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Member Spotlight: Jennifer Nitchman

Updated: May 31, 2023

We’re spotlighting Jennifer Nitchman!

Jennifer has been a member for almost 1 year and we were excited to learn more about her life as a professional flutist. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

I am a professional flutist, and I live in St Louis Hills with my husband and two cats. I moved to St Louis in 2003 when I won a job with the St Louis Symphony. I can barely remember a time when I didn’t want to be a full time musician, so being a member of a storied orchestra like the SLSO is very much a dream come true! I also love teaching, and have quite a few private students. My youngest student is 8 and my oldest is in her 70’s! It’s very fun to get to know so many people from different walks of life who all love music.

Once I settled here in St Louis, I adopted a couple of cats. I had always been a dog person, but a dog just didn’t fit my lifestyle at the time. I totally fell in love with those kitties, and now I’m a bona fide cat lady-I even have a cat tattoo! I am a very proud member of the board of Tenth Life Cat Rescue, which focuses on helping cats with special needs. I currently have two sweet orange male cats, one of whom is blind. He has his own Instagram account called @steviepeeperscat.

My husband and I have rehabbed two homes in the city, one in Tower Grove and our current home here in St Louis Hills.

We love to travel and frequently visit the island of Guernsey, which is his childhood home.

(Teotihuacán in Mexico)

Becoming a professional musician, and maintaining that level of skill, requires a singular kind of focus. I started playing the flute when I was 10, and got really serious at about 13. String players might start playing at age 3 or 5! Many hours are spent practicing and at lessons and ensemble rehearsals throughout your childhood.

Getting a job in an orchestra is a unique and extremely competitive process. You apply with a one page resume, and receive a list of excerpts from the orchestral repertoire to practice. Then everyone shows up on the same day (or a series of days) and plays for a panel of musicians that are sitting behind a curtain so that your audition is anonymous. There is even a carpet to walk on so that they cannot tell if someone is wearing heels. You do not speak, you only play your instrument. After a series of rounds: preliminary, semi-final, and final the panel will decide whether or not they will hire someone.

Most people keep their jobs in a major orchestra for 30-40 years, so the opportunity to get a job doesn’t come up that often, and usually 100-300 people will apply for each position.

I was not an athletic kid. I played basketball in a town league when I was young and enjoyed the skills but not the team dynamic, which was too focused on winning for me. My discomfort with the dynamic of team sports and some pretty bad PE classes led me to believe that I didn’t like to exercise. When I was 24, I won a job in a professional military band in Washington, DC. It was a great opportunity for me to play my instrument full time right out of my Master’s degree, required going to Army Basic Training. Needless to say, I had no choice but to start exercising!

I’ve gone through many phases being really into different kinds of exercise: there was a running phase, a Bikram Yoga phase and others, but once I got into weight training I finally felt like I found a good fit. The program at Dragonfly is perfect for me because the process is so similar to being an instrumentalist. Focusing on the basics and good form and then progressing through additional challenges is exactly what I do when I practice the flute. And now that I am in my 50’s, I’m thrilled to have found a program that helps with functional strength and mobility. The wonderful community of people, great coaching and focus on giving back are just icing on the cake! Thank you Dragonfly for providing this amazing space for health and community!

Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

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