Denis Bouriakov has been playing the flute since he was 8 years old, and Thursday he will take his talents to the UCLA Philharmonia in his first performance as a faculty member.
A Russian musician who has been the principal flute of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra since 2015 Bouriakov also works as a lecturer in music performance at UCLA’s Herp Albert School of Music, where he brings his experiences from the LA Philharmonic and a slew of other worldwide residencies and competitions to students, he said.
On Thursday, Bouriakov will deliver a solo performance at Schoenberg Hall, in addition to numbers he will play alongside the UCLA Philharmonia. The Daily Bruin’s Deirdre Klena spoke with Bouriakov about the impact music and performance has had on his life, what his years of experience can offer to students and about the upcoming concert.
Daily Bruin: How did you begin playing flute and how has it shaped your life?
Denis Bouriakov: Well, my father wanted both of us – me and my brother – to appreciate music, so he gave us lessons in Crimea when I was 5 so I started with piano. When I was 8, I was playing the flute and it wasn’t meant to be serious at first, but somehow it got serious very fast. So when I was 9 years old, we moved to Moscow because of my flute playing and I applied for this school, The Moscow (Tchaikovsky State) Conservatory, where a very famous professor was teaching. And I saw him on television and I said, “I wanna study with this guy.” And my dad found out all the requirements for this school and we took a train from Crimea, (a) 22-hour train (ride), and I got in so that’s how it became very serious and from that point on it sort of dictated everything.
Daily Bruin: What is it like playing in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra?
Denis Bouriakov: Oh it’s a great job. It’s my fourth job, but I think definitely the last one. I don’t think I’m going to move anywhere. We have the best conditions really for any orchestra player. The schedule is great, the concert hall is amazing, living in LA is wonderful. But playing in LA Phil – you know recently we have a few new hires, myself included – so our wind section really formed over the last two years. We sort of have a brand new section.
Daily Bruin: Can you describe the upcoming Philharmonia performance?
Denis Bouriakov: For this particular concert I’m playing “Bernstein’s Halil.” It was written in 1981, dedicated to a flute student who was killed during an occupation in the Cold War. It’s a very unusual composition because it has a lot of different styles put together in sort of a strange way but it works. So I like it, I just played it in Japan a couple months ago.
Daily Bruin: So, what is your favorite part of working in music?
Denis Bouriakov: Everything. That’s again a funny question, it’s hard to answer. Really everything, I love performing. I do a lot of solo playing, orchestral playing, chamber music and teaching. There’s just so much to do, so to pick one particular thing is very hard.
Daily Bruin: And how did you get involved with UCLA?
Denis Bouriakov: I was interested naturally because I wanted to teach, I always wanted to teach full time. And I did a lot of classes worldwide, and I wanted to have a full-time teaching position and UCLA opened so it was perfect.
Daily Bruin: What drove you to want to teach students?
Denis Bouriakov: Well I think almost every musician wants to start teaching at some point. When you get enough information you want to pass it on to the next generation because we learn things from our teachers, and come to some things ourselves and we want to continue this. Who else is going to do it?
Daily Bruin: How do you think your experience in the LA Phil can help students at UCLA?
Denis Bouriakov: Well of course it’s an orchestral experience. A lot of students, they will be applying for orchestral jobs so we can give a lot of tips for playing in the orchestra, playing in the ensemble together with other people. Many technical things.
Daily Bruin: What advice can you give to students who hope to have a future in musical performance or the music industry?
Denis Bouriakov: That’s a funny question. It’s hard to give one single advice. I don’t want to say anything boring like practice. I guess you have to love what you do, and if you don’t, maybe do something else. I think that’s the most important thing.