"Don't Forget the Piccolo!"
An Interview with Jeffery Zook
by Heather Neuenschwander
Over the relaxing Memorial Day holiday weekend, I had the joy of speaking with Detroit Symphony Orchestra Flutist and Piccoloist Jeffery Zook. On a perfect Michigan morning, 70 degrees with the sun shining brightly, Jeff strolled through his beautiful garden, sipping a cup of coffee as we caught up on recent life events and he told me all about his upcoming Mile High Piccolo Masterclass. I always enjoy every moment I have with Jeff Zook as we chat about music, flute and piccolo playing and some of the other details of life. He’s such a genuinely kind person with so much to share with those around him. I have always enjoyed his spark for life and playing music mixed with his quick wit and humor and I’m excited to share our discussion about his summer projects in hopes to inspire others to spend just a bit of time with their piccolo this summer.
HN: Tell me about the Mile High Piccolo Masterclass.
JZ: The Mile High Piccolo Masterclass will be in Denver, Colorado from August 16 to 18. My goal for the class is to help flutists become more comfortable on the piccolo and to help piccoloists become better musicians. What I want to do is share what I’ve learned over my career in terms of how to exercise my technique on the instrument every day. So the morning classes are going to be fundamentals basics on both the flute and the piccolo and how they relate. This will be an opportunity for people to explore different ways of approaching the piccolo. The afternoon will be where we go over solo repertoire and orchestral excerpts, the art of auditioning, and give people a chance to play their instruments in a solo capacity.
HN: How did this event come to be? Is this the first time you’ve held this event?
JZ: Yes this is the first one! I wanted to hold a piccolo masterclass and my friends in the Colorado Symphony graciously offered to put this together in Denver.
HN: What is the venue like?
JZ: The Highlands Center is a new space in Denver.
HN: I saw that you have three books listed for use in the class. How did you choose these materials?
JZ: I’d like to start by saying they are all available at Flute Specialists! The Mazzanti book is something I use everyday in my own personal piccolo warmup. I had the fortune of hearing Mr. Mazzanti in masterclass several times and I actually took a lesson with him a few years ago and that lesson changed my way of playing the piccolo in such a positive way. He’s one of the greatest piccoloists in the world. I enjoy using his book with my students. I developed a curriculum at Oakland University with my piccolo students and we use that book in conjunction with Learning the Piccolo. Clem Barone was the predecessor of the piccolo job here in Detroit Symphony and he was my teacher as well. That book is a compilation of flute literature that’s adaptable on the piccolo that he chose in particular to help piccoloists with the problems of the instrument. So Mazzanti as well as Barone together I think is a good study foundation for anyone trying to improve on their piccolo skills.
HN: And the third book is the Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo?
JZ: Yes correct.
HN: What type of flutist or piccoloist do you think would best benefit from this masterclass?
JZ: My goal is to help people be more comfortable on piccolo. Even a good flutist who has a good piccolo is going to benefit from this and also anyone who’s on the audition war path will definitely benefit from this as well.
HN: I see that you are also giving a recital. Can you tell me a bit more about the recital?
JZ: The recital is going to feature myself as well as Cathy Peterson who is in the Colorado Symphony and Michael Williams who is the class coordinator and a freelancer in the Denver area. So the three of us are giving a recital together. The details of which have not been released yet.
HN: So no sneak peaks for us?
JZ: (with a wry chuckle) Mmm…No. (another chuckle) Sorry.
Me: (Laughing) All right! So… What are you most looking forward to during this masterclass?
JZ: I am looking forward to giving the information that I have. I have seen it help young, up and coming piccolo players and it’s stuff that I’ve gotten from Clem Barone, stuff I’ve gotten from just experience playing piccolo for 28 years in the DSO. I’m ready to give! I’m excited to have a piccolo audience. I’ve never really had a piccolo audience before. It will be my first piccolo masterclass like this.
HN: I was thinking that you tend to do more events for the flute so I was surprised to see that you’re doing an exclusive piccolo event.
JZ: Yeah! It’s time to feature the piccolo!
HN: Does that mean there will be more piccolo events to follow?
JZ: I hope so. I think this might be a new trend.
HN: What other projects do you have going on this summer that you’d like to tell me about?
JZ: I have a couple performances at the White Lake Chamber Festival which is a summer music festival near Muskegon, Michigan. Some of the events are on Lake Michigan and in and around Muskegon. The first concert is with Bret Hoag on Friday June 21 at 7:30 and it will be a flute and guitar recital. Then August 5th I’m playing in a Detroit Symphony Trio which is myself, a violinist and a cellist also at the White Lake Chamber Festival and I may also do a Baroque concert with them. I’m really looking forward to that. Other than that just DSO, DSO, DSO!
HN: Do you have any tips for flutists or piccoloists for the summer?
JZ: Don’t ignore the piccolo! That’s my tip. I’d say try to dedicate 10-20 minutes in the middle of your practice to bring out the piccolo using these books. The Mazzanti and the Barone will give you a good start and a good basis. I like to always begin my piccolo practice with flute and end my piccolo practice with flute. Make a concerted effort to play it every day for at least 10-20 minutes. That’s my tip, don’t ignore the piccolo!
For more information about the Mile High Piccolo Masterclass and other upcoming performances, visit http://www.jeffzook.com
Jeffery Zook has been a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra flute section since 1992. His formal musical studies began at the Interlochen Arts Academy and continued at the University of Michigan. With additional studies in England, Mr. Zook attending the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester received the coveted Recitalists’ Diploma from the Royal Academy of Music in London. His teachers have included William Bennett, Trevor Wye, Judith Bentley, Jacqueline Hofto and former DSO piccoloist Clement Barone.
Highly in demand as a teacher, Mr. Zook has taught at the University of Michigan and is currently on the faculty of Oakland University. In 2018 he was Visiting Professor at Western Michigan University.
He is currently the chairman of the Piccolo Committee of the National Flute Association and has been past president of the Southeast Michigan Flute Association.
Mr. Zook lives in Pleasant Ridge with his partner David Assemany, miniature pinscher Dexter. They have named their renovated Dutch Colonial home The Cambridge Conservatory a venue which hosts recitals, workshops, musical feasts and fundraisers.
Jeffery Zook plays a 14K Haynes flute and the Burkart Piccolo.