“A profoundly gifted and innovative flutist” (Pittsburgh in the Round), Zoe Sorrell is a creator of words, sounds, relationships, and spaces. Her primary mediums of expression are flute, poetry, and fiction. Zoe is known by her community as a value-driven leader who moves intentionally towards a more humanized world through her own creative practice and her coaching work with other creatives. For Zoe, creativity is both a spiritual and a liberation practice.
Zoe’s passion for creative world-building was encouraged from an early age, whether it manifested as writing and publishing a book called The Cat That Couldn’t Meow at age eight or traveling to China to perform on the Great Wall as a part of the pre-Olympic ceremonies at age sixteen. In 2010, Zoe moved to Ohio to pursue dual degrees in flute performance and English literature at Oberlin College and Conservatory, during which time she discovered her passion for Baroque, contemporary, and especially interdisciplinary music, allowing her to combine her varied passions into never-before-seen artforms.
Zoe came to Pittsburgh in 2015 to pursue a master’s degree in flute performance at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where she flourished as a flutist. She was the winner of the 2016 Pittsburgh Concert Society (PCS) Major Artist Competition with her flute and harp duo as well as a 2016 Keynotes Scholarship Competition winner. During her tenure at CMU, Zoe developed her Syrinx Project, a series in which she commissions flute, spoken word, and dance pieces that tell mythological stories through contemporary feminist lenses. The Syrinx Project was featured at the 2016 Pittsburgh Festival of New Music and the 2019 Pittsburgh Fringe Festival where it was named Best Music Production. In the same year, the project received a grant from the Off the Wall Charitable Trust, resulting in a directed stage production of the work which On Stage Pittsburgh called “a stunning, cohesive piece that attests to [Zoe’s] incredible gifts and overwhelming intellect.”
Zoe is a committed advocate for new music, especially that written by Pittsburgh-based composers. She has given over fifty world premiere performances and commissioned over a dozen works for solo flute. In addition, Zoe founded ensemble NAT 28’s annual Pittsburgh Composers’ Project which features and funds local composers. In 2022, she worked with the Chamber Orchestra of Pittsburgh and composer Marina Lopez to commission and premiere Aridoamerica, a flute concerto about the damage inflicted by the US-Mexico border. In 2023, she co-commissioned The Troll and the Fae, a seven-movement modular work by Leanna Keith that introduces young flutists to extended techniques.
Zoe’s commitment to art as human expression makes her a passionate music educator. Immediately upon graduating from CMU, Zoe joined the faculties of Westminster College, where she taught until 2022, and Chatham University, where she continues to teach today. She has also taught lessons in piano and flute to elementary and middle school students at the Winchester Thurston School for the past eight years.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoe completed a master’s degree in arts administration, during which time she reflected on the importance of community care and humanization in the arts. She also became a certified raja yoga teacher and took a year off playing the flute to heal from burnout. When she returned, she committed herself to the same compassionate and curious approach which she imparts to her students. Her 2023 PCS Major Artist competition win is a testament to the success of this gentle approach.
Zoe now coaches other artists on this way of approaching their crafts. She writes poems and essays about cyclicality, awe, feminism, and tenderness, and is currently working on her first novel. She loves to read, garden, take burlesque classes, and look up the etymologies of everyday words. Zoe is the wife of an incredible drummer and a caretaker to two sweet cats and one very silly dog. www.zoesorrell.com