Name: Sara Andon
Instrument: Principal Flute
Hometown: Colton, CA, (about 10 minutes west of Redlands)
Current Residence: Monrovia, CA, just east of Pasadena.
What other groups do you play with?
I often play and record with the Hollywood Studio Symphony for movies, TV shows, documentaries and video games. (You can see a list of some of the different kinds of scores on my new website.)
I am the solo flutist with Brightwork New Music Ensemble, which is a Los Angeles-based contemporary music sextet that consists of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. We perform a mixture of new music that includes acoustic and electro-acoustic music, along with some of the historic greats as well as brand new commissions from many of the cutting-edge composers of today.
I am principal of the Los Angeles Ballet Company, Golden State Pops Orchestra, Indian Wells Desert Symphony, and a member of the San Bernardino Symphony. I have subbed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Opera, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl Symphony. Additionally, I have been a member of the orchestras for the Pantages Theater in Hollywood for various Broadway shows that come through, which most recently was last year when theaters were still open and we did an 8-week production of "Phantom of the Opera".
I also have a professional flute and piano duo with Simone Pedroni, an Italian pianist and Van Cliburn Gold Medal Winner. I recorded my debut album with him that is available on Sony Classical: "Cinema Morricone-An Intimate Celebration." This album was created in honor of the great composer Ennio Morricone for his 90th birthday. We have performed this program live at Steinway Piano Showroom in Beverly Hills as well as in Milan, Italy and in the Canary Islands of Spain, in Tenerife and Grand Canarias. We hope to plan more live concerts when we all get through the current pandemic. For full information about this album and my other recordings, please visit my new web site.
Where did you study music?
I will start with the most recent degree and move to the earliest:
- Yale University School of Music - Post-graduate Artist Diploma - Teacher: Ransom Wilson
- Masters in Flute Performance degree at USC - Teachers: Janet Ferguson, Jim Walker, Roger Stevens
- Bachelor of Arts degree with a double concentration in Music Performance and Music Education, including a K-12 teaching credential from California State University of San Bernardino - Teacher: Candice Palmberg
- Master classes with Marina Piccinini, Paula Robison, Jeffrey Khaner, Paul Edmund-Davies, Walfrid Kujala, Emily Beynon, Julius Baker, Anne Giles Zentner, Mark Sparks, Julia Bogorad-Kogan, Judy Mendenhall, Jim Walker, Gary Woodward, William Bennett, Mindy Kaufman, Jeanne Baxtresser.
During the summers between music degrees, I auditioned for various summer music festivals, all so competitive to get into! I will mention a few of the highlights of those experiences.
I participated in the Grand Teton Orchestral Seminar for three summers in a row during the month of June in breathtaking Jackson Hole, WY. During that time I got to work with many of the principal chairs of the major orchestras. There were master classes every morning with great artists such as Julius Baker, former principal of the New York Philharmonic; Jeff Khaner of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Mindy Kaufman, piccolo player with the New York Philharmonic; Julia Bogorad, Principal Flute of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; and others.
Then in the afternoon, we would rehearse with the orchestra with our teachers sitting in the section with us for up-close and personal coaching. The symphony concerts and guest artist recitals were on the weekend. We also all had some time off each week to go hiking, horseback riding and sightseeing in places like Yellow Stone.
It was magical. I have truly never seen such beautiful, pristine wilderness and I got to meet wonderful, life-long friends.
Another amazing festival was Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in gloriously beautiful Connecticut. It was part of the Yale Summer Festival of the Arts. The first round of the audition was by recording and second round was an in-person audition in NYC for flutist Sam Baron and other members of the NY Wind Quintet. And thankfully I was accepted! The festival was 6 weeks long and it was there that I met Ransom Wilson, played for him in some of the master classes, and he then invited me to study with him at Yale starting in the upcoming fall semester, which was in two weeks after the 6-week festival was finished! I moved heaven and earth to make it happen! I am so grateful I did - and so grateful for these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, life-changing experiences in all ways.
Can you share how you first developed a love for music?
My parents, Violet and Albert Andon, were not trained musicians, but absolutely loved music and felt it was so important to include it in their lives and the lives of their 3 children. So, I started piano when I was 5 years of age with a wonderful neighborhood piano teacher, both my older siblings did the same. I was so lucky to have them as a model and inspiration hearing them play before I could even sit up!
My Dad loved to sing. He had a natural gift for singing and had a beautiful, rich baritone voice. And, even though he could not read a note of music, we sang in the local church choir together for many of my growing up years and it continued singing in choirs into high school and through college.
And with the love of music both of my parents had, they always had recordings or the radio playing in the house of all kinds of music, from classical to jazz, to opera and Broadway. Even on Saturday mornings, my father would be outside mowing the lawn by hand and would have the radio blasting amazing opera broadcasts "LIVE FROM THE MET". It all really had a great influence on me.
So hard to choose just one or even a few - I love such a wide variety of music and time periods and styles, but will do my best to name some here:
- Toru Takemistu
- John Williams
- Ennio Morricone
- Alex North
- Elmer Bernstein
- Jerry Goldsmith
- Bernard Herrmann
- Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson
- Bill Evans
- Chick Corea
- Pat Metheny
- Stephen Sondheim
- Lalo Schifrin
- Steven Stucky
- Kaija Saariaho
- Thelonious Monk
- Miles Davis
- Chris Thile
Favorite piece(s) to play/and or hear?
In no particular order:
- Debussy - Prelude To The Afternoon of a Faun
- Ravel - Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2
- Prokoviev - Romeo and Juliet
- Strauss - Death and Transfiguration
- Ralph Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
- Strauss - Four Last Songs
- Mozart – Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major, k299
- Elmer Bernstein - To Kill A Mockingbird
- Ennio Morricone - Cinema Paradiso
- Ennio Morricone - Once Upon A Time In America
- Bernard Herrmann - Vertigo
- Jerry Goldsmith - Rudy
- Jerry Goldsmith - Chinatown
- Jerry Goldsmith - Planet of the Apes
- John Williams - Jane Eyre
- Alex North - Spartacus
- Alex North - A Streetcar Named Desire
- Bruce Broughton - Silverado
- Mozart - Piano Concerto no. 23 in A major, k488
- Eric Whitacre - Alleluia
- Mozart - Ave Verum Corpus
- Brahms - Symphony No. 4
- Beethoven - Symphony No. 7
- Mahler - Symphony No. 5, Mvt. 4
- Rogers and Hammerstein: Carousel: "If I Loved You"
- Rogers and Hammerstein: Carousel: "You Will Never Walk Alone"
- Puccini - Tosca, Act 3: "E lucevan le stelle"
- Puccini - Turandot, Act 3: "Nessun dorma"
- Oscar Peterson and Count Basie - "Jumpin' At The Woodside"
- Chris Thile - Mandoline – transcription of J.S. Bach Sonata no. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 (complete)
- Chris Thile (Mandolin) and Edgar Meyer (Double Bass) - "Tarnation"
What is the one thing you think people don’t know (but should!) about your instrument?
To play the flute requires a lot of air and breath control. It takes as much air as it does to play a tuba! And the reason is: With all of the effort of putting air into the flute, only 50 percent of it actually goes into the flute. This is because we blow across the embouchure hole to make the sound, similar to blowing across a coca-cola bottle or water bottle to make a sound, so the other 50 percent just goes out into the atmosphere.
This is why one of the biggest challenges of playing the flute is continuing to build and maintain great lung capacity and being able to control our air stream and lips when there is nothing to hold on to. There is nothing to create the resistance that other wind and brass instruments do, so the air is completely free-flowing.
What was your most memorable performance?
These are just a few:
1. Being invited to join as a soloist a 2013 series of international concerts celebrating great film music and performing at concerts in Macau, Tenerife, Poland and in Los Angeles with the largest group of film composers gathered together since 1963.
2. Also, there was another moment two years ago, performing a concert in honor of Lalo Schifrin's 85 Birthday in Los Angeles, and he told me that my performance of his Jazz Mass on bass flute was the piece that made him cry.
3. And something very special when I was an undergrad — I was asked to accompany a choral group as their flutist for their upcoming tour of Italy. During that trip I had one of the most magical moments I will never forget performing on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome for the Mother's Day Mass. I was performing with the choir I came with and the Sistine Chapel Choir. My solo flute started the whole event.
I began to play the beginning lines of a Gregorian chant and although there were thousands gathered in St Peter's Square, you could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet. And the solo flute wafting through the square with the solo melody.
This preceded the a cappella choirs joining in on the Gregorian chant as the whole procession of the special Mother's Day mass was to start - all of the priests, bishops, monsignors, cardinals from all over the world started to process out of the Basilica to be seated outside to listen to Pope John Paul ll who followed out last and said mass for all the thousands in attendance and in many different languages.
What was your proudest moment as a musician?
I’ll share a few here as well:
1) Joining composers Hans Zimmer, Elliot Goldenthal, Patrick Doyle and Dario Marianelli in a concert in Krakow, Poland to celebrate ASCAP's 100th Anniversary and, for me, performing the music arranged for me for Flute and Orchestra – 3 pieces: music of Alex North (Fantasy on the Love Theme from "Spartacus") Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Henry Mancini's Moon River for Flute and Orchestra.
2) I joined the composers Rachel Portman, Patrick Doyle and David Arnold, with conductor Diego Navarro for a beautiful concert where I had the honor of soloing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Varese Sarabande Records.
3) Also, as I mentioned earlier, but will include it here as well - the release of my double CD solo album Cinema Morricone: An Intimate Celebration, with my duet-partner - Van Cliburn Competion Gold-medalist Simone Pedroni on Sony Classical. Particularly special as the album celebrated the 90th birthday of the great and legendary Ennio Morricone.
(And if I could, I would also share many proud moments as a teacher, but that is a whole other set of experiences to share for another time!)
What was the most interesting or bizarre performance experience you’ve had?
I can't really think of any that quite fits this category right now that I actually did, but I have had to question a few unusual offers and ultimately realized it would likely be smarter to turn them down and not risk it! Now, I am sure I got your curiosity up with this very vague answer, but if you ever want to ask me in person, I will tell you!
What interests do you have outside of music?
1) One of my other great passions all the way through undergrad, that I hope to get back someday is oil painting and pencil sketching. When I was about 10 years of age through 14, my Dad and I use to take art lessons with a dear friend of the family who was originally from Germany.
She was delightful and a brilliant oil painter. We took lessons with her every Saturday morning in the local park where she sold her beautiful paintings. And I look back at that training, and besides all of the obvious benefits, I really think it helped me to learn to look at music through eyes of a painter (and storyteller), using different tone colors and shadings in my musical interpretations and be able to create a unique sound palette for every piece and every performance -- extremely valuable experience and awareness.
2) Another great love of mine is astronomy. I have a dear friend who is a rocket scientist as JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena) and I have gotten to witness so many incredible events of JPL and NASA up close-up and personal at all hours of the day and night at times, through my amazing rocket scientist friend, such as Cassini Rocket project to Saturn and many of the Mars missions, to mention only a few!
3) Also, I love to swim, and was a competitive swimmer for many years from 5 years of age through college. I was also a lifeguard and swimming instructor during my undergrad, both of my parents looked at swimming as not only a great exercise, but also a lifesaving skill. And little did I realize at 5 years old, how much this early training in swimming would prepare me and my lungs so well for my future flute playing! I continue my love for physical fitness every day now to stay in the best shape as possible with cardio and weight-training. My dad always said, "Health is our greatest gift - always cherish it and take care of it".
Tell us about your family!
My Mom was Violet Sarah Andon, a beautiful human being and only child, who grew up on a farm in rural Barberton, Ohio. It was in an area of where many eastern European immigrants settled - like her parents, who originally came from Budapest Hungary.
Her mom (my grandmother) spoke 7 different languages. My Dad, Albert Michael Andon was the youngest of seven kids. His parents and 5 older siblings came from Campo Basso, Italy (30 minutes outside of Naples) to America and settled in Little Italy area of Cleveland, Ohio. (The original last name of my Dad's family was Giannantonio. At Ellis Island, it became Annandono and then finally to Andon, when it was vogue in the 50's to shorten longer last names to make them more American. I so wish we could have kept one of the early versions!)
Both my Mom and Dad were the first of their respective families to go to college, and that is where they met at Kent State University. My Dad and Mom worked so hard and both graduated with the highest honors in Education. After they were married, my mom, being a very adventurous type, persuaded my Dad to move out to the promised land of California in the early 50s.
My Dad continued his education, completing a Masters degree in School Administration from Harvey Mudd College, part of the Claremont Colleges (considered at the time Harvard of the West). Their love of teaching was soon to become a reality, my Dad got his first teaching job, teaching junior high mathematics and woodshop. Two years after that, he became a beloved elementary school principal for many years. My mom became a wonderful Kindergarten teacher at a different school where she was so loved and respected.
Some years later, my sister Lisa was born. Some years after that, my brother Mark was born and quite a few years after that, then me! As I mentioned we all started on piano and had lots of different interests. My sister went on to become an incredible oncology nurse and after that a hospice nurse. She is truly an angel from heaven.
My brother is a brilliant research scientist, with a doctorate in chemistry and an emphasis in nutrition, particularly Vitamin B6 and Calcium. They each married to their respective spouses and had children. I have amazing nieces and nephews that I am so very proud of. And there are so many more details, but not enough space to share everything!
We all have kept music in our lives in various ways, though I was the only one to continue through college with it and have it become a career. But it is so wonderful to see how music enhances everyone’s lives to the fullest whether or not that is the chosen profession. Music offers such life-long benefits for everyone from child through adulthood!
Has the pandemic allowed you to tackle any projects you’re excited about?
During the lock down, I used this time to get two major projects finished that I have been wanting to do for many years, but never had the time before. First was to update my personal website — www.sara-andon.com — which took a lot of time, but was so worth it!
It feels so good to have an updated professional web site to document all that has been happening over this decade, and what will be coming in the future. It showcases many things - my teaching studio, film and TV work, photo gallery, performance videos, albums and a page that highlights my new home recording studio.
The latter is also what I have been wanting to do for at least five years now, way before this pandemic, but doing it now allowed me the time necessary to really research things very thoroughly. It is truly a whole other world of art and science to create a topnotch remote studio as economically as possible!
I have now recorded many art projects for various composers writing for me and also have been able to keep some of the Hollywood studio projects that could continue during this time, but needed the musicians to record from home to keep things safe, instead of all coming to normal studio all at once.
Getting the gear to be able to do that, allowed me to learn so many new skills and I now have a great studio that I can record whatever I want and feel great about the quality of sound and be able to "keep the music playing". I also recently recorded another project for Sony Classical this way, so to get their thumbs up on a project recorded from my home studio was quite an endorsement -- I am truly grateful!