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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Alumni spotlight: flutist Jake Fridkis

Jake Fridkis

Jake Fridkis 

Meet flutist Jake Fridkis ’14MM ’15AD, the Principal Flutist of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Eastern Music Festival, where he serves on the faculty. In addition to recordings with the likes of the FWSO and Cleveland Orchestra, Fridkis has also contributed to albums by Drake and DJ Khaled, whose album God Did was recently nominated for a Grammy Award. We talked with Fridkis about music, his brother, Gabriel, who is also a member of the FWSO, and more. 

Q: How did your time at YSM prepare you for the diversity of musical environments in which you work today?
At YSM, I was introduced to an incredible variety of music through my classes with the composition faculty and the wide range of interests among the students at the School of Music. Being around so many interesting and interested people drove me to pursue musical avenues outside of my traditional training. I had always been a huge fan of hip-hop music so I helped put together some live performances at local venues with friends from YSM and started learning about recording myself in Jack Vees’ class. The first time I ever recorded flute for hip-hop was my final project in that class when I made an instrumental version of Future’s song “turn on the lights” for my final project. I think everyone was pretty confused, but Jack was really nice about it and didn’t kick me out of school. 

Q: How did you get involved as a writer and producer on DJ Khaled’s Grammy-nominated album God Did?
I had been learning about music production for maybe a year. I worked on some projects in hip-hop through connections I made on social media. I had three or four songs come out and had a decent network, so I thought it would be a good time to go to Los Angeles and see if I could meet people. I went to a studio with a bunch of people I’d never met on my first day there and we made some pretty amazing music. I was blown away by their creative process. We spent hours and hours just getting everything layered correctly, adding synths, textures, vocals, strings, flute parts, guitar, etc. It was definitely far different from anything I had experienced working on my own at home or in an orchestral or chamber music rehearsal. That first night we made the song “No Secret,” which ended up being on DJ Khaled’s album. We made the music and Drake did the rest. It was very cool to be a part of. That group have all become very good friends of mine and I’ve been lucky to collaborate with them on a lot of other exciting projects, as well. But being a Drake fan my entire life, I have to say that was definitely a huge highlight for me to hear him sing over something I helped to create. 

Q: Your brother Gabriel is the assistant principal flutist of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, and you and Gabriel have a duo called Flute Bros. Tell us about the musical relationship you have with your brother.
I think we are the only siblings to hold principal and assistant principal chairs in the same orchestra. So that’s pretty cool. I’ve been playing music with Gabe my whole life and he’s one of my favorite musicians in the world. Our first performance after he decided to pursue music as a career was my graduate recital at Yale! We’d love to record the big flute duos, but so far we haven’t gotten around to it. But it is definitely a goal of ours. Gabe is a former student of Tara O’Connor and I was Ransom Wilson’s student, so together we bridge the gap between the most recent two Yale flute professors which is a pretty cool fun fact. 

I am very lucky to get to make music professionally on a daily basis with my brother and also with my wife, Heesun, who was a viola student at Yale when we met and is now assistant principal viola in FWSO. 

Q: What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to that you find particularly inspiring?
Listening to a lot of Schumann recently. Really good music. Reinecke’s Flute Concerto was in heavy rotation as well because I was leading up to performing it with Roberto Abbado and the FWSO. Listening to Gil Shaham a lot because he was our guest artist a few weeks ago and his artistry blew me away. 

Also, Anuel, Bad Bunny, Drake, Metro Boomin, anything Tay Keith produced, 21 Savage, Rihanna, old 50 Cent albums always, pretty much anything that comes out every week. I like to stay on top of all the music releases I can. 

 I'm watching Party Down. And Silicon Valley for like the third time. 

The best book I’ve read recently is How to Win Friends & Influence People. So many incredible lessons there. I think it really applies to musicians because so many of us have to deal with egos on a regular basis (especially our own egos!). 

Q: What interests are you pursuing outside of the arts?

My main interests are arts-related. I’m working on a lot of projects right now but I have a broad goal of bringing the knowledge I’m building about musical entrepreneurship back to classical music education. I think there is a huge issue in the arts right now with students graduating with instrumental skills and no idea how to earn income. I was very lucky to win a job in an orchestra before I graduated from Yale. But I had never heard of royalties, mechanicals, publishing, etc. in any music class. Teaching instrumentalists to also create music is a good start. We all have the skills but are mainly encouraged to stay away from that. Hopefully that can change. Creating music is a great way to earn lasting residual income. The recording industry earned a record amount of revenue last year yet so many music students have no idea how to access it. I’d like to lead the charge on changing that, so I’ve been working to learn the ins and outs of that side of things. Also, as somebody who plays in an orchestra full-time while pursuing a wide variety of other music projects, I’m hoping to help change the exclusionary attitude in classical music toward other genres, and participating in them as a “serious classical musician.”