While their backgrounds and goals are different, three doctoral students have found something in common at West Virginia University: a vibrant community of musical scholars in the School of Music’s flute studio.
Amanda Cook started playing in the fourth grade, and she hasn’t stopped since. After earning a Master’s of Music from Kent State, she shopped around for a doctoral program, and heard from friends that WVU “might be a good fit for me. I was also fortunate enough to receive a fellowship through the Office of Graduate Education and Life, so that sealed the deal.”
Family stories tell Angela Reynolds that she loved classical music before she can remember doing so. She held off on doctoral studies while her husband established his career as a musician with the Navy. One he’d settled down, she kicked her search for a program into high gear and met Nina Assimakopoulos, associate professor of flute at WVU.
“After a lesson with Professor Assimakopoulus, meeting the studio members and seeing the sense of community, not only in the flute studio but in the School of Music, I knew this was a place I could belong for the next few years,” Reynolds said.
Mirim Lee, a native of Seoul, South Korea, completed her master’s under Assimakopouous before beginning doctoral studies, and she values the home she’s found in the studio and at WVU.
“As an international student, sometimes it is really hard to be involved and a part of the community,” she said. “But our flute studio students are very kind and help me a lot, so I can be part of the community. This is very special to me.”
They’ve all experience individual success, too. Cook was hired to serve as associate editor of “I Care if You Listen” in 2015 and is currently a finalist for a writing and editing position with “The Flute View.” She performed at the fifteenth annual Third Practice Electro-Acoustic Music Festival held at the University of Richmond this year and presented two peer-reviewed seminars at nationally recognized flute conferences with Reynolds in 2015.
Reynolds won the Sigma Alpha Iota Graduate Performance Award, and Lee was awarded the Grand Prize of the woodwind Division of the Virtuoso International Music Competition. They, along with master’s and undergraduate students in the studio, compete and perform with ensembles around the country. They support each other in their studies and their development as musicians.
“The chance to get to know each of the studio members individually is a special part of being the studio teaching assistant,” Reynolds said. “Each person has shared something unique with me personally and musically.”
“It’s amazing having the opportunity to converse and collaborate with people who come from drastically different backgrounds and thrive in such a wide variety of settings,” Cook said.
The leader of the studio helps set a tone of innovation and ambition. “Professor Assimakopoulos has a unique musical perspective, and that’s made me want to continue my studies at WVU,” Lee said. “I am very happy that I can learn so many things from her.”
In addition to her work as an instructor, Assimakopoulos is dedicated to expanding the repertoire for flutists. She’s credited with over 84 new music commissions and world-premiere performances as well as five solo CD recordings. She’s received the Aaron Copland Fund Grant for New Music Recording, two Fulbright grants, and the National Society of Arts and Letters Career Award.
Of her work as a professor this talented group of students Assimakopoulos says, “While the work that goes on individually between the professor and student is a primary ingredient in a student achieving their personal best, the learning community that they are a part of is for sure way up there among top ingredients as well.”
Undergraduate and graduate flute majors at WVU have been recruited not only for their talent and proven academic excellence, but also “because they are students who are committed to creating a learning community that is positive, supportive, and high achieving,” Assimakopoulos said. “Everyone becomes a piece of the puzzle in each other’s success which makes the experience for me as their mentor very rich and fulfilling.”
If Reynolds had to give any advice to a young musician, it would be to “look for a teacher who will push and encourage you to strive for your best. Find a school where you can surround yourself with other bright musicians who will challenge and support you.”
Lee feels a place with performing opportunities is equally critical. “At WVU, you can do anything you want. You can play as a member of the orchestra or marching band, and you can collaborate with other students and make music together. You can do the things that you want to do as a musician.”
CONTACT: David Welsh, WVU College of Creative Arts
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