"Body cells replace themselves every month. Even at this very moment. Most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories."
Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase (via wordsnquotes)
Nathalie Joachim is a New York City based flutist, composer, producer, educator, and singer hailed for creating “a unique blend of classical music, hip-hop, electronic programming and soulful vocals reminiscent of neo-R&B stars like Erykah Badu.“ (Wall Street Journal). She is co-founder of the critically acclaimed urban art pop duo, Flutronix, with whom she regularly composes, performs and records. Ms. Joachim has appeared with many premiere performance groups including the International Contemporary Ensemble, Opera Hispánica, NOW Ensemble, Argento, the New York Symphonic Ensemble, SYZYGY New Music Collective, Center for Contemporary Opera, The Stonewall Chorale and Melodia Women’s Choir. Her compositions have been broadcast on NPR, WNYC, WQXR, Q2 and more.
In addition, Nathalie has commissioned, performed and recorded with some of today’s most exciting artists of varying genres including Ski Beatz, Vampire Weekend, Dan Deacon and Miguel Zenón. She appears on Zenón’s Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (released in 2011 by Marsalis Music), which received a Grammy nomination for best large jazz ensemble recording. She is also an active educator for students of all ages and skill levels. She is a flute faculty member at The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, regularly presents youth music education workshops nationally with Flutronix and has been presented as a music career lecturer and panelist by The Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, The New York Flute Club and other institutions across the country.
What is a typical day like for you?
As a woman who runs her own small performing arts business while also being a freelance artist and teacher, I’d say there’s no such thing as a “typical” day. One day might include administrative work and international conference calls for Flutronix and a few hours of practicing, followed by a rehearsal and some teaching. The very next day might include a recording session with a jazz or indie rock artist followed by a long bike ride, an afternoon of composing and a concert before heading to the airport for the next gig. Sounds crazy, but I love that about my “job”. As they say - variety is the spice of life. It makes every day a different sort of adventure, and I’m really lucky that each day is centered around doing things that I truly love.
How did you get into this line of work? Was there a specific event that led to this career path?
Someone asked me this question recently and I found it a little difficult to answer. Making music and sharing it with others is something I’ve practiced actively since I was a very young child. It’s the only thing that I cannot imagine my life without, so I don’t know that it’s something that I chose, so much as it chose me? There has never been a moment when I wanted to do anything else really, so here I am! The entrepreneurial and teaching elements were somewhat natural as well. I think my whole family can vouch for the fact that I’ve always liked being in charge, I’ve always had a thirst for learning, and I’ve always had a lot to say about it! :)
In terms of the story of how I actually came to make music, I started taking piano lessons at age four, which I loved, but in all honesty was not very good at (though I practiced diligently for years because my desire for music making was strong). At age nine I was in the fourth grade, and in my public school district in West Orange, NJ, it was required that every student either sing in the chorus or choose an instrument. I chose the flute by chance, but took to it quite easily. Three months later, my band director had me audition for The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program, and I was accepted! Two years later, I advanced to Juilliard’s Pre-College Division, and later their college division, and so the story goes.
What is your ethnicity?
I am a first generation Haitian-American and very proud of it. You would think that coming up in the classical music world as a black female flutist (a rare bird indeed), I would have tons of stories of discrimination and obstacles, but I am happy and lucky to say that I honestly don’t. I think that I am much more aware of my blackness and womanhood as an adult, than I ever was as a child. My parents are Haitian immigrants, and if there is one thing that is heavily emphasized in Haitian culture, it is to be proud of who you are. With that at the very core of my existence, it never occurred to me that I could be considered “less than” or “other”, and I think that naivety carried me through potentially difficult situations. My awareness of these things as an adult is one of the main reasons why I love being an educator. I am very proud of the fact that I can serve as a role model and mentor to young women and girls, black or otherwise, because on some level (often times subconsciously), I do think it is important to see people “like you” finding success.
What are your strongest skill sets? How did you acquire them?
In terms of running a business, I would say that my strongest skill sets are organization and the ability to follow through with plans while remaining flexible. Organization is a personality trait that I have by default, and is very helpful in this hectic lifestyle of mine. Being flexible but persistent is a skill I learned by trial and error - I think most successful small business owners would agree with this sentiment. You learn very quickly that if you are rigid in your plans and/or fail to see “failure” as an opportunity for growth and change, then success will be hard to come by.
Who inspires you? Why?
My parents. To see where their lives started, and to know and understand all that they worked tirelessly for, in an effort to afford my siblings and myself a better life and greater opportunities than they had, is a constant inspiration. It helps me appreciate that there is no limit to what can be accomplished with dedication, hard work, and the will to go on, and that is what keeps me moving forward on this path every single day. They are both truly priceless gifts to me.
What is a challenge that you’re currently working through?
I recently turned 30, and up to this point in my life, I have been hyper focused on my career. I think that will always be a major priority for me because it is my nature to be a hard worker, but lately I have been struggling to find more balance in my life. Learning that it’s OK to take a break to be with friends and family, to develop relationships and begin to lay the groundwork for having my own family someday (which is something that I want), has really been a struggle for me. I guess the underlying challenge there is learning to enjoy life today, instead of always working toward what I might be able to enjoy tomorrow, if that makes any sense.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Wow…where to begin! If I had to give myself three pieces of advice, they would be:
1. Save money, even if it’s 5 dollars a week. It’s not something that you should wait to think about “when you’re old”, because…30 isn’t old!
2. Although it’s hard for you to know for sure, believe me: you don’t know everything. You almost don’t know nothing at all actually about what it means to live life. So pay attention to the advice given to you by your elders - family, teachers, etc - because they’ve lived a lot more life than you have.
3. Some things will always be confusing - failure, heartbreak, tragedy, pain. But help yourself find the value in those moments, because I’ve found that that’s when you learn the most about yourself.
What is the biggest life lesson that you have experienced?
I once suffered a great loss in love that came very close to destroying my spirit. To survive that and prove to myself that I was strong and resilient, and to learn that my spirit could only be broken if I allowed it to be, was eye opening and empowering. It is important to know that no matter how bad things may be at any given moment, there is always a way to move forward. Always.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I love this life. I really do.
To learn more about Nathalie or catch her performances in person:
Headshot Photo Credit: R.T. Moeller
Iwould never usually reblog something of this nature, but the need to understand has consumed me.