Photo by GINGER PERRY/ The Winchester Star
Renowned British flutist Jonathan Snowden has joined the faculty at Shenandoah Conservatory.
Jonathan Snowden has played flute for the scores of almost 70 films, including “The Mask of Zorro,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Reign of Fire,” “Batman,” “Fool’s Gold,” “Aladdin” and “The Mummy.”
As soon as Jonathan Snowden started work as a professor of flute at Shenandoah Conservatory, he knew he was home.
The renowned British flutist has performed, lectured and taught at the highest level all over the world.
Yet when the professor, who is now in his second semester, talks about his new career in Winchester, he has the glow of a newlywed. He is effusive about his fellow teachers, the students, and what he hopes will be his adopted country.
Snowden and his wife Su moved from England in August, and he said they would be happy to remain here for the rest of their lives. So far, the energy level has been wonderful and completely unlike that of his homeland, which can be “ jaded , ” he said.
“People’s desire to learn and become better is really invigorating and charming,” he said. “ I find that very inspiring.”
In the short time he has been at the university, Snowden has proven himself “an exceptional musician, a very dedicated teacher, and a cherished colleague,” said Michael Stepniak, dean of the conservatory.
Shenandoah always sets out to hire faculty members who are not only exceptional in their professional field but “unusually oriented towards mentorship,” he said. The flute is an important instrument in many ensembles, so hiring a professor who could build a strong flute program was essential.
“Our goal for the desired candidate was a huge one: We weren’t going to compromise on either the teaching front or the performance front,” Stepniak said. “In other words, we desired a world-class teacher and, at the same time, a performer of international stature. We hit a home run on both fronts.”
Snowden has had a wide and varied career that includes the position of principal flute for a long list of orchestras, including the BBC Philharmonic, London Chamber Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera House and Bournemouth Symphony.
He has played flute for the scores of almost 70 films, including “The Mask of Zorro,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus , ” “ Reign of Fire,” “ Batman,” “Fool’s Gold,” “Aladdin,” “The Mummy,” and “The Mummy Returns.”
Snowden has recorded with artists as diverse as Bjork, Sting and Martine McCutchion, and embraces all kinds of music.
“I love most things in music,” he said. “It doesn’t even have to be classical.”
He also has taught master classes at The Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and music schoolsand festivals in Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, England and Norway.
During some of Snowden’s trips to the United States for performances and master classes, he realized he wanted to live here, but he waited for the right opportunity.
Shenandoah is a much smaller school than those where Snowden has worked in the past. But when he applied for and then came to interview for the job, he was impressed by the attitudes of Stepniak, the faculty and other people he met.
“This is the friendliest place I have ever lived, and I have lived in a lot of places,” he said, praising the generous welcome he and his wife have experienced.
Snowden also fell in love with the area, which reminds him of his native Somerset. He and his wife love nature and have enjoyed exploring the region and its history, including visiting Skyline Drive and Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.
In recent years, Snowden has realized a desire to leave a legacy of learning with a new generation of performers. He teaches a flute studio group class, but more of his time is spent working one-onone with students.
It is exciting to guide people who have talent into a situation where they can achieve their dreams, he said.
“I want to nurture people who have the same passion I did when I was in my very early 20s,” he said. “It sets me alight to enable that.”
Much of Snowden’s early appreciation for music came from his parents. His mother Joy Snowden was a professional violinist, and his father Eric Snowden played jazz saxophone, clarinet and violin before changing careers to become an engineer. Music was still a hobby, though.
Snowden started learning to read music at age 3 and to play the violin at 5. Although he didn’t stick with the instrument, he still loves it because its “tonal range of expression is fantastic and the music written for it is endlessly beautiful.”
Around age 8, a flute player who knew his mother visited and let him try her instrument. It was love at first “noise,” but at the time, the flute with a curved head joint, which makes it possible for children to learn, had not been developed. He had to wait until he was 11.
By the time he was 14, Snowden knew he was going to spend his life in music. A friend asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, and he said he wanted to be the principal flutist for a London orchestra.
“I am delighted to say I have been principal [flutist] in several London orchestras,” he said with a big grin.
Although he occasionally misses performing when he is listening to a symphony orchestra play Beethoven or at other moments, teaching has become Snowden’s No. 1 priority. He might do the occasional work on film scores, but most of his focus will be on building the flute studio.
Snowden said he wants to “aim as high as I have been” for the flute studio and attract students from not only the United States but also worldwide.
He has “substantial hopes” to develop a relationship between Shenandoah Conservatory and a major London music conservatory, but that is still in the works.
The short term goal for the Conservatory is to get the word out across the region and country about Snowden and the flute studio, Stepniak said. The long term goal is to do the same in every area of the Conservatory.
“I have no doubt that his flute studio will soon be attracting some of the most talented young flutists in the region and country,” Stepniak said.
— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfar [email protected]
By LAURA McFARLAND The Winchester Star
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