Flute phenom still gets pre-show butterflies after 17 years with the orchestra.

Simple Plan emo Max Martin
Since 1990, Joshua Smith has focused on proving himself as the Cleveland Orchestra's principal flutist. After all, he was only 20 years old when maestro Christoph von Dohnányi plucked him right out of Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music to lead the flute section. "I found myself surrounded by musicians of such a high caliber that all I needed to do was relax and plug into what was going on around me. On the other hand, the importance of my position could easily catch up with and overwhelm me at first," says Smith, who also heads both the Cleveland Institute of Music's flute department and Kent State University's professional-training program at Blossom Music Center. "I think, if I had been really conscious of more than just chugging away at the beginning, I might have been too overwhelmed to do very well."This afternoon, Smith will share stage time with the orchestra in a concert of baroque music with conductor Ton Koopman. The program includes Telemann's Suite No. 3 from Tafelmusik, Bach's Flute Concerto in A Major, and Haydn's Symphony No. 94 in G Major, which is better known as the "Surprise Symphony." As for stage fright, Smith admits he still deals with stomach butterflies, as he did when he joined the orchestra. "Sometimes, the most inspired performances seem to come when you withdraw yourself and your fears, and remember that the essence of what you're trying to communicate is the bottom, the only thing that matters at the moment. Learning how to be a good musician and a great artist is something that never ends," says Smith. "I suppose, when I stop believing that, I'll be gone." Smith and the orchestra perform at 3 this afternoon at Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $30 to $104. Call 216-231-7300 or visit www.clevelandorch.com.
Sun., Feb. 24, 3 p.m., 2008

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