Leslie Fagan

Assistant Principal Flute

Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Member of the Nashville Symphony since 2017

What do you enjoy most about playing the flute, and what are some of your favorite pieces to play?
Generally, I love anything for the flute by Debussy and Ravel. When playing with full orchestra, Beethoven’s symphonies are always really great, and Shostakovich and Prokofiev are among my favorite composers, so I really enjoy anything by them. 

What makes the flute unique among orchestral instruments?
The flute has the ability to blend with other instruments, and it also has the ability to really sing out on its own. It has more of a vocal color, which is really unique. It’s hard to get a sound on the instrument when you’re first starting to play. Unlike other wind instruments, where you blow directly into them, on the flute you have to get the right angle of air, and that can be really difficult at first. Because of the way we play, our bodies become part of the instrument, so that gives every player their own unique sound.

What are some of the favorite places you’ve traveled as a performer?
After my undergraduate studies, I studied with a teacher in England. He accepts five or six students each year, and he lives in a tiny little village near the English Channel. We would go to his house twice a week for a masterclass all day, and I just loved it. I learned a lot that year.

His house was a couple of miles away, and I used to have to get on my bike and ride down the lanes in the rain and the mud. I would have a stripe of mud on my back when I got there, and I would have to take off my Wellington boots and rain slicker and leave everything in his mud room so that I didn’t contaminate the whole house.

What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your teachers over the years?
Sound production is so important — finding a good sound that’s resonant, that’s hopefully in tune, that carries well, and that’s even throughout all the registers of flute. Also, just learning how to practice effectively — and not waste a lot of time in the practice room. Diligence, attention to detail. Walfrid Kujala, the former piccolo player of the Chicago Symphony, was one of my teachers, and he was very, very detail-oriented.

Now that you’re a teacher, what do you get from sharing your own knowledge and experience?
It’s really exciting for me to see young flute students develop and grow. They’re really motivated to learn new music, and everything is fresh for them. So if I can just help them along their path and steer them in the right direction, that’s very satisfying.

Teaching informs my own practicing and my own performance, because often I’ll find myself doing something in the practice room that I wouldn’t let my students get away with. It’s a good reminder for some of the things that I need to take care of in my own playing.

When you’re not rehearsing or performing, what do you enjoy doing?
I stay busy, because I also teach at the Blair School of Music. But I do like to run and swim and bike; I’ve done a few triathlons and half-marathons. It’s been a couple of years, but hopefully I’ll get back to that at some point. I like to play tennis and used to play on a ladies’ doubles team. Other than that, I like to cook and enjoy reading.

What have you enjoyed about living in Nashville since relocating here?
I really like the energy in the city. It has the hustle and bustle of a big city without being too big. I really like going out to eat; I live in Germantown, and there are lots of good restaurants there. There’s a lot of civil war history around here, which I’ve explored a little bit. I’ve never lived in the South before, so that’s new to see some of the historical sites that aren’t in the Midwest or elsewhere in the country. 

Why does classical music matter?
Everything is just right at your fingertips all the time, and things move very quickly with technology now. To experience to classical music, you have to really stop what you’re doing and just listen. And I think that’s good for people to do. 

Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
I think it must have been a band concert for one of my siblings. One of my first professional concerts would have been the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. 

The first recording you ever owned?
The Ibert Flute Concerto with James Galway.

Favorite venue, other than the Schermerhorn?
Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.

Favorite non-classical musician?
When I was younger, it definitely would have been Barbra Streisand. At the moment, it’s Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. 

Favorite sports team or athlete?
Rafael Nadal. 

Favorite movie?
The Princess Bride.

Favorite TV show?
The West Wing, or Downton Abbey.

Favorite book?
Middlemarch by George Eliot 

Favorite food?