For our May edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Giorgio Consolati, a third year flutist from Milan, Italy. Prior to coming to Juilliard to study under internationally renowned flutist Carol Wincenc, Giorgio studied at the Conservatory “Verdi” in Milan and at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole in Florence. In addition to winning top prizes at a number of international competitions, Giorgio has performed in major concert halls in the U.S. and Italy including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, David Geffen Hall, and in the Sala Verdi in Milan.
You began playing the flute at eleven years old. Did you play any other instruments before you picked up the flute?
I started playing the recorder in elementary school when I was eight years old and this probably marked the beginning of my musical journey, even though at that age I was not aware of how important music was for me. In school, we all had to play recorder and I remember playing it with other 30 or 40 kids in a sort of “recorder chorus”! At that time, I did not really practice for it, nor I knew very well how to read the notes, but one thing that I remember is that whenever we had to play “solos” in the concerts, they would usually pick me, even though I was not aware of why! I guess that I had a musical sense back then, that eventually grew up as I got older, and that surely helped me in my music studies
What do you like most about the flute? Why did you decide it was the instrument for you?
The most beautiful aspect of the flute is the sound and I clearly remember how I always wanted to have a good sound, even when I was a young beginner. When I listen to a flutist (myself included!), I always look for a beautiful, glowing tone. The continuous search for this own voice, the flute sound, is what fascinates me and makes my practice a great time every time. The sound is also the ultimate way of expression for any musician and, with the flute or the voice, it is so incredible how our body is the instrument of it and we can feel it growing inside us.
I did not really decide that the flute was “my” instrument, it just happened. I started when I was eleven, for fun, and then my teachers pushed me to keep going, telling me that I could have a career in music, and so I decided to give it a try! At that time I was not really aware, I just did it for fun, and this is the way I like to think about it nowadays too!
How did your studies at the Conservatory “Verdi” and the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole prepare you for Juilliard?
My studies at the Conservatory gave me the basis of a good flute technique, the knowledge of the main important works of the flute repertoire and a preparation in music theory and history. After my graduation, I attended the Fiesole School for two years and I took private lessons and attended several competitions. I think that those two years were especially important to refine my technique because I could practice for many hours every day and I can tell you that, unfortunately, my neighbors did not appreciate that too much…but that is another story! After finishing Fiesole, I was ready to audition to European schools but then I had the opportunity to audition at Juilliard and I did!
What do you think is the most common misconception about Juilliard and Juilliard students?
I think that people and other musicians believe that we are extremely competitive with each other and this is actually not true, at least from my experience. When I have been in some other musical environments, I sometimes found people to be more competitive and “aggressive” than Juilliard students. Talking about the flute department here, I think that everyone is very supportive with each other and whenever someone wins a competition or an audition, the other students are truly happy for the positive outcome of their colleague and friend!
Left: Giorgio with friend and Juilliard alum Stephanie Kwak
Middle: Giorgio at Central Park with Juilliard pianist Christian De Luca
Right: Giorgio at the MET to see Traviata with Juilliard French Horn player, Todd Leighton
Do you have a favorite performance? If so, what was it and what set it apart from all other performances?
I do not have a favorite performance in particular, but I believe that performing is always special. It becomes even more special sometimes, when we totally connect with the audience and we feel their empathy. I remember that this summer I played one of my favorite concertos, the Mozart Flute and Harp, with the National Repertory Orchestra and that was a very magic concert, also because I was playing with a great orchestra and it was my US solo debut. At the end of the performance, many of the audience members came and congratulated us for our playing; that was of course a big satisfaction but, most of all, a profound emotion to see that we were able to convey the music with great expression and passion.
If you decided not to study music, what subject would you study and why?
Since I started playing, I followed a natural path that led me to keep going and I concentrated on it, even though in the beginning I felt it more as a “game” than a challenging commitment. Therefore now, I could not see me in any other field because music is a constant presence in my life! Maybe I would have done some art studies since I love art, and particularly visual art, because of the deep emotions that it conveys, similarly to what music does. For me it was always easy to see works of art everywhere in Italy and I am sure that this factor influenced my artistic formation in many ways.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue music? When you were a small child did you have other ideas of what you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was a little child and I was not playing the flute, music was not actually super-important in my life. I remember attending a few classical concerts or listening to different kinds of music on the radio but it is not until I was about 13 years old that I decided to pursue a more serious career in music, or at least give it a try! When I was a young boy, I remember that I was enjoying playing video games or going to the park with my friends, but I did not have clear ideas on how my future would have looked like, I was simply enjoying my time! One thing that I really liked though were trains, so sometimes I was dreaming of actually driving one..but that never happened!
Where in Italy were you born and raised? Can you tell our readers a little about your hometown?
I was born and raised in Milano, beautiful city in the north part of Italy, famous for the fashion industry and for being an important financial center. It is not as touristic as Roma or Venezia but it has many important artworks, museums and the famous Duomo, the majestic cathedral in the central plaza of the city. Near the Duomo, there is also the Teatro Alla Scala, worldwide renowned theater where legendary singers, orchestras and instrumentalists perform concerts and operas every season. Every time I walk in the theater to attend a performance, I feel a deep joy and it always turns out to be a fantastic night that remains unforgettable forever. Milano also has a fervent musical and cultural life that naturally helped me growing up and shaped my artistic choices.
Pictures of The Duomo in Milan
One of your hobbies is cooking? What is your favorite dish to prepare?
Yes, food is very important for Italian people! So I both love cooking and eating out, trying new dishes or type of cuisines. I like to make pizza and I always prepare it with my mom when I am home. Pizza is such a great dish because you can be very creative with it and put any kind of toppings, so it can vary anytime depending on the vibe of the moment! And of course I love pasta too and especially preparing different sauces, like pesto, mushrooms or red sauce with mussels and clams.
Giorgio enjoying some delicious food
You also said you enjoy going to museum and art exhibitions. Do you have a museum in NYC that you would recommend to our readers? What do you like about this particular museum?
I remember being a museum enthusiast since I was little and I was going to some exhibitions with my parents. Here in NYC I try to go whenever possible because I think it gives the mind a nice break and, at the same time, it is very inspirational; visual art is always deeply connected with music. I personally love the Guggenheim and I remember how the first time that I walked in the area to go to the museum, I was so astonished by its architecture and shapes because it resembles a modern sculpture. Therefore, when I am inside looking at the exhibitions, I feel that I am observing art within a work of art in itself!
If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?
This is an interesting question and I have actually never thought about it! I think that I would like to be a bird, and especially one that lives near the sea. That is because I love the sea and the water and I love freedom. When it happens that I am on the beach, I like to watch how some of these birds fly and then lightly glide on the water, almost caressing it. I also like the idea that birds are free and they can fly wherever they want and then land at any place. This gives me a sense of extreme liberty, and this is one of the most precious gifts that life offers us.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
I would like to spend a few words expressing my gratitude for the experience that I am having at Juilliard and in NYC, both musically and spiritually. In the beginning it was hard, it was like changing world from one day to another, but I found a very welcoming environment and extraordinary people here that helped me a lit. I would like to particularly thank my parents, who always supported my musical education and my choices, and my teacher Carol Wincenc, who, since the first day of Juilliard, has supported me in every possible way. I am extremely happy that I believed in my dream and it actually came true here in the US!