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Updated 10:00 AM April 20, 2009
 

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Flutist taking her talent to New York

Related story:
Six outstanding seniors share stories of their U-M careers >

A few weeks before graduation Elise Shope is on her way to the next stage of her life — in New York City.
Elise Shope has been a standout student at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. (Photo by Frank Provenzano)

Since arriving at Michigan four years ago from her hometown of Kingswood, Texas — near Houston — Shope has been a standout student at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Known for her virtuosity, promise and an engaging personality, her undergraduate years have been distinguished by arduous rehearsals, inspiring performances and time spent mentoring younger students.

Flute in hand, this fall Shope will attend the Manhattan School of Music's orchestral program. But for Shope, the top-ranked flutist at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, taking the next step in her aim to become a professional musician is only half of the equation for success.

"I've learned developing as a musician means being open and growing as a person," says Shope, 22, who has a 3.94 grade-point average and was a second-place winner three years ago in the prestigious National Flute Association Orchestral Excerpt Competition.

"My goal is to have a career and life that makes me happy as a person and as a musician," she says.

Her curiosity is leading her to explore genres other than classical music, particularly jazz, and possibly taking up the cello. "I want to keep challenging myself."

From the snowy March day when she first visited campus as a high-school senior, Shope made a deep connection with U-M. "It's a large university, but the music school is an intimate place where I've gotten to know nearly everyone in the program," she says.

One of her deepest personal connections has been with her teacher, Amy Porter, associate professor of flute. In a letter recommending Shope for the Stanley Medal, which goes to the top performer at the school, Porter wrote: "She is beloved by her peers, and is setting a wonderful example of professionalism for the flute studio members. Elise proves weekly she is an extreme musical talent."

Since taking up the flute in sixth grade, Shope says she's had a spiritual kinship with the instrument.

"I've never had to be told to practice, and the older I got, I started setting aside other interests to concentrate solely on playing the flute."

Last May, Shope performed Mahler's Ninth Symphony with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She played the fourth out of five flutes. "It was an unforgettable experience," she says. "I learned playing in a major orchestra is like being on a sports team, all the parts need to be working together."

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