Nugent returns to her musical roots

For the final concert in the Wilton Candlelight Concerts 70th anniversary season, Wilton native and flutist Bärli Nugent will perform with harpist Nancy Allen at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 8, at Wilton Congregational Church, 70 Ridgefield Road.

Nugent is the assistant dean and chamber music director at The Juilliard School in New York City. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard and a doctorate from SUNY-Stony Brook, and has studied with instrumentalists like Julius Baker and Marcel Moyse.

Her 20-year international performing career began as a founding member of the award-winning Aspen Wind Quintet, and her list of musical experiences is a lengthy one that includes — but is not limited to — commissioning wind quintets, teaching seminars and master classes, adjudicating international music competitions, creating and directing music programs, and, of course, performing.

Nugent said her love and passion for music has roots in Wilton. When she was a fourth grader at the Comstock School, she said, “the teacher announced that we could take up an instrument,” and she chose the violin.

“I went to the local rental store in Norwalk, got a violin, brought it home, and my little brother started to play with it and broke the bridge. We took it back to the store and the man shook his head very sadly and said, ‘Sorry. No more violins — they’re all gone, but we do have a lot of flutes,’” said Nugent.

“Julie Asher was the most popular girl in fourth grade and she played the flute, and I thought, ‘Well, if Julie Asher plays the flute, maybe I should play the flute.’ I always wanted to be just like Julie Asher, so that’s how I started.”

Nugent learned to play the flute in group lessons at least once a week at the Comstock School with a music teacher named Mr. Burbank.

“I loved band. I was a very shy, studious kid and didn’t do a lot socially, so being in a group thing like band was really thrilling to me,” she said.

Nugent continued to play the flute as a student at the Miller School, where she recalled having a “very exciting and forward-looking music teacher by the name of Donald Bender.” She also started taking private lessons with Juilliard graduate Jean Whiton, who lived in Wilton at the time. “That’s when things got a little more serious,” said Nugent.

As a teenager, Nugent also studied flute with Ralph Forsman and Julius Baker and started teaching lessons of her own her freshman year.

“I was sitting first chair and there were other students who weren’t having private lessons and I would turn around and help them,” she said.

“One day, one of them asked if I taught flute lessons, and I thought about it and said, ‘Why, yes, I do,’ and she was my first flute student.”

In high school, Nugent not only played in the school band but also acted as student conductor and performed as soloist in chamber music recitals. After graduating, Nugent left Wilton to attend Juilliard, but she would come back on the weekends to teach.

Nugent said the public school music program was “profoundly important” to her “growth” and “development as a person.”

“We know that music is something that really enhances the brain … but it also gives students a voice. I think about going off to band practices at Comstock or later at Miller School and being a really shy kid and not being popular at all — and yet I would go to band and play this incredible music, and it was so important to my development as a person,” she said.

“I was a really good student and I loved academics, but music fed my soul. To acknowledge what the public school program did for me, and for so many of us, I think, is really important.”

Upcoming concert

Nugent said the upcoming Wilton Candlelight Concert will not be her first — she performed with the Aspen Wind Quintet back in 2001 — nor is it her first time performing with Allen.

“We’ve known each other for decades,” said Nugent. “Nancy and I were classmates at Juilliard … and we performed at the Aspen Music Festival together for years.”

Nugent said she is looking forward to presenting “gorgeous music” during the Candlelight Concert.

“The program was specifically selected with Wilton audiences in mind,” she said.

“I grew up going to the Candlelight Concerts and they were incredibly important to me, so I wanted to do a program that would be just really the most gorgeous music for flute and harp.”

The program will feature pieces by French composers Claude Debussy, Jean-Michel Damase and Marin Marais as well as Maurice Ravel and Jean-Baptiste Krumpholz.

“It’s an incredibly gorgeous program of music that I think the audience is going to absolutely adore,” said Nugent.

Tickets will be available at the door for $30, with a $5 discount for seniors. Those 16 or younger are admitted free. Information: