Get to Know...Ashley Shank
Have you ever wondered who writes the FNMC composer and member spotlights? That would be me! Let me introduce myself (and write in the first person this time), I’m Ashley Shank, the FNMC Grants and Finance Chair. You might wonder, how does the person assigned to the financial side of the organization end up writing features? It’s actually pretty easy, FNMC started with four founding members and grew slowly. Although we all have somewhat defined roles, we also pitch-in and get things done as needed! Although I came to this role kind of by accident (and intending it to be temporary), organizing and writing the composer and member spotlights has become one of my favorite duties. I love learning more about the composers and our members and playing an active role in promoting their music and activities. I also enjoy getting to know them more as people; I will tell you that it is an amazing group of really lovely individuals!
In addition to doing all the boring (but really necessary) financial paperwork and having the primary responsibility for grant applications, I served as a preliminary round judge for the chamber music category of the 2014 FNMC Composition Competition, coordinated flute fair proposals, performed or presented at KFS Festival, Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention and NFA Convention on behalf of FNMC, acted as interim membership and communications chair, and help edit the website (mostly the spotlights and upcoming performances pages), and our Facebook page. I’m also the board liaison for the Carter Pann residency at IUP. I’m looking forward to attending the residency events and presenting the awards for our FNMC Flute Artist Competition on behalf of the board.
Q&A with Ashley (me)…
When did you join FNMC and what attracted you to the organization?
I joined as soon as Shelley approached me when she was forming FNMC. I love new music and I thought the idea of a consortium approach was a great idea. I’m so happy she asked me to join and it has been incredibly rewarding to see how the organization has grown, demonstrate that we’re meeting our goals, and be an integral part of those developments!
What about new music for the flute appeals to you?
I’ve always loved playing new and/or lesser known flute repertoire. I love listening to recordings, scanning repertoire catalogs, flute journals, etc. to find pieces that others may not know (and that I think they should.) I was also really fortunate to do my undergraduate work at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where Jack Stamp was the Director of Bands. Dr. Stamp is incredibly supportive of new music for band and actively encourages composers to write for the ensemble. As a result, we premiered multiple new works every year and had the opportunity to interact with emerging and experienced composers. I think this reinforced my love of new music!
FNMC has provided me with the opportunity to learn about the music of many composers with whom I might otherwise have not become familiar. I’ve enjoyed performing several winning and finalists works from the composition contest including: Ghost Stations for flute and piano by Alexandra Bryant; French Quarter for flute quartet by Nicole Chamberlain; What’s Next for flute, bassoon, and piano by Andrew Davis; Tutti Frutti for Two Virtuoso Flutti by John Moody; Tomorrow in Australia for solo flute by Paul Richards; In Memoriam: Sacagawea for four flutes by Greg Steinke, and there are several more I hope to program during upcoming seasons. I’ve become particularly fond of a couple of the works and I’m working to champion them and help them obtain the recognition I think they deserve! I was a commissioner for our first project, Confluence by Zhou Long, and I’m one of the commissioning members for the Carter Pann project, and I’ll be joining for the new Valerie Coleman commission as well. I also have a plan for some individual commissions in the next year or so.
Who is/are your favorite “new music” composer/s and why?
I’m always really bad at favorites type questions….I’m not great at decision making in general as anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with me can attest! I will say, I love what is sometimes called “holy minimalism” (Tavener, Part, Gorecki, etc. which I realize isn’t necessarily new anymore) and I really love Russian/Soviet music. When I decided to pursue an MM in music history, it just made sense to research it! I continued my focus on Russian/Soviet music in my doctoral studies and created A Handbook of Solo and Chamber Literature for Flute by Composers from Russia and the Former Soviet Republics as my doctoral thesis. It contains almost 3,000 pieces, most of which are little or unknown outside their country of origin. I hope to finally publish it online this summer and I plan to expand it using an approach like the Grove where individual flutists can “author” annotated entries about individual pieces. A few living composers from Russia or the former Soviet republics whose flute music I really love are (in alphabetical order): Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (Azerbaijani), Josef Bardanashvili (Georgian/Jewish lives in Israel), Sophia Gubaidulina (Tatar/Russian), and Giya Kancheli (Georgian). I love Alexey Kurbatov’s Quartet for flute, violin, cello, and piano; I randomly found it on YouTube while looking for recordings. We recently made contact via email and I’ve added him to the revised edition of my thesis. A few others include Eugene Magalif (he’s Belarusian, but lives in NJ; his music is pretty and poppy), Yevhan Stanyovch (Ukranian; I especially love his Sonata of Serenades…it’s so dark and intense!), and Benjamin Yusapov (Tajik and I think Jewish…he lives in Israel); he has several amazing pieces, some of which include folk instruments. Many flutists may have heard Matthais Ziegler perform his incredible Nola Concerto at the NFA conventions in New York City.
Describe your musical background and current activities
I have a rather atypical background for a professional flutist. I began my career as a public school music educator, I love teaching and I struggled with severe performance anxiety from an early age, so that seemed like a perfect fit. Currently, I have what one would call a multi-stream or portfolio career. I teach flute and chamber music at Lycoming College and music education courses at Susquehanna University where I am also the director of the Music Preparatory Program. I also coordinate the curriculum and teach classes for our early childhood music classes and our partnership with the local Head Start organization, and supervise all of the undergraduate students who teach through the program. I’m also an active freelancer in North-Central Pennsylvania. I have several other jobs to supplement as necessary (the life of an adjunct is something of a feast and famine situation.) I do some online teaching, work as a content editor for a company that offers online music classes, and I still substitute teach between semesters, as necessary. I definitely crave more stability, but I am so grateful to have the opportunities to teach and play!
More about Ashley (me)…
Dr. Ashley Shank teaches flute and chamber music at Lycoming College and music education courses at Susquehanna University where she is the Director of the Music Preparatory Program. An active freelancer in North-Central Pennsylvania, she is also a member of the Keystone Wind Ensemble and co-principal flute of IFC3.
Dr. Shank is an advocate of new music and music by composers from Russia and the former Soviet Republics. www.ashleyshankflute.weebly.com