Below, you can read our interview with Steve Markoff & Patricia Lazzara, and listen to their new singles, Liama & If I Could Reach Your Heart. Check out our full music review, HERE.
Q: There’s always an “ah-ha” moment when an artist finds their medium. How did the two of you come to the flute, respectively?
S: Um, I got up one morning at age 56 with the irresistible urge to play flute. This must have come from my intensive prior training on the kazoo because, at that point, I thought a key was something that was used to open a door. It was in December. I waited a few months hoping this rather insane thought would go away, but it didn’t, so in April I decided to act on it. Patty?
P: My ah-ha moment came very early in my flute playing career. It was about a month after I started to play in 7th grade that I knew that being a flutist was what I would do for my life. I was very fortunate that I always knew my destiny! As a beginner I practiced many hours a day and achieved many music awards.
Q: You two actually began as student & teacher. How long ago was that, and how long have you known each other? How did you meet? Who was the teacher vs. student? How long was it before the relationship turned from mentor & apprentice into one of colleagues?
P: Steve contacted me for lessons back in 2013 and we had a good connection right away.
S: Yes, I asked a someone that I knew if they could recommend someone. That was Geri Rizzo, AKA “Flute Tevye”. She gave me Patty’s email. We still have that relationship.
P: I admired him for his enthusiasm for the flute and his amazing abilities to learn so many varied things. Steve progressed very quickly and has developed his own unique style of playing. He is incredibly capable of achieving all that he applies himself to.
Q: Your first collaboration was on Patricia Lazzara’s 9th studio album, the 2018 release “Radiance”, followed in 2019 by your instrumental cover album, “Timeless”. Describe for us what it was like to go from student/teacher to collaborative recording artists. Do you have any fun studio session stories?
P: It was a pretty seamless transition from student/teacher to collaborative artist because Steve and I have a very reciprocal relationship, we help each other and are always encouraging.
S: Man, it was really an experience for me. In fact, it was probably a bigger shock to be first time in studio than it was to be first time on stage. Actually not – my first time on stage (after playing only 2 months) I chose a John Denver song and went to play the first note and NOTHING CAME OUT. That was pretty funny. But at the end everyone watching cheered real loud and clapped anyway, so. Patty, how much did you pay those people? As it turns out we did a show a few years later, OKFlutepid with a terrific ensemble (Multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy nominee Allison Brewster Franzetti on piano, 5-time Emmy winner Emedin River on percussion, Gerall Heiser on cello, Gloria Vasconcellos on harp, Mitch Shedlars on horns and Jessica Davila on vocals) and we got another chance to do that same song. Jess did a wonderful job singing it. It was nice to come full circle back to the original recital tune I played first time.
P: That wasn’t funny. I felt bad for you.
S: Learned a lot. But the studio is so different. We are always giggling like loons, so something funny must be happening (besides me tripping on wires, or talking and making noises when I shouldn’t or getting upset with myself).
Q: “Radiance” and “Timeless” are quite different in their thematic presence. What inspired the transition from the former to the latter.?
P: My concept for “Radiance” was one of expressing spiritual transformation and new creation. I performed music mainly by composers who are thriving in the current music world. I was so excited about the 3 commissioned pieces “Woodland Sonatine” by Ron Korb”, “Reflections of Radiance” by Dmitriy Varelas, and “Adagio e Allegro” by Roman composer Maurizio Balzola – written specifically for the Radiance album. Timeless is Steve’s concept, he loves soft rock ballads from his youth, and with the incredible arranging of Dmitriy Varelas we have a great combination!
S: “Radiance” was Patty’s dream and she dedicated it to her mother. It was nice to get the studio experience on a few tracks. The first thing I wanted to play when I came to Patty was John Denver songs. She said “Sure we can do that”. She didn’t know what she was getting herself into. But once my skillset improved, that kind of grew into this idea of taking some of these well-know pop and soft-rock tunes from throughout the last 50 years or so, and using them to bring flute to an audience that otherwise wouldn’t be listening to flute. With the creative arrangements by Dmitriy, we got it done and more. People really seem to eat it up.
Our next project, “Romances in Blue” is a crossover. This is going to be chock full of extremely emotional and poignant pieces including the title track, “Three Romances in Blue” by Dmitriy Varelas. We also have several other world premiers which will be on it. Grammy nominee Michael Hoppe has asked if we can include a few of his on it, which is a terrific honor.
Q: How often do you two perform live? What are your favorite venues? Got a performance tale to tell?
S: Patty (sans COVID) has a very busy performance schedule, be it with orchestras, weddings, festivals, UpTown Flutes ensemble, solo recitals, etc.
P: Between both of our busy schedules, we still are able to get together each week for a lesson and we try to schedule performances at least 4 or 5 times a year.
S: Yes, in fact, the minute our Governor decides to let us out of our houses and into anything that resembles a concert venue, we will be the first to schedule something so we can shake off some of the rust. Right now, my audience consists of the 4 cats.
Q: Tell us about your new singles, “Liama” and “If I Could Reach Your Heart”. They have a very fairy-tale or Princess Bride-esque feel to them. What were their inspirations and how did you come to choosing these for release now?
S: Nice observation. They are both from Cirque du Soliel. “Liama” is actually the backdrop for the high-wire act from the former show “La Nouba”. Very dramatic. Has been heard throughout the world and has quickly gotten pretty high on the Euro Indie and World Indie Music charts.
P: Steve loves the music of Cirque du Soleil and worked very hard with Dmitriy to arrange them for our ensemble.
S: “If You Could Reach My Heart” is from the show “KA”. When you listen to it in its original form, it’s hard to really imagine it as an ensemble. Sometimes you get surprises. Sometimes things you think will sound great, don’t, so you have to drop them or rethink them. This was the other way around.
We actually recorded this WITH IPHONES from our houses and using the Acapella app, put them together. I figured everyone was posting stuff on Facebook so why not try something different – let’s go all the way and actually release it as a single. I figured that we were either the only ones with the guts and creativity to do that, or, the only ones stupid enough. It’s one of the two.
Q: Perhaps in some unspecified amount of time, your musical career explodes in the best of ways…what does that look like for you?
S: Since I started this truly in a strange way… more like a hobby, I’ll let Patty answer. I never dreamed I’d be doing even THIS.
P: For me, up-leveling my musical career would be that all of my ensembles are booked for a prestigious concert series, my CDs and tracks are enjoyed by appreciative listeners, and I am continuing to perform in Europe and expanding my musical contacts.
Q: You get to collaborate with anyone of your choosing. Who is it?
P: I would love to perform with Andrea Bocelli! To be hired to play in the orchestra at one of his performances at a large venue like Madison Square Garden or even to play a flute obligato to his beautiful tenor aria would be amazing!
S: Yo Yo Ma probably. I love cello, the emotional nature of it. In fact, it was listening to cello music that has led me to many of the composers that I have performed in past and that we perform now. For instance, Ennio Morricone. We are doing a couple of his on the new album, and those I first heard with cello. Also the music of Michael Hoppe.
Q: Your favorite album of all time?
S: My favorite album is a song; probably the one album that I have listened to more times in my life over the greatest span of years is “Thick As A Brick” by Jethro Tull. And each time I listen to it, I hear something I never heard before, either music or lyric.
P: I love Jean Pierre Rampal’s recording of the J.S. Bach Sonatas. His beautiful tone, clear articulation and virtuosity have always been so inspirational to me.
Q: Your favorite song of all time?
S: Okay, Thick As a Brick is one song, so I will go with my wedding song, “Look What You’ve Done To Me” by Boz Scaggs. We are in the process of putting an arrangement of that together as we speak.
P: My favorite song it is whatever piece that I am working on in the moment that is on my music stand! Besides that, “Caught Up In You” by 38 Special.
Q: What would you like fans to know about you that they’re most likely unaware of?
S: That I used to be a harness racing driver!
P: That I actually like listening to rap music.
Q: Any shout-outs you wanna make?
P: I would like to give a shout out to Steve! None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the inspiration, enthusiasm and commitment to his art. It is a beautiful thing to know that there are wonderful new creations in the flute repertoire because of Steve!
S: In no particular order: Shout out to Dmitriy Varelas for working with our ideas about arrangements without judging; to Geri Rizzo for introducing us—little did she know that the music world would never be the same, of course Patty—that really goes without saying; Mitchell Shedlarz, my old and dear friend and great jazz horn player for encouraging me along the way and performing with me at my birthday bash and OKFlutepid; to Allison Brewster Franzetti for her expertise and patience on piano. When you are new to performing, the right accompanist is HUGE. Allison was the first one who really “gets” me.
And last, but DEFINITELY not least, shout out to my wife, Carol, who has to listen to all this a zillion times over in the house at every hour of the day and night to the point where she knows practically every note of every song and can’t even take a shower without finding herself humming whatever I happen to be working on.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
P: Thank you so much for this wonderful interview opportunity and for reviewing our album!
S: Yup. More than ever, in these times, people are realizing the power of music for the soul. Patty and I are glad to be a part of it.