Have flute, will travel

Camilla Hoitenga ’76


Summer 2012

Throughout her life, Camilla Hoitenga ’76 has never been far from her flute. She began playing the instrument at the age of 8 and at 13 was teaching flute to 9-year-olds for a dollar a lesson.

The few times in her life she has put the flute away—perhaps for a week or so—the desire to heed her musical calling compels her to open the instrument case.

“I play the flute because I like it,” she said. “It’s as simple as that. Sometimes, I think I should make some provisions for my future beyond performing, but somehow I trust that I will know what to do.”

Hoitenga not only plays the flute, she excels in the even more rarified air of a soloist. Although she enjoyed being part of various ensembles and orchestras, increasingly her concerts as a soloist (and with a select group of chamber musicians) became her main activity.

She has become internationally known for her music due to excellent training, hard work, word of mouth and, she said, “Fortunately, some of the composers who wrote for me have become quite famous. Many people want them to perform their work, and they want me to play it.”

For example, Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, a Japanese composer and harpist, composed a concerto for Hoitenga that led to concerts in Japan. Those appearances, in turn, grew to other invitations, and now Hoitenga has performed in Japan at least every other year since her first visit in 1984, playing the work of numerous Japanese composers who have composed for her as well.

“Many people ask how I make a living because I am very particular in what I play. I understand I am totally blessed to be able to choose what I perform. Many artists don’t get that chance,” she said.

Hoitenga was not intending on going to Calvin; she figured that the best musicians go to Julliard. But her parents strongly encouraged a Christian liberal arts education before specializing.

“Going to Calvin turned out to be the right decision,” she said. “I received a great foundation that I wouldn’t have received in New York. In philosophy, for example, you learn how to think; you don’t get all the answers. And my music courses were certainly on the level of a conservatory: I was exposed to early music and to an international range of composers.”

Hoitenga now calls Cologne, Germany, home, and it is her base of operations for travel all over the world—for performances, teaching master classes, conferences and workshops. 

Her next visit to the United States is with an Estonian pianist. In addition to a world premiere, the program will include an improvisation, with the pianist making unusual sounds inside the piano itself and Hoitenga reacting to these sounds on her flute. 

“Certainly, what I do and how I do it is an act of faith,” Hoitenga said. “It can be glamorous, but there’s no security. Yet I have learned that God does provide, and my flute playing is an instrument in the literal sense of the word; it is a tool. Through this I’ve had to develop self-discipline and work ethic, I learn about fascinating cultures and I grow in so many ways.”