Katherine Hoover, composer, flutist, teacher, mentor, and poet, died on September 27 in New York City from a stroke. She was the recipient of the National Endowment Composers Fellowship, an Academy of Arts and Letters 1994 Academy Composition Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Flute Association. Hoover, a student of Joseph Mariano, earned a BM in music theory and a Performer’s Certificate in Flute from the Eastman School of Music. After graduation, she spent two years in Philadelphia studying with the legendary William Kincaid. She said on many occasions that he influenced her writing as well as her flute playing.
During this time, she also began to arrange music, and then to compose. During the early 1980s she wrote Medieval Suite, Lyric Trio, a Double Concerto for two violins and strings, a piano Quintet Da Pacem, and orchestral works. In 1990, on a trip to the Southwest, she composed Kokopeili for solo flute. This work has sold more than 13,000 copies and continues to be a favorite of flutists.
In the November 2017 Flute Talk roundtable discussion about composing, she said, “With Kokopeli I was trying to write something like the flutes I was hearing. I got through the first line of it, and I had so many strange fingerings. I thought to myself, I can make it sound exactly like what I was hearing, or I can write a piece that flutists can play on their own instruments. I thought and thought and finally decided to do the second. Now I have written three more pieces like that. My latest piece is called Spirit Flight, and I have a few more of the things that I have heard and the unusual things that the native flutes do. People are much more used to extended techniques now, and they know my style and what I am doing.”
On another occasion a reader asked, “What should a performer know when performing your works?” She commented, “It is best to learn the piece by yourself and not listen to others. Develop your own musical ideas. Start by carefully following the dynamics, rests, and tempo indications and listening carefully to shapes of the phrases. (Keep in mind that tempi are often set at a piano or computer and can be too fast for instruments that breathe, are bowed, or otherwise sustain.) Questions can be referred to your teacher or coach, and if some aspects are still unclear, contact the composer.”
In the Flute Talk November 1991 issue, composer and organist Dennis Hugh Avey interviewed Hoover. When asked about her composition teacher, she said, “I didn’t have one and only took a couple of composition classes. In both I was the only undergraduate, and no one bothered to look at my work. I was discouraged…While teaching theory at the Third Street Music School, the head of the department announced we would have a concert for which everyone should write something. I wrote a duet to two violins that was well received. Although I was 26, it was the first positive experience I had as a composer.”
When asked where serious music is headed, Hoover said, “It’s struggling right now, veering wildly and scrambling for direction. We’ve had a number of fashionable trends, such as minimalism. Companies are looking for the young, new composer heading in a new direction to save us instead of investing in quality and variety…A composer is either in the loop or not; getting performances by a major orchestra is tough.” Avey asked her, “Are you inside or outside that loop?” and she replied, “Outside for a combination of reasons…I like to use any and every harmony, whatever my current project. My obsession is clarity, using dense or simple harmony, complex or obvious rhythms, as long as it is clear and can be heard. Because of this obsession with clarity I have often been labeled conservative, which amuses me. I’m a loner, and I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m not in the loop. An individualist pays the price, but there’s no other way.”
Hoover was a member of the Flute Talk Board of Advisors. Throughout the years she has been interviewed, has contributed to roundtable discussions, and has written articles for the magazine. The September 2018 issue featured her essay on Learning to Listen: The Sound of Silence. In the article she writes, “So, how can someone who aspires to be a fine musician learn to listen, hear and play with the individuality and finesse in the cacophonous environment? The answer is in the silence. Silence is golden – seek it, sink into it, and enjoy it. Learn to listen to your own thoughts with interest and respect.”
Kokopeli (1990) (Recorded by Katherine Hoover, Mark Sparks, Laurel Zucker, Eugenia Zukerman, Stephanie Rea, Leone Buyse, Teresa Beaman, Tadeu Coelho, Kristen Stoner)
Winter Spirits (1997) (Recorded by Wendell Dobbs, Laurel Zucker, Stephanie Rea, Katherine Hoover, Christina Jennings, Rachel Rudich, Kristen Stoner)
To Greet the Sun (2005)
Reflections: Variations on a an Ancient Norwegian Chant (1982) (Recorded by Wendell Dobbs, Eugenia Zuckerman, Stephanie Rea, Katherine Kleitz)
Masks (1998) (Recorded by Marilyn Shotola, Katherine Hoover, Merrie Siegel)
Mountain & Mesa (2010) (Recorded by Mimi Stillman)
Two or More Flutes
Sound Bytes (1990) (Recorded by Claudia Anderson, Karen Yonovitz)
Trio for Flutes (1974)
Three for Eight (1996) (Recorded by Uptown Flutes)
For Multiple Flutes
Peace is the Way
Concertante “Dragon Court”
Flute and Guitar
Canyon Echos (1991) (Recorded by Bonita Boyd, Wendell Dobbs, Laurel Zucker, Susan Morris DeJong)
Caprice (1999) (Recorded by Jan Boland)
Flute and Orchestra
Four Winds, also with piano reduction. Premiered at the Washington, D.C. 2015 NFA Convention by Mark Sparks
Other Chamber Music
Homage to Bartók (1975) for wind quintet
Flute Violin, Cello Divertimento (1975) (Recorded by Wendell Dobbs)
Flute, Cello, Piano Lyric Trio (1982) (Recorded by Christiane Meininger, Diane Gold)
Dances & Variations (1995) (Recorded by Wendell Dobbs, Laurel Zucker) for flute and harp.
Three Sketches (Recorded by Christina Ledford) for piccolo and piano.
Summer Night for flute, horn, and strings (Recorded by Katherine Hoover)
Two for Two (alto flute and piano, bass flute and piano) (Recorded by Laurel Swinden)