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Remembering Katherine Hoover (1937-2018)

compiled by editors | November 2018

    Katherine Hoover, composer, flutist, and teacher, died September 27 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. 

    In 1961 she joined the faculty of Juilliard Preparatory Department as a flute teacher. Then in 1969 she began her tenure as a theory professor at the Manhattan School of Music, where she had previously earned a MM in music theory. During the 1970s she continued to perform, playing for summer ballet performances at the Metropolitan Opera House and as principal flute for New York Grand Opera. For ten years she soloed with the New York Concerto Orchestra at Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center, performing all three Mozart Concerti, the Bach Suite in B Minor, Telemann Suite in A Minor, and the premiere of her Summer Night.

    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. 
    When asked, “What should a performer know when performing your works?” she once 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.”
    When asked in a 1991 Flute Talk interview 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.” The interviewer then asked her, “Are you inside or outside that loop?” 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 was interviewed and contributed many articles for the magazine. The September 2018 issue featured her final essay, Learning to Listen: The Sound of Silence, in which she wrote, “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.”