Flutist, composer, and educator, Allison Loggins-Hull, has been praised by the Wall Street Journal for being able “to redefine the instrument”.
As a co-founder of the critically acclaimed urban art pop ensemble, Flutronix, she is also known for “redefining the flute and modernizing its sound by hauling it squarely into the world of popular music.” (MTV Iggy). Loggins-Hull has garnered a reputation for successfully navigating an array of musical worlds and appealing to varied audiences.
Allison Loggins-Hull has performed and recorded with several artists, including Frank Ocean, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and David Virelles. She can be seen performing in video used as part of Adele’s world tour.
We recently caught up with Allison to learn more about her musical influences, teaching styles, latest projects, and what she likes most about her Promenade theme.
Who or what was your biggest influence as an artist growing up?
Wow, this is a loaded question! I grew up in a household where diverse music played constantly – some of my favorite examples being Beethoven, Prince, Talking Heads, and Joni Mitchell, but there are really so many more. I can say that Hubert Laws was and remains to be the most influential flutist. Hubert Laws was classically trained at Juilliard and has performed with numerous symphony orchestras. But he’s also a jazz legend and has worked with artists including Chick Corea, Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones. He’s an extremely well-rounded musician and has a beautiful tone. In fact, his playing is what drew me to the flute in the first place. It’s definitely not a coincidence that Hubert Laws is my favorite flutist and I’m a classically trained flutist whose musical life revolves around playing multiple genres of music. One of the highlights of my career was having the opportunity to meet and interview him with my group Flutronix, which you can check out here:
How would you describe your style as a composer?
My music is usually very angular, minimal and rhythmic, complemented by more lyrical and stretched passages. Often, I’ll create a rhythmic pattern and follow it with a series of variations or inversions of that pattern. I’m heavily influenced by world music, urban and neoclassical idioms.
What would you say constitutes a great live performance?
First and foremost, a performer has to communicate to their audience with emotion and/or story telling. To me, nothing is more disappointing than a performer who is technically proficient, but lacks expression. I love seeing bands or ensembles that are truly communicating with one another on stage – exchanging ideas, catching each other’s phrases, playing off of one another and having a great time. A true performer is vulnerable, revealing and knows how to jam.
You also teach flute, what is your teaching style/approach?
My teaching is rooted in the classical tradition, but I also make a strong effort to help my students find their unique artistic point-of-view and voice. I encourage them to think of stories or experiences to tell through their playing. Not only does it help them in developing their artistry, but it also helps them work through performance anxiety and connect to the music. I also incorporate a little bit of improvisation practice, something that is not typical in traditional flute lessons. I do this by making up a melody and having the student respond with their own melody and we continue going back and forth with this, like a conversation. Many classically trained musicians are not comfortable with improvisation, so I believe this is a skill that gives my students an edge. It also helps them with their ears and learning to trust their own instincts. I teach flute at The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, online through Play-with-a-Pro and I have my own private studio with students from NYC and New Jersey.
What new projects do you have going on at the moment?
I have two new projects that are in the early stages of development. The first is Diametrically Composed, a collection of newly commissioned works featuring flute, voice and piano exploring the duality of being a mother and an artist. The artists of Diametrically Composed are mothers and renown in their field and include composers Paola Prestini, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Jessica Meyer and Valerie Coleman, multi-dimensional mezzo-soprano and composer Alicia Hall Moran, and pianist Gabriela Martinez. Their contributions reflect personal experiences, exploring diverse themes related to being a mother and an artist. Diametrically Composed reaches beyond the typical recital format, and will provide an immersive performance experience incorporating recited text, narratives and points-of-view of mothers from varied artistic professions. Diametrically Composed will premiere at National Sawdust in NYC in 2018, followed by touring through 2020 and beyond. The music of Diametrically Composed will be released as an album, with a portion of proceeds going to organizations that serve to empower women.
Second, my group Flutronix (an urban art pop ensemble with fellow flutist Nathalie Joachim), is developing a work entitled Black Being. Black Being, explores the African-American female experience through themes of fear, sacrifice, beauty, survival and strength. Black Being will be an immersive evening-length staged performance that provides a lens into black cultural realities and human conditions. In addition to the writing of notable female authors, scholars and activists spanning from Toni Morrison and Angela Davis to Jacqueline Woodson and Issa Rae, the development of Black Being relies heavily on community engagement efforts that will result in the recorded testimony of African-American women both inspiring the project’s content, and being woven into its soundscape. Black Being will premiere in the 2018-19 season performed by Flutronix, an expanded ensemble and guest artists.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
In addition to the projects above, I have been commissioned to compose a solo flute piece for The Myrna Brown Competition (which is a major national competition for flutists here in the United States). I am revising a piece I wrote for flute and percussion called Hammers and will perform it later this season with Sandbox Percussion in NYC. Next month, I’m performing a number of duos for flute and cello at The Metropolitan Museum of Art with my dear friend, cellist Amanda Gookin. I’ve also been playing a lot with the amazing singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon and look forward to more shows with her and her band BigLovely.
What is one of your most favorite flute pieces?
When it comes to standard rep, I’d have to say Chant de Linos by Andre Jolivet. It’s one of the grittier pieces for flute (you can perform it with piano or an ensemble of strings and harp), with a lot of darkness, beauty, aggression and hesitation all rolled into one. I love music for the flute that is edgy, “rougher” and contradicts the idea that the flute can only be gentle or represent birds, stereotypes that I’m constantly trying to debunk! The flute is an extremely versatile instrument and pieces that demonstrate it’s versatility are my favorite.
What has been your most memorable performance thus far?
Probably Flutronix’s debut in Japan at The Guinguette by MOJA in Shibuya Tokyo. I was (still am) incredibly proud of the work Nathalie and I put in to make it to that point. At the time, I never imagined that I would be part of an ensemble built from the ground up that would manage to secure a Japanese record deal and debut. The performance symbolizes a lot for me and continues to motivate me to work hard and dream big. Plus, Japan is awesome and I love Tokyo, so it was also part of one of the best trips of my life.
Do you play any other instruments besides the flute?
Alto flute, piccolo… I even have a few pan flutes. I can get around the piano, but am not a pianist by any means. I use it to accompany students in lessons (somewhat) and work out ideas when composing.
What’s your favorite thing about your Promenade theme?
The functionality. It’s super easy to navigate and lays out my content in an instinctual way. From the backend, it’s also very easy to update and organize. It’s clean and minimal, which is my overall aesthetic. This allows the content to shine and for visitors to easily find exactly what it is they’re looking for.
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