FLUTE Member Of The Week
July 24 to 30, 2000
I feel honored that Larry has asked me to add my page to those of so many dedicated and talented flute enthusiasts. I'm not very vocal on the list, despite being a crusader for historically informed performance. But I do feel very much a part of the list, finding insight, inspiration and connection to other flutists in each day's digest. To all those who give so freely of their time and talents to keep it operating successfully, a heartfelt thank you.

I'm an American flutist and flute-maker, the former for the last 36 years and the latter for 25. I live and work in the beautiful Hudson Valley area of New York State. With my husband, Ardal Powell, I operate Folkers & Powell, making baroque and classical flutes and piccolos, and also Full Circle Flute Company, making historically based wood headjoints for modern flutes.

My flute-obsessed life began on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when I was 11. My flute-happy high school years in Alabama and Wiesbaden, Germany were followed with 4 years at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where Lois Schaefer, now retired from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, became my teacher, and lifelong friend. She taught me to be a better flute and piccolo player, and also introduced me to organic gardening and growing roses, all of which continue to be important in my life.

During my last year in college, I heard a performance of Bach's music on period instruments, and I knew that this was the direction I would pursue…historically informed performance practice, 18th century flutes and pure intonation drew me more and more into the early music world.

I learned to make baroque flutes and recorders in the workshop of Thomas Prescott in Boston, before establishing my own workshop in 1978. Several years later, while showing my flutes at the London Early Music Exhibition, I was introduced to Ardal, who at the time was playing and making flutes in The Netherlands. To make a long story short, we were married a year later and the rest, as they say, is history. In the last 16 years we've made over 750 flutes together, and played a lot of concerts, a particularly well matched flute section!

During 1984 and 1985 I served as Curator of the Dayton C Miller Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the resource I had often used as I studied old flutes and flute music. The Miller Collection is the most extraordinary research collection in the world for studying flutes and flute-related materials of all kinds, including over 1500 flutes, thousands of books on the flute, flute music, iconography, correspondence, photographs, and flute-related memorabilia, all collected in the first half of the century by physicist and avid flute enthusiast Dayton Miller. It was an honor to be the caretaker of such a collection, but I recognized after a year that I was not well suited to life as a bureaucrat, and happily returned to my own flute work.

Of all the magnificent flutes in the Miller Collection (and there are many) I was always particularly drawn to the examples of the earliest 'modern' flutes. It is towards their aesthetic that our newest venture, Full Circle Flute Company, has taken me. Ardal and I have brought our experience in making baroque flutes modeled after the best originals of the 18th century to making wood headjoints for modern flutes, after those of flute-making masters Theobald Boehm and Louis Lot. Exploring these headjoints has also brought me back to playing modern flute again, after 20 years of working only with baroque and classical style flutes. It really is a full circle for me.

Another prominent part of my life is the practice and teaching of hatha yoga (http://www.yogaworkshop.org). Those listers who have recommended yoga to flute-players know what they're talking about! It's good for breathing, performance anxiety, healing injuries, and preventing them as well. It's just plain good for life.

Both as a flute-player and a flute-maker, I have always followed my heart as new opportunities have opened up. I probably won't die rich, but for me that's a very small price to pay for a life that's full of surprises, inspiration, challenges and music. I believe that there are as many ways to be a flutist as there are people who play the flute. Isn't that a wonderfully liberating thought?

Cathy Folkers

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