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Twin sister flutist duo cultivates connection through music, personal bond

Twin sisters Eliana van Renterghem and Elizabeth van Renterghem, who will perform in the Mindful Music concert series Wednesday, have been studying the flute for the past decade. Though they do perform as individual flutists, Eliana said their connection as twins helps them to communicate as they perform together, and the pair intends to continue focusing on orchestral training. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)

By Vivian Xu

February 18, 2020 11:26 pm

The van Renterghem twins can’t help but complete each other’s sentences – both in conversation and in music.

Fourth-year music performance students Eliana van Renterghem and Elizabeth van Renterghem have been studying flute performance for the past decade. They will be performing in the Mindful Music concert series as a flute duo Wednesday, and although they sometimes perform as soloists, Eliana said they prefer repertoire written for two flutes because they enjoy playing and being together. The van Renterghem sisters’ connection as twins facilitates their ability to communicate and perform together as flutists.

“We had one flute in the house and our mother was like, ‘We got one flute, we just need to get one more,’” Eliana said. “We went to band camp and that was fun. And then we decided to take lessons, and that was even more fun. It grew from there.”

[Related: Student orchestra to share music of Studio Ghibli in performance at UCLA]

By practicing together and working on duets their teacher assigned, Elizabeth said both twins learned important skills, including proper intonation and matching pitch. In addition, the convenience of being at the same skill level while learning the same instrument taught them how to play harmoniously with other musicians, which she said is a vital ability for prospective members of an orchestra.

Despite being on the same page musically, Elizabeth said their personalities are quite different. While Eliana said she is shy and organized, Elizabeth is more outgoing and spontaneous. Yet Eliana said the balance of these characteristics has been essential for growth in their flute careers.

The combination of Elizabeth’s ability to aim for more challenging auditions and gigs along with Eliana’s tendency to think methodically about how to achieve those goals has pushed the twins’ careers forward, Elizabeth said. This mix of approaches has led them to perform at Royce Hall and study under the principal flute of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Denis Bouriakov.

“I’m the daydreamer, the one who wants to see everything in the future,” Elizabeth said. “I’m the one who will (say) ‘Let’s do this, we can do this’ and just try for something a little bit harder than before or do a different audition.”

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Fourth-year music performance students Eliana van Renterghem and Elizabeth van Renterghem said although they sometimes perform as soloists, they prefer repertoire written for two flutes. Their relationship as twins and musicians has allowed them to become closer to each other and embrace their overlapping interests, they said. (Emmy Shaw/Daily Bruin)

Though the twins’ personalities contrast each other, Bruno Bastos di Nascimento, conductor of the UCLA Symphony, said their qualities are still complementary. Nascimento said Eliana is a very straightforward player while Elizabeth is more open to taking musical risks. But as a duo, he said they balance each other out and their relationship as twins enhances their connection as musicians.

“Because they are twins, they are very connected with each other, different than two friends or two professionals (who) play together,” Nascimento said. “They just look at each other and they know what to expect. … They move together and they have a conversation when they play together.”

[Related: Conductorless orchestra trades hierarchical structure for collaboration]

Their relationship as siblings and musicians has allowed the pair to become closer to each other, Eliana said. Though they know other twins who refuse to have overlapping interests, she said they are both comfortable enough in their own identities that they prefer being together. Their close bond as sisters also makes rehearsing easier since they can communicate freely about playing and interpreting the music, Elizabeth said.

“We’re able to yell at each other without any worry of etiquette,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes we have (strong artistic arguments) and we’ll run out of the room because we’ve just made the other person cry. And then we’re just like ‘I hate you. OK, let’s get back to it.’”

Even though they graduate this spring, the van Renterghem twins do not see themselves separating anytime soon. Eliana said they intend to continue focusing on orchestral training, but they are keeping an open mind about other opportunities. Their dream is to continue their studies in Europe, Elizabeth said, and they have also entertained the idea of performing and touring professionally as a twin duo.

“There’s only so much two flute repertoire,” Eliana said. “A couple years, we could do that for fun. Just some touring, playing some double flute concertos with orchestras, or (performing) at recital halls. It would be a wonderful experience.”

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Vivian Xu | Assistant Arts editor
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