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A solo shot: Brian Allred gets spotlight in Sioux City Symphony showcase
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A solo shot: Brian Allred gets spotlight in Sioux City Symphony showcase

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Brian Allred gets two rehearsals with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra before he performs “Wing of Dreams” Saturday night.

Considering it’s a complex piece that gives the flute soloist a real workout, that’s surprising.

“I’ve had more pre-rehearsal anxiety (with this performance) than I’ve had with other ones, but I won’t know what it really will feel like until concert time,” Allred says.

[More Symphony coverage: Bang the drum for Evelyn Glennie, Sioux City Symphony.]

The Sioux City organization’s principal flutist, Allred has performed with numerous ensembles and orchestras in solo capacities, but never with something as demanding as this in front of musicians he views as friends.

“It’s quite a piece,” he says of Kaija Saariaho’s composition. “It’s very flute forward and the orchestra plays more of an atmospheric role.”

To prep, Allred listened to Camilla Hoitenga’s recording (it was written for her), studied the score and detailed how other musicians’ parts lined up with his.

Then? It was a matter of rehearsing for months by himself or with the recording.

For fans of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, it’s a great chance to see an individual musician step forward and show just how deep the organization’s bench strength is.

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Orpheum Theatre

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Allred has been with the Sioux City group since 2016. His husband, Alastair Wright, had played saxophone with the orchestra the season before auditions for a principal flutist and clued him in.

“I was studying at the University of Kansas and living in Kansas City and didn’t actually think I’d take any auditions.” The work, however, proved too intriguing. Allred auditioned for the job, got it and now finds himself traveling regularly from Wisconsin to Sioux City to rehearse and perform.

“It’s a bit of a trek,” he says with a laugh. “But I’ve been fortunate in that the various jobs I do in Eau Claire are flexible. If I disappear for the better part of a week, they’re understanding.”

Weather, yes, has played a role in his Sioux City life. “I did get stuck one night last season when they shut down highways.”

Clint Needham

Composer Clint Needham

Still, the 29-year-old likes the work because he gets to play a lot of material he wouldn’t get as a soloist or chamber musician “by composers who, sadly, didn’t write anything or much for the flute.

“Teaching is my big passion. But it’s also important that I continue performing regularly. This plays into that. Having orchestral experience is important for my flute students. It prepares them for whatever they may do.”

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Music, Allred says, was always a career goal.

Growing up in Texas, he cut his competition teeth on the violin. “I’d been an all-state violinist and, then, my junior year of high school I didn’t advance past my area round. The flute audition timeline was later, so I shifted all my attention there and became a little too obsessive.”

He got all-state honors with the flute “and that kind of cemented things.”

Allred got his bachelor’s degree in flute performance from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, his master’s degree from Birmingham Conservatoire in the United Kingdom, and his doctorate in musical arts from the University of Kansas. Awards from several organizations followed, including First Prize in the Golden Classical Music awards, the Upper Midwest Flute Association Young Artist Competition and the South Carolina Flute Society Young Artist Competition.

The decision to switch from violin to flute started out of desperation, he says, “but I always felt I had more of a unique voice as a flutist. Now, I realize it was a good choice. I still love the violin. But I think I’d have a different performing life now if I had continued with the violin.”

Dance, he says, was also in the mix. “To pursue a career in dance of any kind is all-consuming. I did it in my undergraduate years and realized it was more of a hobby. It does, however, influence how I teach.”

To ensure all those years with the violin weren’t in vain, Allred still teaches string students.

The flute, however, “is where my loyalties lie.”

As beautiful as the instrument may sound, “most people don’t realize how difficult it can be to even make your first sound – any sound. Anyone who has ever tried understands that. The wind flow on the flute is greater than that of a tuba.”

And Saturday night? Friends will get a chance to see just how good he is in the spotlight.

“My colleagues are very supportive. I think they’re excited to hear me do my thing,” he says. “Hopefully, it won’t be too nerve-racking.”

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