Flute takes center stage at Vallejo Symphony concert

By Amy Maginnis-Honey; The Daily Republic
From page B1 | April 05, 2013 |

VALLEJO — Like many siblings, Melanie Keller wanted something of her brother’s. In this case it was a recorder, a flute-like woodwind instrument.

A trip with her parents to Germany reinforced that desire. Keller’s mother went to visit her former piano teacher and asked about a good beginner instrument. The instructor suggested the piano or a recorder.

“The recorder is taken more serious in Europe,” Keller said. “In the United States, it’s offered in schools then the students move on (to another instrument),” she said.

Keller’s mother enrolled her in private recorder lessons when she was in first grade. In fifth grade she switched to the flute.

“I was a little disappointed the flute was made of metal,” Keller said. She thought the flute was inferior because it wasn’t made of wood like her recorder, she said.

In her early teens, Keller decided she wanted to be a professional musician and began private lessons with the flute. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She then earned a master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

In 2004, Keller joined the Vallejo Symphony, where she now serves as principal flautist and personnel manager.

On Sunday, Keller will handle “Fantasie for Flute and Orchestra” as the symphony wraps up its 81st season and celebrates maestro David Ramadanoff’s 30th anniversary with the group.

“He seems to know everything about every composer,” Keller said of Ramadanoff. “He’s very respectful of the musicians. He’s great to work with. He’s been a treasure in the Vallejo community and the whole Bay Area.”

Concertgoers will recognize the “Fantasie for Flute and Orchestra,” Keller said. Written in 1898, it was used for many years as the graduation piece for the Paris Conservatory of Music flute students.

“It shows off both sides of the (flute) player’s power from the instrument,” she said. “It has a lovely beginning that is more lyrical. Then it goes into a faster, really jaunty section with lots of notes.”

Keller is also a member of Avenue Winds, a Bay Area woodwind quintet. In addition to classical composers, Avenue Winds also features new works by Bay Area composers. One of Keller’s favorites is John Bilotta, music director of the San Francisco Chamber Wind Festival.

The group doesn’t perform as much as Keller would like because parenting duties keep her and other members busy, she said. Keller has two sons, ages 3½ and 5½.

“They are a lot of fun,” she said. “Both like music.”

The Sunday symphony program will also feature Schumann’s “Overture to Manfred” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 oramaginnis@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Storms and Passions

  • Vallejo Symphony spring concert
  • 3 p.m. Sunday
  • Lander Hall, Touro University, 1310 Johnson Lane, Mare Island
  • 643-4441
  • www.vallejosymphony.org