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Lorna McGhee

[Principal Flute Designate, Walter Piston chair, endowed in perpetuity]

Lorna McGhee has been appointed principal flute of the Boston Symphony Orchestra beginning with the 2024-2025 season. She was previously appointed by Manfred Honeck as principal flute of the Pittsburgh Symphony, with which she recorded symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, Brahms, Dvořák, and Tchaikovsky, as well as the PSO’s Grammy award-winning Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. She has performed as guest principal with Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, and Chamber Orchestra of Europe, among others. Before emigrating to North America, McGhee was co-principal flute of the London’s BBC Symphony Orchestra.

As a concerto soloist, Lorna McGhee has appeared with orchestras in Japan, Taiwan, Canada, the UK, and the U.S. with such groups as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. As winner of the Shell/LSO Scholarship, she performed the Ibert Concerto with London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Center in London and in a gala concert in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall. Other career highlights include performances of Penderecki’s Flute Concerto under the baton of the composer, Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 with both Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Nicholas McGegan, Saariaho’s concerto Aile du songe with Osmo Vänskä, and Mozart’s G major concerto with Manfred Honeck. During the 2024-25 season she returns to the Pittsburgh Symphony as soloist in Rautavaara’s Flute Concerto Dances with the Winds with conductor Donald Runnicles.

Lorna McGhee’s love of chamber music has led to performances in Europe, North America, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia, in such venues as the Wigmore Hall, Edinburgh International Festival, the Louvre, the Schubertsaal of Vienna's Konzerthaus, and the Library of Congress. She has participated in festivals including the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Ottawa Chamberfest, Cleveland Chamberfest, Sitka Festival, and Seattle Chamber Music Society. As a member of Trio Verlaine with her husband, violist David Harding, and harpist Heidi Krutzen, she recorded the album Fin de Siècle, the Music of Debussy and Ravel plus Six Departures featuring new commissions by Jeffery Cotton and R. Murray Schafer. Along with duo partner Heidi Krutzen, she has commissioned several new works for flute and harp. Her Naxos recording of Bax’s chamber music with the group mobius was selected as Editor’s Choice in Gramophone magazine. She has two recital discs: The Hour of Dreaming with pianist Piers Lane and Songs without Words with pianist Naoko Ishibashi. Following in the footsteps of her mentor, William Bennett, who sought to expand the expressive range of the flute, these recital recordings include several of Lorna’s own transcriptions.

Dedicated to nurturing the upcoming generation of musicians, McGhee has taught flute performance at the University of Michigan, the University of British Columbia, and Carnegie Mellon University, and has given masterclasses for educational institutions and flute festivals around the world, including the Juilliard School, Royal Academy of Music, New World Symphony, and the online platform Tonebase. She is a regular guest teacher at summer schools including the Galway International Flute Festival, Orford Music Academy, and National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Lorna McGhee grew up in Largs, Scotland. She studied with David Nicholson at the Junior Department of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and later with Michie and William Bennett at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is an honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and an Altus Artist for Altus Flutes. In addition to her love of music, she is a lifelong student of English literature and the Alexander Technique.

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In the words of Pablo Casals, “playing an instrument should increase a person’s confidence, not increase their fear.”

Lorna’s principal teachers were William Bennett (Royal Academy of Music) and David Nicholson (junior department Royal Scottish Academy of Music). Both placed great emphasis on quality and expressiveness of sound. Lorna was Visiting Associate Flute Professor at the University of Michigan, adjunct flute instructor at the University of British Columbia, and Visiting Fellow in Flute at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly the RSAMD). She has given masterclasses at the Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music, Royal Scottish Academy of Music, William Bennett International Flute Summer School, Trevor Wye’s flute studio, Sir James Galway International Flute Festival, Pender Island Flute Retreat, National Flute Association Conventions, Julliard School, and universities across the USA and Canada. She has been a guest artist/teacher at the Banff International Centre for the Arts. In 2011 she was a jury member of the Boehm International Flute Competition. Lorna joined the flute faculty of Carnegie Mellon University in 2015. She is an honorary ‘Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music’.

Teaching Philosophy

In the words of Pablo Casals, “playing an instrument should increase a person’s confidence, not increase their fear.” I try to awaken the student’s own curiosity, enthusiasm, discernment, and artistry. I encourage a love and reverence for the music, respect for one’s own work and a ‘generosity towards’, not ‘fear of’ the audience. We are best able to learn and integrate new ideas in an environment where stress levels are low, but alertness is high. Technique is merely physical co-ordination and we are at our most coordinated when the body is free from excess tension. Body awareness is a big part of my teaching – releasing unnecessary tension and building our trust & connection with the airstream, which is after all the basis of all expression. Finding a natural connection to the breath gives us the ability to tap into the narrative quality of any piece of music, allowing us to ‘talk’ through our instrument. We can follow the example of great actors whose performance is enhanced by the range and subtlety with which they can vary their tone of voice. This is part of finding the balance in our efforts and our development as players. The aim is to find greater and greater ease and mastery, both on a physical and mental level and to bring the music to life. I find that the Alexander Technique is a great resource in this respect. This approach is both an art and a discipline that allows us to come as close as we can to the expressiveness of the human voice.

“With each phrase she turns, there is a story that draws the listener more and more into her world. McGhee, like her mentor William Bennett, plays with a full palette of tone colors and wide dynamic range. Her timbre choices are extraordinary and inventive and of the highest musical order.”

Flute Talk Magazine
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Recordings can be purchased through the Pittsburgh Symphony Online Shop, Amazon, ITunes, Naxos, Beep Records and flute stores.