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April 2024 Alumni Spotlight – Blair Francis Paponiu, ‘12

Blair Francis Paponiu (Bachelor of Music, flute performance) is the Associate Principal Flute with the San Francisco Symphony. We recently caught up with Blair to ask her some questions about her time at the USC School of Music.


Why did you choose the USC School of Music?  

It was home for me!  

What ensemble(s) did you perform with while at USC? 

Chamber Ensemble(s); USC Symphony Orchestra; USC Wind Ensemble

What person, course or experience was most influential for you while at the School of Music? How?  

While I was constantly inspired by mentors, courses, ensembles, and colleagues at USC, Dr. Jennifer Parker-Harley was the most influential person there for me. It is hard to articulate in words how much her musicianship, pedagogy, and who she is as a person inspired and motivated me. For four years, she worked with me intensely on the fundamentals of flute playing; she developed my sense and skill of music-making; she nurtured creativity; she encouraged me to take chances, to send the application, to make the recording, to go the extra mile; she honored my abilities and showed me great respect; she helped me define and achieve my career goals; and among many, many other things, she believed in supported me and continues to do so! I will forever be in awe of her!   

How has your education at the USC School of Music helped you in your life and career? 

My education at USC has helped me in my life and career by providing all of the usual suspects - my fantastic flute professor, brilliant teachers in music specialized courses, wonderful ensembles and ensemble leaders, opportunities to play with others and learn from others - but also by providing a well-rounded University experience which was very grounding.  

What is one of your favorite memories, classes, professors or activities while attending the School of Music? 

One of my favorite memories from my time at USC that immediately comes to mind is the overall experience of being in the Wind Ensemble for the first time. I loved band in High School, so this totally opened a new door for me. I remembered feeling inspired by how great everyone sounded, all of the new wind band repertoire I was learning, and how seriously everyone took the ensemble. It solidified without words how special it truly is to have a group of musicians all working towards the same goal.  

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates pursuing a music performance or music education career? 

The advice I would give to current students is to keep your career options open and be open to learning different things, say “yes” to as much as you possibly can within reason, be kind to everyone you come across, don’t let “no” keep you down for too long, and always put in hard work - it is never lost! And also, go to the football games and have fun.

What is one of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating from the School of Music in which your education played a role?

I will always attribute my professional accomplishments to my education at USC. I have been very blessed and fortunate to be able to pursue an orchestral career and to play with amazing orchestras. Essentially, my biggest accomplishment is pursuing this career that can sometimes be daunting but is so rewarding. Playing in orchestra at USC and experiencing music that way is what ultimately started my path.

The USC Flute Studio is a close-knit group, and together we cultivate a warm and supportive atmosphere that encourages creativity, experimentation and growth. Our motto: Work hard and be nice to people! There is always something going on (performances can be found here) and we would love to meet you!

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