Arts4All Blog

Get to know Dawn Walker, Heidi Saario and Mark Walker

Posted March 27th, 2017  |  By A4A.admin

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CSMA welcomes Dawn Walker, Heidi Saario and Mark Walker for Art and Music in Harmony, a free family concert in Tateuchi Hall on Sunday, April 2 at 2:00pm. Get to know the musicians as they discuss how music education has helped shape their career.

Dawn Walker, Flute (and CSMA Faculty)

How did you begin playing music?

I listened to Peter and the Wolf as a young child, around age 3 or 4, and decided that I loved the flute. I learned some piano with my father, but started playing the flute at the age of 10.

Did you have access to music education in school?

Yes, I did. I picked the flute through the music program at my school and practiced a lot from the very beginning.

Tell us about a great music teacher you had.

When I was 15 I started taking lessons from the famous flutist Claude Monteux. His father was the conductor Pierre Monteux who was a conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, and premiered many pieces by Igor Stravinsky in Paris. Claude studied flute and played many concertos with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and soloed with many symphonies. I continued my studies with Mr. Monteux at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

How often do you practice and/or rehearse?

I practice about 2 hours a day. When my children were young I practiced late at night, after 10 pm. Now that they’re older, I practice during the day. During my training, I practiced over six hours a day.

What do you do currently?

I currently teach about 25 students a week, and perform frequently with SF Opera, as principal flute in the Monterey Symphony and during the summer with the Carmel Bach Festival orchestra.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring musicians?

My advice to young musicians is to practice regularly and listen to lots of music everyday, including classical music and pieces you are practicing. Find music you love and play it! Follow your passion, if you like popular music, classical, jazz, or rap, find something that you can play that is in the style of the music you love!

Heidi Saario, Piano

How did you begin playing music?

I attended an early childhood music class and the teacher of the class suggested to my mother that I should start private music lessons. My parents are not musicians and neither of them play an instrument so learning to play the piano seemed like a good choice. I started private piano lessons when I was 4 years old and my parents purchased me an acoustic piano.

Did you have access to music education in school?

I grew up in Finland where music education was part of the core curriculum through elementary and middle school. These classes taught us some fundamentals of music theory and some history. We did lots of singing and learned to play a little bit of guitar and recorder. However, if you wanted to learn to play any other instrument, you needed to take private lessons in a music school in your free time. I always enjoyed singing in school choirs from the elementary school all the way until the end of high school. Some schools also had student orchestras available as an extracurricular activity.

Tell us about a great music teacher you had.

I have had several great teachers through my professional studies both in Finland and Canada. However, the most influential teacher I had was my first piano teacher, Arja Suorsa-Rannanmaki, at the East Helsinki Music Institute. I was lucky to have her as my piano teacher since I was 4 years old all the way until I started my professional studies at the Helsinki Conservatory. Arja had a way of being demanding as a teacher while staying encouraging and extremely kind at the same time. She was very interested in each student as a person and I developed a very close relationship with her over the 16 years I was her student. Arja provided me with a solid foundation technically as well as musically. During my undergraduate studies I served as her teaching assistant and we have stayed in close touch until today.

How often do you practice and/or rehearse?

My goal is to practice on a regular basis which at the moment means several days a week. It is easier to focus on practicing when there is a goal to work on, such as an upcoming performance. In addition to teaching piano both privately and at CSMA, I am a busy mother of two young children, which means there are not always enough hours in a day to do a lot of practice. As a result, I have had to learn to become really efficient with my practice habits.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring musicians?

Follow your heart and be prepared to work hard. In today’s world, being a musician is like being an entrepreneur. As an aspiring musician, one should be ready to wear many different hats and develop as diverse a skill set as possible.

Mark Walker, Cello

How did you begin playing music?

I began playing piano when I was 5 years old. I raised my hand in the 3rd grade when the music teacher asked my class who wanted to play an instrument. I had wanted to play trumpet, however the teacher only had cellos left. So my mother found me a teacher at Stanford University for a year, then I went to a local teacher by the name of Carolyn McBirney, for a few years, and then to Irene Sharp.

Did you have you access to music education in school?

Every school I attended had an orchestra for me to play in.

Tell us about a great music teacher you had.

I had several fine teachers. The most influential teacher that I had was Irene Sharp. She was by far the most influential and supportive teacher that I ever had. I also studied with Lawrence Lesser at New England conservatory, and had many lessons with Harvey Shapiro who taught at The Juilliard School.

How often do you practice and/or rehearse?

I try to practice every day. I normally give several concerts each month, and attend many rehearsals to prepare for these concerts.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring musicians?

Listen to your mother, and don’t argue with her so much!

Find a set time to practice every day, and stick to it. Each time you practice, try to be more efficient with your practice time than the last time you practiced. You will never have enough practice time, and as you get older, it becomes even more difficult to find practice time.

If you ever think of quitting, talk to an adult about if they are glad that they quit when they were young. You will never find someone who is really happy that they quit playing music. They all regret not continuing to play.

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