UCSD’s Wilfrido Terrazas no longer rebels against his instrument. “The flute is what it is, and I’m not going trying change it.”
  • UCSD’s Wilfrido Terrazas no longer rebels against his instrument. “The flute is what it is, and I’m not going trying change it.”
  • Photograph by Aimée Juárez Netzahualcóyotl
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“My attitude has changed over time,” explains flutist Wilfrido Terrazas, UCSD’s latest addition to its notable music faculty. “Years ago, I was trying to ‘un-flute the flute’ by exploring with an expanded sound pallet and experimenting with amplification and other ‘extended-techniques’ and resources.”

He’s grown more relaxed and confident in his relationship with the instrument.

“I’m no longer so preoccupied with rebelling against the flute tradition — I feel comfortable with what I do and my approach to the instrument. The flute is what it is and I’m not trying to change it.”

Nonetheless, Terrazas isn’t likely to be confused with more conventional players. “I use circular breathing [inhaling through the nose while exhaling into the flute] as my basic technique. That allows me to create longer phrases and what I call ‘blocks-of-sound,’ which can last a long time. I keep trying to challenge myself in this aspect.”

He’s been playing the instrument from the age of 15 as a middle school student growing up in Ensenada, but he didn’t exactly have a masterplan in mind in terms of a career in music. “I was so deep into music, I didn’t want to do anything else. I knew by the time I was 17, but it wasn’t a conscious decision.”

Music became a vocation out of necessity, rather than ambition.

“I became a professional out of self-defense, really. After I went to the conservatory, I ended up in Mexico City and I kind of had to make a career out of it — I was unemployed — no one knew who I was, so I had to find work in order to survive.”

After 14 years in Mexico City, Terrazas was hired by UC San Diego. I asked him if he’s experienced any culture shock.

“Well I grew up pretty close to the border, and I always thought I knew both San Diego and American culture itself really well, but I’ve never lived outside of Mexico, so everything is sinking in slowly. I’m not even an official immigrant yet — I’m just a temporary worker. Hopefully that will all happen at some point. Every day when I arrive at my office I can’t believe I’m working here. Everyone has been so supportive and they respect my work, which is kind of a shock but in a good way. I’m still getting used to all of the things that are possible with this position.”

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