Hi there, I'm Caitlin!
You wanted to find out who I am and what I do?
You've come to the right place!
The formal version goes something like this:
I’m a Montreal-based flutist and flute teacher who primarily enjoys performing in solo and chamber recitals. Through my performance projects, I tell stories and connect with audiences about social issues, music, and life itself. Such projects include Caitlin’s Cozy Concerts, a virtual solo concert series I created in 2020, as well as Ensemble Camellia, a flute and clarinet duo created in 2019 with my friend Emilia Segura. I also have a strong passion for pedagogy and have been teaching flute privately for over five years. I teach in person at home, and online through the Just and Accessible Music School, of which I am a co-founder and the Vice President.
You can even take a look at my official credentials!
But there's a more interesting version that I'm sure you'd like to read, so, here it is!
I call myself a Montreal-based flutist and flute teacher who leads with empathy and joy in everything that I do. I find joy in forging my own, unique path as a performer in the classical music field, and I treat my students with the empathy that is so often lacking in traditional methods of music pedagogy.
The classical music field has long been outdated in how it views different career paths and how it approaches teaching. When you study music in university, you're expected to follow the orchestra path - traveling from city to city taking auditions and hoping you land a job. No one tells you there are other paths and other ways of being fulfilled and successful as a classical musician. You're also expected to only learn the basic, classic flute repertoire and partake in competitions and of course your school exams. You're rarely allowed or encouraged to perform lesser known repertoire or create modern and exciting concert experiences. After your degrees, you're expected to go out into the world on your own and tell other young flutists how to follow in your footsteps because hey, this is the only path you can take anyways!
This is no longer an acceptable or enriching way of participating in the classical music field. But I know there are ways to make this field, and your time in it, fulfilling and meaningful to you. Because we all belong here, and we all deserve to take up space with our individual point of view.
I didn't always feel like I belonged in this field, despite loving the flute from the very beginning. My flute journey was not the typical one you read about in the biographies of great musicians such as Emmanuel Pahud or Hilary Hahn. It didn't begin with hearing an orchestra play or listening to a flute recording and thinking, “This is what I want to do with my life!”. Instead, when I was nine years old, I went to my elementary school’s band meeting and tried the flute because it seemed “girly” (oh, silly young Caitlin). I made an actual sound (which is rare), felt like I was special, and decided to stick with it! I was a very shy and introverted kid, so the band room became my safe haven. I could express my creativity and connect with friends without feeling as uncomfortable as when I had tried out other activities like soccer or ballet.
Continuing with my uncommon origin story, I didn't realize I wanted to study music professionally until I was 17, even though I had been taking private lessons since I was 10. All throughout high school, I kept developing new areas of interest, to the point where it became a running joke in my family: "What career has Caitlin chosen today?!" But I knew I always wanted to keep playing the flute, and thankfully the thought finally clicked: "Wait - why don’t I just pursue a music career?!"
So I did just that! I studied with the wonderful Heather Howes at Vanier College and started playing in youth orchestra, performing in competitions, and auditioning for summer programs. I felt confident in my choice to study music, but it soon became apparent that I was way behind my peers in terms of flute ability. Up until then, I'd only practiced a few times a week for less than an hour. I didn't know it yet, but I had a fixed mindset, which meant I believed talent was innate and effortless, and represented your worth as a person. If you were good at something, you didn't have to try, otherwise it meant you weren't really good at it. Hence, why I practiced so little. I thought all I had to do was play through my assigned material for the week and put it away, like homework. (I've also realized, very recently, that I am neurodivergent, which I believe had an additional impact on my flute learning.)
I managed to persevere and progress at Vanier, and moved on to my undergraduate degree in flute performance at McGill University, with the iconic Denis Bluteau. It was at this point that many of my other issues came to the surface, exacerbating my feeling of not belonging. I came to understand that I had performance anxiety, except, once more, it wasn't the typical kind. My performance anxiety manifests in being scared to feel sick onstage, instead of scared to play badly. I also didn't know how to organize my practice sessions efficiently or healthily, resulting in a muscle overuse injury (though this is definitely common in the field). And I kept getting bit by the comparison bug, a.k.a. the phenomenon of constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling bad about yourself instead of finding inspiration in their playing.
In the fall of 2017, I almost quit music entirely, months before finishing my Bachelor’s degree. This was the result of my toxic mindset, the negative performance experiences I kept having, and realizing that the school I was attending was too competitive for my mental health. It all became too much.
Thankfully, with lots of help and support from trusted friends, mentors, and counsellors, I persevered once more. The very next semester, I took a woodwind pedagogy class which ended up changing my life. It was there that I learned all about mindsets and the myths that were sabotaging my musical experience. I learned that there was no such thing as "good" and "bad" in music. Nuance was necessary, self-compassion was essential, and the way you talk to your students matters.
When I got to grad school at the University of Montreal, I finally felt worthy of being a flutist, a performer, an artist. I also started studying with the amazing Ariane Brisson at that time, in addition to my lessons with Denis, and the flute concepts that had felt impossibly abstract up until then suddenly clicked for me. My performance anxiety became manageable and I developed strategies for practicing in a way that suited my brain and my needs, such as using a practice journal and a timer.
Not only did this time in my life improve my flute playing, it improved my teaching as well! I started teaching flute privately in the summer of 2016 but I had fallen into the traditional trap of telling students what to do and how you would do it, without considering their knowledge, input, or needs. So once I’d taken that pedagogy course at McGill and refined my flute skills with Ariane at UofM, I was more equipped to actually help my flute students, instead of train them. As the great Lea Pearson puts it, my teaching became student-centered instead of teacher-centered.
By the time I left school in 2019, I realized that not fitting in the classical music field wasn't such a bad thing. My experiences were uncommon and I didn't want the stereotypical orchestra career or to be the kind of teacher who doesn't value their students' individual needs and goals. Through my adversity, I had to develop resilience as well as clear and tangible tools to achieve my goals. And I want to share what I've learned with you.
My mission is to break down the barriers separating artists from audiences as well as to make as many people as possible feel welcome when learning the flute.
I'm focused on producing my own solo concerts, playing in my flute and clarinet duo, and collaborating with emerging composers, which is something I've done regularly since my time at Vanier. I teach a studio of bright, engaged, and curious flute students, and design individual lesson plans because that's what they deserve. I keep refining my performing and teaching skills and make sure to disseminate my knowledge via social media, blogging, and workshops. And though my resume and official bio may look fancy and impressive, I want you to know that it doesn't mean much if you don't enjoy what you do, and if you're not compassionate towards yourself.
I've finally found my place in this field and I am so grateful to be able to share it with you.
Thank you for reading!
And if you reeeally want to get to know me ...
...let's play two truths and a lie!
(Answers are on the final slide.)
1. Despite loving the flute, I wish I could also play the cello.
2. My favourite book is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
3. I once dislocated my kneecap by pushing a piano bench with my leg.