Trevor Wye teaches at his Studio in Kent, a one year residential course for postgraduate students, and travels throughout the world giving master classes, including annual appearances in the USA, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Japan. He enjoys serving on juries for international competitions, giving recitals and presenting his unique “Flutes Fantastic!”, a hilarious recital with commentary in which he plays on more than fifty different flutes.
Trevor is the author of the Practice Books for the Flute, which have been published in 10 different languages and used by flute players from all around the world. He has also produced countless other publications including books, compilations and various editions (a full list can be found here). More recently, Trevor released his latest book, Flute Secrets, presenting indispensable guidance for all flute players, from choosing the right instrument and tips on how to practise, to establishing a professional career and becoming a flute teacher (available for purchase at Syrinx Music).
Mark Xiao: When did you start playing the flute and what made you choose it?
Trevor Wye: I started playing at about 15 after hearing the Chinese Dance from the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. I wanted to play one of those!
MX: Who would you say influenced you the most in your playing and teaching?
TW: The most influential musicians in my career were Geoffrey Gilbert from whom I had about 10 lessons; Alfred Deller, the counter tenor, whose lyrical singing on records was a great inspiration; William Bennett to whom I listened regularly and recorded with many times and whose tone always inspired me; and of course, Marcel Moyse who was my teacher and also a great friend.
MX: As a writer of numerous publications, did the writing process affect your own playing and teaching?
TW: Writing about the flute made me examine my own playing critically and especially where explaining something in a simple way was concerned. I spent many years thinking about ‘easy’ ways to understand and write about technical and musical issues.
MX: Did you always have a passion for teaching or did it develop later on in your career?
TW: I enjoy teaching, especially seeing an improvement in the player. It has always been a great joy too, both when a student gains success in the profession and when a student takes up a humble job but enjoys what they are doing.
MX: In your experience, do you think the way people approach learning the flute, and music making in general, change over time?
TW: Young folk now seem to look for an easy ‘app’ to get good, fast on the flute. New books are appearing almost daily trying to entice the beginner to become a great flute player in a week. The use of CD playalongs, cartoons, games and sticky paper put on the keywork, etc etc…In fact, the easiest way is practicing! The easiest way to a good technique, is to play and practice daily, the patterns upon which music is built: scales and arpeggios!
MX: What flute do you play on and what made you choose it above other brands and models?
TW: I have tried many flutes but feel more at home with a 19th century flute. Many modern flutes seem to have intonation and scale problems, though this is gradually improving. For many years I have played only Louis Lot, Lebret and Bonneville flutes made in the 19th century which I have retuned. Currently, I play a Bonneville c. 1880 tuned to A=441.
MX: Do you have some favourite pieces of music?
TW: I have lots of favourite pieces, both flute, chamber music and orchestral and several works for the harpsichord.
MX: What has been the highest point of your career or the most memorable?
TW: I have lots of career highlights, so I am very lucky. One of the most memorable was in the late 1960’s I had been training young woodwind players in Kent where I live, in ensembles as part of my teaching week. I decided to put them all together in a performance of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. The venue was Canterbury Cathedral. Together with the Guildhall School Wind Band, there were over 400 players. It was a glorious occasion. I repeated it in 1971 with 450 players together with the 150 members of the Canterbury Choral Society in a performance of Berlioz’s Grande Symphony Funebre in the Cathedral. I asked Sir Colin Davis to conduct it. What a night!
Also getting Marcel Moyse to give two master classes in Canterbury in 1969 and 1970 was a highlight.
Another memorable event was in Taiwan where I stayed in Taipei for 10 days while teaching and playing. On my first night at a flat, there was a cat in between garages with two kittens. It was very frightened. I went to the 7 Eleven store and bought some fish which I microwaved and took it down to the cat. She would only come to get it when I was some distance away and then she took it back for the kittens. This went on every night for several days though she got a little closer to me each night. On my last night there, I put down the fish and stretched out my hand towards her. She slowly advanced and after several minutes, she stretched out her paw and patted my hand once. We communicated. In playing music, that is what we try to do with the audience.
MX: What advice do you have for someone wanting to pursue a career in music performance?
TW: Advice to young players wishing to take up a career? Get a good teacher and follow their advice. Stop messing with tablets and social media and practice the flute hard. There are hundreds and thousands of you, so be sure to get in front of the others!