Eight Middle Tennessee State University students — a record number — qualified for and attended the prestigious National Flute Association, or NFA, Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this month.
“I was overjoyed and incredibly proud,” said Deanna Little, the students’ flute studies professor in the MTSU School of Music. “This is truly a wonderful and special group of students. They work together, help one another, motivate each other, have fun together and they continue to make each other stronger. In return, they give me energy and make my job pure joy!”
Students Katherine Beatty, Olivia Guthier, Alyssa Jones, Chelsea Liu, Italee Philom, Sarah Potts, Jonathan Oldham and Jakob Young attended the five-day convention with Little at the beginning of August. To qualify, Little said students had to rehearse and record a three-movement accompanied flute solo to submit to the NFA Collegiate Flute Choir Competition for judging, and that around 16 to 24 flutists are selected out of roughly 100 competitors on average each year.
Katherine Beatty, a sophomore music industry major, said she was euphoric when she learned all eight of the MTSU competitors had made it after a lengthy audition process.
“It was crazy to comprehend that all of my best friends were going to get to travel to Phoenix together and play our flutes at the national convention,” Beatty said. “I was and am so proud of us and our accomplishment.”
Little said the convention is a wonderful opportunity for undergraduates because it exposes students to so much — rehearsals, workshops, concert performances, lectures, reading sessions, international peers and instructors, hands-on instrument exhibits, established musicians and more.
The university helped with funding along with the students themselves who used their talents and industriousness to make ends meet.
Little said she was “extremely grateful” for the financial support the group received from MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes, Experiential Learning Program Director Carol Swayze, College of Liberal Arts Dean Leah T. Lyons and the School of Music, “but we still needed more.”
“The students organized and rehearsed on their own to perform four benefit concerts this summer (across the state) in Murfreesboro, McMinnville and Lebanon to raise the rest of the funds. I was proud of them for their commitment to raising money so they all could go together,” said Little, who grew up in Belmond, Iowa.
Beatty said she wishes more people knew that MTSU is so supportive in helping students achieve what they want to achieve, like supporting their group in making it to Phoenix.
“MTSU is a hidden gem,” said the Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native. “The staff and students are awesome and value you and your individuality and talents. The staff are truly world class, and I value their dedication and work.”
Italee Philom, a senior flute performance major, echoed that MTSU’s faculty are some of the best and that Little has been the perfect teacher to learn and grow from.
“I got to meet lots of people from different parts of the country and different countries as well!” said Philom, also originally from Murfreesboro, about the convention. “I tried lots of different flutes and attended different sessions the convention offered.”
Little said the flute program fosters an environment of respect and acceptance.
“They (students) learn so much from each other, bounce ideas off each other, hold each other up when needed and work toward success in their degrees,” she said. “This kind of atmosphere, that I witness all throughout MTSU’s School of Music, sets students up for success, teachers and peers asking for excellence, fostering excellence and achieving it!”
That attitude of respect and acceptance was reflected in Little’s fondest memory from the trip — a dinner together where the group had to switch gears and get out of their comfort zone when their first choice of restaurant did not work out.
“We found ourselves at a Mediterranean Restaurant that served tapas and small bites, family-style. The food was unique, and we tried some interesting things we had never had before. It was an evening to remember!”
To learn more about MTSU’s flute program, visit its website at https://www.mtsu.edu/music/FluteStudies.php.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)