FLUTE Featured Member
January 8 to 14, 2001

I was born on 7th December 1944 in the town of Penrith, Cumbria UK. During my upbringing there I developed a love of the nearby Englist Lake District, starting to walk most of the mountains (as we call them) from the age of about 9 years.

At the age of about 8 years I started to learn the piano. I had no choice in this and did not enjoy it. However it did teach me to read music. At about the same time I started on the recorder which I enjoyed. Nobody recognised that I was actually talented on the recorder and that it could and should have immediately lead to greater things.


At the age of 11 I started Grammar school (High School). My Father and most of my male relatives went to Ermysted's Grammar School, Skipton and it was their wish that I also attended that school. I was also fairly keen to go. I was there for 8 years residing in the small boarding unit. Ermysteds had a long tradition of sport, in particular rugby. That was most definitely not my scene and there was a great danger of me quickly becoming very unsuited to that establishment. Fortunately it also had a good and developing music tradition and also expected exceptional academic standards. Those latter two aspects suited me fine and eventually enabled me to gain myself some respect within the establishment.

I was bit lonely and often sat in a corner for hours playing my recorder. I was quite an accomplished player and played any music I could get my hands on. Fortunately the school music teacher resided in the boarding house and unseen by me listened a lot. He was a most ambitious and wonderful school music director.

He decided to start a school orchestra and found a few string instruments gathering dust in a basement. He went round the country begging and borrowing instruments. He even found (in Penrith, my home town), a Foster Cello worth multi thousand pounds - sold it and used the cash for more instruments for the school. Then one day he called me to his room and showed me a flute. I had never seen one before but immediately fell in love with the instrument unassembled in it's case. It was a Leslie Shephard prototype student model. He had read a review about it (as one of the first ever student instruments) and approached the distributers asking if they would donate the prototype to the school. They did. I was led to believe that the flute player in the film music to Oklahoma used that prototype in that recording. The music teacher said that I could learn to play it if I wished and that his counterpart in the local Girl's Grammar School down the road could give me lessons.

I was very excited about this and had a few lessons from this very nice lady. She had not played a flute for quite some time and did her best. I thought she (and I) was doing fine but after 8 weeks she declared I was too good for her. I was by that time playing in the school orchestra - easy movements from Haydn Symphonys etc. and playing movements from Handel and Marcello Sonatas.

So my school music teacher had to find someone else. He realised that every two weeks the Halle orchestra gave concerts in nearby Bradford so he made an unsolicited approach to their flute section. Bill Morris, their Piccolo player, agreed to meet me one day in Bradford after a Halle rehearsal. He asked me to play a scale. I played one of only 4 that I knew. He agreed to take me as a pupil though he did not really take private pupils - his only other being his niece the now famous piccolo player Patricia Morris. I remember asking what I might do before my first lesson in two weeks time. He was impressed with my scale and assuming thatI must know most of the scales suggested that I completed learning all of them before that first lesson. I did !!!! and he never asked to hear one. I still know all my scales.

Those lessons with Bill Morris were my first awakening to music, the flute and a first introduction to professional players. As well as a long lesson I would sit in the Halle rehearsal - frequently with Sir John Barbirolli or Sir Adrian Boult conducting - and then the concert in the evening. I was given very special dispensation to come back to my boarding school very late in the evening. Bill Morris made sure that every member of the Halle orchestra and every conductor knew who I was and they all made me feel very welcome. This was wonderful and awe inspiring for a wide eyed 14 year old. I particularly admired their Principal Flute, Oliver Bannister, who I now know was one of the greatest flute players ever. In those days two of the Halle flutes played on wood flutes and I longed for one myself. Bill Morris found a flute which the Halle had carried around for years as a spare. It was virtually unused - a Cundy Bettony grenadilla wood flute with solid silver keywork. That was to be my pride and joy for many years. In 1962 Bill Morris was tragically killed in a road accident. He had become almost like a second parent to me and I was in total shock for much longer than I realised. I pleaded with Oliver Bannister to give me lessons but he said, in his typical ultra modest manner, that he was not good enough to teach. For a short time I had lessons with Douglas Townshend and his wife (Both with the Halle) but I could not really overcome the loss of Bill Morris and the Halle association seemed to lose its attraction for me. So at that point while still at school and only 17 years old I ceased taking flute lessons. However I did not stop playing or practicing the flute and made some progress on my own - though in later years I was to find out just how much astray I was leading myself.

While at school I gave many solo recitals both for school concerts and for some local music societies. Another peripatetic teacher at the school was an ex Halle trumpeter and composer, Arthur Butterworth. He was also conductor of the Huddersfield Symphony Orchestra. This was a high standard amateur adult orchestra and Arthur solved an argument within the flute section by taking me along and telling them that I was playing 2nd flute. That was a wonderful introduction to orchestral playing (and politics) the likes of which I have rarely experienced since.

I received no encouragement to persue a professional career in music. The school supported amateur music making but actively discouraged any aspect of a profession in the performing arts - a strange attitude. At an early stage Bill Morris asked me if I was to seek a professional career. I said no and asked why he was enquiring. He said that if I had answered in the affirmative he was going to pass me over to Geoffrey Gilbert. Now that WAS a missed opportunity. I dare not repeat what Arthur Butterworth said when I told him I was not going to seek a career in music. My parents certainly would not have supported me in the pursuit of a career on the flute. I left school in 1964 to study for a degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. I chose Manchester partly because it was the home of the Halle orchestra. I became principal flute in the University of Manchester Symphony orchestra. Apparently the conductor appointed me because he loved my playing of Syrinx on my wood flute. Others auditioning were from the Royal College of Music, Manchester.

Much of my study time was taken up by attending Halle concerts (3 a week) rehearsing with the university orchestra and practicing a lot because I found the orchestra VERY hard. A bit of Civil Engineering was done but I did get a degree and started my career as a trainee civil engineer with the highways department of my home county - Cumberland (Now Cumbria) County Council. My career encompassed design and construction of motorways, bridges, supervising the building of a tunnel and helping set up a new Local Authority engineering contracts division of which I became computer manager immediately prior to retirement.

During my time at University I also met up again and fell in love with with Gillian, my childhood friend (ex next door neighbour).

We got married in 1968, soon after I started work and I am indebted to the love and support which she has given to me over the past 33 years. Our Son David was born in 1972. He is now married and we now have one Grandson who was born in September 1999. Gillian has been my pal/partner since we were 9 years old and I must be the luckiest man alive. One of her claims to fame is that her half cousin is Tim Berners-Lee who invented the www and was and still is responsible for making possible the internet as a free network worldwide (and hence activities like FLUTE).

As soon as I started work as a Civil Engineer, I started teaching flute part time in the evenings. I suppose my lessons were marginally more useful than those given by woodwind teachers who did not play the flute - there being no flute players locally in the teaching system. However I now know that my knowledge of how a flute played was only marginal, and my knowledge of repertoire and music even less. I played a wood flute (nothing wrong with that) in the old English tight smiley embouchure fashion. What I thought was a big sound was a reedy buzz and my pupils were the same. I knew no different and was quite content as were my pupils. This all continued until 1978. It was that year that I decided to try a metal flute. I had noticed that most players were using them and I wanted to try one. I had exchanged my Cundy Bettoney for a Rudall Carte and had acquired a silver head for that flute which for me made a big improvement. I hankered after a Muramatsu like one that an adult pupil had bought. (Unknown to me, he hankered after my Rudall Carte). I bought a Yamaha 400 series flute as a trial instrument. I liked what I heard so in 1980 I bought a new Muramatsu flute in London. The young helpul salesman was Jonathan Myall (now of Just Flutes). While in the shop I saw a brochure for the International Summer School at Ramsgate. I thought it would be a good opportunity to brush up my technique on my new Muramatsu and that the combined presence of William Bennett, Geofrey Gilbert, Peter Lucas-Graf, Trevor Wye, Clare Southworth and Kate Hill just had to be a good thing. (It was). So in 1981 I attended the 10 day course. For me it was very traumatic when Kate Hill took me completely to bits in the first 5 days and during the next 5 days managed to get me to the state where even she thought I could play one note (B natural) reasonably well. I also acquired enough ammunition for 12 months proper practice to enable me to play a few more notes at a reasonable standard. I practiced about 6 hours per day during the following 12 months. Then I went back to Ramsgate the following year where Clare Southworth considered that I could play some notes to a reasonable standard and helped me on my way to more constructive practice. Between private lessons at Ramsgate I audited every class possible that was given by messrs Bennett, Wye and Gilbert. I learned a tremendous amount from these classes - much more than some of the participants. Another prime source of knowledge was in attending Kate Hill's daily checkup classes. Those classes should be considered as legends of the all time greats in the history of flute tuition - Appreciated by many and actually feared by some of the best players.

It took many years for my playing to settle down. I found the change over of style to be quite traumatic but I did achieve a very relaxed embouchure and a reasonable big sound of which I was quite proud. More importantly I acquired the knowledge of how it was all done and this became invaluable for my future teaching activities. But Kate - I still cannot get my right hand position any where near correct.

Later I also attended and helped out (with washing up etc - not with flute related activities) at Clare Southworth's Lakeland flute courses. Again I studied closely Clare's wonderful teaching methods and videod all her classes - to give copies to the participants. Obviously I acquired valuable copies of all these videos and these 3 courses that I attended were another invaluable source of knowledge which I try to put to good use. At this point I must mention my friendship with one person who helped me greatly to get a proper perspective on flutes, players, music and musicians. That person was the late Ewen McDougall who sadly died last year. He was one of the greatest flute makers of all time and his standard of workmanship was the ultimate. His knowledge, common sense and no nonsense approach to flutes and players was of great assistance to me and I miss him very much.

By 1985 my work had to take 100% priority and I ceased teaching the flute for a 10 year period. I continued to play in a local amateur orchestra and wind quintet and gave the occasional local recital.

However in 1995 I was given a fantastic opportunity, at 50 years old, to take early retirement on a full inflation proof pension. I decided to start teaching again. It was my intention to take on only one or two reasonably advanced pupils to give them a bit of help from a flute specialist. There being still very few flute players in this locality. However my first call came from a friend, whom I could not refuse, whose 7 year old daughter had a desire to play the flute. I was not too keen but remembered advice given by Trevor Wye that these youngsters are fearless and can often be pushed very hard. So I started my first young pupil and found that her progress was outstanding. Word got round and I soon found that I had several very young pupils, all of whom made very rapid progress indeed. It seems that I had discovered a talent for teaching these very young children to a high standard in a very short time. I used no standard methods - indeed no beginners tutor book was adequate and would only have lasted about 2 weeks. My methods can only be described as rather haphazard.

I now have about 20 pupils, many very young and some of whom are doing exceptionally well. All they see of me is for a half hour lesson each week in their own homes. Regrettably, some of them have very few opportunities to express their talent.

Soon after retirement I bought a computer and logged on to the internet. An article in the British Flute Society magazine Pan attracted my attention. It was by Larry Krantz and was about FLUTE. I went straight to the references mentioned in that article and hey presto I was a new subscriber to FLUTE. I did all the wrong things like write to Larry direct instead of flute-request. I enjoyed the list and was thrilled when Larry, Nelson and Helen chose me to help them to manage the list as list monitor. That action was to change my lifestyle to some considerable extent. The association with FLUTE has been one of the key high points in my life. I was (am) a bit introverted. I tend not to travel often (even within the UK) and I am not gregarious by nature. However FLUTE has helped me make significant changes to that lifestyle for which I am very grateful. First the information sourced on FLUTE has been invaluable for me as a teacher and player. I have many problems and it is nice to know that I am not on my own and that there are solutions to many of them. Second and most important is a significant increase in the number of people who I am proud to call friends some of whom I would have never met had it not been for FLUTE. Larry Krantz and Helen Spielman I have now met on two occasions. We all three first met at the NFA convention in Chicago (Remember I said I rarely travel anywhere !!). Since then both Helen, Larry and their respective spouses have been most welcome guests at our home in the UK. Sadly I have not yet met Nelson Pardee (Helen has) but we (all) communicate frequently and I feel that I now know him as a friend. Hopefully we may meet fairly soon. There is a lot of comradeship, friendship and love between the four of us. I am VERY honoured and proud to be a list manager and priviledged that I can (hopefully) continue to be of assistance to the other list managers and all the membership. I am an amateur (proudly so) and I consider my activities with FLUTE to be my small way of giving something back to the flute community which has given me so much.

Some exceptionally wonderful people that I have met through FLUTE and am proud to think of as friends are Sheena Gordon, Mike MacMahone, Robert Bigio and Wissam Boustaney (though I had met the latter two pre FLUTE). Obviously I have enjoyed meeting many other list members, in particular at three list dinners that I have attended in Chicago, London and Manchester. Another opportunity afforded by my association with FLUTE was my joint participation in two talks with Larry Krantz at the British Flute Society International Convention in Manchester in August 1999. In order that he might participate, Larry (and his wife Sandy) travelled from Vancouver to stay with us and then onward with me to the convention. Friendships like that are not easily come by. I was proud of the high profile and warm welcome that the British Flute Society afforded to FLUTE, Larry Krantz and myself.

Another very proud moment for me was when Trevor Wye dedicated his latest publication, Complete daily Exercises for the Flute, to us four list managers.

The present and the future ? I am currently in a fairly stable phase. Gillian and I enjoy regular holidaying on the Isle of Mull (North West Scotland) in Spring and on Crete in Autumn. Our two sets of parents are still both alive and more time may be needed to devote to their welfare in the future. We still hanker after moving to live on the Hebrides (Islands off the Noth West coast of Scotland) but that is one dream we may never fulfil.

I still have that Muramatsu but now with a Trevor James Gold Head. I have recently been given a Rudall Carte wood flute by the very friend whose Muramatsu I originally coveted together with the silver head which he bought off me. I may get round to using that flute in time. The only thing I currently covet is a Bigio wood head.

I enjoy my teaching but do very little playing and even less practice. My greatest wish is that I can find some motivation to resume serious and methodical practice. It is not much fun if you are not motivated. Some of my advanced pupils (only 12 to 14 years old) are now better players than I. This does not cause problems but I envy their dedication to practice.

John Rayworth


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