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Lee Grad Enjoys International Music Career
10/23/2017
 Although she works hard at her international music career, Beatriz Macias, 2007 Robert E. Lee High School graduate, makes time to come back to Baytown to visit her parents and teach some classes.
Photo by Arthur Garcia at Select Studios
Although she works hard at her international music career, Beatriz Macias, 2007 Robert E. Lee High School graduate, makes time to come back to Baytown to visit her parents and teach some classes.

Lee Grad Enjoys International Music Career 

By: Susan Passmore

From the time she realized early in life that her purpose was to be a professional flutist, Robert E. Lee High School graduate Beatriz “Betty” Macias knew the road to accomplishing that goal was not going to be easy.

Born in California, Macias lived in Mexico until the age of 10, when the family moved to Baytown. She was in the bilingual program for a year at De Zavala Elementary, but she learned English quickly.

“In sixth grade band at Cedar Bayou Junior, I wanted to play the oboe. We decided on the flute because it was cheap to rent and my mom thought I’d quit. I had quit ballet, swimming, karate and piano against her wishes. When I realized that I was the only person who could not make even a sound on the flute, an easy instrument to play, I put it away, thinking I had no talent,” said Macias.

Her mother’s willingness to let her quit band surprised Macias and challenged her to try again to play the instrument, which soon became her passion. Macias credits Brenda Harrington and Kevin Isaacs, then band directors at Cedar Bayou Junior School, with encouraging her to explore her musical talent.

“Ms. Harrington was a tough teacher, and Mr. Isaacs was a kind-hearted, encouraging person. Both did a good job with molding me,” Macias said.

When Macias entered Lee High School, band director Alec McGuire was there to help guide her. She was 1st chair All State flute three years and served as drum major two years. She praises him for having a big heart and for seeing her potential.

“She is one of the best students I have ever had. She did everything in the world I asked her to and contributed so much,” McGuire said. “I’m not surprised she’s so successful. I knew her potential from the get-go when I’d go to CBJ to visit before I ever had her as a student.”

Macias made her solo debut in 2007 at the prestigious D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., and in 2008, she was named a YAMAHA Young Performing Artist by the YAMAHA Corporation of America.

She played in the Baytown Symphony as well as the Virtuosi of Houston Youth Chamber Orchestra while in high school. James Marioneaux, principal clarinet in the Baytown Symphony, was one of her mentors.

“He helped me by making time for me individually to prepare for All State. He did it out of the goodness of his heart to help me get more education in music,” Macias said.

She also was encouraged by her parents, Roberto and Beatriz Macias, who were well-educated in the arts and knew she liked this type of culture. On a trip to Europe when she was 16-years-old, she passed by the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and heard flute music. Intrigued, she went in and met Carlos Bruneel, principal flutist for the Royal Opera House of Brussels and professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

“I took a lesson from him, and he said, ‘Come back to me when you can play,’” she said.

Little did he know, she took him at his word. After finishing a four-year program at the Boston Conservatory of Music in just three years and receiving her bachelor’s degree in flute performance, she sent Bruneel a recording, went for an interview and was accepted to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where she earned her master’s in flute performance, graduating with highest distinction. She accepted a position at the Royal Opera House, playing next to her teacher. Bruneel’s respect for his former student, is obvious.

“Every performance is an exciting experience! Her sound is very special and even quite unique: extremely warm, expressive and powerful, but yet remaining beautiful in all ranges and dynamics,” Bruneel said.

Another milestone for Macias was winning the position of principal flutist of the Luxembourg Chamber Orchestra in 2014, a position she held for two years. She has appeared in numerous orchestras and has worked under the direction of famous leading conductors, detailed on her website at beatrizmacias.com. Macias moved to Finland a year ago and is now working in several orchestras across Europe and as a soloist. She loves the beautiful country and has made it her home base, since she recently married Petri Mäkiharju, an accomplished bass player, who understands her passion for music and her busy schedule.

“One reason I’ve been successful is that I learned to adapt to the sound and style of playing in different countries, which is not taught in the United States. I’ve always been of an adventurous spirit. I thank my parents for this. They encouraged me to go to other countries. Having gone to Lee – a normal school – I’m well-rounded. It provided an environment for me to excel, and, of course, I had the Baytown Symphony,” Macias said.

Although her life has been a whirlwind of performance opportunities that have taken her around the world, Macias comes home often to visit her parents, and a year ago during a visit, she played with the Houston Symphony. She still plays the platinum Muramatsu flute she got her last year of high school, which she laughingly says cost as much as a car. Teaching is also something she enjoys, and she likes to come back to the United States to conduct classes.

“I continue to be an advocate for classical music. People want me to come and share my experiences with kids. I tell them, ‘If this is your dream and you work hard, you can do it. Even if you don’t have parents that can help you, there is help available,’” Macias said.

As beautiful inside as she is outside, Macias wants students everywhere to care about music and to have even better programs in schools, but she is quick to point out that being successful takes diligence and discipline.

“I have worked hard – practicing two to three hours a day since I was 11 – but I couldn’t have done it alone. Many people have been a part of my success. And I feel it’s the same for every field - if you don’t have guts, you’re not going to make it,” Macias said.


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