My up-close-and-personal conversation with flautist and interdisciplinary performer Zara Lawler


photo by Nino Cocchiarella

I’ll admit that I was skeptical (and intrigued) when I first read that New York city-based flautist, Zara Lawler combines dance, voice and text while she plays. But,  listen– that skepticism didn’t last long because after I watched her brilliant theatrics in action I was hooked. The fact that she quotes poetry by Rumi in the middle of her Andersen etudes (as one does, as one does) and could play through a headstand in the process made me fall in love with her work from the first get-go.

I want you to feel the joy from her work, too. Yet I also wanted to know more about what she does for my own playing and teaching (how, dear Zara, how do you do it?), so I decided to simply interview her. Check out our video where we ‘talk shop’ about playing, movement and how it can improve your musicality in this 40 minute video.

Some of the fruitful topics that we discuss:

  • How a Julliard-trained flutist ends up having a career that involves dancing with her flute
  • The feeling of being an ‘outsider’ in your art, ( “when you are charting your own path everyone feels like an outsider at some point”)
  • How to create a new way of performing (from literally, nothing)
  • Why it’s ok to not want to be a performer at all
  • Zara performs an excerpt of Joachim Andersen’s op. 33, no. 6, interweaving music and text and movement inspired by the dancer Martha Graham, who quoted:
    “I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit.”
  • How does Zara choose her moves– is it improv, or?
  • Excerpt of Andersen’s Op. 33, no. 5 with text by Rumi demonstrating spoken word, voice and movement:
    “Birdsong brings relief to my longing. I am just as ecstatic as they are, but with nothing to say! Please, universal soul, practice some song, or something, through me!” ― Rumi, The Essential Rumi
  • Who are Zara’s audiences?
  • Her work with the flute and percussion duo Lawler + Fadoul , plus her teaching
  • How she runs her career as if she was an arts organisation
  • How someone might be able to use flute playing and movement from the start, or in a group setting
  • She discusses her downloadable E pluribus flutum, the performance piece for flute choirs, student groups, adaptable for 8 to 100 flutists
  • Zara performs two excerpts of the Berio’s Sequenza and discusses how movement helps the memorisation of the piece
  • Why you can still make unique contributions to your performances without having a lot of training
  • We also discuss other hybrid musical artists who use movement, text, singing, and other theatrics in their music: BevaniThe Fourth WallThe Nouveau Classical Project and Eunbi Kim.

Enjoy this topic? You might also like

How to Use Your Alter Ego for Performance (+ what we can learn from Beyoncé)

Why There’s No Shame in Being a ‘Prostiflute’

A Behind-the-Scenes Chat with Flautist Bevani (and how she finally ‘Broke Free’)

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2 Responses to My up-close-and-personal conversation with flautist and interdisciplinary performer Zara Lawler

  1. Aine June 9, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    What an excellent interview, Dr. Quiñones! Your questions bring out the joyous and rigorous essence of Zara Lawler’s art and approach to interdisciplinary performance. Thank you so much for doing this, and giving a space to present the unique path that Zara Lawler has taken and what she is doing now to combine music, text and movement. I enjoyed every minute of the interview! All the best, Aine Zimmerman

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