January 18 to 24, 1999
I am 57 years old and have been playing flute for a long time: Whenever things are not going smoothly, I just tell myself, "Well, it's the best you could do on only 40 years notice!" Though I have owned and played almost all the major brands of flutes over the years, I now play Pearl flutes in both gold and silver. I am currently Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Music at California State University, San Bernardino. I am married to Jan Spell Pritchard, whom many of you will know from the Flute Network newsletter she has published for the past 15 years, her friendly voice on the phone when you call to place an ad or make an inquiry, or from her helpful assistance at the exhibits hall of the National Flute Association. (You can see the online version of Flute Network at her website: www.flutenet.com). She is one of the most knowledgeable people about the flute you will ever meet and she doesn't even play the flute! I have two sons from a previous marriage: one a budding writer/poet, who is a senior at UC Berkeley, and the other, who has just finished his master's degree in Psychology at Humboldt State University.
I grew up in Northern California and began my study of the flute in Junior High school (after two years of playing trumpet and French horn) when the band director played a new recording of First Chair Solos by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which included William Kinkaid's fantastic performance of Poem by Charles Griffes. I was transfixed by that shimmering, fleet sound. Soon after that one of the school flutes was returned and I was able to convince my band director to let me try to learn to play it over Christmas break. Somehow everything just seemed to come naturally. I switched to flute permanently and I spent countless hours practicing over the next few years...and forming lots of bad habits without the proper instruction that I really needed. Yet, I persisted and made good progress technically. I next received a boost of inspiration and assistance by winning a scholarship to attend the University of the Pacific's six week long summer music camp after my junior year of high school. Boy, what a treat it was to spend every waking moment in rehearsal, practice or performance with great conductors and enthusiastic players. I knew for sure then that I wanted to become a musician.
My next stroke of good fortune was being able to attend nearby California State University at Sacramento, which at that time was still heavily subsidized by the taxpayers and tuition free. It was newly established college with an excellent music program taught by a first rate and extremely supportive faculty. I arrived at a time when several flute majors had just graduated and so the department worked hard to get me up to speed by buying a new Haynes flute for me to use and providing a scholarship that allowed me to drive 100 miles each week to study privately with Merrill Jordan of the San Francisco Symphony. He was former pupil of Kinkaid and a fine, analytical teacher, who schooled me in the basics of technique, pitch and dynamic control, and phrasing. After my first year of college, from 1960 - 66 I played piccolo and later 2nd flute with the Sacramento Symphony and also performed in the pit for the Sacramento Civic Light Opera, where I doubled extensively on flute, clarinet and saxophones in musical comedy. (I wasted an inordinate amount of time trying to play jazz and aspiring to become a doubler in the Hollywood recording studios.) I was also active in contemporary music and played with the UC Davis New Music Ensemble in a number of adventurous experiments and premiers of new works by Cage, Subotnik, Partch, Austin, Oliveros, Erb, Childs, and others writing in the aleatoric, multimedia and exploratory styles of the time.
During my senior year of college, CSUS hired Edna Comerchero, who had just moved to town after many years of living and studying in Paris with Marcel Moyse and Rene Rateau. Again, it was just the right person/time for me and I fell in love with her relaxed open, soft, well-modulated French tone and style. After a rather disastrous year of teaching junior high school band, orchestra (and 8th grade mathematics which I had absolutely no background for), and doing parttime graduate work, I fled to Europe for six months of travel and study. (The mid1960s was a great time to be young, free, hitch hiking, visiting museums, hearing opera and symphony concerts, meeting interesting strangers, and on the loose!) On return home I finished my master's degree in flute performance at CSU, Sacramento.
I spent the next three years completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree under a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship at the University of Washington, studying with Sid Zeitlin and, later, Felix Skowronek. I was allowed to develop an unusually broad program which included work in music education, conducting, music history, and nonmusic courses in intellectual and social history as well as flute performance. I'm sure I would have become a better flutist if I had focused primarily on the flute, but I have always been very broad in my interests and basically tried to be a generalist in a field that demands a high level of specialization. Nonetheless, I was fortunate to gain some wonderful professional experience playing in the Seattle and Tacoma opera companies, doing lots of avant garde and experimental music, and subbing in the Seattle Symphony as well as teaching privately and as a teaching assistant in music history and Humanities.
In 1969, I was hired at the University of Northern Iowa, where I taught flute, saxophone, concert band, and music literature for 11 years. This was an ideal setting for me: a university of 11,000 students which had a splendid tradition of music with over 40 fulltime music faculty and 450 music majors. I was blessed with a great group of colleagues, excellent teaching and performance facilities, talented and hardworking flute students, and a state with generally good support for all the arts. This was also a great chance to learn orchestral literature because the local Waterloo Symphony had a marvelous and ambitious young conductor who developed a regional orchestra that played 20-25 concerts a year and which could perform Ravel, Stravinsky, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms at a fairly high standard. While at UNI I also started the Iowa Flute Festivals, a cooperative venture among all the college flute teachers in Iowa that was evidently the first of such statewide flute festivals in the U.S.
I spent 1974-75 on sabbatical in England at the University of Oxford where I attended lectures and did research on music history as well as background reading in art history, philosophy, literature and all those things you should have studied early on but never did because you were too busy with rehearsals and practicing. I did take to hear lots of concerts and was very impressed with the British flute players, especially Bennett, Wye, and Lloyd. (Also had a wonderful summer touring France, Italy, Austria and Germany living in a VW van.)
Eventually, I became Chair of the instrumental music division of the UNI Music School, and then spent three years in a universitywide position at UNI as Director of Liberal Studies, Honors Program, and Interdisciplinary Studies, which changed the direction of my whole career: I found I was quite good at administration and enjoyed assisting students and faculty in reaching their goals and developing interdisciplinary courses and programs. (The thing that really pushed me into "administriva" was falling through a window and cutting off a good bit of my left hand little finger. After several operations and skin grafts, I was able to slowly rebuild my flute technique, first on a Baroque flute (which didn't have the G# key), and, eventually, as some feeling came back in the finger, to the silver Boehm flute.)
In 1981 I moved to Austin, Texas where I really became entrenched in administration as Director of Academic Programs for the Texas Higher Education System Coordinating Board, doing program review, legislation and policy development, and traveling to all 37 state universities. It was great fun: Texas is truly another country with its own culture and style. I also found time to do a couple of recitals, teach a few private students, play with the MidTexas Symphony, and participate in the Texas flute festivals.
My administrative position at the statewide level turned out to be great training and the best possible kind of experience for someone wanting a broad perspective on the field of higher education, but I really missed being at a campus, so in 1983 I moved to my current position as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSUSB, a growing campus in the state's 23campus system of state universities. Again, a fortuitous move: the campus has a beautiful setting at the base of a mountain range 65 miles east of Los Angeles, was posed to expand rapidly from 4000 to 14,000 students in the last 15 years, and probably will reach 20,000 before I retire. I have been busily involved in long range planning, curriculum development, hiring new faculty, program review and accreditation, designing and setting up new buildings and branch campuses, establishing televised and Internet instruction, policy development, space allocation, writing endless reports to the CSU system office and legislature, and generally serving as what a visiting professor from Latin American accurately called "a minor functionary"...although a very well paid one.
My role here has been exciting, but sometimes more fun than I can stand...so, despite a more than full time administrative job, I have continued to teach class woodwinds and music history courses as well as flute, just to get back to reality and to save my sanity. This spring I am teaching a special section of Introduction to Music for our Honors program. CSUSB has a small, but excellent, music department with six fulltime faculty, 65 music majors, and great teaching and performing facilities. I usually have between 3-6 flute majors and 2-3 nonuniversity flute students. I love finding hardworking and interested kids at the 6th grade and taking them all the way through high school. It is really satisfying and rewarding to watch them grow and mature musically...and it so much easier to teach them if you get them before they have had time to form bad habits.
Though I don't earn my living as a musician any longer, I still consider myself a flutist. I almost never let a day go by without playing the flute and I still perform regularly on recitals and in chamber music. Most of my real progress and deepest involvement in flute playing and teaching in the past 20 years, however, has been during the summers at flute workshops and master classes: I spent the summer of 1971 playing at the Aspen Music Festival and studying with Albert Tipton. I was privileged to attend the 1977 Marcel Moyse Flute Seminars in Vermont. In 1978 and 79 I participated in Baroque music workshops with Betty Mather and Jan Boland. In the early 1980s, I sat in on master classes by Geoffrey Gilbert. From 1989 to 1995 all the CSU system campuses joined together to hold a big summer arts festival at Humboldt State University up in the redwood forests at near the Oregon border, where I organized and participated in flute master classes and performances with Julius Baker, Michel Debost, John Barcellona, Charles Delaney, Louis Moyse, Steve Kujala, Erv Monroe, and Ann La Berge.
Last summer, I traveled to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia to participate in Chris Norman's Boxwood School of the Wooden flute where I was exposed to the joys of playing early music and Celtic Music on onekeyed and simple system flutes. (As I approach retirement in 4-5 years, my recurrent fantasy to spend my time playing the flute and drinking beer in an Irish pub. I am currently looking for a Rudall and Rose sixkeyed flute in good condition.)
I still am improving as a flutist and, in fact, though my average level of playing is not as high as it was when I was engaged in music fulltime, when I practice consistently my best playing is excellent and getting better. While my finger dexterity and coordination may never be what they were in my 20s, my consistency, confidence, tone control, and ability to play with relaxation and freedom to express my musical intentions just seem to improve with time. I was tremendously inspired a few summers ago when I had an apartment above Julius Baker and I was awakened every morning at 6:00 a.m. by "Julie" faithfully doing his scales and daily routine and playing brilliantly at age 83. As Marcel Moyse has said (and Trevor Wye reminds us) "It is just a matter of time, patience and intelligent practice."
Best Wishes and Happy Fluting in the New Year,