Linda Vogt AM
28 September 1922 –
THE recent world premiere performance of Three Pictures for Linda for flute ensemble was commissioned, written and performed in honour of Linda Vogt. Here, we take a look over a lifetime of musical contribution and the birth of The Flute Society of NSW.
By Jennifer Bradstreet (September 2010)
(Originally published by The NSW Flute Society Blog in September 2010 and published on Flute Tutor Australia at the request of the NSW Flute Society in February 2014)
When Linda Vogt was nominated as an extra for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at age 18, she started out on a path that would lead her to become the second female woodwind player in any Australian symphony orchestra, and later a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to music.
Born into a musical family in Melbourne, Vogt developed an early appreciation for classical music. “We had a piano, music was always playing in the home where I grew up… my family had access to an old Rudall Carte 1867 system wooden flute and it all started from there,” she says. Joining the Preston Girls High School Orchestra, she enjoyed ensemble playing from a young age. Her school orchestra director Mr Wilke contacted the Melbourne Symphony’s then second flute player Leslie Barklamb to assist Vogt with fingerings on her old Rudall Caret model flute, which led to an ongoing teaching arrangement.
Encouraged by her family to pursue a suitable office job, Vogt began working as a typist in 1938, earning 35 shillings a week and continuing lessons with Barklamb. Once becoming an extra flute for the MSO in 1940 – despite never having studied at a conservatorium – her office colleagues were impressed, often supporting her at performances. “They took an interest in my flute playing, coming along to the symphony concerts,” Vogt remembers. Her enthusiasm and ability as a flute player grew as she worked alongside Barklamb and other flute greats. On the orchestra’s then principal flute Richard Chugg, she remarks on his French style of playing, “Dick was playing with vibrato… I wanted to sound like that!”
Only two years later, Vogt was invited by Professor Bernard Heinz to join the ABC Sydney Studio Orchestra, which later became the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In 1942, she became the second female woodwind player in any Australian symphony orchestra, after Constance Pether who was appointed principal flute in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 1936.
In Sydney, she faced the challenge of changing flute systems on the job – from a Rudall Carte 1867 to a Boehm model. Vogt puts it simply, “I’m a survivor, I’ve always been a head down kind of person.” She performed piccolo parts in the orchestra despite having never held a piccolo until the day she boarded the train to Sydney, “Leslie Barklamb lent me his piccolo, I remember him handing it to me through the train window!” Not only a survivor, but also one of the only flautists who can speak from personal experience about such a challenge.
While holding her position with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for 10 years, she played alongside principal flute Bert Anderson and later Neville Amadio, participating in concerts and live broadcasts almost every week. In 1942, Vogt was one of 45 players in the orchestra. Only 12 were women. Within three years, the orchestra almost doubled, comprising of 82 players by 1945.
It was through also music that Vogt found friendship and marriage. A close friendship with SSO third flute and piccolo player Colin Evans, led to their marriage in 1952, and the birth of their two children Deirdre and Peter.
After a short period away from the orchestra to enjoy motherhood, Vogt swung back into the music world already well respected in the orchestral context. She was determined to explore creative projects again, eventually gaining recognition as a soloist for Musica Viva and the ABC. As an accomplished chamber musician, she performed in groups with Don Andrews, Carl Pini and Robert Pikler.
Making many friends along the way, Vogt crossed the divide from classical, to music for film and television, to jazz. She participated in many film recordings, and played in backing groups for various performers and television commercials before the time synthesizers were allowed into Australia by the Musician’s Union. In 1958, she joined the Charlie Munro Jazz Quintet. Initially, the multi-instrumentalist band members approached Vogt for help with their flute tone production and embouchure technique. However, she ended up playing and recording with them for six months and having the time of her life. She quickly built up a good reputation as a jazz flautist. “I’d never played jazz before… I made them write out my solos to start with… I was nicknamed hot lips!” she laughs. “It was such great fun… I have enjoyed jazz ever since.”
In 1966, the great French virtuoso Jean-Pierre Rampal travelled to Sydney to give the first ever Sydney masterclass. Held at the NSW Conservatorium of Music, the event was co-ordinated by Nicola Snekker. Strangely, the event did not attract many performers. This prompted Vogt to initiate a group of professionals to meet regularly in a masterclass setting.
The Flute Night was born – a monthly get-together in private homes. “A work was set for study, anybody could perform and mistakes were accepted. It was great fun… performances were followed by cups of tea and lots of chat,” recalls Deirdre Greatorex (Hall). The Sydney flute scene flourished. “There was a great sense of camaraderie,” says Vogt. As a result, friendships were formed. “When I was fifteen it was my privilege to receive my first flute lesson from Linda. She has been one of my dearest friends ever since,” says Greatorex.
Fittingly, Vogt’s career took an educational focus between 1969 and 1970, when she took up teaching positions at the Canberra School of Music, ABC Training Orchestra, Pan Pacific Music Camps and The University of NSW Music Department.
Continuing to demonstrate a commitment to excellence in her own flute playing, in 1973 she became Associate Principal Flute with the Sydney Opera House Opera and Ballet Orchestra, which later became the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra. She enjoyed two years with the orchestra, playing alongside best friend Greatorex.
Meanwhile, the success of The Flute Night continued and prompted Vogt to convert the group into an official society, The Sydney Flute Society, in 1973.
Now eligible for an Australia Council grant to fund their next big event, Vogt began organising a fully funded three-month residency for the distinguished American flute player James Pellerite at the NSW Conservatorium of Music.
With Vogt as Executive Director, the 1973 National Flute Seminar took place: the first flute convention held anywhere in the world. Featuring a series of recitals, masterclasses and lectures, the convention was a huge success. The national convention movement was born – Vogt had begun to shape a bright future for flute playing across Australia, connecting flute players in Australia with the rest of the world and vice versa.
In his article, Linda Vogt, Australia’s Great Lady of the Flute, Pellerite describes Vogt as not only a friend, but a pioneer of the flute. “Her playing has elegance, charm and conviction… (she was) not only receptive to the ideas expressed by foreign flutists… but equally anxious for the opportunity to learn from other musicians as well.”
Despite her reputation and prestigious teaching posts, Vogt did not limit herself to advanced students. She enjoyed teaching flautists of all levels and ages. “She gave confidence by building up, not bringing down,” says Greatorex.
A firm believer in Alexander Technique, Vogt’s breathing philosophies became well known. Greatorex recalls Vogt’s words: “playing the notes is a technical achievement, but it is the shaping of the phrase and the energy imparted to those notes that makes the musician”.
As a result of the national convention movement, illustrious flautists from all over Australia travelled to Adelaide in 1976 to compete in the first National Flute Competition. The Australian Flute Association was formed in 1981, for which Vogt was instrumental, and by 1983 the fifth Australian Flute Convention had taken place at the NSW Conservatorium, with Vogt as Executive Director once again.
In support of the growing national flute movement, Vogt became founder and director of the educational and classical sheet music company Zephyr Music in 1976, making classical sheet music easily accessible. Currently, Zephyr is still Sydney’s leading supplier of classical music, now under the direction of Vogt’s two children, Peter and Deirdre (named after Greatorex).
In a simultaneous effort to reach out, Vogt also looked to expand The Sydney Flute Society, officially renaming it The Flute Society of NSW in 1984. The Flute magazine was launched in 1983 with Vogt as editor – but it was only with the support of a bigger society of 600 members one year later – that the magazine became available in a glossy format, bringing flute news across the whole of NSW.
But Vogt had yet another pursuit in the pipeline. Over the years, she documented a legacy of flute playing in Australia: A database of flute memorabilia and a collection of valuable flutes including those of distinguished players of her era. This invaluable historical resource is now in the hands of curator Michael Lea at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, for preservation and display. Appointments can be arranged.
On how she managed it all, Vogt insists it was a sense of camaraderie that kept her going. “It’s impossible to name all the wonderful flautists who have supported the flute movement throughout Australia since 1966 – there were many generous workers who provided the structure for others to enjoy. However, the strength of the movement was in the amazing coming together of so many flautists. Not only did it create enormous pleasure, but I believe it was a movement which raised the expertise and standard of flute playing for all of us!”
On Australia Day, January 26th 1989, Vogt was appointed a Member of The Order of Australia in recognition of her contribution to Music.
After detailing her entire musical story over many laughs and cups of coffee, Vogt reflects, “I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. I’ve had a good life.”
On 24th July, 2010 – still very much full of life – she travelled from her Blue Mountains home to be guest of honour at the sold-out world premiere performance of Constantine Koukias’ Three Pictures for Linda.
Held at the Sydney Conservatorium Verbrugghen Hall, the work for flute ensemble was performed by an elite group comprising the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra flute sections and other distinguished players. Commissioned by The Flute Society of NSW, Three Pictures for Linda acknowledges Linda Vogt’s lifetime of contribution to the flourishing flute landscape of Australia.
LINDA VOGT… 2010
“I believe Linda has been the greatest influence on the ‘coming of age’ of flute playing in Australia of any teacher or performer; in fact her influence has reached far beyond Australia.
The original Sydney Flute Society, formed by Linda, was the first of its kind in the world – its formation was a germinal event.
But Linda’s nurturing of the flute and its players goes further than meets the eye. Not just in the public arena, but also in private and unsung ways. My own experience vouches for this. In the early 1960s, as a flute student at the Melbourne Conservatorium, I recorded some music for an ABC broadcast. Shortly afterwards, to my surprise and delight, I received, from a stranger in Sydney, a letter in the post with warm words of encouragement and appreciation. It was from Linda Vogt, a person I had never met. What an utterly rare and thoughtful thing to do!
So I am most happy to send an expression of my own appreciation and gratitude to this great lady. What we all owe her is incalculable.”
You are such a wonderful example to us as a flautist, teacher, generous person and female role model. I have appreciated your support and generosity over the years.
You have enriched the lives and experiences of professionals, students and amateur flautists alike for so many years. We thank you.”
“Linda Vogt’s legacy to flute playing and music reaches far and wide. Those who have known Linda as a performer, teacher and colleague, are touched by her integrity and example. Apart from Linda’s generosity in sharing her vast expertise, she embraces new ideas and challenges in music and life.
Linda, you’re an inspiration! Thank you and congratulations on a much deserved tribute.”
“LINDA has been an inspiration across several generations of Australian flute players. Her fine playing, innovative teaching and ongoing mentoring have really progressed flute playing in this country – in a quite remarkable and distinctive way.
Her keen enquiring intellect, combined with an indomitable drive to make things happen no matter how many obstacles present themselves – these are very special qualities that have profoundly influenced and motivated so many flute players at all levels.
From all of us to you – thank you Linda. May you continue to keep doing all of these special things that we love and admire you so much for.”
“When I was fifteen it was my privilege to receive my first flute lessons from Linda.
She has been one of my dearest friends ever since.”
Deirdre Greatorex (Hall)
“LINDA was one of the really noted teachers during the period of my student days… she took a great interest in all of us. I remember well going to her for several breathing lessons, one of her speciality areas, in which we were lying on the floor undertaking some extraordinary moves – all to the greater goal of conquering the instrument. Linda was an enormous inspiration to us, showing such dynamism, enthusiasm & leadership, particularly within the flute society.”
“I HAVE KNOWN LINDA since 1968 when I first moved from Melbourne to Sydney to play in the ABC Training Orchestra. I was struck by her remarkable sense of style, her enthusiasm and her dedication to the flute in Australia in all its genres. Linda has been a great teacher, player and role-model to me and no doubt countless other Australian flute players, but of particular significance was her initiative to start the first Australian Flute Convention in 1973, a world first.
This had the effect of profoundly changing flute playing and teaching in Australia, and accelerated the greater process of Australia connecting to the world and the world becoming aware of Australia.
The dedicated work by Constantine Koukias to Linda is a fitting tribute to a lifetime of outstanding contribution and I will be forever thankful and grateful.”
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