For this month’s faculty feature, Student Navigator Emory Freeman had the pleasure of interviewing Mariana Gariazzo. In addition to teaching at CMPI, Mariana Gariazzo is a Teaching Associate in Flute at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Lecturer at Texas A&M University, where she also served as Director of Undergraduate Studies. Gariazzo holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Music from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Music from Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Argentina. She has been a recipient of several awards and distinctions in solo and chamber music categories including Fundacion Antorchas, Juventudes Musicales, UNC Orchestra competition, and the Robert Wilson Award for Outstanding Woodwind Performance at Yale. In addition, she has been awarded multiple grants for professional advancement such as the Innovative Pedagogy Grant, the Arts Enhancement Grant, and the Melbern G. Glasscock Center Co-Sponsorship Grant at Texas A&M University. We are so fortunate to have Mariana teaching our CMPI students.
How did you first hear about CMPI?
I learned about CMPI through the Chicago Flute Club. We were looking for opportunities to do community outreach and to expand possible scholarship opportunities into the Merit School of Music and CMPI. We sent invites to the students to attend our events at the start of the pandemic. We launched a virtual series called “Fluting with the Stars,” and every month we invited one of the biggest flutists in the world like Denis Bouriakov and Marina Piccinini. You name it, we had everyone the next two years.
I got introduced to my first CMPI student because of a colleague who was relocating. They asked me if I would be willing to teach my first CMPI student. I was hesitant at first because I am really busy, but then another teacher stated that you HAVE to teach this specific student at CMPI. This merit faculty member thought it would be a great teacher-to-student match. I agreed to start teaching the CMPI student from then onward, and that is how I started teaching at CMPI.
I am so eager to learn more about CMPI. I believe in the mission and I have been working on diversity and inclusion for several years now. It is hard work creating opportunities when there are none. Typically, this work is associated with some type of discomfort because we are creating educational opportunities in which you have ample accessibility and compassion to really understand how we transform the kids into something great. The whole CMPI team offers a whole network of support. It takes a village to create a passionate environment where a transformation can take place. I am extremely lucky to be a part of this organization.
What are some highlights when you judged the most recent jury videos?
I want to congratulate CMPI for the system that they have. It was so organized, and I love when things have a good framework. It is almost like a masterclass. With flutists, of course I am going to go a little bit more in detail. With non-flutists, I judge the music. I recognize that I do not have the tools to talk about bowing or first and second positions. I step away and look at the musician as a whole. What are they communicating? I teach music as a storytelling agency. For example, whenever I have a student who knows all the notes, is a hard worker, and it’s memorized with perfect rhythm, but I still feel that the music is deep enough, I feel like that is my mission in life to find what the word “music” means to the student. How is the sound created in your body, and how do you become a channel for music to happen?
I have done a lot of performance studies and one thing we talk about is the idea of flow. It is a state of mind coined by a Hungarian-American psychologist who talks about how musicians, dancers, actors, surgeons, and mountain climbers engage in an activity that involves the utmost focus and concentration in which you are becoming the activity. It is the idea that we are not playing the violin or flute, we are the sound. When I am teaching or in this case judging, I always give advice from the perspective of “How can the student become the sound?”
When you were our students’ ages, where did you see yourself going? What were you thinking when you were our students’ ages?
I was born and raised in Argentina. I moved to the states to get my Master of Music at Yale with Ransom Wilson in 1999. I began to play the recorder flute when I was four. I learned to read music before I learned to read and write. I used to put my stuffed animals in rows, and play my recorder flute for them. My family would always tell me to stop practicing. In Argentina, we only went to school for four hours. My parents enrolled me in a music conservatory where I spent another four hours learning music. When I was nine years old, I was in a recorder ensemble, and we would go on tour every weekend and have a performance somewhere.
I started the transverse flute when I was 11. I did not get to a good teacher until I was 17. When I was younger, I was not playing at the level that my current CMPI students are playing at. I was solid in music and the recorder, but my flute playing needed a lot of polishing. I was never taught fundamentals or how to play from the diaphragm. I learned how to do that after age 17 and in college. What I did have when I was 14 was the utmost integrated discipline. I knew how to practice, I had recorder lessons, I would do professional recordings. I had a lot of professional opportunities early in life, but no orchestral training; that came later. That is the difference I had with the CMPI students. I love this program because everyone is so invested in making this happen.
What are some words of inspiration you have for our CMPI students?
I had friends tell me that I would never get accepted into a DMA program because I cannot speak English. When people make comments like this, we can let them define who we are. If you let them, they can define us. What is important to recognize is that when people make comments like that, it comes from their limited experience. Their experience is not our experience. I have the power to let comments like that get to me, or not. I will determine what I can, and cannot too. I applied to several doctoral degrees. I got in, and finished my program in four years, so who is talking now?
I had to be careful not to victimize myself. I was raised in a country where you could not have access to a flute or musical scores. Everything was a photocopy. I bought my first score in 1999 when I was attending Yale. I began to value every little thing that I had. The CMPI fellows have that experience. Everything they have, they do not take it for granted because it took a lot to get where they are. I want them to feel empowered, to believe in themselves, and to feel special. It takes a lot of work, and I want to empower them to do the work and help them believe that they are there to serve the music. I am here with them to do the work and ensure that they can create their own boundaries and goals.