Alex Conway holds the position of second flute and piccolo for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. She is one of the symphony’s newest members, taking her seat in 2018. Alex completed her masters and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees at Boston University and has won numerous awards and placements. This month (March 13) she joins principal flutist Jan Kocman as a soloist in a performance of Domenico Cimarosa’s Concerto in G major for 2 Flutes & Orchestra. Find more information about our Mozart, Cimarosa & Bartók concert HERE.
March marks the one-year anniversary of this pandemic lockdown. What have you learned about yourself during all of this?
I’ve learned that I can put up with more uncertainty than I thought. I’ve always been a planner; next week, next month, next year, next 5 years, etc. With everything involved in the pandemic, that’s just not possible. I’ve learned to plan a week or a month ahead and not lose sight of the wonderful things that can happen when you don’t have a plan! I hope to bring a bit more of that spontaneity into whatever comes next.
You and a handful of other musicians from the orchestra have organized and facilitated a ton of online content for patrons throughout the pandemic. Content that has let us really get to know the symphony and many of the musicians on an individual basis. Why has this been important to you and what have you gotten out of this experience?
As a newer member of the ensemble, it has helped me to get to know people better! I also think it is important for our community to know that people move to
Winnipeg from all over to join the orchestra and to become part of the Winnipeg community. Unlike visiting soloists or guest conductors, we’re here to stay.
Can you tell us about your flute?
My flute is a bit of a mutt. The body of the flute (the part with the keys) is silver and it’s from a small Japanese maker called Flute Masters Company. They make flutes
using older techniques and sound concepts but with all the modern conveniences and technology. My headjoint (the part I blow across) is gold from a Boston-based
manufacturer called Haynes. Each part of the flute changes the sound and the way the flute responds when you play it. This combo took me many years and lots of
blind trials to find but I think it’s a winning combination.
What other instrument do you think you might have fallen in love with if it wasn’t for the flute?
During this time of lockdown, I regret not learning to play the piano. The ability to create music with so many voices on one’s own is quite alluring. I think during
normal times I’d miss working closely with my colleagues, though.
Is there a particular piece of music that cemented the flute for you?
I can’t point to an individual piece. I have always loved orchestral music, though, so I think it was more the idea of being able to sit in the middle of that glorious sound
that cemented the career for me.
What is your favourite work/piece to play? What is your least favourite, and why?
It’s impossible to pick one. There are so many great ones! As far as my least favourite, I feel grateful to be able to play any. I do dislike pieces that have lots of
tricky passages that are totally inaudible in context because they feel like busywork.
You have a Master’s and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from Boston University. Your undergraduate study was at Oberlin Conservatory and you did a dissertation on the flute music of Mieczysław Weinberg. Who was this composer? And why did you decide to choose him?
I was introduced to Weinberg through his flute piece, 12 Miniatures, which I heard in a masterclass in 2015. I was amazed that so many years after it was written and
so many years into my training I had never heard such a great piece. I immediately began researching it and Weinberg’s biography. Weinberg’s life story reads a bit
like a novel about World War II, leaving his home in the dark of night walking to the border of Poland and Russia never to see the rest of his family again. Although he
was quite a prolific composer, his status in Russia was always complicated by his Jewish heritage and he died in relative obscurity. Many of his works are just now
being discovered by European and North American musicians. In fact, the WSO was scheduled to play a piece of his shortly after the lockdown began last season on the
same program as the composer’s close confidant, Shostakovich. I hope we can program that concert again in the coming years; I was really looking forward to it!
This weekend the spotlight will be on you and principal flutist Jan Kocman in a performance of Domenico Cimarosa’s Concerto for two flutes. What can you tell us about this work?
It’s delightful! It’s light and open but never boring or too formulaic. It fits the flute quite well and the balance between the two soloists is fairly equal. My favourite part
is passing melodies back and forth with Jan; we haven’t been able to do that much this year and I didn’t realize how much I missed it.
Alex joined the WSO playing second flute and piccolo in September of 2018. Previously, she played third flute and piccolo with the Bangor
(Maine) Symphony Orchestra. While studying in Boston she has also had the pleasure of playing as a substitute with the Boston Pops and Pops Esplanade
Orchestras, and Boston Lyric Opera as well as the Atlantic Symphony, Cape Cod Symphony, East Coast Scoring, Tanglewood Music Center, Orlando Symphony, and
Chicago Civic Orchestra, among others.
New York, NY
Favourite thing about Winnipeg:
It’s the perfect combo of a big city and what I imagine living in a small town might be like. It’s not so big as to be overwhelming
while maintaining all the benefits of a major metropolitan area but it’s small enough where you feel welcomed and get to know people you live near or that are in your
What are you obsessing over right now?
I’ve always lived under a rock when it comes to popular culture but this pandemic time has afforded me the opportunity to catch up on some shows and movies that I
might not have otherwise. I’m currently finishing up a great HBO series called Boardwalk Empire and have recently watched the entire Star Wars Saga.