An American Flautist in London
The recent recipient of the British Flute Society’s Young Artist Award, Kate Bateman began playing at the tender age of 10. However, it was only when she was deciding what to major in much later on, that she realised the flute was her true passion. In the past few years, Kate has fallen in love with her instrument outside of a taught environment – now she listens more and takes in the history with an avid interest.
Born in the USA, Kate studied at Northwestern University in Chicago. Initially she was unsure as to whether she wanted to pursue music or academia. She had hopes of teaching but soon realised that the public school classroom was not really her forte. She wanted to be in front of an orchestra or on a stage somewhere. Feeling frustrated with Northwestern, she applied to for a year abroad at the Royal Academy of Music in London on a whim. “It was everything I needed,” she says emphatically of her Erasmus year. She went back to Northwestern to graduate but soon returned to the Royal Academy to begin her postgraduate degree.
I asked her if there were any major differences between the two countries for her as a musician and she agreed that there were. “I feel so much more appreciated in London,” she says. She goes on to tell the tale of the night before one of her auditions in New York. It’s early evening and she decides to get in half an hour of practice – some Bach, perhaps (“nothing weird, nothing loud.”) She has only been playing for a scant five minutes before she hears a knock on her door. It’s someone from the front desk of her hotel demanding that she “stop that noise.” “But it’s not noise,” she tells me. “It’s Art! It’s Bach!” The story is perfect representation of the attitude she gets back home. According to Kate, London has a history and culture of classical music and so people think that it’s ‘cool’ instead of ‘weird’ when she tells them what she does. “The atmosphere is better for me.”
Kate manages quite a busy schedule – in between the 4 hours of practice she does a day (though she admits that she does not force herself when she’s feeling tired) she still teaches privately. “There’s something so rewarding about developing a relationship with a student.” What she most looks forward to is the excitement on their faces when they can tell they’ve improved – “that’s very special.” In the midst of all this, Kate also succeeded in winning the British Flute Society’s Young Artist Award for this year. She decided to go for it because she’s someone who takes advantage of as many opportunities to perform as possible. She didn’t think she’d win and woke up nervous on the day knowing she would be competing against people she admired and studied with. Finally she resolved to make her piece different – different from the way anyone else had ever played it. “And that’s what did it,” she remarks retrospectively. Kate’s style is authentic; a blend that is gritty, dramatic and dark (“people can tell it’s me.”)
So what advice does Kate have to impart to other young aspiring musicians? “When you get criticism – it’s one day, one person. It is not a reflection of how you play all the time. It is all a matter of opinion and one person’s opinion does not change everything. Have fun doing what you do but make sure to take a break from doing it. Don’t let music become this all-consuming thing.”
And where does Kate hope to be in the future? She hasn’t worked out the specifics just yet but she’s taking everything as it comes. Ideally she would like to be teaching in a University but she still loves putting on recitals and talking to people about performing. “With music, you can’t really plan it.”