First of all, would you tell me some words about yourself (about your home, your job, your family…etc., just to get to konw you a little better)?
Well, I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. It’s funny how the world views Texas, like we’re all cowboys or something. Every now and then I meet someone who is like this, but not very often. My family lives in the same city as me, except for my sister, who lives in south Texas. I only have one sibling, a sister who is three years younger. I feel lucky that most of my family and my husband’s family live in the same city, so we have plenty of family around for the holidays. I work at Starbucks part time, perform and teach ocarina part time, and I also do some work for STL Ocarina. I make product overviews for them, and I will be recording a CD sometime next year too. My husband and I just bought our first home earlier this year, so this Christmas is a little more exciting than usual. I still have a lot to do before Christmas, but hopefully I will get it done in time!
Since when do you play the ocarina? When (and where) was the first time you came to know about it?
I first learned about the ocarina in the Spring of 1999 when I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I was stuck in the Water Temple, so I got on the computer and did a search to look up some game faqs, and one of the search results was a website which was talking about ocarina as a real instrument. I was amazed, because I thought it was something that Nintendo just made up for Zelda, so I decided that I had to get one and learn to play it. There weren’t very many places to buy ocarina on the internet yet, and I wasn’t sure which one to get, so I called a music store and asked if they had any. They said they did, so I took the bus (I did not have a car yet) to the music store. To my disappointment, the ocarina was very cheap looking, as though it was made by fisher price. XD It didn’t sound very good either. To this day, I still warn people about the Firstnote plastic ocarina!!
Do you play any other instruments as well?
When I was in junior high school, my school had just gotten a music department, so I decided I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. I wanted something that wouldn’t be very heavy to carry, so I picked the flute. I enjoyed playing it for a couple of years, but then I lost interest and stopped playing. That was in 1994. So it wasn’t until about five years later that I discovered the ocarina, and I’ve been playing ocarina ever since. I like the flute a lot, but I just like the ocarina a lot more. I think Zelda made the ocarina seem a lot more magical than it would have been if I never played the game, but the instrument really grew on me too. Because flute is an instrument with keys, it is more versatile as a concert instrument, but I really prefer the naturally soothing timbre that is unique to vessel flutes.
What type of ocarina did you have at first?
My very first ocarina was the plastic Firstnote, but as soon as I played it, I knew i needed to get a nicer ocarina. I did some research online, and I read an article in the Seattle Times that said Nintendo of America presented Shigeru Miyamoto with an ocarina made by a lady in Washington state who made earthenware pottery and ocarinas on her potters wheel. Her name was Anita Feng, and she is also an artist and a writer. I went to her website and ordered my first clay transverse ocarina in a pretty shade of blue. It wasn’t concert tuned, but it had a very nice sound, and I played it for many months and learned all the Zelda songs and some folk songs on it. My friend asked me to play a song at her daughter’s wedding on this ocarina. I was very nervous, because I had never performed for so many people before. It went well, and I remember thinking how cool it would be if I could play the ocarina professionally someday! Well, I played Anita’s ocarina for about six months, and then I started looking online again for an ocarina that was concert tuned (so that I could play with other musicians). A Japanese ocarina player named Kenji Ogawa had a website called Ocarina Room, and there was an English page talking about his ocarinas. There were some sound samples of his playing, and I decided that I needed to learn to play one of his lovely ocarinas. With the help of a nice lady who helped to translate our conversations, I was able to purchase two ocarinas, an alto C and a Tenor G, and these became the main ocarinas that I played for many years. I continued to collect other ocarinas, and I gave many ocarinas to friends and family over the years, but my Ogawa Ocarinas were my prized possessions. A friend of mine asked me to be a studio musician on a CD that she was recording in 2004. She has a massage therapy practice, and she wanted to make a CD of relaxing meditation music to sell to her clients and use in massage sessions. She really liked the sound of the ocarina and decided that it would make a good addition to her CD. So I used the Ogawa ocarinas when I recorded the CD. A couple of years later, I discovered STL ocarina because of their youtube channel, and I became intrigued by the double ocarina, which greatly extended the range, enabling me to play many songs that I had always wanted to play on the ocarina. Now I mostly play double and triple ocarinas, but I will use a single chambered ocarina if the extra range is not needed, so it depends on the song.
If you were about to choose only one, which ocarina would you take with you to a desert island? :)
That would be a very difficult decision! It would have to be a multi-chambered ocarina so I would have plenty of range, so I would say probably my blue and white porcelain quad. I don’t use the fourth chamber very much, but it’s like having a car that drive 150 mph: I really shouldn’t drive that fast, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to. :P
Who were the ones who inspired you in the beginning?
There are a lot of ocarina players who inspire me now, but in the beginning the only one I really knew about was Mr. Kenji Ogawa, so his playing had a big influence on me. I like classical music a lot, and I think he has very good taste for music that sounds good on the ocarina. I also really enjoy his arrangements of the pieces. He is a very talented musician and ocarina maker, and he also teaches people how to make their own ocarinas. If I can ever visit Japan, I would love to attend one of his concerts or classes someday.
You have been making STL ocarina videos for a while. How did you get in touch with the STL?
When I won the international star search competition earlier this year, the director of STL Ocarina Dennis Yeh called to personally give me the news. It was very exciting! The prize included recording opportunities (to record a CD) so I have been in contact with them ever since, and the project is ongoing. In the meantime, my Youtube channel had gained a lot of exposure from the competition, and from music videos that I was putting out from time to time. Dennis asked if I would like to make some videos for STL. He explained that there was a need for some videos with information about the ocarinas so that people would understand more about their products. It’s taken me awhile, but I finally feel comfortable talking on camera, and I’ve settled into a format that addresses many of the questions that people have when they are shopping for an ocarina. I like to use unmodified sound samples so that people can hear exactly how the ocarina sounds.
Do you prefer learning from the music score or playing by ear?
I’m working on improving my sight reading skills, but it has always been very easy for me to learn songs from hearing them, so I have a tendency to do this a lot. I’m always searching for music that will sound good on the ocarina, so when I hear a song I like, I’m always eager to try it out as soon as I can! Recently, a friend of mine composed a beautiful song for the ocarina and harp, and I’m trying to follow along with the sheet music so that I play it as close as possible to the way it was written. A big problem with finding good music is that there is not a lot of music written for the ocarina, so I have to adapt music that was written for other instruments, like the flute. Mr. Emiliano Bernagozzi in Italy has recently started a degree program for ocarina musicians in Italy, so I’m hoping that, in time, more musicians will be inspired to write music for the ocarina.
How many ocarinas do you have at the moment?
I have bought, won, traded, and been given many ocarinas this past year. The last time I counted I was near a hundred, so by now I think I must have more than a hundred. I know that is a lot, but many are pendants and novelty ocarinas which I like to give as gifts during the holidays sometimes. I love to give ocarinas to children, because I think children find something very magical about an ocarina, and it reminds me of when I first discovered them, because it was very magical for me too. People are always so amazed when you pick up a tiny little ocarina and make beautiful music with it.
How many hours do you usually practise a week?
It depends from week to week. I try to practice as often as I can, which is usually several times a day when I don’t have to work at Starbucks, and usually just once a day if I do have to work. If I’m really tired, sometimes I will skip a day. I’m very obsessive
sometimes – it’s not uncommon for me to play the same song (or part of a song) many many times in a session, so I get self conscious about my playing. Sometimes I will go to a local community college up the street and practice in one of their music rooms where nobody can hear me, because I seem to make better use of my time when I am out of my house (too many distractions). On average, I practice 8-12 hours a week.
Where does your name come from: Ocarinadiva?
It is a pet name that my husband gave to me back when we were dating. I used to be very shy about my playing, so "diva" was kind of a joke, really. I enjoy playing for an audience a lot more now, so hopefully in time I will eventually grow into my nickname! XD
Ocarina is not really well known in Hungary, yet. What message would you send for my readers to encourage them to try this instrument? (Since lots of them like the ocarina, but are not dare enough to engage in.)
I think the best thing about the ocarina is that it is very easy to play. It is a lot more approachable than many other instruments, such as the violin, which is much more difficult to learn. In a very short time, you can reach a skill level where you can play songs that are familiar and recognizable. Another great thing about the ocarina is how portable it is. Some instruments are more difficult to practice because they are very large and bulky, but the ocarina can fit in your pocket or backpack, so you have many opportunities to practice it. I also think that the ocarina has a very soothing, relaxing sound, so it is a good way to relieve stress, and music is a great hobby that people find very entertaining. The ocarina is becoming more popular now across the world, so there are many more choices of ocarinas. There are quite a few now that are very good price and good quality, so it is not expensive for people that decide to give it a try. It has been a very rewarding journey for me.