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'Power player' flutist wins top national competition

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Hands shaky and sweaty, BYU senior Catherine Boyack cleared her dry mouth. She lifted her flute and played. She had been working for months to polish her piece, but she knew it wasn’t her best performance. She left the stage of the convention hall defeated, believing she wouldn’t make it to the final round of the biggest competition of her career.

When the three finalists were announced, Boyack read comments from her judges, and one in particular caught her eye: she needed to play more confidently. It was obvious in her body language and facial expressions when she messed up.

Moments later that judge stopped Boyack in the hall. She leaned in and said, “Your flute playing is professional and could win. And you won’t if you’re in the mindset you were in yesterday. If you fix that, you are my pick.”

Boyack had heard it all before, but this time something snapped into place. Selected for the final round, she played pieces she chose with power and confidence she had never felt before. The result? She’s is now one of the youngest performers to win the National Flute Association (NFA) Young Artist Competition.

Four years ago, Boyack had made it to the second round of the competition and met the other quarterfinalists. Some were getting doctorates and others were playing with nationally renowned orchestras. Boyack had just graduated high school, and even though she had won the high school NFA competition the year previously, meeting the other contestants shook her self-confidence.

Boyack said this time, BYU professor April Clayton was instrumental in her success, coaching her between rounds of the competition. “You’ve got this,” she would tell Boyack. “You’re a power player.”

“I knew that I was a capable player but I didn’t think that capable was good enough,” Boyack said.

With the NFA win under her belt, Boyack said her level of credibility has drastically increased. “My idols have won this thing,” she said. “It really gets your name out there since this is the biggest flute competition in the States.”

The NFA added a supplementary prize this year: a professional development grant to help launch her professional career. She’s currently considering a recital and masterclass tour around the United States, taking lessons in New York from world-renowned artists, or exploring other performance opportunities. Her long-term goal is to become a music professor.

“I still have so much to learn,” she said. “I have six years left of school and many years left training with mentors. This grant will be an amazing opportunity for me to discover and grow.”

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