Carol Hoffman-Guzman: Welcome to your new position as Artistic Director of the Arts at St. Johns! Tell us about what first attracted you to ASJ.
Phil Bracken-Tripp: Well first, thank you, I’m so glad to be a part of Arts at St. Johns! I have always admired the fact that ASJ has a long history of giving a helping hand to local artists, and that it puts such a strong emphasis on the effect that the arts can have on society.
CH: Ok, Phil, tell us where you came from, where’s your home?
PB: Both of my parents were born and raised in Central Florida, and most of my extended family lives in the state as well. My father was in the Air Force for 20-some-odd years, so I was born in Alaska, and I also lived in North Dakota and Kansas before moving to Florida when he retired. At this point I would say that Florida is definitely my home.
CH: You are a flutist. When were you first attracted to this instrument? Where did you train?
PB: The first time I remember hearing a flute was when I was maybe seven or so, but I didn’t get to participate in band until I was 9 or 10. Even then, I ended up playing clarinet and didn’t get my first flute until I was 13. I was largely self-taught until the end of high school, my first teacher was Marsha Whitney, and then I attended Florida Southern College where I worked with Barbara Jacobson. I then went to West Virginia to study with Dr. Francesca Arnone and Nina Assimakopoulos.
CH: I think of the flute as being a rather conservative, “classical music” instrument. Is it adaptable to other genres of music? Does your choice of instrument reflect your personality? Are you a relatively conservative, quiet guy?
PB: The flute is generally considered a softer, “classical” instrument, but it can do so much more! You should check out people like Robert Dick and Greg Patillo – awesome stuff. I guess I can be kind of quiet sometimes, but I can also make quite a racket!
CH: How did you end up in Miami? What do you like about living in Miami?
PB: After I finished graduate school at West Virginia University I moved with my now-husband to Miami, where he had some work lined up. Scott and I had agreed that whoever found a job in music first, that’s where we would move.
CH: That’s right, you recently got married. Congrats! Anything you want to say about this? What’s it like working in the same facility as your spouse?
PB: Thank you! We’re fast approaching our one year anniversary, hard to believe it’s already been a year. Scott is the Music Director at St. John’s on the Lake UMC, and it’s been really nice to work together.
CH: The congregation at St. Johns on the Lake is a “reconciling” congregation, meaning it is open and accepting of gays. How do you feel about this? Has does that differ from what you were used to in the past?
PB: To me, St. John’s on the Lake’s reconciling status is paramount. I know that I had a tough time growing up in churches and I was actually very reticent to start attending St. John’s even though I knew they were reconciling. Eventually I gave it a chance, and I’m so glad I did.
CH: Miami is very multicultural. How does it feel to be in a community and arts organization that is filled with Hispanics, Haitians, people from the Caribbean, blacks, Asians, Muslims, Jews, Armenians – and a few southern Whites?
PB: It’s great! I have loved learning about Miami’s history and experiencing all the different cultures. I think it’s very important that we embrace our neighbors and get outside of our own niches, and the arts are a perfect way to bridge the divide.
CH: How did you start with ASJ before becoming Artistic Director?
PB: I started working for ASJ last year doing social media and marketing, and it’s kind of grown from there. I’ve always thought working in arts administration would be fun, but I didn’t realize how much I would really love doing this type of work.
CH: Phil, what qualities do you bring to the job of “Artistic Director” at ASJ?
PB: I think that I’ve been fortunate in having a wide range of experiences, making me a sort of jack-of-all-trades. I think that my ability to work in a variety of ways will allow our ASJ artists to focus on being masters of their art forms. So I’ll be like a liaison of sorts.
CH: What events in ASJ’s upcoming months are especially exciting to you?
PB: In September we’re having the Tropical Winds, a wind quintet based out of Fort Lauderdale. The musicians all belong to the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble, an excellent LGBT community band that I’ve performed with in the past. Another really exciting event in January of 2016 will be a production of The Journey by Kristen Long and C. Stefan King. We’re going to be showcasing a lot of local actors, and I think our audience will really love the powerful music and story.
CH: Are you open to ideas from our readers about future programs and events? How can they best a hold of you?
PB: Of course! So many of ASJ’s program ideas and topics started off as suggestions from our community members. People can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, by social media (my Twitter handle is @balancedflutist), and of course I’ll be at all of our events.
CH: You are just 28 years old. I am past 70. What differences do you see in our 2 generations – baby boomers vs millennials?
PB: I think that your generation places a much bigger emphasis on direct personal interaction – getting to know people face-to-face – while mine is more oriented towards social media, which is less personal and direct, but allows us to connect more efficiently with a larger audienc. Both are very important today, I think, so let’s work on keeping the best of both worlds!
CH: You know, you got some pretty big shoes to fill. One of the most notable Artistic Directors of the past was David Kingery – songster, director, actor and cake baker. Are you scared?
PB: Maybe not scared, but I would definitely say that I’m honored and flattered to be compared to someone like David. He has such a strong and positive presence, I’m glad to be following in his footsteps, and yours, Carol!