’ve always been a band nerd, so I really enjoy many of the warhorses of the repertoire: Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy & Molly on the Shore, Claude T. Smith’s music, Frank Tichelli’s Blue Shades, and a number of marches from lesser-known composers such as Karl King. As a piccoloist, my favorite piece to play has to be Leonard Bernstein’s “3 Dances from ‘On the Town’.” It’s so much fun, and the final movement is the ultimate challenge for a piccoloist in terms of stamina and technique (and who doesn’t love a good challenge?!). 

K: Much of your career has focused on the piccolo and you recently published a great book of piccolo excerpts. What inspired this project and why did you feel it was important to pursue?

M: Flute & Piccolo Excerpts for Wind Band was published back in 2021 to fill in a major gap in our repertoire. The inspiration came to me one day at work while I was proctoring a clarinet audition. As the day went on, I witnessed one musician after another come into the room, nail the orchestral excerpts, but fall flat on the band ones. It got much worse when they were asked to sight-read a march! I was amazed at how many conservatory-level musicians showed up to win a band job with, literally, little-to-no knowledge of the repertoire. It got me thinking about our own instrument. I started researching available resources, and came up empty-handed. Thus, my goal was set! 

As I started writing the book and compiling excerpts, I wanted to create something that stood out. I annotated the excerpts from a “panelist’s perspective,” laying out exactly what the judges want to hear on every excerpt. But, we all know the hardest part of performing is not in actually playing the instrument, but in getting out of our own ways mentally. To help with that, I included lots of mental-prep tips and exercises to add into your daily practice routines so you can show up to your next audition not just musically prepared, but MENTALLY prepared as well! 

K: Do you have any current projects that we should keep an eye out for that you can tell us about, or hint about?

M: I do! I am currently working on VOLUME II! The first book was focused on the ‘standards’ of band repertoire–the excerpts most likely to show up on an audition list of any level, more of an introduction to the genre. Volume II goes deeper. The excerpts are harder, longer, and we’ll dive into the world of MARCHES! I will explain American march style & structure, and follow it with what I feel are the most challenging marches out there that every flutist should be familiar with. Lastly, a large part of the success of my first book came from my mental prep ideas. I can’t tell you how many emails I have received with stories of how they have literally changed people’s playing! So, Volume II will be packed with even MORE mental prep tips and exercises to keep you going on your path of development and self-discovery. Pre-orders will begin taking place in August! 

Once that project is complete, I will begin recording myself performing all the excerpts from both books to have as a free resource on both my website and my YouTube page. I feel it’s important to have these recordings so flutists can better know how to prepare. I’m also of the belief that if I can’t play it, I won’t publish it! It’s important to me to be able to back up my writing with my playing. Not because I have something to prove! But to show the world WHY these excerpts matter. 

K: Now that you are retired, what will you do with all of your free time? Do you have any non-musical projects or adventures that you hope to explore?

M: For starters, I’m going to enjoy my first full summer free with my 6 & 8 year old children. We’re going to spend a lot of time at the pool, riding our bikes, and doing all the fun summer things! I’m going to enjoy sleeping in (when they let me!) and spending extra time with my husband on all of my free evenings and weekends. Ha! 

I’m a person who can’t sit still. So, I’m already planning trips to amusement parks, baseball games, and campgrounds. I also plan on investing more time into my hobbies. I’m a quilter and a gardener, and I have a number of projects I’m looking forward to working on both inside and out!

K: Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to pursue a career in flute performance or military bands?

M: The days of focusing on being ‘strictly this or that’ are gone! If you’re going to make it in this business, you’ve got to be versatile. You don’t need to know how to play jazz changes, but you have to know the style. The same goes for Broadway tunes, marches, and everything in between! Sight-reading is a requirement in the band world. I can’t tell you how many last-minute changes I’ve had on the job where my first time actually playing a piece of music was ON the gig! Play everything you can get your hands on: duets, etudes, IMSLP, play it all! 

K: If you could share one piece of advice (non-musical and life related) with your younger self, what would it be?

M: Approach everything in life with grace and humor and it will be much easier! In every situation, both good and bad, there is always a silver lining. That lining will either give you grace, or be humorous. If you find one, you will always find the other. If you are in a stressful situation, the humor in it will inevitably give you grace. If you are in a situation where you can find grace, you will eventually be able to see the humor as well. The two go hand in hand—there is literally not a situation in life to which this doesn’t apply!

K: Thank you again for sharing your experiences with our Flute Examiner readers. You have truly accomplished a lot in your career and your sage advice truly resonated with me. I am so appreciative of your friendship and I look forward to many shenanigans at NFA in August!


She is one of the country’s most dynamic and enthusiastic instrumentalists, having worked with numerous GRAMMY and TONY Award-winning artists and composers across many genres. As a performer, author, and teacher, her music has reached over 100 million people across the globe. Her book, Flute & Piccolo Excerpts for Wind Band has been published in over a dozen countries and has been acclaimed as an “industry leading” resource. 

During her 20 year career with The United States Air Force Band, she was a featured soloist in 12 states and was honored to premier and record Mike Mower’s Picc Trix for Piccolo and Wind Band. As principal piccoloist, she has recorded dozens of albums, videos, and international broadcasts. She has been featured on numerous national television networks including ABC, NBC, FOX, CSPAN, and CNN. She is a two-time recipient of the George S. Howard Citation of Musical Excellence for Military Concert Bands. In 2019, she was an honored recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, the highest honor given to artists by the United States Government.  

Committed to education and mentoring, she has been a featured artist at multiple colleges and universities across the country. She is nationally sought-after as an expert on pedagogy and audition preparation. Her students have received multiple awards, honors and fellowships. She is a graduate of Youngstown State University & Wright State University, and has completed 2 years of Doctoral work at George Mason University. Her teachers include Wendy Kumer, George Pope, Nancy Andrew, Katherine Thomas-Umble and Christopher Chaffee. 

Website: The Picc Ninja, LLC

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