About Rena


Photo by Todd Sharp

My adventures with playing a musical instrument began when I was about 6 years old. My Dad, who was a violinist in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, gave me my very own violin. I wanted to be just like my Dad and as cool as it was to have a violin, it was a little less cool having to practice it in order to sound better. Needless to say, the violin and I turned out to not be such a great match. When I came home from school in the 6th grade announcing that I was going to play the flute, my Mom and Dad were quick to remind me that I already played the violin. What? Were they kidding? I was lousy at the violin. But the flute…. now this was the instrument for me; it was a shiny, silvery tube with lots of cool buttons. I overheard them talking later that night, saying something to the effect of “this won’t last, it’ll be like the violin … or ballet.” Meanwhile, I listened from the other room thinking “Oh yeah, I’ll show them!” The rest, as they say, is history. Years later, I’m still fascinated by the shiny, gold tube and the how it can create some of the best and most beautiful orchestral melodies ever written.

Since 1995 I have been fortunate to be a part of the outstanding flute faculty at The Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach. In the fall of 2018, I joined the Fine Arts Faculty at California State University, Stanislaus. I am the Second Flutist of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and the Oregon Coast Music Festival Orchestra and Second Flute/Piccolo of the San Francisco Opera Center Orchestra – two orchestral chairs I love to play.

I split my time between my home in Turlock, CA and Highland Park, IL, teach in Turlock Long Beach, and perform as a freelance musician all over California – mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as Los Angeles. You might also call me a professional driver. The Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestras, Pacific, California, Marin, Santa Rosa, Monterey, and Modesto Symphonies are just a handful of the orchestras I have worked with. I have also played with the San Francisco Opera, Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Mark Morris Dance Group, Seattle Symphony, Hawaii (formerly Honolulu) Symphony, and the Detroit Symphony. Summers are spent teaching around the US and in Italy, and playing in festival orchestras: Oregon Coast Music Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, and Festival Mozaic. Other summer highlights include teaching, performing, and presenting courses for CSU Summer Arts, Andover Educators Biennial Conferences, Long Beach Flute Institute, the National Flute Association’s annual convention, and the Iowa Flute and Piccolo Intensive summer courses.

I’m proud to be a product of the State University system in both Michigan and California, having earned my B.M. in Flute Performance from Wayne State University and my M.M. in Flute Performance from California State University, Long Beach.  The long list of remarkable musicians who have inspired and taught me over the years includes: Robert Patrick (Former Assistant Principal Flutist, D.S.O.), Clement Barone (Former Solo Piccolo, D.S.O.), John Barcellona (Professor of Flute, CSULB), Anne Zentner (Former Principal Flutist, LA Philharmonic), Ervin Monroe (Former Principal Flutist, D.S.O.), Julie MacKenzie (Principal Flutist, SF Opera, Piccolo, SF Ballet), Liisa Ruoho (Professor of Flute, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland) and my father, Santo Urso (Former Assistant Concertmaster, D.S.O.).

In addition to my university teaching and orchestral playing, I wear many other hats, such as maintaining a private flute studio in my home, where I teach flute as well as Body Mapping. As a Licensed Andover Educator (Body Mapping instructor), I also travel all over the world throughout the year presenting master classes, workshops, private lessons, and recitals. Recent body mapping travels have taken me up all over California, to Italy – where my roots hail from, to the fun and vibrant college town of Iowa City, to the charming and picturesque Greenwich, CT, and another one of my all time favorites, NYC, and all over the great state of Texas. Some of the conservatories and universities I’ve presented classes and workshops for include; Manhattan School of Music, SUNY, Stony Brook, Rice University, UT Austin, my alma mater Wayne State University, and many of CSU’s including San Diego State University, Chico State, and my own university, CSU, Long Beach, Rutgers, and Juilliard.

There would be a conspicuous void if I didn’t have a significant creative outlet with chamber music. I play in various chamber ensembles including my flute and string quartet Bella Musica, the Del Lago Trio, a flute, clarinet and cello trio, and my flute and piano trio, Alcyone Ensemble.

Having played Muramatsu flutes my entire professional career, it’s an honor to also be a representative for both Dean Yang Flutes and Muramatsu America.  I play a 9k heavy wall Muramatsu, a Yamaha alto, and a vintage Powell piccolo with custom head joints made by the brilliant Eldred Spell. For Baroque period works, I play a beautiful boxwood head made by Peter Noy.

When not occupied with all things flute, piccolo or Body Mapping, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll find me shooting photos, concocting (and eating!) some kind of masterpiece in the kitchen, or loving life and traveling around the globe with my husband John.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview I gave to Kid’s Talk Radio at the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA.

12 thoughts on “About Rena”

  1. Robert W. Orr said:

    Dear Ms. Urso-Trapani – I am attempting to locate a flutist. His name is Robert Patrick and I studied with him in Philadelphia years ago, probably 57 +/-. He was a student of Walter Kincaid. He went out to the west coast to play after graduation from Curtis, and we lost track of each other. I wonder if you know his where-abouts or what happened to him. I note that you studied with a Robert Patrick and perhaps he is/was my former teacher…I am 83, and one tends to think “a time below a time,” what might have been.

    • Hello Robert,
      Thank you so much for your note. What a pleasure to connect with a fellow Robert Patrick student. I feel very lucky to have had the privilege of studying with Mr. Patrick all throughout high school and early college. Sadly, he passed away back in 1991 of pneumonia after being ill for some months. What a loss to the flute world. He was the Assistant Principal Flutist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for many years. I believe he joined the DSO in the late 60’s. My father, Santo Urso, was Assistant Concertmaster and always loved his playing. He considered him to be a tremendous musician with a beautiful tone who could turn a phrase like no-one else. I felt honored to be accepted into his studio, which by the way, was in the room next door to the teaching studio where my father also taught at a local music store in the Detroit area. A favorite story I enjoy telling is how Mr. Patrick would teach me new technical studies each week – all from memory. We wrote nothing down, he wanted me to really know these exercises. Week after week he’d teach me more arpeggio and scale studies. I’d leave my lesson feeling a little bit like I just completed a calculus exam. One day, a family friend gave me a gift of a beautiful leather bound music manuscript book. This seemed like the ideal place to write down all of “Mr. Patrick’s Technical Studies.” I spent weeks working on it and then finally brought it into one of my lessons to show it to him. I pulled it out of my bag, proudly displaying my hours of hard work, cataloging all of his brilliant (and difficult) studies. He looked at it and said “Well, I don’t know why you would have bothered writing all of that down, that’s just the Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises book.” He taught me to love practicing Andersen Etude’s and to this day, I still regularly go back and review all of those old etudes. I’m trying to instill this habit in my students. Hopefully in the years to come they’re figure out how great they are for us … like a daily multi-vitamin.
      I had forgotten that he spent time playing on the west coast, Seattle as I recall. Incidentally, the teacher I studied with after Mr. Patrick was also a Curtis grad and William Kincaid student; Clement Barone. Clem was the Solo Piccolo of the Detroit Symphony with Mr. Patrick. Between the two of them I sure feel lucky to have had that kind of inspiration, weekly wisdom and musical guidance.
      Do you still play?

      Thank you for contacting me, Robert.
      Best regards,

  2. Rhoda Mann Murphy said:

    Your dad was my violin teacher when I was a youngster. In the summer, I used to come to the house, where all you kids were playing! I am mainly an amateur piano/keyboard player for church and local fundraisers where I live in a retirement community on Long Island, but when my granddaughter decided the violin wasn’t for her, I inherited the instrument and am again playing. Your dad was an inspiration and a wonderful person. R. Murphy

    • Thank you for your kind message, Rhoda! I have been meaning to respond to you for sometime – my apologies for the delay. Your thoughtful words about my Dad mean so much. I miss him everyday. Thank you, again, and best of luck to you on your new/returning adventure with the violin. Rena Urso

      • Your Dad was a remarkably nice person, who I’m sure realised that my efforts on the violin were limited, but he never indicated that! Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.  Rhoda

  3. Al Pizzimenti said:

    It’s Christmas Day and we remember your dad, Santo.

    Fr. Ed Perrone’s father had the Pied Piper music store (co-owned by my dad, Joe Pizzimenti) where Michael used to work.

    We like your playing of the Bizet.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Al! And thank you for thinking of my Dad on Christmas Day. I miss him everyday. My brother Michael has told me many stories of the Pied Piper days. I will see him in a couple of weeks and let him know we’ve been in touch. I’m sure he’ll send his best regards. Thanks again and happy new year!

  4. Rhoda Mann Murphy said:

    Merry Christmas to you and your husband. The world needs more music now than ever! People will always need music. I recently was part (piano) of a fundraiser for a young veteran who had been badly wounded and his wife. Our retirerment community raised over $4,500 for them. Very gratifying. Rhoda

  5. Ms Urso,

    We are acquaints from some time ago. I just arrived in Oakland for a few days of business meetings and thought I saw you. I was wrong but took the opportunity to google you (what did we do before Google?). Great story and do happy for you and your success.


    • Mr. Isola,
      Hope this finds you well. What a pleasure to hear from you after all of these years! Thank you for your kind words.
      Incidentally, I play with the Oakland Symphony. Please let me know if your business travels should take you there again – it would be lovely to see you.
      Meanwhile, enjoy your stay in the beautiful Bay Area.
      Kind regards,

  6. Donald R. Griffis said:

    Bob Patrick and I were in a diverse group of about six students who spent the summer of 1955 in a small farm house outside West Gray, Maine while studying with Mr. Kincaid at his summer home on a bluff jutting out over Little Sebago Lake. Bob was always the first to arise and last to retire, practicing demonically most of the day. I published a nostalgia piece in the NFA Newletter titled “The Bird Sang Maquarre” in 1977 which may resonate among many of your readers. It was a most enjoyable and pivotal experience in my long life. I even went down to Boston and had lunch and a long conversation with VQP at his expense!

    • Dear Donald, Thank you for this lovely story about Bob. His artistry, integrity, and amazing work ethic made such a positive impact on me from an early age. I love hearing stories from his friends like yourself!

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