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September 12, 2013

Interview with Ellen Sauer, UMS Student Guest Blogger


This season, we’ll introduce you to some of our audience members as part of our “Who’s sitting next to you?” series. To kick things off, we chat with Ellen Sauer, junior at Pioneer High school, who’ll also occasionally blog about her performance experiences for UMS Lobby.


Photo: Ellen Sauer

UMS: Please introduce yourself.
Ellen Sauer: My name is Ellen Sauer, I am 16 years old, and I am going to be a junior at Pioneer High school next year, where I play flute and piccolo in Symphony Band and Symphony Orchestra, and sing in A Cappella choir.

UMS: During our chat, you said that you’re passionate about music. How do you think this spark got started for you?
ES: I come from a very musical family. My parents both play(ed) the clarinet and met in music school, so music is central in our family’s life. I have been going to concerts and recitals, mostly classical, since I was two or three years old and continue to attend up to two or three a week during concert season. My dad has also been listening to recordings with me for as long as I can remember. I think what I’m trying to say is that music became important to me the moment I was born, and I have become more and more passionate with time.

What kinds of performances or arts experiences do you like to attend?
ES: I really enjoy orchestral concerts because I am probably the most familiar with orchestral repertoire and love the warm sound that an orchestra can produce. My favorite orchestral concert was the Mariinsky Orchestra’s rendition of Scheherazade a few years back. I also enjoy solo performances, predominately flute, but I have been to a broad array of solo and chamber music recitals, including a rather experimental bassoon one. Outside of classical music, I enjoy big band jazz, stage plays, and musicals. I really enjoy combined arts experiences that appeal to, but don’t over-stimulate, all of the senses. My best example of this would be the photo gallery that accompanied the New York Philharmonic performances last year, as well as the interview with musicians and the photographer following Saturday’s program.

UMS: Are you a performer yourself? How did you decide to pursue your instrument?
ES: I play flute and piccolo both as a soloist and in several curricular and extracurricular ensembles. I started on clarinet in fifth grade music class because all of the musicians I looked up to played the clarinet, and I figured I was genetically coded to play it. After a particularly painful few months, my mother was fed up with reminding me to practice and tired of putting up with my squeak-laden tone, so she suggested that I try the flute sitting in her closet from her band-directing days. I was equally upset with my progress, so I readily agreed. By the end of the week I knew my B-flat scale, a feat that had taken three months on clarinet, and by the end of the year I had an open-hole flute and private lessons. Looking back, it seems that flute chose me more than I chose flute. I began playing piccolo in the eighth grade for the Blue Lake and Slauson orchestras and continue to play it in school ensembles.

UMS: Do you have a favorite piece of music?
ES: I can’t say that I do have a favorite piece of music. All music is so unique and so wonderful that there really are no grounds for comparison. The same chord progression and simple melody can be put to counter point so many ways, the same lead-sheet can produce so many improvised solos, and even the same classical composition is played and interpreted differently every time.

UMS: You’re entering your junior year at Pioneer High School. Do you have a sense of what you might want to do after your graduate?
ES: I am excited to pursue a flute performance major, hopefully paired with a religion double major. Social justice and volunteer work are also two things very dear to my heart, so I am sure those will somehow figure in to my long-term plans.

UMS: Anything else we should know about you?
ES: I love sewing. In eighth grade I sewed a historically correct, civil-war era, purple satin gown and also made the hoop to go with it.

Look for Ellen’s writing on UMS Lobby this season!

Do you want to nominate someone you know for our “Who’s sitting next to you?” series? Email your suggestion to