Amy Tatum found her voice in the flute.
It’s an instrument she’s played for 31 years, since she was 11 years old.
Now she has her dream job.
In January, the Santa Barbara Symphony announced Ms. Tatum, who played the flute on the soundtrack of “Avatar: The Way of the Water,” was appointed to the position for principal flutist.
“It is a dream realized,” Ms. Tatum told the News-Press. “I have been going to hear the symphony for years. My husband has been playing as a guest musician on trumpet for 10 years. We have been going to concerts for 10 years.
“To be part of this world-class ensemble, which I already consider family, is a beautiful situation for me,” said Ms. Tatum.
She discussed her career prior to her new position.
“I have been freelancing in Los Angeles for 20 years. I have been doing studio work and played as guest principal with the Los Angeles Opera and other orchestras,” she said. “Being a musician can be a patchwork quilt experience. I go from Orange County to Santa Barbara and everywhere in between.
“I have taught at Los Angeles City College and Mount Saint Mary’s University. Out of grad school, I started working for the Harmony Project, a nonprofit that serves communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to high quality music and classical music education,” Ms. Tatum said. “It is a partner with the L.A. Philharmonic educational program. I also taught at El Sistema based out of Venezuela. That is where I found my love of teaching.”
“The benefit of a freelance musician is that you are exposed to every kind of musical situation possible,” she noted. “There is so much diversity in what we do. A lot of times we are thrown into situations at the last minute.
“With the opera I have had so many opportunities to be in an orchestral setting. I did a semi-professional training program in grad school, the American Youth Symphony, which is a combination of college-aged orchestral musicians along with recent grads.
“We had the chance to explore repertoire and play in different positions of the orchestra. It was a really great training ground for getting familiar with the repertoire and learning orchestral work.”
The News-Press asked Ms. Tatum why she is passionate about music, especially the flute.
“Well, music has always been part of my life. I grew up in a musical family. My mom and grandma both played piano. I took piano lessons from my grandma and was in choir all through my childhood. It is part of the fabric of my life.
“Once I found the flute, I found my voice. I can express myself through music better than words. Music is the medium I feel most comfortable with.”
Ms. Tatum spoke to her goals as principal flutist. “I have already been blown away by the Santa Barbara community. I have never experienced so much support and appreciation from a community of art lovers like in Santa Barbara. I am greatly looking forward to getting to know as many people as possible in the community and becoming part of that fabric.”
Ms. Tatum discussed her experience playing flute on the soundtrack of “Avatar: Way of the Water.”
“That was a dream and a high that I will never forget,” she said. “It took place over the course of many months. It’s the longest score I have ever recorded; oftentimes a score is recorded in a week or two.
“We really got to know the music, the composer and the people working on the film. We established relationships working on the score and that is pretty unusual and special.”
Ms. Tatum spoke to what genres she plays aside from orchestral.
“I love commercial music as well. I love to sing; I have been singing since I could utter anything at all. I love popular music, and commercial music. I’m a closeted jazzer, but I only play it in the comfort of my own home.
“I love all music, which is why a freelance career appealed to me. We get to do all of it and it keeps me excited, motivated and fulfilled.”
“I am grateful to be able to do what I love and what I am passionate about,” Ms. Tatum said. “I am grateful to have two wonderful children and a supportive husband and to be able to play in this ensemble in a beautiful community.”