Composer Henry Flurry was born and raised in an average neighborhood in the storied, haunted, magical, decadent city of New Orleans…a city of blues, jazz, smoky little French Quarter nightclubs, Mardi Gras parades, and Fats Domino. Henry himself rarely visited the French Quarter until he was a senior in high school. He told me that the neighborhood where he lived, just south of Lake Ponchartraine, had its own Mardis Gras parades along Haynes Boulevard as did most of the surrounding neighborhoods. He and his friends loved to follow and dance along with the bands as they passed by. He insists that New Orleans has the coolest marching bands in the country!
His father was a big jazz and classical fan who played tuba in the Navy Band and was a church choir director. He would often take Henry to the famed New Orleans Jazz Fest. When he was in ninth grade, Henry wanted to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, where Ellis Marsalis taught jazz and solfeggio, but he was not able to do that until his senior year, when he crammed three years of study into one year. “My heart was on the Jazz side,” he said, “and I applied to the Jazz Program, but the school wanted me to go into the Classical Program since I already had an extensive classical background.” But he never lost his love for jazz, and hung out with the jazz players, listening to them play as often as he could.
His other great passion was computers, and he started programming when he was in ninth grade. He applied to and was accepted into the Engineering Program at Northwestern University and after graduating, was hired by the University of Michigan to work on technology support for musicians. He met his future wife, Percussionist Maria Vomlehn there, and they became engaged. She knew he had a second major in Music, but thought she would be marrying an engineer, since she had some reservations about music’s being a steady income on which to raise a family.
While he was at the U of M, he and some friends formed a company and wrote code for Disney and other large corporations. After writing code for several major projects, he finally thought to himself, “I think I now have the patience to be a composer.” He wrote a short piece and showed it to his composition teacher. She said, “That’s good. Make it longer.” So he started composing again, working with his composition teacher, Marianne Ploger who now teaches at Vanderbilt. One of her students was quoted as saying, “Marianne teaches you to TASTE every note.”
He quit his job and started composing full time, working as a consultant when funds ran low. He also began to teach piano, but worried because he didn’t seem to have a “passion” for it. His mentor told him, “Don’t worry if you don’t have that passion right now. But if you still don’t have it a year from now, that’s when you worry!” He now says, “I really miss my students when I don’t teach.” He and his wife, Maria, who both teach, will sit down to dinner after a long day of teaching, and talk about their experiences with their students. Henry says, “It’s like Professional Development every time we do this!”
Henry did what he calls a “Mid-Life Masters” in Composition through the University of Birmingham in the UK in 2015. “I was hitting a wall in my composing style, and I wanted to break out of “common practice.” My final project was to write a piano concerto. I showed it to James de Leon, our piano soloist, and he said, ‘Henry, this is the best thing you have ever written,’ so I said, would you like to premiere this, and he said YES!!!!”
Maria and Henry and their two children moved to Prescott in 2002, where they have contributed their art and talent to this community ever since.