August 2015 Convention
Washington, D.C.

A Jam-packed Youth Flute Day

The National Flute Association welcomed about 100 young flutists, ages 9–18, to Youth Flute Day on August 16. Filled with concerts, interactive masterclasses, and workshops led by world-renowned flutists, the day began bright and early at 8 am. I was mentor to the Bach group, which included about nine students ranging from ages 9 to 12. I could tell that students were nervous but soon were thrown into a full day at their first flute convention.

Youth Flute Day participants

photo by Brian Covington

Our first stop was a performance by the Penn State Flute Choir that incorporated dance and flute music from across the world. Our next stop was a quick warm-up with Shawna Thompson, assistant professor of flute at Texas Christian University, where students worked on the development of sound and technique. We stopped in to listen to the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra Flute Choir, in which four of our group members performed.

Onward to a masterclass with Judy Grant, founder of the Boston Flute Academy. Two members of my group volunteered to perform in the class. Grant patiently and masterfully coached them through their works, encouraging one student to change the direction of the air to produce a richer sound in his Telemann Suite in A Minor and encouraging the other student to sing and play to focus her sound. They adapted quickly, and I was so proud!

Next on our schedule was the exhibit hall. This was definitely one of the highlights of the day! We tried a number of harmony flutes and the contrabass flute, jammed with Ali Ryerson, and listened to James Akins demonstrate his Native American flutes. The students really enjoyed the energy and excitement in the exhibits, and, of course, loved getting flute swag!

Who has time for lunch at the flute convention? These kids were no different. They ate quickly to get the last few seats at the masterclass with Marianne Gedigian, professor of flute at the University of Texas at Austin. Her class was jam-packed with pearls of wisdom. Every moment included an element of singing and how to make the most with the air you have to make music.

Gregg Pattillo jammed with students in an improv session.

photo by Brian Covington

We continued on to an introductory flute choir workshop with Wendy Stern. She worked with three groups and had the students meet each other and work as a team through engaging musical exercises. She even got their parents into the mix, having them perform on boomwakers. We transitioned to a room next door for our final three events.

First, we experienced the wide range of the flute family, from piccolo to double contrabass flute with 18-plus feet of tubing and including performances featuring the flute d’amore and a piccolo-double contrabass flute duet with Teresa Payne and Paige Dasher Long, respectively. Next, Rachel Taratoot Ciraldo performed stories intertwined with music, including a world premiere of Dan Shore’s Gold and Silver Moons, based on poems of Vachel Lindsay. Finally, the day climaxed with a workshop on improvisation led by Greg Pattillo and Ali Ryerson. Pattillo asked for four volunteers to come up and jam, and I have never seen kids move faster! The teachers introduced improvisation as a vehicle of practice, and encouraged students to make use of it in their daily practice.

Each participant received a certificate for attending Youth Flute Day, and then it was finally time to head home. It is hard to image how the students felt after this day-long event, but I was moved by how engaged they were with all the workshops and performances. The day was a wonderful way for students to get a taste of the three-day event that we adults rush to every August. As we develop the next generation of flute players, I hope that our members will continue to see the value of this event, send students, and participate in something so educational, transformative, and inspiring for our future flutist generations.

Youth Flute Day participants

photo by Brian Covington

—Paula Gudmundson