January 1 to 7, 2001
Sometime in elementary school, I mentioned to a group of my peers that when old enough, I would play the flute. Unfortunately this was small-town Montana in the 1960's, and real men did not play the flute. If you must play in sissy band at all, better choose brass. So, when my time came for band, I started on a trombone-shaped instrument purchased for $40. Later, in High School, I switched to Sousaphone. I could not help but notice that some band members, the flutists for example, did not have much to carry around.
At Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Washington, I finally came embouchure to embouchure with a flute and a flutist. While accompanying a cute flute major in a movement of the Prokofiev Sonata, I formed an attachment to the flutist and to the flute. The relationship with the flute turned out to be the longer lasting. For ten years after college, I accompanied on piano and played my flute once-in-a-while at church. When the MIDI craze hit during the mid 1980's, I outfitted myself with electronic keyboard, sequencer, and synths, but even with all the variety of sounds and timbres available to me, I drifted back to traditional sounds.
In the early 90's, I purchased Chris Norman's first CD "The Man with the Wooden Flute" and my concept of the flute radically changed. Chris played traditional music on an 1836 Rudall & Rose simple-system wooden flute with a sound and style much different than I was used to hearing. The wide variety of tone colors, rhythm, and dynamics was very exciting to me, and I was fired up to find ways of improving on my own flute. Lessons helped, and I was particularly lifted off my plateau by the teaching of Keith Underwood, who at the time frequently taught masterclasses in my area.
In 1997 I attended Chris Norman's Boxwood School for the Wooden Flute in a camp in the Snow Range just west of Laramie, Wyoming. For this experience I purchased an Irish flute from Casey Burns of Kingston, Washington. Boxwood 1997 and 1998 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia fired me up about traditional music, particularly Irish. The beautiful setting, the wonderful people, and the music were very inspirational. A key skill that Chris preaches is learning tunes by ear. As a classical musician by training, this has been an adjustment, but I now enjoy learning tunes this way. It forces me to listen intently, and I enjoy the freedom from sheet music.
Beginning with the Casey Burns flute, I developed a case of FAWAS or Flute And Whistle Acquisition Syndrome. Fortunately simple-system flutes are not generally as pricey as fine Boehm flutes, so I am still able to make my house payments and feed the cat. I purchased a 1-key traverso and an Irish flute from Rod Cameron, a 11-key Penzel Muller, and currently am expecting delivery on a new 7-keyed flute from the Swiss maker Tom Aebi. I also play a variety of whistles by Michael Copeland. Whistles share the same fingering system as simple-system flutes, although the use of air is very different.
Besides traditional music, my primary musical outlet is church. I am a member of a contemporary worship team which plays "praise" songs (such as Hillsongs) each Sunday. Some of the arrangements are quite good, but some are not, and at times all I have is a vocal and keyboard part. This provides an opportunity to play by ear on flutes (concert and alto) and whistles.
A major event in my musical life was the Chicago NFA convention. Besides the flutes and concerts, I particularly treasure my memories of FLUTE list members such as Helen Spielman, Larry Krantz, John Rayworth, Alexa Still, Savio Araujo, Jimmy Galway, Trevor Wye, and Katherine Kemler, to name just a few. I also thoroughly enjoyed a dinner in London one year with Robert Bigio, Ann Cherry, and Nick Wallbridge.
For the past several years I have participated on the board of the Greater Portland Flute Society, and am currently the newsletter editor. We have had many memorable events with such great musicians and teachers as James Galway, J.P. Rampal, Julius Baker, Alexa Still, Keith Underwood, and William Bennett, as well as concerts and worships with local flutists. We have a very popular flute fair each April. I always look forward to this event even though it can be grueling for the GPFS board and volunteers.
The flute is a wonderful way for an amateur to experience music. I feel tremendously enriched by the music and human contact made possible by the flute.