Faculty Interview: Mandy Grace Guilfoyle, Cello
Welcome to the first in a series of faculty interviews, where we learn more about our faculty members' backgrounds, inspirations, and lives. First up is Mandy Grace Guilfoyle, who teaches cello and is a teacher in the Mini-Mozart program at TMI. She is also one of the co-founders and co-directors of Texas Music Institute. Let's learn more about her!
When did you start playing your instrument?
I started playing cello in the 4th grade. I went to a performing arts elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 4th grade, we all had to pick a "focus"- art, voice, an instrument, or dance. I chose to do instrumental music (of course!)
What made you choose your instrument?
It's actually a funny story. In 4th grade, I was a tomboy and always preferred pants over dresses and skirts. I knew I wanted to be in orchestra not band, and when my orchestra teacher asked me what instrument I wanted to play, the first thing I asked was, "what instrument can I play but wear pants instead of a skirt?" (for the record, back in the 90's we had to wear bulky, long, and hot skirts for concerts!). She told me that I could play the cello and wear pants, so I immediately said, "OK! I'll play the cello, then!" which brings me to today!
Tell us a little bit about who you are and your background.
I grew up in Florida and quickly fell in love with music after elementary school. I was absolutely obsessed with cello, practicing as often as I could, and trying to constantly improve my skills. By middle school, I was performing professionally in string quartets and doing wedding gigs every weekend. By high school, I was participating in festivals such as Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC, Walnut Hill Chamber Music Festival in Boston, MA and Paris, France, and the Robert McDuffie Labor Day Festival in Macon, GA. While at the McDuffie Labor Day Festival, I met and was coached by and had lessons with cello soloist Andres Diaz. From there, I went on to study with him as my private teacher for the rest of high school (my mom drove me the 6 hours to Macon once a month!), and then on to Southern Methodist University to continue to study with Andres. From there, I got my B.A. in music (cello performance) and an M.M. in music education.
For more information on what I've been up to since then professionally, check out my website at www.mandygraceguilfoyle.com!
What made you want to go into music professionally?
I knew from the time I was in 5th or 6th grade that I wanted to be a professional musician! It challenged me and inspired me in ways that nothing else ever did.
Was there a teacher that had a large influence on you as a musician/person? Tell us about it!
I've had many influential teachers in my history as a cellist, but if I were to choose one, it'd be my first cello teacher, Joan Lunde. She always pushed me to be my best and gave me the drive and determination that made me who I am today. She always encouraged me to be learning more, to analyze music constantly through listening and sight-reading, and to find my place in the world as a whole as a musician. I will always remember how she helped me find my "sound," by using elements from meditation to tap into my own sound production on the cello. She shaped who I am as a cellist, and also as a person!
If you could give a piece of advice to your middle school or high school self, what would it be?
Make friends and connections with EVERYONE, even if you are painfully shy or feel embarrassed for whatever reason!
What is your favorite performance or musical opportunity you have experienced?
I had the opportunity to perform the Ravel String Quartet in Monet's garden in France. It was completely surreal and life-changing.
What advice would you give to your students who want to follow in your footsteps and become a professional musician?
Find your niche now, and dominate it. Social media and the internet was just starting to grow when I was your age, and now it permeates everything we do. Do what you can now to find what you're good at, and figure out how to make a name for yourself before you even get to college.
To get in contact with Mandy, email her at email@example.com!