Interview with Ana Maria Locke

Ana Maria Locke is pursuing a DMA in clarinet performance at the University of Iowa, where she studies with Professor Jorge Montilla. Ana earned her Master of Music degree in clarinet performance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as a student of Dr. Oskar Espina-Ruiz, and her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Troy University, where she studied with Dr. Timothy Phillips.

Ana is the editor and creator of the website VWCM: Voices of Womxn in Classical Music. She actively performs in a duo with her husband Stephen Mulvahill. She is currently living in Iowa with her husband, daughter Anastasia, and cat Kuku.


You are a clarinetist by discipline. What drew you to the instrument and what keeps you coming back?

I was given the clarinet because there were too many people on saxophone and there were too many people on percussion, and they told me I couldn’t play flute because I have a peak in my lip. I was told, “What’s left is the clarinet,” and that was that.

So, I got the clarinet and my mom told me that she played the clarinet for a bit when she was younger. I thought it was kinda cool, and I stayed with it just because. I know that’s not a really fun story, but it’s the truth.

I fell in love with it whenever I was an undergrad at Troy University, and it was all Dr. Philips’ fault because I’d never really heard anyone play the clarinet very well, you know? I was just in high school playing, and I didn’t really think to look up people playing clarinet on YouTube or anything. I was busy listening to Ella Fitzgerald because that was cool. So I heard Dr. Philips play and I was like, “Wait. Wait. How do you sound so good?”

Honestly, him playing for me just in there in his office -- I wanted to be able to play like that too.

Why did you choose to pursue music in college?

I didn't like anything else except art. I really loved art, but my family told me you couldn’t really get a job in art, so I didn't take many art classes and I was in band constantly. When it came time for deciding on a major they also told me you couldn’t really get a job in music either and my dad was like, “You need to be a pharmacist,” but by this point he couldn’t convince me to change my mind. My mom was more, “Well, what do you want to do?” and I thought, “Well, it would be really cool to teach music. I could be the one to do that.”

You clearly like a challenge because you’re wrapping up your DMA at UIOWA and teaching at Troy University. When do you become Dr. Locke, and what are your goals after you complete your doctorate?

In my head, best case scenario, I can be done next year in May. That’s if everything goes super smooth and I don’t have to prolong anything, I’ll be done. The goal is to be a professor at a university where I get to teach amazing students, I get to play in an orchestra with colleagues who are kind and supportive, I get to tour with my wonderful husband, and hopefully, get involved in the community music groups!

Ana Locke

What prompted you to pursue a doctorate?

In 2021, it’s really really hard to get a professor job, and it’s even harder to get it without that terminal degree. That “Dr.” in front of your name is like a requirement now. I check almost daily for professor jobs. I don’t even have the degree... but I want to see. I want to see what’s up, what’s going on and it almost always says, “If you want to have this job, we want you to have a doctorate”-- the school may be small it may be huge, but they want those credentials

The level of musicianship, the courses you are teaching are just so different at that level and that is what I am most drawn to.

Was there a teacher who helped you start to find your voice as a musician?

I know that some people go from university to university trying to find those perfect professors, and I feel for them. I got really lucky. All of mine fell into my lap. Dr. Philips, I’m still super close to him. His wife, his daughter, and his son... they are just the sweetest family. But yeah him -- in terms of my understanding of what it means to be a professor. That’s where I got my teaching voice from, and I loved his sound so it was like a two for one deal. He’s always kind, and funny!

Then Dr. Espina-Ruiz really pushed me because I was still struggling to find my voice and at the time it was this little thing and he pushed my technique and blew my mind in every lesson. How is that even possible? I bet he was tired by the time I graduated haha!

Here with Professor Montilla, he has such a laid-back personality and he expects you to come in and think. He’ll ask what I need and what I am looking for. I have to think and bring questions. I bring this into my lessons with my students now too. I want them to have questions and not have me be the only one listening to them play. They have to learn to listen too and use their tools.

I feel like all of them together have kind of made me into a sensitive and kind musician.

How are you enjoying the teaching you’re doing privately and as an adjunct?

I love teaching! I love interacting with the students. They all crack me up. They say things that are so funny that I write them down because no one would believe some of it. I really like getting to interact with people and getting to watch them grow. It’s nice being on the other side as a teacher because you see their amazing progress, and they’re seeing it at what feels like a snail’s pace. Getting to help students learn step back and assess their growth in an unbiased way is so amazing and I wish I had learned how to do that earlier in life.

Teaching is also easier for me than playing because I’m kinder to myself when I’m teaching than when I’m playing. I’m working on it though! When it comes to teaching I’m just myself and I’m sharing advice, working with them, seeing where they are, giving them grace when needed, telling them to be kind to themselves. I can do that all day.


How do you stay engaged with practicing in a way that makes it less stressful, or more manageable?

A lot has changed now that I have a toddler. You don’t know if she’s going to wake up from a nap. You don’t know if she’s going to boycott going to sleep altogether, which will cause you to lose up to four hours of practicing, and that’s the only practice you get a day. So, I have written down all the times each day that I can practice, and what exactly I’m going to practice during those times and if I get done early I’ll go to the next thing.

I always place it in order of significance, so the thing I play most like garbage is going to be the first thing I practice so I have time. I can spend time on it, I can think about it. Then the things at the end of my day, whatever time that is, if I get to it then that’s like the ideal day. They’re at the bottom for a reason: so I can prioritize the things that really need it.

You wear many hats and do so very well. What non-musical passions are filling your musical cup right now?

My tiny child! I really like teaching her. She’s two, and she really likes learning things. It’s really satisfying getting to teach her new things and being the one to do that. Not that my husband doesn’t help, but I’m a little more creative. *wink*

I also really like baking, I really like cooking, and I really really like eating! Having people over after COVID is going to be beautiful. I will be feeding as many of my friends as possible.

What prompted you to found VWCM?

I was getting ready for bed, and it’s the time your brain is supposed to turn off. Mine doesn’t know that, so I usually get a lot of ideas before I go to bed.

I remember thinking, “Oh, you know what would be super cool is if there was a website dedicated to amplifying the voices of womxn in classical music.” But I was pretty sure that already existed, it was 2020 at the time, so why wouldn’t it already exist? In my head, I was thinking about all the things that they probably do on this site so I wanted to see it. I went on Google to find it and it didn’t exist.

I wanted to bridge a gap that pop culture does well, creating a connection between musicians and the rest of the world. In pop culture, we feel like we know these celebrities. We care that they feel sad, we feel inspired when they share their struggles and growth, we learn from them. I wanted to find minorities like me and see what life is really like. I wanted a community to learn and grow with, and academia wasn't providing that. Even if that means annoying some people with the topics and content we cover.

What are some of the conversations you’ve had with people who, as you’ve said, are annoyed with the content?

They get upset about the things that are purposefully controversial. The things that they commented on were things like the articles pointing out the lack of diversity, the articles pointing out that there are schools that get more funding, and gerrymandering decides where those lines are and what kids can go to school in those schools.

They feel that "enough of these orchestras have more representation" and that "we have some pieces by womxn composers", and "we have plenty of people of color". It’s hard to have those conversations because you don’t want the people close to you to be mad at you, but I’ve kind of reached a point where I realize that they’re not mad at me. They’re mad at the fact that people are pointing out something that they are overlooking, be it intentionally or unintentionally.

What do you hope to see this publication do in the future?

A couple of things actually.

We hope to create a grant that we raise funds for every year. I don’t want those applying to jump through hoops and pay a $50 fee just to be part of the thing. A lot of times you'll have scholarships say “You can only use this to pay for your courses,” “you can only have this to pay for your instrument,” ...and I’m sorry but musicians also have to pay for rent. Musicians also have to eat. Musicians also have to pay for electricity, gas. There are so many things. So I just think of it as just a check that says, “Do with this what you need.” Because I feel like that’s what people need more of.

The other one is -- I'm not sure how it’s going to be presented yet, but a way for our readers to ask questions. We can go to people in VWCM who specialize in the topics of those questions and they can respond. Sometimes people have questions and they don’t know who to ask, or they get scared they will be judged for asking, or they don't have the ability to access the spectacular Rita Benton Music Library resources that we as students do.

We want to connect with the readers more and create a strong and loving community, and that means providing for that community.

What’s something fun you’re looking forward to, either after you’re done with your degree or just on your next break?

I recently gave a presentation at a university where I talked about the importance of doing things that you love now, and not waiting until after you’ve reached that dream job. So, I am a cooking fanatic. Mostly because I like eating, but like, I really like giving people food too. So I have a little daughter and a husband and I like making fancy things and putting it in front of them and their eyes light up and my daughter goes “OOOH.” I will admit, food... it’s a passion with repercussions, HA!

Ana Locke, Stephen Mulvahil, and Anastasia Locke Mulvahill

What is something you know now that you wish you’d known as a high schooler?

If you don’t see people that look like you in the field you want to be in, be the person and find those people. It felt kind of lonely sometimes going places and playing places and not many people looked like me. I was scared that somehow I was going to get caught for not belonging. I had a couple of people at my universities that were womxn and specifically Latinx, but it was pretty scarce.

What is something you know now that you will still be benefitting from when you’re seventy?

Being kind to yourself is just as important as being kind to other people.


Ways to keep up with Ana Locke



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