As a third-year college student studying Flute Performance, I like to think back on what brought me to where I am today. I’ve been playing the flute since I was 12 years old and I don’t have a particularly unique origin story. In elementary school, I developed an interest in music after playing on a $7 Yamaha recorder for two years. Soon enough, I was ready to ditch the recorder and move on to bigger and better instruments. The summer before middle school began, I got to try each mouthpiece to see which instruments I had a natural aptitude for. I had my heart set on playing the saxophone, but I quickly realized that reed instruments were not for me. My band director asked if I would play the tuba, but sixth-grade me was not ready to carry around a tuba that was almost as tall as I was, so I chose the flute instead. And that decision on a humid day in July led me to the National Flute Association Convention on an equally humid August afternoon.
The groovy beat of jazz flutists greeted me as I walked into the Orlando Hyatt Regency Hotel in August of 2018. I was about to go into my senior year of high school, not knowing what the future had in store for me. I passed through the sliding glass doors, hoping that this convention held the answers to some of my questions. Would this be where I would find home? Would the National Flute Association Convention be what convinced me to pursue music? Would this be the community I would want to be involved in? Well, there was only one way to find out: forward through the lobby.
Being new to the community, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the convention, so I attended Youth Flute Day. After checking in and passing under shimmering chandeliers, I found the appropriate room and sat in one of the many rows of plushy hotel chairs. When the session began, an older man with white hair stood before us. He introduced himself as Jim Walker, but what I did not know at the time was that he was the Jim Walker.
The room then became “Mr. Walker’s Neighborhood,” where Jim Walker introduced us to other giants in the flute world, like Valerie Coleman, who discussed being a composer/performer and even performed her piece Danza de la Mariposa. In Mr. Walker’s Neighborhood, we also met Jasmine Choi, who demonstrated her warm-up routine, and PROJECT Trio, who introduced me to contemporary chamber music and the contrabass flute. We concluded the tour of the flute world by creating our own music: we all assembled our flutes and read Ravel’s Le Cygne (The Swan). In this moment, I realized that the flute world is so much more than composers who were alive hundreds of years ago. The flute world was here in this room, its history being written by these legendary composers and performers, some of whom even looked like me.
After the session, we were all given passes to enter the exhibit hall. Rows and rows of flutes stood tall like sentries gleaming in the overhead light. Flutists of all ages, races, and gender identities milled about the hall. Convention attendees were playing the flutes on display, adding lush low notes and soaring scales to the chatter in the air. Many more flutists sorted through bins and bins of scores, searching for their next big concerto or sonata. I even looked through the bins for my college audition music, searching until I found the big red book of Mozart concertos. Any and everything a flutist could want sat somewhere in that hall, from cases, thumb rests, and cleaning cloths to jewelry, T-shirts, and accessories. It was a paradise for the flute community.
What really stood out to me at my first convention was the community it cultivated. I could see myself reflected in the participants and even the presenters. Flutists from around the world were presenting on topics like inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility in flute pedagogy. These brilliant minds were also presenting about the history of the flute and highlighting voices in the classical music world that had once been silenced. Together, we were pushing the boundaries of the flute through presentations, through performances, and even by simply attending the convention. The greats of the flute world were passing down their knowledge to the next generation of musicians, teachers, and arts administrators. The National Flute Association Convention truly took on the role of the village in showing me, the child, what the world has to offer.
Prior to the convention, I felt unsure about my decision to pursue music in college, but attending the convention and seeing the community in action sealed the deal. I realized that I wanted to be surrounded by people with this amount of passion and joy for what they do. I wanted to be a part of this organization of people who love music and, more importantly, love the flute. It’s difficult to visualize the breadth of the flute community when everyone is scattered so far apart, but seeing all of these students, professionals, and enthusiasts at the convention made the world a little more manageable. It united generations in the celebration of what’s to come and a collective reflection of those who got us to this point. Even now, I cherish these memories from four years ago and look forward to making new memories with this community forty years from now.