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School of Music

Flutist Catherine Boyack Shares Joys, Challenges from Her Time in the School of Music

Boyack will perform at the Department of Dance, School of Music and Department of Theatre and Media Arts Convocation at 3 p.m. on April 26

When a young Catherine Boyack picked up the flute, she knew she’d found her path — and she hit the ground running. “Once I started getting serious, it was full speed,” said Boyack. “I was doing three hours of practicing in junior high and high school. It never got so serious that it became the only thing in my life, though. My parents didn’t force me to do it. They said ‘OK, we’ll pay for lessons and you’ll practice, but if you want to stop at any point, you can stop.’ I never stopped.” Boyack’s parents continued to encourage her practice without pushing her beyond her age and interest, keeping her passion alive and growing by the time she left her Lindon home for BYU. Boyack joined the School of Music without hesitation. “I just had to,” said Boyack about her decision to pursue flute in college. “I love it. I knew I was going to be a flutist for a long, long time. I know most people don’t feel so sure right away, so I feel blessed and lucky that I’ve always known. It was always just a joy.” Throughout her college career, Boyack has maintained a difficult schedule of classes, lessons, competitions and participation in campus ensembles. She has spent the last three years in the BYU Philharmonic and has been featured on numerous flute excerpts. “The orchestra concerts are always really fulfilling,” Boyack said. “There’s a great spirit that comes about in those concerts, and it’s just a new level of togetherness, community and spirituality in making music. We really are lucky that we get to be immersed in beautiful music all the time in the School of Music — it adds a lot of color to life.” In addition to countless lessons learned from Philharmonic director Kory Katseanes, Boyack is deeply grateful for the mentorship she has found in her teacher, flute professor April Clayton. Clayton has been with Boyack every step of her BYU experience, even accompanying her to a competition in Germany a year and a half ago. “The more I come to know Dr. Clayton, the more I love her, and the more I find she has to offer,” said Boyack. “She’s a genius, and she’s a brilliant performer. It’s been so great to get to work more closely with her because I get to benefit from her fountain of knowledge. She’s full of never-ending surprises.” Earlier this year, Clayton supported Boyack at the biggest competition in the nation for flutists under 30. Boyack took first place, beating out graduate students and professional musicians. Despite her successes, Boyack’s path has not been an easy one. “My health has been up and down — mostly down — throughout my undergraduate career,” said Boyack. “I was a meticulous student, I care about school, but my grades don’t really reflect that at all.”

Boyack is keenly aware of the hands that reached out to her in both the low and high points of her education. “I’ve been humbled that people are here to help,” she said. “There’s not a single thing that I’ve done that hasn’t been without the help of the administration and my professors and the other musicians here. I’m sort of proud that I survived and I’m alive and I’m here, but I’m mostly grateful that I survived and I’m alive and I’m here. Nothing that I’ve done in my undergraduate would have been possible without this huge network of support.” If there is a silver lining to her ongoing health challenges, Boyack finds it in the way she will be able to connect with others, particularly with current and future students. “I’m grateful that if somebody tells me they’re struggling, I can empathize,” she said. “That’s the real benefit. I can be more relatable and more accessible to people. It will be a blessing to be able to let my students know that my studio is a safe space.” As Boyack prepares to graduate and take the next steps toward a career as a university music professor, she has no regrets about following her childhood passion. “You have to love it on another level to deal with the stress,” said Boyack. “But the stresses of being a musician aren’t greater than the benefits and the joys of being in music, at least not for me. Music is something so universal. We train ourselves in a language that is accessible to literally anybody.”

Q&A with Catherine Boyack, BM ‘19 Music | Music Performance: Woodwind

What did you want to be when you grew up? “Oh, all sorts of things. I desperately wanted to be an Olympic figure skater or an Olympic gymnast. I also wanted to be a dolphin trainer, but I hated biology. When I was 11 or 12, I realized that somebody has to go into marine biology to do that, and I said, ‘there’s no way — I’m just going to love dolphins instead.’” Where do you find inspiration? “I have so many heroes. My friend Carson, who is another flutist in Utah — he’s paralyzed from the waist down, is in a wheelchair and he’s also gay. He’s been overcoming stigma and broadening perspectives by reaching out online and giving a lot of service to different communities. We were first and foremost flute friends, and then we connected over hard things in life. He’s alive, he’s thriving; I want to be thriving as much as he is. Other flute heroes are my current and former teachers, April Clayton and Elizabeth Weissman. They taught me everything I know. My parents are my heroes as well. I just want to be as good — or half as good, even — at raising a family like they did. They’ve always been there. Always.” What was the hardest challenge you had to overcome at BYU? “My health. After winning the competition, people think that I’m untouchable, but I’m really not. I was not functioning for years. That was the thing taking up literally all of my energy for a long while. It’s a process. I don’t know how long it will last. Things get better with time and with tools in the toolbox, but it’s a journey that I’ll kind of be on forever. Again, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the people who spent hours upon hours upon hours with me trying to help me. I’m so grateful.” What is your favorite snack? “This is going to sound really weird, but it’s insanely good. Graham crackers, cream cheese, and then you cut seedless red grapes in half and stack them like little domes on top of the cream cheese. It’s unreal. I also love making food at home, and sometimes I get grape tomatoes and just sauté them in olive oil and pepper and kosher salt. Also, goldfish crackers. I love goldfish.”