Dionne Jackson, Flute
Hometown:Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Joined Lyric Orchestra in 2001
Education: The Juilliard School, Paris Conservatory, Indiana University
Flutist Dionne Jackson was the first American in more than a decade to receive First Prize in Flute from the Paris Conservatory of Music, where she studied with the legendary teaching duo Alain Marion and Raymond Guiot. She also received First Prize in Chamber Music and performed solo recitals in Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice, Tours, Toulouse, and Monte Carlo.
Jackson has performed to critical acclaim as soloist, orchestral performer, and chamber musician. New York Concert Review critic Jed Distler hailed her Carnegie Hall solo debut as “a triumph on every level…. with technical perfection and incomparable soul.” Chicago Sun-Times critic Andrew Patner praised her performances as “awe-inspiring” and “phenomenal.”
In her native Chicago, Jackson holds the position of assistant principal flute with Lyric Opera of Chicago. She also performed regularly for more than a decade as a substitute with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As guest assistant principal flute for the 2008–2009 season, she performed with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall and on international tours to Asia under the batons of Pierre Boulez and Bernard Haitink. While performing for the orchestra’s contemporary-music series MusicNOW, Jackson played Boulez’s Sonatine for flute and piano for Boulez himself. She subsequently analyzed the work in an article published in Flute Talk magazine. In addition, she was featured numerous times as a soloist on Chicago’s Classical Radio Station WFMT 98.7.
The recipient of many national and international prizes, Jackson won first prizes in competitions sponsored by the New York International Artists Association, Flute Talk magazine, and in Chicago, the Union League and Musicians Club of Women. She received fellowships from The Juilliard School, Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Paris Conservatory of Music as well as a Fulbright Grant.
Jackson is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where she studied with Julius Baker; while at Juilliard, she played substitute flute and piccolo in the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur, Riccardo Chailly, and Valery Gergiev. She also holds a bachelor’s degree and performer’s certificate from Indiana University. For nine years, she served on the faculty of Roosevelt University-Chicago College of the Performing Arts. In 2014, she was appointed associate professor of flute at the University of Connecticut and is currently on sabbatical from Lyric Opera of Chicago. Jackson is a frequent performer and master-class guest and a sponsored Sankyo artist.
With which orchestras have you performed as a soloist?
I performed with the Chicago Symphony as a soloist in Peter and the Wolf in 2009 at Symphony Center. I had to dress up as a bird and act and move around the stage while playing. My 4 year old was in the audience and when the wolf came out to chase me, he yelled from the balcony, "Oh no, the wolf is going to eat my mom! Stop him!" Everyone burst out laughing including the musicians on stage.
What is your most memorable Lyric performance or experience?
My most memorable experience playing at Lyric Opera was playing in "Les contes d'Hoffmann by Offenbach" with tenor Matthew Polanzani singing. During the dress rehearsal he came running down to the pit asking, "Who's that flutist?" He asked me to stand up and tell him my name in front of the whole orchestra, and he said I had the most beautiful sound from the back of the hall. He is one of my favorite artists of all-time so his comment really meant a lot to me.
What teachers inspire you the most? Who were your teacher’s teachers — your “grandteachers?”
I had many teachers and mentors and they all greatly inspired me. Peter Lloyd, former principal of the London Symphony taught me the importance of being well-rounded and advised me to apply for a Fulbright study in France. Alain Marion, prodigy of Jean-Pierre Rampal in Paris inspired me with his constant encouragement and passion for the flute. Raymond Guiot, pupil of Marcel Moyse taught me the importance of disciplined practice, always keeping the mind engaged, and how to master the instrument so you have the tools to be expressive. Julius Baker taught me how to spin the sound, group notes for proper phrasing, and to always listen to great singers for inspiration. Even though he was principal flute of the New York Philharmonic for 18 years, he always said his greatest learning experience was performing with great singers in the Bach Aria Group.
Favorite activity outside the orchestra:
I love to run. I'm terribly slow, but have run fifteen 5Ks, two 10Ks, and three half-marathons. Running teaches me about endurance, helps my flute playing, and relieves anxiety and tension from performing. Playing operas and running are very similar; even when it gets long and painful, you have to stick out for hours and not give up until the finish line no matter how tired you are!
It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.