Jennah Smart Flute & Piccolo

In by Alison Stewart

When and why did you start playing the flute?

I started the flute 18 years ago back in 1996.  I had started having recorder lessons with Sarah Jordi when I was 4 and during one of my lessons she played the flute to me.  I remember it wasn’t the sound of the flute which I was drawn to, it was the fact that it was shiny!  I must have been a magpie in a previous life!

Is music your main profession?

I am currently working in London as a freelance musician.  The exciting thing about being a freelancer is that it’s so varied.  For example, one day I could be teaching privately in a quiet area of the city and then the next day taking part in a recording session.  Highlights of my freelancing career include guesting with the National Symphony Orchestra, depping on the UK tour of Phantom of the Opera and holding the flute chair for Cameron Macintosh’s production of Barnum, which embarks on its UK tour in September 2014.  I also have a keen interest in jazz and have played with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra as well as being a member of the contemporary jazz group the Chaos Orchestra led by the fantastic Laura Jurd and more recently the Engines Orchestra led by Phil Meadows which has its debut at the London Jazz Festival this coming November.

Describe your journey with that instrument.

Whilst in Jersey, I learnt with Sarah Jordi, Gina McLinton & Helen Reid with whom I achieved Grade 8 with a high distinction.  After Grade 8 Helen encouraged me to start having lessons on the mainland.  During my sixth form at Jersey College for Girls I would go across once a month to the Guildhall School of Music to study with Katy Gainham.  I was so lucky to have such wonderful teachers who helped and spurred me on to becoming a professional flautist.  In 2009 I was accepted on to the performance course at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance where I studied with Anna Noakes, Anna Pope & Alan Baker (piccolo at ENO).  Whilst I was at Trinity, I won the Harold Clarke Woodwind Prize and I was fortunate enough to take part in masterclasses with Mike Mower, Andy Findon, Dave Heath, Tony Hinnigan, Sue Thomas (LPO), Paul Edmund-Davies (ex principal of LSO & ENO), Adam Walker (LSO), and Emily Benyon (Concertgebouw) to name a few.

I took part in all the local competitions winning classes in the Eisteddfod and in 2008 I was the PWC Jersey Young Musician of the Year.

I think one of my most memorable performances was when I was out in Mauritius for a family holiday and I befriended the entertainments manager at the hotel we were staying at.  He found out that I played the flute and insisted that I joined in with the in-house entertainment that was on nightly.  On one of the nights it was Diwali so to create an Indian vibe there was a jazz trio with Indian tabla.  Having never met these musicians before and not being able to speak the language, I got up on stage and jammed with them for nearly 10 minutes creating a completely new piece of music, only relying on our ears for musical direction.  After we had finished playing, we spoke for the first time and it felt like we completely understood each other.  It made me realise that music is the universal language, which connects all humans no matter where we are from and for me, that was a profound and memorable moment in my life.

How long have you played for the JSO?

I have played for the JSO since Easter 2007 when we played Ravel’s Mother Goose, Debussy’s L’Apres Midi d’une Faune and Saint Saen’s Organ Symphony.

What has been your favourite JSO concert that you have performed in?

My favourite concert has to be the Easter Concert 2010 where we performed La Mer.  I absolutely adore Debussy.

Do you play any other instruments or belong to any other musical groups on the island?

As well as playing all things flutey, I play saxophone, clarinet and piano.  When I was younger I used to play guitar!  As I live on the mainland I don’t get to play in as many local music groups as I used to, but before I moved away I was a member of the Well Swung Jazz Orchestra, function bands Wavelength and Kings of Swing as well as punk ska band The Lizzard Channel which headlined at Jersey Live in 2011.  More recently I played for the Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club’s production of Annie.

Who is your favourite composer and why?

Vaughan Williams because his pieces are so simple yet so serenely beautiful.

What is your favourite piece of classical music and why?

Leading on from the previous question, it has to be the Lark Ascending because every time I hear that piece, I can always vividly visualise a Lark soaring across the rolling hills of the South Downs where my grandmother lives.

What music do you listen to?

Musically, I like to be open minded so there isn’t really anything I don’t like, apart from hard-core trance and death metal. More recently I have been listening to London Grammar, Justin Timberlake, Jason Derulo (my guilty pleasure!), Nitin Sawhney, Ry Cooder, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Brad Mehldau, The Cinematic Orchestra and I absolutely love the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen! If you have time, have a listen to Michel Camilo’s Not Yet, it’s one of my favourite big band numbers!

What do you love about Jersey?

I love absolutely everything about Jersey. The one thing I do miss about Jersey whilst living in London is living so close to the sea. Going down to St. Ouen and watching the sun go down on a clear evening is one of the best things in the world. You can’t beat it.

What one thing would you change about Jersey?

That I could live there as a full time performing musician

What other passions do you have in life apart from music?

I love food and cooking so to make sure I don’t add on the pounds on I also like to swim and do karate.  I am currently a purple belt and aspire to be a black belt.

What do orchestras need to do to attract larger audiences?

Lower ticket prices and introduce concessions for students and OAPs as this makes classical music seem instantly less elitist.  The orchestra also needs to compile a programme of repertoire which is appealing to the masses, for example, the Summer Concert is always a success as the music is more commercial and there is generally a big name who takes part in the concert.

How best do we encourage young people to become interested in classical music?

Using my sister as an example, she wasn’t a huge fan of classical music and she will be the first to say so.  However, when it came to revising for her exams over the summer, classical music was the only thing she listened to as she said it helped her revise.   As a result she now listens to Classic FM in her free time to relax.   I think it would be a good idea to supply school children, especially those who are studying for GCSEs and A levels with a playlist of classical music that will help them concentrate and focus and maybe, an interest will develop.

If you could visit any musical period or see/meet/hear or play with any artist, what would you choose?

I would love to meet Mozart as he was a complete genius but also knew how to have lots of fun. We would have been best friends!

You can follow Jennah on twitter @jennahsmart

To listen to her doing a bit of playing this is a link to an award winning advert for Lexus where she plays the piccolo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj0v1BgzUdc