23 February 2023

From borrowed flute to Wigmore Hall: Spotlight with Adam Walker

By Lark Music

Adam Walker is one of the most distinguished and accomplished flautists of his generation, with a proven reputation of being an artist of both extraordinary musical sensitivity and technical virtuosity. With a career that has taken him to the world’s leading concert halls and stages, Adam has captivated audiences with his brilliant performances and interpretive insight.

In this interview, we delve into Adam Walker’s musical journey, exploring his influences, approach to music-making, while gaining personal insights into the world of classical music. We also discuss his latest projects and recordings and gain a deeper understanding of his artistic vision and creative process. Join us as we explore the world of one of the most accomplished flautists of our time.

The Artist

How did you get into music? Why did you pick up the Flute?

I played the recorder at primary school, like many of us did – but was slightly obsessed by it! We had a little Casio keyboard at home – I became obsessed with this too, and a primary school teacher started giving me some lessons on the school piano.

My parents used to go to a car boot sale most weeks, invariably bringing me back some sort of toy or book – one week when I was eight, a recorder appeared – but shaped sidewise like a flute. I begged for an actual flute, but money was tight, and the idea was parked. However, it turns out a school friend’s mum had played the flute at school and still had one at home, which she didn’t use. Luckily, I was able to borrow it.

I taught myself for a bit, and then played to my primary school teacher, who put me in touch with a local music examiner, who gave me some lessons. It was suggested that I audition for Cheetham’s School of Music, a legendary music school in Manchester, which is government-funded. I’d only been playing for a few months and had developed the most bizarre self-taught embouchure of all time! But they saw some sort of potential and let me in on a whim.

Do you have a favourite flute?

These days I play an American instrument. The vast majority of professional flutes are made in Boston USA or Japan. Mine is a Powell – I’ve been playing this brand since I was 13 years old and it gives me the most natural ease of expression.

What is your favourite genre to perform?

The answer to that really depends on the situation. I like to play a variety of chamber music, and there are some great pieces for the flute written in the baroque period. However, in the twentieth century and onwards, there are many present day composers writing wonderful music for the flute.

There is a history of some nice classical stuff, but in the Romantic era most composers didn’t bother with the flute, which is a real pity. However, in the Romantic orchestral repertoire you can find some of the most exquisite flute writing.  I’m fairly eclectic in my own listening tastes – classical music is banned from my kitchen, where I can be found listening to all sorts.

How did you find your style?

I think as a flute player, you need to be versatile in your performance style to get the most out of the instrument. In a sense, it’s still a fairly ‘new’ solo instrument – one has to search for interesting, fresh repertoires, and to create original works when possible. If you can embrace all genres and periods, and find ways of mixing old and new works, you can have a rich and satisfying career.

The Journey

At just 21 you were appointed as principal flute for the London Symphony Orchestra. On your journey to become the flautist you are today, what were three things that affected or helped define you?

Really, as a musician, you’re affected by environment, timing, and luck. I’ve always been so incredibly lucky to have a support network of wonderful, nurturing people in my life. My family is not musical – they never pushed me too hard when I was younger and gave me the space to take risks and follow my path without pressure.

My flute teacher in Manchester, Gitte Sorensen, was my mentor for eight years and was effectively my musical ‘mum’ – it’s rare to find a teacher as amazing as her. The times I was homesick or just an awkward, gangly teenager finding my feet amidst so much confusion, she kept my love for music alive and always kept me inspired and motivated.

Moving to London at 17, I had a great time studying at the Royal Academy with Michael Cox, one of my absolute favourite flute players. I was lucky enough to win a place on YCAT (Young Concert Artists Trust) when I was 19 – they were a huge part of my musical life and guided me onto a path of solo and chamber music performance. This was followed by my joining the London Symphony Orchestra, with whom I had 10 wonderful years of touring the world, playing with the best conductors and soloists of our time, alongside some of my closest friends. I have been super lucky in my career!

What is your own favourite performance, to date?

It’s impossible to narrow it down to just one! As a 13-year-old playing at the Proms for the first time with the National Youth Orchestra and Simon Rattle, who would later become my boss at the LSO. With the LSO, playing a concert in Hanoi, Vietnam, in front of hundreds and thousands of people lining the streets who had never seen a live orchestra before. Playing chamber music in a tiny church in a small festival in Northumberland one day with incredible chamber musicians… it really depends! Every week is so different, there really is no routine to what we do as musicians, and I think that’s the beauty of what we do.

What was the most interesting venue you’ve played?

Quite a few! A stock exchange… a commuter ferry… a nightclub… an escalator! If I had to pick a favourite venue, it would be London’s Wigmore Hall. I made my London Recital debut there when I was 16 and have performed there regularly since with some of my favourite colleagues. The sense of history and respect for music and listening is incredible, and the acoustics for the flute are the best.


The Awards

What would winning this award mean for you?

To be shortlisted for this award means a lot to me – I’ve been fortunate enough to create projects in the UK over the past few years that will resonate with me forever.

To win this award would pay tribute to all the fabulous people in my life who I have collaborated with recently. As a flautist, you’re often told that your place is in the orchestra and nowhere else, and I would like to encourage young flute players that you can push the boundaries as a performer and dare to go in different directions.

Want to find out more about Adam or connect?

Adam Walker Flute

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