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Zoe's Story

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As a flutist, I am passionate about commissioning and performing works by my contemporaries, especially pieces that engage with sociopolitical issues and/or the human condition and pieces that are multidisciplinary. I have given over fifty world premiere performances and commissioned more than a dozen works for solo flute. However, I also feel that our society overemphasizes premieres; there is no greater honor to me than giving a piece its second, fourth, seventh performance so that it can become a mainstay of the repertoire. 

Playing the flute is witchcraft. We quite literally alchemize the wind, our breath, into music. The air is my medium and I therefore take a vested interest in air quality activism and the right that all humans have to deep, clean breaths. 

 

I am continuously experimenting with ways to practice that are life-affirming and gentle as well as efficient and effective. I teach this approach to my students at Chatham University and the Winchester Thurston School. 

Some of my favourite experiences as a musician include:

  • Performing on the Great Wall of China as a part of the 2008 Pre-Olympic Ceremonies.

  • Presenting a directed stage production of my multidisciplinary, feminist Syrinx Project which On Stage Pittsburgh called “a stunning, cohesive piece that attests to [Zoe’s] incredible gifts and overwhelming intellect.”

  • Working with composer Marina Lopez and the Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh to commission and premiere Aridoamerica, a flute concerto about the damage inflicted by the US-Mexico border.

  • Winning the 2023 Pittsburgh Concert Society Major Artist Competition using only a deeply gentle practicing approach.

I also regularly post clips of my playing on social media:

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As a poet, I explore paradox, cyclicality, gender, and the natural world. Poems are how I tell the truth about the world around me. My poems tend to be on the shorter side and are usually unrhymed, although I am fascinated with the rhythm of words. My greatest poetic inspirations are Mary Oliver, Maggie Smith, and Audre Lorde. 

I'm currently in the midst of a year-long love poetry project, wherein I am writing a love poem each week for the first year of my marriage. 

Several of my poems are available for purchase. Twice a year, I open up calls for custom Zoetry. Joining my mailing list is the best way to be notified when I am accepting poetry commissions.

As an educator and speaker, I help artists and creatives come home to their own humanity. I am passionate about addressing the dehumanization of white supremacy culture and capitalism and how these systems directly influence arts spaces such as classical music culture. I believe that all humans are born with deep creativity, that we are taught to separate from our humanity and our creativity, and that we can repair our relationship to both.

I have Master's degrees in arts administration (University of Kentucky) and flute performance (Carnegie Mellon University) and Bachelor's degrees in English literature (Oberlin College) and flute performance (Oberlin Conservatory). I also owe a great deal to my informal education, such as that I received from Felicia Savage Friedman of YogaRoots On Location, through whose program I became a certified raja yoga teacher, a proponent of embodied learning, and a more discerning and loving human. Her work and humanhood, as well as that of my other soul teachers, greatly informs the work that I do today.

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More About Me:

- I live in Pittsburgh with my incredible drummer husband, two sweet cats, and a very silly dog.

- I am an amateur Burlesque dancer.

 

- I wrote and published my first book, called The Cat That Couldn't Meow, at age eight.

 

- For me, creativity is both a spiritual and a liberation practice.

 

- I play on Katherine Hoover's flute.

 

- I am currently writing my first novel.

 

- I love to read, garden, and look up the etymologies of everyday words.

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Through my own art and my work with other artists, I explore how personal and collective values inform the creative process.

Here are some of the values that inform my work:

I BELIEVE IN:

  • the power of paradox. More than one thing can be true at the same time. I'm not interested in picking sides or creating viral hot takes. I encourage myself and those I work with to embrace complexity and nuance and to explore the multitudinous nature of human life.
     

  • honoring individuals while questioning systems. At the center of my belief system is the knowledge that the actions and beliefs of individuals, even those that cause great harm, are the results of systems that seek to oppress and dehumanize us all. I believe that most people are doing the best that they can. This is not a reason to let people off the hook for harm but rather my motivation to see the humanity in everyone and to engage in systems of accountability and restorative justice, even and especially where harm occurs.

 

  • not being good. The good/bad binary is false and cannot hold the complexity of humanity. I refuse to engage in language or behavior that seeks to claim goodness or reject badness and I encourage those I work with to move beyond the desire to prove or perform their own goodness.

 

  • existing in a body. Western culture too often separates the body from the mind and encourages us to engage in intellectual work from a disembodied place. I aspire to bring my whole body into the classroom and practice room and I incorporate embodiment into all of my teaching. This might look like taking a few breaths together, incorporating small movements, or even simply turning off our Zoom cameras so we can be untethered from our screens.

 

  • processes of accountability that begin, not end, with apologies. Too often, our society treats “I’m sorry” as the end place of harm. I believe that accountability begins with an acknowledgment of harm and an apology. What accountability looks like after that depends on the needs of the harmed, the ability of the harmer, and the nature of the harm that has taken place. As a facilitator of spaces, I recognize that I am not divorced from these processes and that I will most likely both be harmed and cause harm within the context of this work.

 

  • a more beautiful world. I believe that a more beautiful world, one in which we are all seen and loved, in which we belong to one another, is possible. I believe that, through curiosity and creativity, imagination and love, we can build this world together.

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