I have had the joy of knowing the talented Terri Sanchez for many years. She is one of the most sincere and kind people you could ever have the pleasure of meeting and she greets everyone like they are family. She is a gifted teacher and performer and her passion for both is infectious. I have always enjoyed catching up with Terri and find myself uncontrollably smiling because it is always a wonderful, although short, visit. I am honored to call her friend and was thrilled when she agreed to let me ask her some questions. Dr. Terri Sánchez is a fountain of energy and knowledge and I hope our readers enjoy this interview!
KH: Thank you for allowing us to interview you for this month’s edition of the Flute Examiner. Can you tell our readers how you were first drawn to playing the flute? How did you choose the flute and what was your early training like?
TS: Originally, I had my heart set on saxophone. So many students wanted to play sax that the head band director asked to see our report cards (and he only let the straight A students try them out)! I was so excited when he let me try, but I when I did, I sounded terrible! Disappointed and slightly annoyed, I let the enthusiastic flute teacher and my mother convince me to at least consider flute for a week or two. We were told not to open our instruments yet, but as soon as I was home, I tore open the plastic and set the beginner Gemeinhardt on my dresser. Not in the habit of speaking out loud to myself (at that time), I was surprised to hear myself say to the flute, “You know, I think you and I are going to be spending a lot of time together … “
My early training included free lessons given selflessly by Leticia Ledesma, director of my 7th grade band. She continued to teach me for free throughout high school, sometimes with lessons every night. I have incredibly fond memories of playing flute duets with her in the empty halls of Crowley High School long after everyone else had gone home. At the time, I did not process what a gift she gave me. She saw my potential and helped me get excited enough about flute playing that it would eventually lead to a meaningful life in music. Thank you, Ms. Ledesma!
KH: Were there any moments in your schooling that were defining for you? A teacher that made a difference in your life or helped you more than they realized?
I’ve had a number of wonderful flute teachers in my life, but two musicians stand out above the rest in terms of their continuous influence on who I am as a musician and teacher. Claire Johnson, beloved flute pedagogue, who recently passed away at the age of 93 (I still can’t believe she’s gone), was truly my flute fairy godmother. She believed in me through some of the most difficult times in my life and, even when I had no idea how to be a good student or what it meant to practice with discipline and focus, she held space for the artist musician I would become. Her kindness, generosity, passion and unrelenting dedication to seeing the potential in others has had tremendous influence on me. In terms of my specific approach to music, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Gabriel Sánchez. For the better part of two decades, I received constant inspiration, empowering coaching and “artistry through osmosis” as I turned pages for this phenomenal pianist, equally stunning as a soloist and as a collaborator. Absorbing so much from him and combining that with the flute knowledge I’ve acquired over the years has set me up for success in indescribable ways.
KH: If there was one piece of advice you could give your younger self, what would that be and why?
I would say to her, “Not only is it all going to be okay, it’s going to be SO GOOD. Every problem you have now is just planting the seeds of future growth, future creativity and future musical experiences that will be so beautiful and so meaningful, you will know that every minute spent practicing (and crying in the practice room) was beyond worth it.”
KH: You are such an accomplished musician and pedagogue, what are some aspects of your playing and teaching that you try to instill in your students? Anything you focus on with them in their playing?
Every day, I try to create an atmosphere for my students that helps us all remember, “Everything is figureoutable,” “your weaknesses are your superpowers in disguise,” and “you can play ANYTHING if you practice it slowly enough, break it into small enough pieces, and hang in there for as many repetitions as it takes.” I also want them to know that they have so much more beauty, intellect, courage, creativity and music inside them than they can ever imagine. My hope is that, by the time a student finishes studying with me, they are armed with a sense of agency and unlimited possibility.
KH: Do you have any recommended exercises or means of approaching these things that you use with your students?
My favorite warm-ups to this day are in Helen Blackburn’s Super-Duper Zen Yoga Warm-up Packet, but I’m also really proud of The Epic Warm-up and my three books. I used to think that Taffanel & Gaubert and Moyse were the beginning of everything, but with our modern attention spans and ever-increasing sense of overwhelm, I actually think there’s work to be done BEFORE you can handle those timeless exercises. In each of my books, I’ve tried to offer exercises that build a bridge from where you are to where you want to be as a flutist. For my students I use a mix of my exercises, Helen’s packet, Lisa Garner Santa’s Flute/Theory Workout and eventually move on to the traditional exercises I mentioned as well as exercises by Walfrid Kujala, Trevor Wye and more.
KH: What are the long-term benefits of this approach to playing?
I think when flute studies are approached with an open mind, an inclusive approach and a body friendly playing philosophy, the sky is the limit for how far you can go. I love to incorporate ideas I’ve learned from flutists all over the world, and try to avoid a “this is right, this is wrong” approach. My only red flags are 1) binary thinking, 2) limited thinking and 3) tension-filled playing positions.
Oh! And I should have said this as an answer to Question No. 5 … HARMONICS. Harmonics are everything. Harmonics are our magic teachers. I can’t get enough of practicing harmonics for me or my students!
KH: What is the biggest pitfall or challenge when working on playing this way?
A big challenge with this more inclusive way of teaching (and also with my philosophy that you can actually get so much more sound with so much less aggressive physical work than people think), is that there is not as much instant gratification. Sometimes students are more interested in tips and tricks that will fix them up immediately (and sometimes I’m happy to provide them), but a lot of my flute teaching philosophy involves exploration, experimentation and phases of growth. If a student is impatient, there may be more resistance to work through before they can start to experience the benefits of the philosophy that I share with Claire … “There are 1000 right ways to play the flute!”
KH: Do you have any favorite pieces of repertoire that you love to perform or teach that are great to realize this type of playing?
I adore French music and think it’s wonderful for exploring flexibility, color and aliveness in flute playing. Similar to the traditional warm-ups and technique exercises however, I find that modern students are pretty far removed from an appreciation of the aesthetics involved with French music. I’ve definitely switched from a more French foundation to a French dessert kind of approach over the years. For a more accessible “way in” to high art music, I find that Ian Clarke and other contemporary composers can sometimes capture their imaginations more easily. There are countless times that I’ve had a student “level up” when performing contemporary works and then feel more empowered to take on more standard advanced flute repertoire after that.
KH: Do you have any recommendations of non-flute related endeavors that support or supplement playing this way? (therapy, yoga, kickboxing, meditation etc).
Yes! I am super passionate about my students investing in self-knowledge. From my perspective, the best way to become a musician who is inclusive, optimistic, effortless and artistic (rather than exclusive, pessimistic, aggressive and dry), is to know yourself and believe in yourself. There are countless ways to get to know yourself and your potential better, but my favorite is the Enneagram. By connecting with your main archetype, the wing that influences your behaviors and exploring your levels of health, you can make more empowered decisions in the practice room, on stage and in your musician life. I recommend taking the RHETI test at www.enneagraminstitute.com as a starting point (rather than simplified online quizzes). There are unlimited research rabbit holes you can go down once you learn your type and start to catch on to some of the things that have been blocking your growth.
KH: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to tell us about?
Absolutely. I have many projects in the works, but my two favorite are “The Epic Flute Course,” which will be a free online course (that includes 10 YouTube videos and accompanying PDFs) for flutists of all levels to explore their fundamentals and paths of growth. I’m very excited about this and feel that it is a way to give back all that has been given to me. I’m also studying to become a certified Enneagram teacher and starting preliminary work on a new book, “The Enneagram for Musicians.” I am fascinated by all the ways self-knowledge through the Enneagram can help not only individual musicians to practice and perform more effectively, but also music teachers seeking to communicate more clearly with different types of students, ensemble musicians learning how to handle high-pressure rehearsals and so much more!
Terri Sánchez is a Miyazawa Performing Artist and Assistant Professor of Flute at Bowling Green State University. Legendary flutist Paula Robison writes, “Sánchez has a beautiful presence as a player, and her sparkling clear sound spins out and fills the air with poetry.” After Sánchez premiered his new work for flute and piano, Archetypes, composer George Chave wrote, “her ability to pull the audience in and take them along for the ride is a true joy. Terri is a musician’s musician.” She is the author and composer of The Aspiring Flutist’s Practice Book Series as well as Scarborough Fantasy: Theme and Soulful Variations for Solo Flute which are published and distributed by Carolyn Nussbaum Music Co.
Sánchez is a laureate of many national competitions: 1st Prize, National Flute Association Orchestral Audition Competition, 2nd Prize, NFA Young Artist Competition (along with “Best Performance of the Newly Commissioned Work”), 1st Prize, San Diego Flute Guild Artist Gold Competition, 2nd Prize, Myrna W. Brown Artist Competition, 2nd Prize, Upper Midwest Flute Society Young Artist Competition and Finalist, Walfrid Kujala International Piccolo Competition. She was also the winner of both the Southern Methodist University and University of North Texas Concerto Competitions.
An advocate for musician self-care and positive practice sessions, Sánchez is dedicated to creating resources for musicians that help them release practice anxiety and discover their true potential in the practice room. She has given numerous presentations based on these topics at National Flute Association Conventions, flute festivals and universities across the country. For information on her online courses, Fall in Love With Your Flute and Flute Teacher Superhero, her Virtual Flute Retreat and many free warm-ups and exercise PDFs, visitwww.practicejunkie.com.
Sánchez received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Flute Performance, with a secondary emphasis in Music Education, from the University of North Texas, where she worked as a Teaching Fellow and Flute Choir conductor. She earned her Master’s degree at Southern Methodist University and her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her past flute instructors include Leticia Ledesma, Helen Blackburn, Jean Larson-Garver, Alexa Still, Kara Kirkendoll Welch, Deborah Baron, Terri Sundberg and Elizabeth McNutt. She is especially grateful to her two mentors, Claire Johnson and Gabriel Sánchez.
Sánchez performs on a Rose Silver Miyazawa Classic with a Niobium Geoghegan headjoint.