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. 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 live in Long Beach, CA but pretty much split my time freelancing up and down the state – 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, and Monterey Symphonies are just a handful of the orchestras I often work with. I’ve 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 country 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 Piccolo Intensive.
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 at my home in Long Beach where I teach flute as well as Body Mapping. As a Licensed Andover Educator (Body Mapping instructor), I also travel around the country throughout the year presenting master classes, workshops, and private lessons. Recent body mapping travels have taken me up the coast to Monterey, down the coast to San Diego, to the beautiful, quaint, historic town of Winchester, VA., to the fun, vibrant college town of Iowa City, to one of my favorite cities, Chicago, to the charming and picturesque Greenwich, CT, and another one of my all time favorites, NYC. Some of the conservatories and universities I’ve presented classes and workshops for include; Manhattan School of Music, SUNY, Stony Brook, 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.
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, it’s a pretty good bet you’ll find me enjoying big adventure time with my two very adorable and very spoiled puppies Auggie and Barley, brewing beer, shooting photos, or concocting some kind of masterpiece in the kitchen.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview I gave to Kid’s Talk Radio at the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA.