Principal flute: Why I left LA Phil

Principal flute: Why I left LA Phil


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2016

Julien Beaudiment was 22 when he became principal flute at the Opéra National de Lyon. At 35, he won the principal flute position in the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a dream come true. But two years later he resigned, ‘for personal reasons’. Now he is ready to explain why he left, in an interview with his recital partner, Hugh Sung.

You can listen to the full audio interview here. In this segment, Julien explains why, reluctantly, he had to leave LA.


Julien Beaudiment: (Los Angeles) was the most important experience of my life so far. These two years for me – this city, this orchestra, gave me the possibility to understand myself better.

The people were so nice. The administration were amazing. Gustavo is so gifted. I will remember (forever) some concerts I made with him – Rachmaninov Isle of the Dead, Mahler symphonies, Tchaikovsky symphonies… I miss him. After a concert he would always come up to me on stage and say ‘très bien!’ I think that’s the only two words he knows.

My childhood dream was to live in America. I am so lucky to have achieved that.

Now I am comfortable to speak about (why I left). I am suffering for 30 years from a chronic kidney disease. We discovered my condition was really bad when I decided to live in Los Angeles. I saw a nephrologist in LA who told me the waiting list there for transplant was 8-10 years.

Suddenly you realise what is important. In France, the health system is so good, and free. And the waiting list is one to two years. I couldn’t see myself doing dialysis for ten years… And my mother was dying… So…

By chance, the opera house in Lyon had not filled my position. I called them, and went back.

The position of teacher at the Conservatoire was also open. So … tout est bien qui finit bien.

So many people suffer from a chronic disease, but life doesn’t stop. My kidney function is about 40 percent but I am touring the world. You can do so many things…

I think the best is yet to come.



  • Robert says:

    Having been in a close relationship with kidney transplant recipient my advice to Julien Beaudiment would be… do everything possible to work with that 40% functioning kidney and do not rush to a transplant.

    Having a transplant means a lifetime of complicated drugs with unhappy side effects and feeling very ill all the time because of their essential toxicity.

    I’m sure he’s getting medical advice but what I’ve witnessed of medical advice in this situation is that the benefits of are sold much more vigorously than the drawbacks or alternatives. A transplant doctor doesn’t make his living talking people out of transplants.

    40% Kidney function is regarded as manageable and not a reason yet for a transplant.

    • Erin says:

      I agree with this 1,000 percent. 40 percent function is NOT low enough to mandate an immediate transplant! My mother is in end-stage renal failure and has been hovering around 17 percent function for the last 3 years, and she is not yet on dialysis! (She has her vein prepped and ready for it, though.) There are many steps on the road to dialysis and transplant, and one can live with diminished function for many years with a very high-quality of life!

    • Allie says:

      YES. My father functioned normally for 20 years on less than 30% kidney function, and did not need dialysis until he was close to 10%, by which time he was 90. The trick was rigid adherence to “the kidney diet” (limited protein, low glycerin, low carb, low phosphorus, and VERY low sodium). Some people would prefer dialysis, but he felt that the freedom from dialysis/transplant was absolutely worth the rigid diet.

      And yes, his American nephrologist told him that the diet was impossible, he’d never survive a year without dialysis.

      He outlived his nephrologist.

      • Allie says:

        Whoops, that should have been “low glycemic,” not low glycerine. Auto-correct got me again!

        • Robert says:

          “(limited protein, low glycerin, low carb, low phosphorus, and VERY low sodium)”

          Geez… no carbs, no protein… that pretty much leaves fat as the only source of calories. Ouch.

  • Beth says:

    my thoughts and prayers and with him for a healthy, happy, music filled life. It was great to have him in the US for the time he was able to give us. Thank you for that Julien!

  • Respect says:

    A terrible, but a reality that marks more musician’s careers than one might think in the United States. The health issues are very difficult in a wildly expensive and erratic health system. I know many, including myself, who wrapped up decent careers because of the flaws in the medical system here. I thank him for being so candid, and best hopes for his future health. Important article.

  • Lydia Wahlberg says:

    Says something about our health care doesn’t it?

  • Jennifer says:

    The healthcare system in the United States is a human disgrace, exactly because it is not human. Sadly, because Americans are, for the most part, a fearful and obedient lot, they tend to accept their unjust and exorbitantly priced medical system, with all of its restrictions, co-pays, previous existing condition exclusions and its inhuman tendency to prey on the weakness and ill health in order to maximize profits without concern or regard for the one suffering. Sure, all Americans I know grumble and complain constantly, but as with most problems there, the type of mass demonstrations seen in democracies are relatively unknown in the US, so little changes there. They just accept their inferior system and are fearful of any mass expression of discontent in order to change their situation. Indeed, they may be arrested, tasered, or even worse.
    This musician has made the right decision to return to France, a country, though far far from perfect, at least doesn’t prey on its weakest members and practice unrestrained price gouging when its citizens are sick.

    • MacroV says:

      I’m as big a critic of the U.S. healthcare system as anyone, but that’s not really the issue in this case. He was told he’d have an 8-10 year wait for a kidney, vs. 1-2 years in France. That’s a reflection of supply and demand of kidneys in the two countries. There are very strict protocols – through the United Network for Organ Sharing – that govern how kidneys and other organs for transplant are allocated. Given that there’s a lot of effort in the U.S. to get people to donate kidneys, I have no idea why there would be such a discrepancy, but the high cost of U.S. healthcare isn’t the relevant point here; and I’m sure under the LAPO’s health plan he would have been well cared for.

    • BillBC says:

      “Sadly, because Americans are, for the most part, a fearful and obedient lot…”

      Another of these sneering and preposterous generalizations about Americans that one sometimes reads here.

      • Stars and Stripes says:

        While you may regard the comment as a, “sneering and preposterous generalisation”, I must, in all sincerity, agree with every word of it. Read it again and think long and hard about the U.S. approach to treating the sick and injured. Read it again and think long and hard about how difficult, if not impossible, it is to change even the most basic things in the U.S. read it again and think long and hard about what could happen and what does happen should the citizens of the U.S. have the courage to demonstrate, about anything.

        Then read what you wrote about who is “sneering and preposterous”

        Thank you.

      • Marian says:

        Americans are the whipping boys of the world and I for one am sick of it. Also, I cam to the United States for a job in Los Angeles, a much more humble job than Mr. Beaudiment. It came with wonderful healthcare benefits. Not so at the L.A. Phil? How do they manage to attract talent I wonder? Yes, the U.S. healthcare system has it’s problems but when you have insurance and especially if you live in a large city, it is excellent. Something does not add up here.

        • Maria Dolorosa says:

          Everything is great when you have insurance, of course. What happens when you don’t have insurance and when you may not even have steady work, the case of so many musicians? According to your philosophy, those people don’t count. Sadly, they number in the millions. Sadly too, that people like yourself, who seem to only view the world in terms of what they have, also number in the millions. There are no “whipping boys”, only poor systems that ignore realities and people, like yourself, who do exactly the same.

        • Peter says:

          Maybe since he came with a preexisting condition to the US, he couldn’t find affordable insurance, even with his good salary at LA Phil?

          The US medical system is a disgrace to humanity in its evil denial of humanity and 200% commercialization. Best quality is available, but at about twice the cost as in Western Europe, and a huge part of society being either ripped off or falling under the train.

  • Ingrid says:

    Harsh reality of North American Medical system. The French system is one of the best in the world, and because there is not the kickback system with the pharmaceutical companies, and because the doctors earn normal wages, the treatment he will get will be more to help him, and less to line someone’s wallet.

    • Keane Southard says:

      Be careful not to confuse “North American” with “United States”. Canada’s healthcare system is very different from our broken one here in the US.

      • Marian says:

        I have lived in Canada and the U.S and my experience is that US healthcare is better…if you have insurance of course. I read a lot of Canadian news and the CBC is always reporting horror stories and the only ideas to make things better come down to privatization.

  • Lydia Wahlberg says:

    Oh Jennifer, you are right on.

  • Doug says:

    Perhaps he could have a so-called “refugee” in his home country donate the kidney…if he doesn’t mind bowing to the east three times a day and carrying goat antogen in his blood. Who knows, he may also feel a sudden urge to plant IEDs throughout the hall.

    • Thordar says:

      This comment is in extremely poor taste. It is racist, derogatory, insulting and degrading and the writer, “Doug”, should be ashamed of himself. Without even knowing “Doug’s” origins, I would assume, by the crass ignorance expressed, that he is from the United States and probably is a big fan of Donald Trump, having watched too much of the cretin and has become intoxicated and emboldened by what passes for “political discourse” and “freedom of speech” over there. Fortunately, for the majority of the world, they remain isolated by oceans on both sides of them!

    • Dirk Fischer says:

      I sincerely hope you are going to be banned from this site.

    • a colleague says:

      Norman, Please ban this awful person…

    • Greg from SF says:

      Doug, you yourself need help if that’s the way you respond to Julien’s serious – and life-threatening – problem.
      Look deeply within yourself. There must be some humanity in there somewhere.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      You may wish to rethink your participation in this site. Your response to a person who is struggling with serious illness says more about your character than it does about the subject discussed.

  • Steven Burnard says:

    Julien was also Principal Flute in BBC National Orchestra of Wales when I was there about 15 years ago…..

  • Stephen Burns says:

    Julien, I feel for you and wish a successful resolution to your kidney crisis. You can’t just slam the US system, no matter how dysfunctional it can be. Not to be underestimated in the kidney transplant equation is the availability donor matches. Five years ago my oldest brother’s PKD (polycystic kidney disorder) became acute, so we had our whole family tested for tissue matches. With four adult brothers he/we had several options. There are advantages to the old school size of Irish American families 😉 The near identical match of 6 DNA markers meant that he doesn’t need to take so much medication and is thriving. The team at Brigham and Womens’ in Boston were amazing and the follow up care spectacular. Je vous souhait mes meilleurs voeux, cher maître. Bon Courage!

    • Christina says:

      He didn’t “slam” the US health system. He stated that the healthcare in France is very good and that a transplant would be free for him in France, and he stated that the waiting time was longer in Los Angeles than in France. He did not “slam” U.S. healthcare.

  • Andy Williamson says:

    I’m also a musician, fortunate to be based in the UK where one doesn’t need to consider health insurance (yet!) as a factor when deciding how to earn a living. I have Polycystic Kidney Disease, and have received two kidney transplants, at the ages of 39 and 45.

    I, respectfully, disagree with Robert above on his generalisation about “unhappy side effects and feeling very ill all the time” – I, and most transplant patients I know, feel pretty well most of the time. Yes, there are complicated, even toxic, drugs which are designed to suppress one’s immune system. I do live a full, active, busy life, and don’t feel in any way constrained. I know some people are less fortunate, so it’s a risk but by no means certain that you can’t live a very full and happy life after a transplant.

    As Robert also says, however, 40% function is, if stable, probably a long way from needing dialysis or transplant (these tend to be considered when 15% or below). Good luck to Julien – and everyone else in the Chronic Kidney Disease Club.

  • William Safford says:

    May he have an excellent outcome with his return to France, both his music and his health.

    Family is important. I can understand why he would want to be with his mother.

    Oh, and may he enjoy having access again to real French croissants (as a flutist friend pointed out to me). 🙂

  • Niiasba says:

    He will live, work and play music close to a well-renowned an experiimented kidney disease and transplantation center in Lyon’s Hospital.