Shenandoah University welcomed premiere flutist Jonathan Snowden to the faculty of Shenandoah Conservatory in August 2012. Snowden brings tremendous expertise that includes a rich and multifaceted background in orchestral playing. This English native has graced the principal chairs of top orchestras and soloed under the direction of gifted conductors. He has performed for royalty and pop stars, and performed as a featured soloist on blockbuster movie soundtracks. His boundless enthusiasm for music and the flute have afforded Snowden a colorful music career that has taken him across the globe as a soloist, collaborator and teacher, landing him right here in Winchester.
For Snowden, music is in the family. Music entered his life at a young age when his mother, a violinist with the BBC Orchestra in Bristol, introduced him to piano and violin. It was the violin that first claimed Snowden’s heart, and to this day, continues to influence his flute playing. His affinity for the flute came one afternoon when a family friend allowed young Snowden to “have a go” at her instrument’s head joint. Snowden fondly remembers that it was “love at first sound.” The flute then became the vehicle for Snowden’s musical career, which carried him through youth orchestras and onto London’s finest stages.
As Snowden’s career developed, he was able to interact with great musical masterminds. One such relationship was Snowden’s connection with the late Conductor Klaus Tennstedt through the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Snowden’s time playing under Tennstedt’s direction gave him the opportunity to explore music in a truly collaborative and freeing way.
“I would play many passages from memory, because in my heart I wanted to watch him,” he said. “There was an artistic respect and empathy between us that made words unnecessary; our eye contact expressed everything.” It is this higher level of music making, that goes beyond instrument or technique, that fuels Snowden’s artistic fire.
Snowden’s career has afforded him critical acclaim, and he is lauded for his captivating tone and superior musicianship. When asked how he approaches his art, he responded, “I try and be everything. I try and get the beauty and the power and the intimacy of whatever flavor or mood we need to convey.”
“I sometimes try to play like a string section or a singer,” he said. “I don’t want people to think that I’m playing the flute when they hear me play. I want them to experience what I’m trying to say through my instrument.”
Snowden’s success was earned with hard work and determination. Music to Snowden is more than a God-given talent or practiced aptitude. He believes that there is a struggle in music that is necessary.
“It’s a hard life,” Snowden admits, “I’m glad I’ve trodden the path I’ve trodden. Although it looks really interesting on paper, it was brutally tough.”
Snowden is now switching gears to explore education. He recognizes a hunger to learn in American youth and is eager to engage with students.
“I don’t need to be first flute of a major orchestra anymore,” he explained. “It’s not that I’ve completed the job – because the job never ends; it’s just that I don’t need that path anymore. What I do need to do is look at a flute student and think, ‘I see that fire in you, and I want to help fan the flame.’”
Snowden’s major education goal is to build an international interest for Shenandoah Conservatory. He also aspires to provide first flute players to the top orchestras in the world, while continuing to grow Shenandoah’s flute studio by attracting the top potential players from the U.S. and around the world. With a semester under his belt and another underway, Snowden has firmly begun the next stage in his musical journey. The Shenandoah University community is excited to share this continuation of Snowden’s expert music making and passion to educate.