A Happy 2013 to all Skope readers out there! Let us hope for peace, love, prosperity, & music for all in the New Year. Up here in Boston, radio stations formats come & go. This week WTKK switched over to hip hop & R&B from talk radio. I think this is a cool idea but I hope they give some upcoming urban artists some plays too. That is what the people want! I decided to kick off 2013 on a different foot as I got the chance to chat with Heather from the St. Louis School of Music Ocarina. I was really taken aback by how devoted and passionate about the Ocarina this group of musicians down in St Louis are. After hearing the sound that this instrument made, I got it and am considering learning how to play. Join me this week as Heather talks about the history of Ocarina, how she got into it, how you can learn to play, and much more!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and how are your holidays going?
Heather: We are speaking from my home in St. Louis. My holiday season is going quite well so far. I am looking forward to good times with friends and family.
Stoli: Do you think the holidays have become more about capitalism and less about family & tradition?
Heather: As holiday sales and store decorations come earlier and earlier each year, I am afraid to say that, for some, the holidays do seem to focus on the materialistic and many companies are capitalizing on the season. However, for me personally, I can say that the holidays will always be about family traditions and togetherness. It is a time to be together with loved ones and to appreciate the many blessings in our lives.
Stoli: At what age did you take up music and how did your family encourage you to pursue your talents & passion?
Heather: My father was a Junior High School band director and memories of attending his concerts are some of my earliest and most cherished. I remember hearing a flute solo at one of those concerts and insisting that my parents get me a flute. I was finally given a flute in second grade and was greatly encouraged by both of my parents. From driving me to private lessons to constantly upgrading my instrument, they have and continue to encourage me in all that I do.
Stoli: You have various prestigious Music degrees at Webster University. How did attending Webster help enhance your love for playing flutes such as the ocarina?
Heather: While at Webster, I was really able to fine tune my abilities on flute. I was lucky enough to study with Jan Gippo, former piccolo of the St. Louis Symphony. He taught me so much about the flute and how to be a better musician as well as how to become a better teacher to my own students. While pursuing my Master’s degree at Webster I was just beginning to play the ocarina. It was in my music business class that I really started to embrace what the instrument could be. I realized how lucky I was to be working with St. Louis Ocarina and to have the opportunity to promote such a unique instrument.
Stoli: Please offer readers a brief history on the ocarina and what you like about playing it?
Heather: The ocarina is actually one of the world’s oldest instruments and dates back over 12,000 years. Early versions of the ocarina can be traced back to Chinese and Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztec and Mayan civilizations and were originally carved from animal bones. Besides the gorgeous timbre of the ocarina, I love how versatile they are. Ocarinas today come in all shapes , sizes and colors. They are also a relatively easy instrument to learn, even without experience, and have a beautiful mellow tone.[youtube DMAmbsAosVY]
Stoli: At what age can a person start with the Ocarina and have US public schools embraced the instrument?
Heather: I have taught children of all ages the ocarina. Out of the many instruments I have taught to children, the ocarina seems to be one of the easiest to learn. I have even taught children as young as three years old in one of my group classes. Smaller soprano ocarinas are better for very young children because the smaller finger holes can be covered better my tiny fingers, but I would say a good starting age would be three on up! It is a wonderful instrument for children and schools are beginning to embrace the ocarina. At St. Louis Ocarina we hope to continue this trend and continue to promote the instrument to see it thrive in more public schools.
Stoli: As a teacher what have you found most effective in teaching students the Ocarina?
Heather: I have found that taping up the thumb holes at first will help the produce a better sound right away. When they achieve a nice tone right away it encourages them to keep practicing. When they are ready and can use all of their fingers correctly, I take the tape off and show them how to work their thumbs. Sometimes, for the first couple of lessons I will put stickers on their fingernails and matching stickers next to the corresponding finger holes on the ocarina. This helps teach them correct finger placement. The most important thing when teaching young or new students is to be encouraging.
Stoli: With your passion for music and tremendous network, do you see yourself as bringing the Ocarina to the masses?
Heather: I hope so anyway! I believe that promoting the ocarina has always been my goal. I am lucky to play such a unique instrument and know that the ocarina is giving me opportunities as a musician that I may not have had on other instruments. However, my focus is the ocarina itself. I believe that it is a wonderful instrument for both professional and non-musicians. I hope I can do all I can to let as many people as possible know what it can do!
Stoli: These days music students are nervous about college due to college loan debt. Please address this and explain how beneficial college can be and the rewards for getting a degree?
Heather: I can definitely relate to this nervousness! My music degrees have led me to college loan debt myself but I wouldn’t trade my degrees or experiences for anything in the world! While in college I was able to play constantly with very high quality ensembles and musicians. I was able to study with many different teachers and really understand my love for music and what to do with it. I would still be a musician without my degrees but I wouldn’t have the capacity or knowledge to share my passion with others.[youtube XxEbCFUY0zo]
Stoli: How did you get involved with the St. Louis School of Music Ocarina (http://www.stlocarina.com) and what is your role & mission there?
Heather: I became involved with the St. Louis School of Music and St. Louis Ocarina the year I began my Master’s degree at Webster. I had never played an ocarina before but I quickly fell in love with it’s sound and all that it was capable of. I was very excited to get involved with a company that recognizes the importance of a good music education and the many benefits that children can get from music. My role with St. Louis Ocarina is to help them promote the ocarina as a real instrument, to show that it can do anything a trumpet or flute could do. Along with performing and promoting I also teach the ocarina and encourage the love of music that grows inside students who are learning to play it.
Stoli: What is coming up for you and where can we follow you and the Ocarina?
Heather: You can keep up with me and the ocarina on http://stlocarina.com as well as on my YouTube channel, heathersocarina. There are always new videos posted demonstrating the newest models of ocarinas. You can also follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ollieocarina?ref=ts&fref=ts.