FLUTE Featured Member
January 22 to 28, 2001

Helen Spielman Flute Studio
Who would've thought that I'd end up having a life in music? Not I. Who would've thought that I'd have flutist friends all over the world, give national and international presentations on making music, have a private studio and be a church music director, and run an Internet mailing list for over 2,000 flutists? Certainly not I.

I grew up in upper Manhattan (New York City) as a first generation American, speaking only German until I went to kindergarten. Classical music played on the radio all day long in our tiny apartment, a beloved companion for my mother who spent long days sewing for the neighborhood folk. When it came time for me to learn an instrument at age eleven, my mother encouraged me to choose the flute because I had loved learning the recorder in school. I wasn't quite sure what a flute was, but I still have a clear memory of the day my teacher came to our apartment and opened the case with my flute in it. I felt a shiver of excitement as I first laid eyes on the instrument that would become my lifelong love.

Flute was my passion during my teen years. I auditioned for and was accepted into the prestigious All-Manhattan and All-New York City Orchestras every year through middle and high school. We rehearsed all day every Saturday, and played concerts in Carnegie Hall and other well-known venues. After long Saturdays at rehearsal, I'd meet with my friends to play chamber music, then come home exhausted and flop on my bed, saying, "Oh Mommy, I just can't wait till next Saturday."

Much as I loved music, it never occurred to me to become a professional musician. From the time I was twelve, I wanted to teach blind children, and after getting a Master's Degree in Special Education, I taught blind and visually impaired children for thirteen years in Georgia and North Carolina. I taught Braille reading and writing, as well as orientation and mobility (cane travel) and other interesting and unusual subjects. After thirteen years, although I loved my job, it was time for a change.

I became interested in the field of death and dying, studied with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others, and obtained national certification in grief counseling. I worked as Director of Bereavement Counseling on the staff of a local hospice, and had a small private practice as well. After five years I became unhappy with that job due to governmental policies that interfered with quality of services, and I'd walk around muttering to myself, "I could teach the flute and be happier than I am now." I had taught the flute during my twenties, when I played in the Augusta Symphony Orchestra and the woodwind teacher at Augusta College referred his overload students to me. One day, listening to my own muttering, I decided to do it!

Eleven years ago, I put an ad in the paper, and within a short time had several students. Although I was an amateur player, I knew how to teach, and found a great deal of success - and love and joy - through my teaching. I now have a constant waiting list and have the luxury of choosing my students. I love being my own boss! Everytime I ask my boss for a week off to travel with my husband, she gives it to me. :)

As I began to teach, I wanted to become more proficient as a player, and so I began to study with the professor of flute at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Brooks de Wetter-Smith. I've studied with him for eleven years, and he's become a precious friend as well as someone who has opened up new worlds for me. I'm so grateful every day that someone of his caliber lives and works in my town. Being an adult student in his studio has led me on a wondrous musical, emotional, and spiritual journey.

I was on the FLUTE list from the very beginning, and becoming part of the management team is one of the happiest things I've ever done. I adore getting to know so many wonderful people from all over the world. My life is enriched on a daily basis by the sharing we do on the list. Each day, I email with Larry, John, and Nelson in regard to the administration of the list. We talk deeply about our personal lives, too, as well as share a lot of laughs. They've become my dearest buddies and I love them with all my heart.

Because of my participation on FLUTE and through my publications about music making, many other exciting opportunities have come to me. I've presented workshops at the NFA convention and coordinated its Children's Program. I've been invited to speak at a Flutewise event in London and have also taken four of my teenage students on a flute trip to that city. I've become friends with some of the world's great flutists, and have grown as a performer myself, producing and performing in many local concerts and musical events. I founded The Chapel Hill Musicale, where musicians and music lovers informally gather to share music with each other on a regular basis, and am music director of my church. My articles about music making have been reprinted and translated in Australia, Japan, Sweden, Poland, The Netherlands, Great Britain, and in the US.

My journey in music hasn't always been easy. I had low self-esteem and the struggle to change that was a long, painful process. I suffered from severe performance anxiety and worked hard to overcome it. I spent years being ashamed of my amateur level of playing and it took deep soul-searching and thought to develop the pride I now have in my amateur status. I appreciate my musical blessings so lovingly partly because I had to do a lot of difficult inner growth work in order to be open enough to receive them, and I continue to work on my issues as they arise from time to time.
           I could never have done all these things without the love, support, and devotion of my husband. I met Freddy when I was sixteen; we dated for eight years, and have now been married for twenty-five. He's the love of my life. We chose not to have children, but we have an unofficially adopted daughter who we've adored since she was three. Amy is now twenty-six and married, and she adds a special sparkle to our life.

My other interests include travelling, which I'm thankful that we can do frequently. Freddy and I have been all across the US, Canada, and Mexico, Hawaii, a large part of Europe and Scandinavia, and South Africa. So many more places to visit, so little time! :) For relaxation, I love to curl up with a good book. I especially enjoy historical novels that take place during prehistoric times and during the expansion of the American West, and books about spirituality. I've taken aerobics classes almost every day for over twenty years, and last summer began lifting weights as well. My husband and I have an avid interest in and collect Southwest Native American art. I've followed the sport of figure skating since I was a young girl, and I love to do crafts, needlepoint, and arrange fresh flowers.

My life is filled with music from morning till night, and I feel truly blessed to be able to bring the beauty, joy, comfort, and spiritual depth of music, through my teaching and playing, to others. Who would've ever have thought this is what my life would become? Certainly not I.

Helen Spielman


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