FLUTE Member Of The Week
September 13 to 19, 1999
Hello, list! To say that I am honored to be a FLUTE Member of the Week is an understatement - I was floored to be asked! There was a time when I thought I'd blown any chance at life with a flute in my hands, so being part of the flute community is very, very special to me. Remember the old rock lyrics, "what a long, strange trip it's been"? Here goes….

I was born in Brooklyn, NY to an Air Force family. We lived in ten places over the next twelve years, so I learned to be very adaptable! My family broke up when I was 13, and my sister and I moved with our mother to her hometown - in Mississippi. I wasn't that adaptable. The next seven years were a misery. I had never seen segregation and was mortified and what I heard and saw in my own family. Band (there were no orchestras) was my outlet.

I majored in music at a southern college, then discovered that I could get scholarships and go somewhere else. I transferred to the University of Texas and, to my horror, found out what I was supposed to have been sounding like! Discouraged, I dropped out of school.

I lived in the Haight Ashbury, hitchhiked cross-country, heard music that I'd never imagined and finally ended up in New Mexico where - after an extremely short stint on Joe Sage's Zen Macrobiotic Farm - I became part of a commune in which I lived for the next few years. During that time I met my ex and had my son, Nick. My ex moved back to the East Coast, and eventually I followed. I arrived in New York with $8, a box of Pampers, a 15-month-old child, and no job skills. Got dumped, lived with friends, learned to type in one week, got a job as a secretary. Found an apartment, found daycare, and typed my way from job to job. I typed my way into Scholastic Magazines and began to notice that the writers were working less and getting paid a LOT more. My editor, Bob Stine, began to let me write - and paid freelance.

After a couple of years, Bob got his own magazine called BANANAS. I tried out for it and was hired. Eventually I became Associate Editor. I also used to write the Count Morbida section of DYNAMITE Magazine. Altogether I worked for 12 years at Scholastic. (Yes, Bob went on to become the Goosebumps king, R.L. Stine.)

During my years at Scholastic I bought a flute and played as an amateur. New York is a great place for finding strange and wonderful places to play, such as the Borough Park orchestra under Myron Levite and the Balalaika Symphonic Orchestra under Alexander Kutin. My son grew up knowing that Thursday nights were sacred - Mom's night out! Believe me, I know the value of taking a really rotten week to orchestra and blowing it out your horn!

When BANANAS was discontinued I decided to go back to school and get that long-forgotten music degree. I went freelance as a writer and took part-time jobs. My son lived with his father for one year while I got the logistics going. I went to Brooklyn College Conservatory and studied with Harold Jones. Then a friend of mine told me about a cheap way to get three weeks in England - a masterclass in a place called Ramsgate.

I sent my son to summer camp for a month and went to Ramsgate as a total innocent. The masterclass teachers were Trevor Wye, William Bennett, and Geoffrey Gilbert. I'd never heard of any of them. I was 38 years old, and had no particular flute ambitions. I figured I'd hit the "wall" and would never get any better. Then I met Mr. Gilbert.

Mr. Gilbert started me from scratch, and I do mean I was actually holding the flute wrong! At first I was terribly embarrassed. Cried a lot. Then I looked into those eagle eyes of his and realized that if I had ever wanted to play decently - this was the man I should listen to. That summer, and the next two, I would get my "marching orders" from Mr. Gilbert. He would show me what the next biggest brick in my path was, and how to get around it. In New York, I began lessons with Michael Parloff. Between those two, I made progress that actually was a little scary. Yes, scary. It takes awhile for a person's perceptions to catch up to new abilities. I'd been so-so for 20+ years, and suddenly people were listening - eek!

By the time I had my Bachelor's degree, my son had graduated High School. He adamantly did not want to go to college. I waited two years, and then (with his blessings) decided to tempt fate and go for a Master's. Fate was very kind indeed! I ended up at Louisiana State University studying with Dr. Katherine Kemler. She was wonderful, especially in helping me develop flutistic self-esteem. I stopped apologizing for coming into the flute world so late. Then I decided to really give Fate a whirl and try for a Doctorate.

This time I ended up at Florida State University, studying with Charles O. DeLaney. He was positively inspirational. His is an amazing personality, and I enjoyed studying with him even when he was at his sneakiest - er, most inventive! Lessons with Mr. D were never dull. He also has an amazing way of teaching students teaching. Then he scared me white-headed by throwing me into the big pool - he went on sabbatical and had me teach the undergraduate and master's students! Talk about a crisis of confidence!

The biggest hurtle, of course, was getting a job. Would anyone actually hire this crone? I applied for everything, no matter how big or small and ended up at Oklahoma State University on a year-by-year contract. I was delighted - and intimidated - to teach where Gwen Powell had been. When my contract ran out, once again, I wondered if I could make a place for myself in a world of so many fine, young flutists. This time I was hired by Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, which is where I am now. It seems that my "double life" of publishing and music was just the thing. I now teach flute, Music History, and Music Bibliography - the latter two are very writing-oriented classes.

I finished my DMA last spring (the thesis, The Teaching Methods of Peter Lloyd is available in Larry's Peter Lloyd Corner), and went on tenure track last fall. I'm so lucky and happy to be where I am now. I couldn't ask for better colleagues or more cooperative students. I love this area of verdant rolling hills, recreational development, and miles of peach and apple orchards. (Having four vintners in the area doesn't hurt a bit, either -- ha!) I've bought a house and made sure it has a guest room -- fellow fluters are always welcome. I still make occasional forays to New York, mainly to see my son who now manages a hip-hop clothing store in Soho. So here I am, having just celebrated my 14th 39th birthday (do the math…) tooting a flute completely against the odds. Every time I hear someone moan, "I'm just one of the million flutists…" I think with a smile, "At last! I'm one of the million flutists!"
Flutistically yours,
Suzanne Lord

Return to Featured Member Archive