It was a summer of performing abroad for East Central University’s Nathaniel Berman and first-year ECU instructor Alexandra Aguirre.
The pair had the honor to play as part of a flute trio with Brielle Frost, of Greeley, Colo., at the Festival Internacional de Flautistas in Lima, Peru this summer as well as playing at the World Saxophone Congress in Strasbourg, France.
Additionally, Berman, through the success of a competition, was invited to perform with the Jazz Flute Big Band at the National Flute Association Convention in Washington, D.C. Aguirre was a past winner and performer at this particular event.
“I am honored to have been selected as a winner of this competition,” said Berman, who is preparing to launch his second year as an assistant professor of woodwinds and music history at ECU. “The NFA competitions are some of the best known in the flute world.”
To qualify for the NFA competition, contestants recorded themselves playing three jazz songs, including the melody and optional improvisation, with accompaniment of any sort as Berman recorded with pianist Roz Purdy. From the recordings submitted, a panel of judges selected between 15-20 winners who were then invited to perform in Washington D.C.
Berman and Aguirre hooked up with the Peru performances after the pair, along with Frost, performed at a National Flute Association Convention a few years ago. Their performance got the attention of César Vivanco, flute professor from the National Conservatory in Lima, Peru.
“He liked the group so much, he invited us right there to play as guests artists in the festival in Peru,” Berman said. “It was a couple of years before we could work out the logistics.”
In Peru, the trio performed in a number of concerts and played at exciting venues such as the historic convent, Nuestra Senora del Patrocinio, and at the Japanese-Peruvian Cultural Center.
“Our music consisted purely of 20th and 21st century music in a variety of styles,” said Berman. “One piece was an original composition we commissioned from Dominic Dousa, a music theory and composition professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. Another arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue we commissioned from composer J. David Beasley, featuring the trio accompanied by the entire flute studio at the conservatory.”
In France, Berman, on the saxophone, and Aguirre, on the flute, performed another commission from Dousa and a well-known chamber work by 20th Century composer Robert Muczynski.
“Both experiences were wonderful. We met many of the top players internationally on both flute and saxophone, reconnected with old acquaintances and learned about many new pieces, people, ideas and even instrument manufacturing,” Berman said. “We had very positive receptions both places and hope to participate in both events again.”
According to Berman, attendance at these events should benefit ECU music students down the line.
“These conferences taught me so much that I can and will use in teaching. First, they really showed the diversity of approaches and careers available in music. I have many more options to present my students with, both as far as career possibilities as well as in specific musical styles to learn,” said Berman. “I heard some really inspiring performances and presentations. I hope that I can pass that spark along to my students at ECU. Also, contacts I made and maintained can only be good for my students’ futures.”
Frost has taught the flute at Western State University (Colo.) and is a doctoral student at the University of Northern Colorado.