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Gillian hails from St. John's, on a rocky island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean called Newfoundland. She has a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Piccolo Performance from the University of Toronto along with an Artist Diploma from the Royal College of Music in London, UK. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa with Camille Churchfield and was a graduate student in the studio of Michelle Cheramy at Memorial University. Gillian is a high-energy, creative and passionate music teacher, arts administrator and social entrepreneur.  She adores horses, is a huge fan of the color purple, and absolutely dies for a "cuppa" Tetley tea.  



Experimentation with sounds and special effects in the twentieth century have unearthed a new voice for the piccolo, one which has taken the instrument from orchestral coloratura to contemporary virtuoso. The use of piccolo in modern music continues to increase, however the literature lacks a definitive, comprehensive resource outlining the range of extended techniques possessed by the instrument.


The Modern Twig offers a brief historical analysis of the piccolo’s rise to soloist status and an extensive set of annotated fingering charts for twenty-two different techniques. Additionally, performance guides for four pieces of contemporary repertoire – Lachrymose by Derek Charke, Diffraction by James Dillon, Nidi by Franco Donatoni and Superscriptio by Brian Ferneyhough – offer piccolo players the practical advice needed to more readily bring these works to life. The piccolo offers composers and performances a dramatic palette of colors and sounds suitable for use in contemporary music. The Modern Twig will serve as an authoritative resource for anyone wishing to write or perform new music for piccolo. 






The piccolo sound is very flexible and can be varied greatly through the use of embouchure adjustments and alternative fingering combinations. What was once the piccolo’s biggest liability has now become one of its greatest assets for contemporary music. A large variety of pitch modifications are available on the piccolo in the form of microtones, microtonal trills & tremolos, bisbigliando (timbral trills), pitch bends, and glissando.


Percussive Techniques & Articulations

In traditional flute playing, articulation in standard playing helps to start and shape a note, however it can also be used to create percussive sounds. The range for percussive techniques and articulated percussive sounds varies slightly from one to the next, however they generally work best on the piccolo in the low range, as most keys are closed, and the maximum length of tube is being used.



The desire for new and different sounds has been a driving force in the experimentation of new music for flutes. Due to the malleability of the piccolo sound, changes to timbre are more evident than on the C, alto, or bass flutes. Depending on the instrument in question, and with some dedicated practice on the part of the performer, the piccolo is capable of employing timbres ranging from airy, hollow or woody sounding, to a razor-sharp sound with a reedy or nasal quality.



Multiple sounds being played simultaneously are called multiphonics. They are created through a combination of adjustments to the embouchure and special fingerings which then cause two or three different pitches to sound at the same time. Multiphonics can be created on all of the flutes, however the closed keys of the piccolo, alto, and bass flutes make this process more challenging.” Still, there is a long list of multiphonics which are viable on piccolo.



This performance guide currently consists of four major pieces from the contemporary piccolo repertoire: Lachrymose (2004) by Derek Charke, Diffraction (1984) by James Dillon, Nidi for piccolo solo (1979) by Franco Donatoni, and Superscriptio (1981) by Brian Ferneyhough. These pieces are four pillars of the piccolo repertoire and present a wide spectrum of extended techniques for the instrument. They are also demonstrative of both early and more recent works, a range of extended techniques and four unique writing styles.


This performance guide will offer a brief historical and biographical look at each composer and provide information which may be useful to the performer during preparation of the piece. Reflections are based on my own learning process and performance and represent only one interpretation of the pieces. To gain the most benefit from this manual’s analytical sections, the reader is encouraged to keep the score at hand for ready reference.


I will post additional performance guides for standards from the contemporary repertoire, as well as some of my favourite, lesser known works. If you’re looking to explore the world of contemporary repertoire, please have a look at the Piccolo Rep List - a living document which will be updated on a regular basis. [download below!]


Know of a piece that isn’t on the list? Feel free to get in touch via email or using the contact form below.

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