Music Professor’s Legacy Lives on Through Flutopia

Posted: February 25, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: February 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

Jenny Lapple conducts the woodwind ensemble, Flutopia. Photo by Laura Scheidt, owner/lead photographer of Exclamation Imagery, LLC

Despite the sudden loss of their much-loved founder last summer, Flutopia continues to honor Judy Lapple’s memory through its beautiful music.

As a tribute to Lapple, a professor of flute in the School of Music who died last summer at the age of 56, the high school woodwind ensemble performed at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 20 in a concert that featured several of Lapple’s favorite pieces.

Lapple founded Flutopia 10 years ago. The ensemble is comprised of high school wind players in the Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., areas. Flutopia promotes community outreach through local ensemble and chamber performances and master classes and workshops.

After her mother passed away suddenly in her sleep, Jennifer Lapple, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Music, took on the role as director of Flutopia. She also performs in several area music groups.

“Initially, this was a very difficult role to step into, as there was a mix of sadness and anticipation among the students,” she says.

“Working with them has reminded me of the impact that my mother had on the lives of everyone she touched. She was an inspiration to them, and somehow they have found the courage to continue performing.”

The Flutopia ensemble gathered for a portrait in Mason's Concert Hall. Photo by Laura Scheidt, owner/lead photographer of Exclamation Imagery, LLC

The opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall came about because of a recording of students Judy Lapple had directed that was submitted to the prestigious concert hall last summer. A few months later, Flutopia received an invitation from the Distinguished Concerts International New York to perform in the hall.

The performance featured “October” by Eric Whitacre and the overture to the “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart. In addition, a piece titled “Eyes Wide Open,” composed by Flutopia member Eric Jackson, was also played.

In addition to founding Flutopia, Judy Lapple founded and directed the Summer Woodwind Camp, served as the woodwinds area coordinator for the School of Music, directed the George Mason University Flute Choir and taught courses in woodwinds pedagogy. She also privately taught many woodwind students.

According to her daughter, the performance at Carnegie Hall was a huge success and resulted in many surprises, including a standing ovation and an invitation to return in 2012. In addition, the students had the opportunity to meet composer Samuel Zyman, a faculty member at the Julliard School of Music.

Flutopia is already in talks with Zyman to have him compose an original piece for the group to play in an upcoming performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as well for their return to Carnegie Hall in two years.

“I know my mom would be so proud of Flutopia, and although she is no longer with us, I am confident that her legacy and memory will be carried on through the work of these students who give their all every day in remembrance of her,” says Jennifer Lapple.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu