FLUTE Member Of The Week
May 8 to 14, 2000

I am pleased and surprised at being invited to be a Featured Member of the Week. Although Iím one of the original list members, Iíve been more of a lurker than a contributor. As a ďborn again beginner,Ē playing the flute after a 32-year break, Iíve been content to read the wisdom of those more experienced.

My family was not musically inclined, although we usually had a ďlight classical musicĒ radio station on in the background. I got my start at age 10 in the public school music program. Why I chose the flute, I donít know, but I was very sure of my choice and have never changed my mind.

Playing the flute did not come easily to me, though. In high school I played in the orchestra and persuaded my parents to let me take flute lessons, but I didnít show much talent. I was often short of breath (and still am), didnít develop a good grasp of rhythm or pitch, and had a thin, tight tone--and I had no idea that these things could be learned. In college, I knew better than to audition for the orchestra but I did find a flute teacher. All I remember of my first lesson was her asking, ďIf youíve been playing so long, why donít you have a vibrato?Ē (Iím still struggling to develop a vibrato) and our relationship never improved. After a month, completely discouraged, I put the flute away and barely noticed when it was stolen a few years later.

I married, moved from New York to California, raised two children, went to graduate school in computer science, and divorced. I still loved the flute, but the idea of playing again was far in the back of my mind. In 1978, looking for an antidote to the stress of being a working graduate student and (part-time) single mother, I started running. What made this revolutionary for me was that I had always assumed that it was something I could not possibly do, and it took me only a few weeks to find that not only could I run (slowly), but that I enjoyed it. I joined a running club, started participating in races, and made running an important part of my life.

It was a revelation to me to realize that I could enjoy an activity for which I had little natural talent, and so running led me back to the flute. A year after I started running, I celebrated having completed a challenging uphill trail race by buying myself a flute.

I still hadnít figured out how to make time for the flute, and every time that I took out my old Wagner method and Gariboldi ťtudes and started practicing, I gave up after a few weeks. It took me nearly 15 years to realize that, as with my running, I needed some external stimulation to motivate me.

In 1993, at 50, I decided that I was too old to wait until I had time to do the things I wanted, so I found a small flute ensemble class through a local adult school. Once a week, I escaped my busy life and spent an energizing hour playing duets and trios and renewing my love of music and the flute. I still didnít have much practice time, especially since by that time I had become a serious (although still slow) ultramarathon runner, and, while I learned a lot about blending with other players, the ensemble format didnít allow for much personal instruction, so, after three years I switched to taking private lessons with the same instructor, list member David Tickton, whose personal flute-playing history and teaching style make him an excellent instructor for adult students. David knew just what to do to improve my tight, thin tone, and had me spend the first year doing little but learning to relax and open my throat. Gradually over the past three years Iíve been developing all aspects of my flute playing and finding my own voice as a flutist. The only performing Iíve done has been in a community college band and in Davidís occasional performance workshops and once or twice a year free public flute choir performances.

Early in 1999 I took an early retirement after twenty years as a computer systems engineer, so that I really would have time to pursue my interests, particularly music and running, but also desktop publishing (and I keep trying to find time for gardening). I started taking classes at a local community college where I am working my way, part-time, through their music program and playing in their band. Iím finding the community college environment friendly and unintimidating but sufficiently challenging to keep my interest. Many of the students in the music program are, like me, adults returning to follow their interests.

Long-distance running is also still an important part of my life. Right now I am training to run a 54-mile race in South Africa in June. Like playing the flute, running does not come easily to me, but, also like playing the flute, I love doing it and find that the more of myself I put into it, the more I enjoy it.

Jane Colman


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