Composer Spotlight-Nicole Chamberlain
Get to Know...Nicole Chamberlain
We’ve been very lucky that composers have shown a great interest in our competition and some have entered in multiple years. Several have even been finalists more than once. Among this group is Nicole Chamberlain. She was the runner-up in our inaugural competition in 2014 for her flute quartet, French Quarter. FNMC members have embraced it and performed it at the Florida Flute Fair, Kentucky Flute Fair, and Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention, among others. This year, Nicole’s work Asphyxia was voted an honorable mention in the solo flute category and Three Nine Line and Orion’s Belt were finalists in the flute and accompaniment and chamber music categories respectively. We first interviewed Nicole in 2014 when she was the runner-up and you can watch that interview on our YouTube channel, but we thought you might enjoy an update in this week’s Composer Spotlight.
Q&A with Nicole…
What about new music for the flute appeals to you?
I love how flexible the flute can be. Once type cast as the bird, the flute has become more of a chameleon thanks to the wide use of extended techniques. Need a percussionist? Ok, use some beat boxing. Need a calliope? Multiphonics will do the trick. Wish you had a trombone? Try pitch bends. Want plucking, but no strings players? Flutes can pizz that!
Who are your favorite new music composers?
I have a long list, and I’ll try to narrow it down to categories. Valerie Coleman for chamber music, John Adams and Osvaldo Golijov for orchestral music, and Carlisle Floyd for opera. I’ve also been shaped by other composer’s approach to music like Jennifer Higdon’s own career journey through self publication, a life changing Joan Tower residency, and a chance encounter with Katherine Hoover about what my next step should be when composing. How can I not include my own composition teacher Dr. William Davis? What all these composers have in common is their unapologetic way of composing and running their own career. They write what they love, and run their careers the way it works for them.
Describe your musical background and activities.
Post graduate work wasn't for me, which means no job at a university. I've carved out a happy life as a flute teacher to many middle and high schoolers, composing for various ensembles and organizations, and catching gigs where I can. I work every week with Perimeter Flutes, and it’s the only ensemble I am currently active in. I decided this year to make some hard decisions and cut back my performance ensembles and other obligations to focus more on composing. So far, that has been a good decision. I enjoy performing, but I am being more selective. Sometimes I'll take a gig for financial reasons, or I will take it because it’s a rare opportunity. The ultimate goal, however, is to be composing more and get my stuff out beyond my immediate circle.
What advice can you give to flutists about approaching new music in practice?
As a composer and an active performing flutist, I’ve had experience being on both sides - sometimes both at the same time. My initial gut reaction about tackling a new piece is usually one of being overwhelmed and frustration. The first few practice sessions usually take research, communication with the composer, and patience. Once I get into the piece, I get excited about the piece. It takes time to make new friends, and that’s what a new piece of music is. So my advice is keep an open mind, try new things, and take risks. The great thing about new music is that it gets you out of your comfort zone. It’s all new, and that’s the point, but you only get better when you go beyond what you’ve performed/written before.
Do you have any upcoming events you would like our friends and followers to know about?
I am preparing a recital of me and my husband’s, Brian Chamberlain, music which will take place on October 29 here in Atlanta at the Eyedrum. It’s the first of a Composer Concert series hosted by Eyedrum. The concert is being called CHAMBERlain MUSIC, since all of the music is for chamber ensemble and composed by the Chamberlains. I will be performing all of the music, and some of the music will be the first time I’ve performed it, like Asphyxia. I will perform some solo works as well as pieces with Perimeter Flutes (we’ll perform French Quarter) and Two Shots Trio (a flute, clarinet, and bassoon trio). You can learn more about that event on my website: nikkinotes.com.
More about Nicole…
Nicole Chamberlain (b. 1977) is a composer and flutist living in Atlanta, GA. In 2010, Nicole won “Audience Favorite" at the Atlanta Opera's first 24-Hour Opera Project for her opera "Scrub-A-Dub Raw" which resulted in the Atlanta Opera's first ever commission of the children's opera, "Rabbit Tales", which received over 50 performances and kicked started her career as a composer. Nicole has also been
commissioned by groups such as the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, Oklahoma Flute Society, Atlanta Flute Club, Flute Choir of Atlanta, Cuatro Puntos, Dahlia Flute Duo, Clibber the Jones Ensemble, and Hopewell Middle School Symphonic Band among others. She has had works performed at the 2013, 2015, and 2016 National Flute Association Conventions. She also won the 2013 Areon Flutes International Composition Competition, 2nd place in the 2014 Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition, 1st place in the 2015 The Flute View's Composition Competition, and honorable mention in the 2016 Flute New Music Consortium Composition Competition Solo Category.
Nicole received her Bachelor’s in Music Composition from University of Georgia where she studied with Dr. William Davis, Dr. Leonard Ball, Dr. Lewis Nielson and Dr. Roger Vogel and was selected for masterclasses with Charles Wuorinen and Joan Tower.
Nicole, as a flutist, she has appeared with such groups as Georgia Symphony Orchestra, Gwinnett Ballet
Orchestra, duoATL, Mercury Season, Terminus Ensemble, Chamber Cartel, Perimeter Flutes, neoPhonia, Bent Frequency, Capitol City Opera, and Orchestra Atlanta. Nicole has participated in Masterclasses with Bradley Garner, Paul Edmund-Davies and Dr. Gordon Cole. Nicole's former flute teachers have included Donna Orbavich (Hong Kong Symphony), Lisa Wienhold (Alabama Symphony), Dr. Ronald Waln (University of Georgia) and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's principal flutist, Christina Smith.
Currently she balances her time composing, teaching students, performing, and avoiding graphic design
work as much as possible. Nicole lives in Doraville with her husband, guitarist and composer Brian
Chamberlain. For more information visit her website: www.nikkinotes.com
Nicole’s other works for flute…
Nicole has 71 works for flute in various instrumentations. Learn more about them on her website:
Composer Spotlight-Amber Beams
Get to Know...Amber Beams
It is always interesting to learn what inspired people to become composers and to write for the flute. Several of our finalists and winners are at least amateur flutists and their understanding of the instrument surely informs their successful composition for the instrument. However, it was not her flute playing that inspired Amber to be a composer, but playing in a handbell ensemble! This week, get to know Amber Beams composer of Calls for solo flute, a finalist work in the solo flute category of the 2016 FNMC Composition Competition.
Q&A with Amber…
Describe your musical background and current activities.
I began composing after joining the handbell ensemble during my undergraduate studies at the University of Indianapolis. After becoming completely memorized by the sounds that this ensemble could produce, I began to explore a darker and more modern approach to the ensemble. In 2012, I completed and premiered my first composition entitled "The Mouse Ran Down the Clock" for handbells and after its success I moved my focus to composition.
What are your favorite "new music" pieces and why?
Two of my favorite new music pieces would have to be "running the edgE " for two flutes and piano, by Jennifer Higdon and "Their House Was Around Here, Somehwere..." for piano and chamber ensemble by Michael Schelle. Higdon's piece holds a soft spot in my heart after performing it with my flute instructor, Anne Reynolds as part of my senior recital. While Schelle's piece has inspired me to mix different instrumental colors together to create something beautiful that may first appear unusual.
What advice can you give to flutists about approaching new music in practice?
Don't be afraid and go in with an open mind. Today's composers are always looking for ways to break new barriers and to create new/unusual sounds. Going into practice with an open mind will allow you to better understand what the composer was trying to create. Luckily for us, most composers are just an e-mail away and if you are able to contact them please do! As a composer, I love hearing from my performers and any suggestions they may have to make something easier to play or to understand.
More About Amber…
Amber Beams (b. 1989) earned a minor in Applied Music from Indiana-University-Purdue-University of Indianapolis in 2010. She earned her bachelor's degree cum laude at the University of Indianapolis where she studied composition with John Berners,electronic composition with Pete Schmutte and flute with Anne Reynolds.Amber recently completed her Masters in Music Composition at Butler University in Indianapolis where she studied with Micahel Schelle and Frank Felice. As a composer, she has received coaching from many respected composers including Carter Pann,
William Bolcom, Gabriella Lena Frank, Michael Schelle, Frank Felice, and David Gompper.
Amber is also a freelance flutist in the Indianapolis area and plays regularly with the Indianapolis Symphonic Band and serves on their board. www.beamsmusic.weebly.com
If you liked Calls….
Pieces of Time, flute and piano (2016)
The Flute New Music Consortium is an organization dedicated to the creation and support of new music for the flute.