August 2017 Convention
Minneapolis, MN

The 4th Wall, Youth Flute Day

The 4th Wall Ensemble

photo by Brian Covington

The Annual NFA Convention’s Youth Flute Day is establishing itself as a remarkable way to connect with the audience that—in my opinion—is the most relevant possible. This year, the enthusiasm of the children who participated in the Youth Flute Day activities orchestrated by the 4th Wall Ensemble—Hilary Abigana, trombonist C. Neil Parsons, and percussionist/accordionist Greg Jukes—was palpable and contagious.

The trio began and ended the session with choreographed performances of arrangements of tunes both familiar and artistically substantial. Its members coached participants through a series of exercises designed to mimic the process of creating a successful chamber music performance.

The exercise that I found both profound and entertaining involved four participants standing in the shape of a diamond, all facing the same direction. The leader moved her body and played her flute while the other three participants copied these motions and sounds. Slowly the four participants rotated to allow each member of the diamond to act as leader. If the leader produced sounds and motions too erratic, the followers would be forced to scramble to mimic.

This of course led to smiles and laughter—and also communicated that in chamber music the role of leader is constantly shifting, and the leader is tasked with instilling clarity and confidence in the followers. Everyone at the 4th Wall event was coaxed out of a comfort zone and into a room of encouragement and fun while delivering a deeply meaningful message.

—Molly Barth

Youth Flute Day

photo by Brian Covington