Blair Francis Paponiu, Assistant Principal/Second Flute
Blair Francis Paponiu is a South Carolina native and has been playing the flute since age 11. Prior to joining the orchestra, she performed as a substitute with the New York Philharmonic from April 2016 through the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. She has also held the Edgar and Patricia Harris Flute II Chair of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, and has performed with Oregon Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, Augusta Symphony Orchestra (GA) and the Palmetto Opera Orchestra (SC).
Blair was selected as a prizewinning finalist in the Young Artist Competitions of the Florida Flute Association and the South Carolina Flute Society and was chosen as a winner of the National Flute Association Masterclass Performers Competition. She has also been a winner of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of South Carolina concerto competitions. Blair has been an instrumental fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, Sarasota Music Festival, Brevard Music Center and Eastern Music Festival.
Blair received a Professional Studies Certificate in Orchestral Performance at the Manhattan School of Music as a full scholarship student. She holds a Master of Music degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Carolina, where she graduated summa cum laude and received the Presser Scholar Award. Her principal teachers include Robert Langevin, Marianne Gedigian, Jennifer Parker-Harley and Cynthia Hopkins.
I am from Columbia, South Carolina, but I most recently moved from New York City. I studied at the University of South Carolina, the University of Texas at Austin and the Manhattan School of Music. I heard about the assistant principal flute audition in Naples and took the audition in December 2017, and I joined the orchestra in the fall of 2018.
What has been your most memorable moment with the orchestra?
My most memorable moment with the orchestra is hard to choose, but I would have to say playing The Nutcracker. Everyone was having so much fun and smiling—it was like a big party in the pit!
What inspired you to become a musician?
When I first decided to pursue a performance degree in college towards the end of my high school senior year, I was unsure it was what I really wanted to do. However, when I started to experience life as a music student, I was completely overwhelmed with my love for music and was constantly inspired by my teacher and studio mates. It made me want to be better at my instrument, and it ultimately made me want to become a professional orchestral musician.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is being able to collaborate with amazing musicians and feeling like part of a very close community. I also love performing operas and ballets in addition to Masterworks and Pops concerts, which can be unusual for a symphony orchestra.
What’s challenging about playing your instrument?
One of the more challenging things about playing the flute is playing in the higher register at a soft dynamic. It takes a lot of physical control and trust in yourself!
What are your favorite compositions?
I feel like the answer to this question changes all the time, but I absolutely love all the Beethoven symphonies, Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, anything by Ravel (especially Mother Goose Suite) or Debussy (they both wrote amazing solos for the flute), Mahler’s First Symphony, Brahms’ Second and Third Symphonies, Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony.
What have you been listening to recently?
I’ve been listening to many playlists on Spotify, but I am usually listening to music for the upcoming concerts in Naples. Most recently, I’ve had a Norah Jones radio playing.
Are there other musicians in your immediate family?
Not professionally. My mother sings and plays piano, and my dad is just starting to get into playing the guitar.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to travel, cook and try new foods, do yoga, go to the beach, be outside and shop!