FBA Journal
Guest Elena Yarritu shares her reflections on 
the master class Isabelle Chapuis Starr recently led for
the Yarritu Summer Program in Saratoga.
Elena writes:
     My summer flute class successfully finished it's fourth year last July.  We have been meeting every summer in the Fine Arts Building at West Valley College, partly as a reunion of my former students and, mostly, to spend a week playing and studying the flute. It's a small class of about 10-12 eager and very talented students. We are very fortunate to have Steinway pianos in every room and to work with Randy Hawkins, a collaborative pianist who knows ALL the flute repertoire. It couldn't be a better situation -- minus the strong air conditioning!
     Naturally, I invited Isabelle to work with my summer class.  She had helped me once before, with a very well-received class in 2005. Three of the students brought some of Isabelle's favorite French pieces, including the Poulenc Sonata, the Dutilleux Sonatine and selections from the French Composer's Book.

     One of the most memorable lessons was a performance and discussion of Henri Dutilleux's Sonatine, performed by Anna Monsma, a student of Gary Woodward at Biola University. After Isabelle pointed out some of her preferences on articulation, I asked her if she would start from the beginning and comment on what Dutilleux himself preferred.  It allowed us to go back in time and have a connection with a composer, to hear what his thoughts were on his own music and to be able to collect "tools" so to speak for effective interpretation.  My request was also somewhat selfish, because years ago I had lent my score to someone and never saw it again! I knew this piece well, but I longed to have my "authentic" notes back!
     Rene Yin, a student of Jill Felber at UCSB, performed the first movement of the Poulenc.  Isabelle explained to her what this piece was about, " It's a conversation!" She encouraged Rene through singing and "conducting" hand gestures.  Rene's performance was totally transformed into a colorful array of characters!

    I would be remiss if I let a good opportunity escape.  In 2009, the fifth annual class will welcome Isabelle Chapuis-Starr as a permanent faculty member.

Elena Yarritu is a flute soloist and chamber musician, originally from the Bay Area.  She currently resides in San Diego. She holds degrees from San Jose State University, Yale University, and SUNY Stony Brook, where she completed doctoral studies with Carol Wincenc. Elena has performed widely, including at the 2007 National Flute Association convention as the winner of the 2006 Myrna Brown prize. To learn more about the Elena Yarritu Summer Master Class, visit
     While I try my best to give them a well-rounded and broad education in conjunction with raw, unfiltered teaching on technique, I acknowledge that students need a variety of influences to really grow.  One doesn't have to go far to find this.  In our own backyard we have an incredible person and flutist in Isabelle Chapuis-Starr.
     Isabelle studied at the Paris Conservatory in the late '60s and early '70s.  This was an exciting time to be a student there, as Jean Pierre Rampal was one of the main flute professors. Not only was he a tremendous artist, he was also kind and generous. His students loved him. Isabelle also studied with Marcel Moyse, Gaston Crunelle, Alain Marion, Michel Dubost among others.  And she has brought this legacy of the French School of Flute Playing to us here in the South Bay since 1975, when she accepted the post at San Jose State.

I had been one of the lucky teenagers fortunate enough to study with her.  What an opportunity to have French culture right here in San Jose! I didn't really realize at the time how much influence she had on me. I went on to study in New York and Paris, after I finished at San Jose State.  I am very grateful to have been able to reap the wonderful benefits of my studies with Isabelle, especially to be able to pass on her wise and inspiring words to my students.
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