Sandra Church, Flute

The New York Philharmonic

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Sandra Church

Sandra Church, a native of Syracuse, is the Associate Principal Flute of the New York Philharmonic. During her tenure she has performed with conductors Zubin Mehta, Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, and Alan Gilbert. Ms. Church has appeared as soloist in performances led by Masur (in Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G major), Leonard Slatkin (in Barber’s Capricorn Concerto), and Maazel (in J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5). She served as Acting Principal Flute from 1997 to 2000. Sandra Church appears on Bernstein’s final recordings with the Orchestra, featuring works by Tchaikovsky, on Deutsche Grammophon and available on iTunes.

Before joining the Philharmonic Sandra Church was principal flute of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, during the music directorships of Thomas Michalak and Hugh Wolff, and was in residence with the Chautauqua Symphony, with Joseph Silverstein as music director, from 1986 to 1988.

An avid chamber music enthusiast, Ms. Church performs with the New York Philharmonic Ensembles in Merkin Concert Hall. She is also featured in André Previn’s album of songs From Ordinary Things.

Sandra Church earned her bachelor of music and master of music degrees from The Juilliard School, where she studied with former New York Philharmonic Principal Flute Julius Baker. She teaches privately, having served on the faculties of The Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music. 

“The best thing about being a musician is feeling intimately connected with the great composers — bringing to life their compositions. When I’m not playing I hear the music in my head. It’s such a gift, so elevating.”

Q&A with Sandra Church
THE FACTS: Born in Syracuse, New York. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School. Prior to the Philharmonic: Principal Flute, New Jersey Symphony, and Chautauqua Symphony in summers. At the Philharmonic: Joined as Associate Principal Flute in 1988. Solo debut with the Orchestra in 1990, in a Telemann concerto conducted by Zubin Mehta.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Learning how to read music from a filmstrip presentation in first grade. All the notes on the staff had different faces and personalities, and I was attracted to all of them. I started playing the piano at five. I began clarinet in fourth grade, French horn in fifth, and flute in sixth, and I stuck with the flute and piccolo. I loved playing the piccolo in band. The first pieces of music I fell in love with were the Bach Two-Part Inventions.

MOST IMPORTANT MUSICAL INFLUENCE: Former New York Philharmonic Principal Flute Julius Baker, whom I studied with at Juilliard. He was our “Heifetz.” Studying with him changed my life.

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF YOUR JOB? As Associate Principal, you’re on call for music you don’t necessarily perform or rehearse with the Orchestra.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MUSICIAN? Feeling intimately connected with the great composers — bringing to life their compositions. When I’m not playing I hear the music in my head. It’s such a gift, so elevating. I also like writing “musician” on my passport; I feel like I’m opening some door as a cultural ambassador.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR INSTRUMENT? No reeds, no valve oil, no rosin, and it’s the soprano voice of the orchestra. Our “band” — the winds and brass — is so strong. You feel like you’re riding a wave and are embraced sonically.

MOSTMEMORABLE MOMENT WITH THE ORCHESTRA: Leonard Bernstein conducting Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, and having him hug me and former Principal Oboe Joseph Robinson afterward – we had a big duet.

WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF NOT A MUSICIAN? A magazine editor. I like writing and photography. When I was very young I would write my own magazines, with myself as editor.

WHAT’S IN YOUR CD PLAYER RIGHT NOW? Whatever we’re performing with the Orchestra that week

ARE THERE MUSICIANS IN YOUR FAMILY? My father was a tenor who sang in barbershop quartets; my sister was an accomplished church organist. My husband, Lawrence Feldman, is a saxophonist; he will play lead alto sax in the February 2009 Broadway production of West Side Story.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? Cook, ski, swim, quilt, and knit.
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