Virginia Kunzer engages creative learning as an educator and performing artist

School of Music alumna Virginia Broffitt Kunzer spent only a year in UNCSA’s flute studio before graduating in 2003, but it was a formative time that helped to set the path for her future career as a music educator and performer. She recently began her thirteenth year of teaching. An associate professor at Auburn University, she maintains both collegiate and private flute studios.

During the first busy weeks of a new academic year, she found a few moments of calm to chat with her alma mater about COVID creativity, UNCSA memories and advice for students: 

What are some current or upcoming projects you’re working on?

Unfortunately, several things have been put on hold due to COVID. In the meantime, I’ve been working on grants to support a couple creative projects: commissioning new interdisciplinary works for my woodwind trio, the Elicio Winds, and recording a CD of music by women. I’m also using my practice time to discover new pieces and work on some that have been in my “to learn” pile for a bit.

How have you been staying creative during COVID-19?

I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old who have both been home with me since March. I love them more than anything in the world, but they require a lot of time and energy, leaving very little for additional creative professional activities. However, my kids alone inspire a lot of creativity within me and I gain a great deal of insight into teaching and the process of learning by simply observing them.

I believe that we are born as creative and independent learners. Somewhere along the way, many of us lose that. So, as I spend time with my kids, I’m always thinking of ways that I can apply what I learn from them to my own practicing, performing and teaching to spark more creativity and independence. 

How have you kept your flute studio engaged during the pandemic?

Over the summer, we had a “studio book club” that met every other week. It was a way to remain connected and discuss meaningful musical topics outside of school parameters. As a group, we learned a great deal about each other and grew closer in this process. During the semester, we’ll be exploring a wide variety of activities to help ourselves and each other grow as people and musicians, even when we’re apart.

Dr. Virginia Broffitt Kunzer (left) with members of the Auburn University flute studio.

Why did you choose to attend UNCSA?

My path to UNCSA was an unusual one. I only attended for the senior year of my undergrad; I transferred in order to continue studying with Dr. Tadeu Coelho, who had just accepted the position there. Once I arrived on campus, I knew that this move was one of the best decisions I had made.

The creative spirit of the school was striking; it was an environment in which I was able to hone my musical skills, feel supported in my creative endeavors and collaborate with like-minded musicians.

Virginia Broffitt Kunzer

The creative spirit of the school was striking; it was an environment in which I was able to hone my musical skills, feel supported in my creative endeavors and collaborate with like-minded musicians. It was a very unique and special atmosphere. I had undoubtedly landed in the right place at the right time.

Share a significant memory or campus spot:

I’m going to admit, I’m rolling my eyes at myself for this one: the practice rooms! I’m not saying they were my favorite spot, but musically, I grew quite a bit during my senior year at UNCSA. I tackled two of my bucket list pieces during that year: the Jolivet Chant de Linos and the Prokofiev Sonata. They remain two of my favorite pieces to perform to this day, and I’ll never forget learning them in the practice rooms in Gray.

Are there any connections you made at UNCSA that you still maintain today?

Absolutely! The music world is small and the connections you make in school will last your entire career. Currently, my trio is commissioning a piece from a classmate and friend at UNCSA, Tim Hagen. 

What advice do you have to share with current music students?

A few simple things:

  • Seek out opportunities, do not wait for them to fall into your lap.
  • Be curious: read books and articles about music, study other musicians, ask questions, etc.
  • Practice and then practice some more.
  • Don’t burn bridges.
  • Focus on BUILDING bridges: networking is very important in our field.
  • Listen to your teachers and have an open mind.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

One of the biggest highlights was winning the National Flute Association’s Young Artist Competition. But, in addition to various successes with teaching positions, orchestral positions, etc., some of the most cherished moments of my career have been performing alongside my teachers. Playing a duet with Dr. Coelho on stage in Watson Hall for the Woodwind Festival in 2019 was a deeply meaningful experience; one I will never forget.  

Virginia Kunzer at UNCSA

Virginia Broffitt Kunzer performs at UNCSA during the 2019 Woodwind Festival.

How have you handled challenges in your career?

To be completely honest, there are too many challenges to count! It’s important for students and young musicians to remember that ALL professional artists have struggled, and likely continue to struggle in various facets of their career. No career is perfect, and no path is perfect. 

Also, remember that for each success we find along the way, there are a great deal of challenges and failures. Your success as a musician will largely be defined by how you react to those challenges and failures and how you choose to move forward.    

If you could do something on your bucket list right now, what would it be?

Go to Spain. I was supposed to go for a performing tour in May 2020, but it was canceled. I hope to plan another trip there once it’s safe to travel and perform.

by Hannah Callaway

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September 01, 2020