Hunter O’Brien, a freelance flutist from Shepherd, Michigan, engages his audiences with solo recitals and chamber music concerts that foster deep emotional connections. His passionate and artistic outlook on music has garnered him great success in performance and competition settings, including top prizes in the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Woodwind Competition, Houston Flute Club Byron Hester Artist Competition, 19th International Friedrich Kuhlau Flute Competition, Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition, James Pappoutsakis Memorial Flute Competition, New York Flute Club Competition, and Southeast Michigan Flute Association Ervin Monroe Young Artist Competition. Hunter will soon enter his second year as a fellow in the DACAMERA of Houston Young Artist Program. Notable awards from his youth include second prize in the Music Teachers National Association’s Woodwind Soloist Competition and first prize in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival Gala Soloist Competition and Southeast Michigan Flute Association High School Young Artist Competition.
He has performed as principal flutist of the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Eureka Ensemble, Saginaw Eddy Band, and as a regular substitute with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Hunter is also a substitute flutist for the upcoming New World Symphony season.
Active as a recitalist and chamber musician, he gave his Boston recital debut in September 2018, performing the Fenwick Smith Tribute Concert in Jordan Hall presented by the James Pappoutsakis Memorial Fund. He later performed across New England as a member of the Boreas Wind Quintet, a 2018 New England Conservatory Honors Ensemble. As a member of the Houston-based Kodan Quintet, he has received prizes in the Coltman, Music Teachers National Association, and New Orleans chamber music competitions. In 2022, the Kodan Quintet was selected as runner-up in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition’s inaugural Lift Every Voice Prize celebrating chamber works of underrepresented composers.
Not confined to the concert hall, Hunter has explored ways of bringing his art to diverse audiences in several cities. He presented recitals, masterclasses, and lessons throughout the Boston area as a Community Performance and Teaching Fellow through the New England Conservatory Community Performance and Partnership Program. Hunter collaborated on similar projects through the Just For U Music Program (JUMP!) at the Shepherd School of Music, bringing chamber music and storytelling to Houston schools along with the Kodan Quintet. Hunter currently teaches lessons and masterclasses through several Houston-area school districts, sharing the passion and inspiration instilled by his former mentors. In Michigan, Hunter has performed with community and professional ensembles and presents yearly recitals along with retirement home and school performances throughout his hometown. He has taught at local band camps and presented at the Central Michigan University Summer Music Flute Institute beside his former teacher, Dr. Joanna Cowan White.
Along with his performance and teaching career, Hunter has also received many awards and honors including Flutistry Boston Founder’s Award Scholarship, the National Federation of Music Club's Ernest A. Bluhm Flute Award, and the New England Conservatory’s Donna Heiken Presidential Flute Scholarship and Beneficent Society Scholarship.
Hunter began his flute studies with Dr. Joanna Cowan White of Central Michigan University. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music as a Presidential Scholarship student of Paula Robison and a Master of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music as a student of Leone Buyse.
On a slightly less serious note...
I grew up on a dirt road in the middle of Michigan with fields and forests galore. Even if I may complain about the area from time to time, there is one thing that is certain: Central Michigan will forever be my home. Though I was naive in my youth, I now realize I was gifted with constant inspiration just steps away from my front door. The expansive fields surrounding my childhood home are filled with birdsongs in a landscape that welcomes my flute sound as an addition to their repertoire. It really is a flutist's dream! (To hear the birds in action, head on over to the Media tab and watch the O'Brien family's quarantine rendition of Leon Kirchner's Flutings). A few additional hometown loves are listed below.
The seemingly endless stretches of dirt roads throughout the area lend themselves nicely to distance running. With intersections one mile apart, a short jog can quickly become an 11-mile trek past lakes, ponds, forests, and flaxen farmland. Through this scenery, I discovered my affinity for running (even completing a half-marathon in 2019) and I will always be partial to my hometown road and its surrounding connections.
Like many, my deeply ingrained baking obsession was brought to the surface during quarantine. It has been a welcome change to my routine, and certainly one that my sweet tooth thanks me for! I have no doubt this love was passed down by my father and grandma Rose. I grew up eating their sweet treats, standing on my tippy toes to catch a glimpse of the action and perhaps, to lick the spatula.
My family's secluded homestead gave rise to a love for animals that will surely never fade. Currently, my heart is taken by Charlie, a curious kitten born at the beginning of the pandemic that has since blossomed into a colossal fluffball. Even with his seemingly innocent appearance, he is quite a dare-devil with the chin-guard, helmet, and cape markings to match. I caught him climbing a tree as a kitten and I knew he had to be mine!
And of course, the flute! I have my older brother to thank for my career path (and subsequently, I suppose this website?). Wanting nothing more than to follow in his footsteps, I chose the flute in the sixth grade and, though it's cliché, have never turned back. The above successes in my bio are heavily attributed to the area that raised me. I owe a debt of gratitude to my family, Joanna Cowan White, JoAnn Gross, Claude Lemmer, Kaye Peasley, the Central Michigan Area Concert Band, and Flutique Professional Flute Choir. Through their guidance, I found my voice and the instrument which will continue to amplify said voice for the rest of my life.