January 15 to 21, 2001
I was a regular member of my father's weekend dance band by the age of twelve, earning the grand sum of six dollars per night playing energetic dance music for people who were having a good time. I continued playing in that band until I was about twenty years old. Those dance band experiences taught me much about music and life. I owe a great debt to my father for showing me the delights of entertaining with music and for teaching me the true meaning of "good rhythm."
During the summer of my sixteenth year, I was engaged to play clarinet in the first Banff School of Fine Arts summer musical. I had a grand time. Living in Banff for the summer and getting paid to play the great music of "Wonderful Town" by Leonard Bernstein was amazing. My clarinet ability was barely strong enough to allow me to squeak by, so I set out to become a better clarinet player.
Upon graduation from high school I attended the University of Calgary as a clarinet major. After four wonderful years of hard work, I somehow managed to get my clarinet "chops" together fairly well. Playing in big bands, jazz bands, and musical theatre orchestras inevitably led to more frequent appearances of flute parts so.....
.....At the age of twenty one I bought my first flute for the tidy sum of about $50. That old Conn that served me well for a brief time. Not long after that I landed my first "real" position teaching woodwinds at a college. To do the job adequately, I knew I would need to become a better flute player. I took lessons from touring flutists at every chance. I spent summers taking lessons in distant cities and trekked off to every flute seminar, class, and workshop that I could.
In 1982 I was granted the first of what would eventually be two important sabbaticals in my life. I went off to Michigan State University to do a Master of Music degree as a woodwind specialist. While there, I had the good fortune to study flute with Israel Borouchoff. Israel set me properly on the road to becoming a flute player. It was then, at the ripe old age of thirty, that I first became truly serious about learning to play the flute. I wasn't willing to let my jazz side go yet but the flute was beginning to take center stage.
In November of 1986 my musical life took a surprising turn that would entirely alter the direction of my career. I met Geoffrey Gilbert at a class he taught in Calgary. I was stunned by his teaching and instantly decided that I had to learn all I could from this great man. He was so friendly and kind to me that I managed to work up the courage to ask if he would give me a lesson if I were to get myself to Deland, Florida, where he lived and operated his own studio. Just a few months later I was on a plane heading for a lesson with Mr. Gilbert. I subsequently attended his summer classes until his untimely death in 1989. I don't know how he did it, but Mr. Gilbert somehow instilled in me a thirst for knowledge and an understanding about the importance of sharing information unlike anything I had known before. If I have but one regret it would be that I didn't come in contact with Geoffrey Gilbert sooner.
The summer of 1989 was very sad because of the loss of Mr. Gilbert, but the next year Peter Lloyd carried on the Gilbert tradition of classes. What a wonderful experience it was to attend a course taught by such a warm, caring, and renowned former pupil of Geoffrey Gilbert. At the time plans were in the works for my second sabbatical. Mr. Lloyd was incredibly helpful in counseling me about studying flute in London and offered to provide appropriate introductions.
In August of 1991 I flew to London where I spent the next year studying flute with Averil Williams at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. That year proved to be one of the most inspiring times of my life. I developed my humble playing skills more than I thought possible and gained a new insight into how much there was left to learn about flute playing, making music, and life in general. Averil was a true inspiration. She knew exactly what I needed and when I needed it. She guided me gently and carefully through the process of musical and self discovery with such grace and style that I hardly knew it was happening. I reluctantly returned home to Canada with a new and broader sense of making music and with more flute skills than I had expected.
At that time I firmly decided to take a risk to see if I could make it as a flute player. No more doubling, no more jazz, no more confusing my embouchure with all those mouthpieces. I moved to the west coast of Canada, outside of Vancouver, and set up shop. I've been playing concerts as they materialize and teaching in music academies and my own studio in Abbotsford for the past six years. Since bread is still on the table I assume that things have worked out all right in the "classical flute player only" department. I do play saxophone or clarinet on occasion but that occurs rarely.
I can't write this mini-autobiography without making reference to one of the most amazing and stimulating flute related events that has ever happened to me. Nelson Pardee and I had many conversations about how the Internet could be applied to the world of flute playing. We instantly discovered that our visions were similar and our talks quickly led to the birth of FLUTE in March of 1996. Not long afterward Helen Spielman, John Rayworth, and David Dahl volunteered their time, energy, and expertise to make the daunting job easier. Those people, whom I would likely never have met without the Internet, have become my dear and most cherished friends. Managing the list is an enormous undertaking that requires a great deal of time, effort, and thought. Most folks are surprised to learn that several hours of each day are spent in keeping things running smoothly. I like to think that managing the list is very much like presenting a good concert: if it is done well then even the most difficult things appear to be easy. For example, the list generates an average of about 30 to 40 emails per day, but an average of about 85 emails pass through my computer every day. I read and write a lot of email. Every day I pat myself on the back for having had the wisdom to take typing way back in high school. The list has provided an opportunity for a great deal of valuable sharing of knowledge (Geoffrey Gilbert would certainly approve). One of FLUTE's most important attributes has been to help people make contact with each other in real life. The various FLUTE dinners in exotic locations around the world and the countless stories about list members meeting each other are wonderful examples of how FLUTE has helped to bring flute players closer together. I have been honored to get to know and become friends with so many list members; at times I have to pinch myself to be sure that this isn't all just a dream.
In 1995 I finally met the love of my life. Sandy is an operating room nurse by profession, an amateur flute player, avid golfer, amazing painter, dedicated gardener, and my biggest supporter. What CAN one say about the perfect woman? Sandy is just the best there is. In November of 1998 we took the plunge and had an intimate wedding ceremony in our living room with a group of our closest friends in attendance. It was a wonderful event for us. Even the FLUTE list participated. On the day of our wedding I was informed by Helen that I simply had to check my email. I did so and discovered literally hundreds of well wishing emails from list members around the world. Somehow my list partners managed to pull that one off without a hitch. Sandy and I were flabbergasted and thrilled. I printed a copy of those messages and had them ready for party guests to read that evening.
My two daughters from a previous marriage are all grown up now. Lani, my youngest, has recently graduated from University of British Columbia with a B Mus. in harp. She spent the summer playing at Aspen. My eldest daughter Laura has a B Sc. from McGill and is currently living with her husband Barry and working in Brampton just outside of Toronto. Recently she announced that Sandy and I will become grandparents in the spring of 2001. I'm not sure that I am old enough or wise enough to competently play the role of grandfather but I trust that I'll figure it out as time passes.
I thoroughly enjoy my FLUTE list and web site work. I am extremely pleased when I hear that these venues have been helpful in some way to flute players around the world and I intend to continue to give my best effort for as long as I am able to do so. Over the past year I have been greatly honored to serve as Web Master for the web sites of James Galway and Alexa Still. I am grateful that I have been granted the opportunity to participate in the emergence of this amazing new technology.
In closing I would like to offer my personal thanks to all of the wonderfully warm, friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable FLUTE list members who contribute so generously to what has become an outstandingly useful international resource for flute players.
All my best,