CLAIM TO FAME
Austin Brown, 17, has been the principal flutist for the Tennessee All-State Band all three years he has participated. In January, he won both the high school soloist and orchestra audition competitions at the 2012 Middle Tennessee State University Flute Festival. In September, he will participate in a strenuous six-month masterclass in the U.K. that is normally reserved for post-graduate students.
• School: Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences graduate.
• Favorite piece to play: "Scheherazade" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
• Favorite piece to listen to: "Daphnis & Chloe Suite No. 2" by Joseph-Maurice Ravel.
• Favorite composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov or Ian Clarke.
Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? We're searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a possible subject, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or call him at 423-757-6205.
Hours of repetitious practice. Constantly honing tone and making minute changes to breath control. Tackling mountains of complicated pieces.
To the layman, the life of a professional flute player may sound more like torture than recreation, but to Austin Brown, it's an inviting challenge.
"I don't know why, but I find the idea of practicing six hours a day to be fun," the 17-year-old said, laughing. "[With music] you're either in it all the way, or you're not. It's hard to do it halfway."
While he hasn't quite hit six hours of daily practice yet, Austin said he usually puts in three to four, often stopping only because his shoulder begins to give out.
Austin graduated earlier this month from Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. At a time when his friends are enjoying their vacation before leaving for college, however, he is preparing to attend a strenuous masterwork program this fall.
On Sept. 30, he will fly to a town in England, just west of the Cliffs of Dover. There, he will study under Trevor Wye, an internationally renowned British flutist, during a six-month residency program. Austin said he believes he is the youngest participant in Wye's class, which normally is reserved for post-graduate students.
In addition to remastering basic skills, Austin said his weekly course load will include mastering several smaller pieces as well as a concerto or sonata.
"By the program description ... it's going to be like college on crack," he said, grinning. "It would be like what you would do in three months of college reduced down to a week."
Austin has had years to prepare for the opportunity.
He began playing the flute in fifth grade. Of the four instruments offered to students at that age, which also included clarinet, trombone and trumpet, Austin said he leaned to the flute almost by default.
He said he quickly grew to appreciate the flute's prominent voice in solos for many orchestral works, but he didn't seriously consider playing professionally until ninth grade, when he attended a concert by Northern Irish flutist James Galway.
Austin said he experienced a revelation as he sat in Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center listening to Galway perform Georges Bizet's "The Carmen Fantasy" and a concerto by Jacques Ibert.
"James Galway was the first actual virtuosic soloist I heard or even knew of," he said. "When I heard him play, it was like, 'Wow, I want to do that.'
"It was at that point that I started practicing every single day. I started building up my tone."
His renewed effort has paid off.
Every year since he became eligible to perform in the Tennessee All-State Band, Austin has been placed as principal flutist. He held similar positions at Tennessee All-State East, a qualifier for the statewide group.
This January, he won the high school soloist and orchestra audition competitions at the Flute Festival at Middle Tennessee State University. In the later event, he was the sole high school student competing in a field of college-age musicians.
CSAS band director David Butler said he has seen Austin grow tremendously since he introduced him to the flute seven years ago.
"It's like a well that just gets deeper and deeper," Butler said. "It was amazing how much further he could go each year."
In 20 years of instruction, Butler said he has taught only two students with Austin's level of skill. One of them now is performing with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic in Belgium.
With those abilities, he said, Austin is well prepared for the rigors he will face this fall.
"He lives to play and perform; it's all about the music," Butler said. "I'll miss having him there, but he's more than ready. He's been ready."
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...
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