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Discover Arizona’s Rich Flute Community

Jul 13, 2023, 10:01 AM by Noah Cline

by Tori Lupinek Yaussy, the Flute Clubs Committee

With just a few weeks until the 2023 NFA Convention in Phoenix, the Flute Clubs Committee would like to shine the spotlight on the many unique flute groups in the state of Arizona. After the location of the 2023 convention was announced, many NFA members found themselves muttering under their breath, “Why Arizona in August?? It’s going to be so hot!!”— a comment I am sure Arizonans are used to getting. After learning about all the wonderful things Arizona’s flutists are doing, you will easily see for yourself “why Arizona!” 

Arizona has two large flute clubs: the Arizona Flute Society (based in Phoenix) and the Tucson Flute Club. There are also two prominent flute ensembles: Desert Echoes Flute Project (DEFproject) and the Central Arizona Flute Ensemble (CAFE Flutes); as well as many community flute choirs. The third and most unique category of flute organizations in Arizona is the Flute Circle. There are more than a handful of Native American flute circles in the state, some specialized in flutes of specific indigenous tribes, and others include percussion instruments. This brief blog post will just barely scratch the surface of all that these organizations have to offer their communities. 

Arizona flute societyThe Arizona Flute Society (AFS) is a “non-profit organization created to support flute players across the state of Arizona,” according to their website. The AFS hosts many annual events including their flute festival, two pop-up flute choirs, workshops and masterclasses, and fundraisers. For those of you curious as to what a “pop-up flute choir“ is: rather than having regular meeting times for many rehearsals before a series of concerts, the pop-up flute choir meets for only a couple rehearsals and a performance.  Offering learning opportunities to all ability levels, the AFS hosted their Summer Flute Workshop at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix July 12-15. The AFS website’s impressive list of resources include a blog, flute rental for low flutes, a teacher roster, a full music library available for check-out to current members, a list of local flute choirs, and the AFS online store.  The AFS is currently led by president Amber Walker. Click here to learn how to join the AFS!

tuscon flute clubThe Tucson Flute Club was founded in 1970, has been playing together for over 50 years, and includes about 50 regular members. According to their website, “The objectives of the club are to enable flutists to meet for ensemble playing of their own enjoyment; to broaden the knowledge of flute literature by providing performance opportunities for members & guest artists; and to increase knowledge of the flute through lectures, discussions and related activities.” This summer the TFC’s performing group, The Southern Arizona Flute Orchestra,  toured and performed throughout Japan for two weeks. They will also be performing at the convention at 9:30 am on Thursday, August 4 in room 131ABC. The TFC is currently led by president Sandy Schwoebel. Click here to learn how to join the TFC!

DEFproject_March_ 2023_Concert_Photo_George_Kontos - Christina Steffen"Desert Echoes Flute Project (DEFproject) is Arizona’s premiere flute ensemble organization.” DEFproject consists of three performing groups. The original flute choir was formed in 2006, the conductorless DEF Chamber Choir was formed in 2011, and most recently the DEF Community Flute Choir was formed in 2016. DEFproject is sponsored by the Music Department of Mesa Community
College (MCC) in Mesa, AZ.  Both organizations work together to co-sponsor many educational events including the annual MCC Summer Flute Project, a five-day flute intensive which took place in June and featured guest artists Viviana Cumplido Wilson, Brian Jordan, and Sarah Jackson. DEFproject will be performing at the convention as part of the Flute Ensemble Festival on Friday August 4 at 11:45 in room 131ABC. You can learn more about how to join one of the three DEFproject ensembles here! 

CAFEThe Central Arizona Flute Ensemble, or CAFE Flutes, is a non-profit performing group that “enriches, enlightens, and inspires central Arizona residents by presenting interactive concerts and educational programs that highlight the diverse instruments of the flute family.” The group consists of seven regular members of professional and semi-professional flutists. CAFE’s “Community Outreach activities are focused on bringing CAFE music to seniors,” according to their website. They also present a new lecture/demonstration called “Fascinating Flutes”, an interactive program about the flute family and flute culture. The group is managed by low flutist Leslie Etzel. You can check out their upcoming performance schedule here! 

There are many community flute choirs to join in Arizona! Please check out this page on the Arizona Flute Society website with a list and contact information for all. 

Arizona’s land is deeply rooted in the history of its native peoples. According to the Arizona State Museum, there are 22 federally recognized native nations in Arizona. The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department acknowledges that the city “is located within the homeland of the O’Odham and Piipaash peoples and their ancestors, who have inhabited this landscape from time immemorial to present day.” You can read their full Land Acknowledgement Statement, which further details the indigenous communities in the Phoenix area, here. 

world flute society

The World Flute Society provides a lovely description of a flute circle on their webpage, which includes a list of flute circles worldwide and online: “A flute circle provides a venue in which people who are interested in any type of flute can gather and share talents, perspectives, knowledge and experiences. It is a gathering in which people can help one another musically, spiritually, culturally, and educationally.” There are many flute circles listed for Arizona, seemingly concentrated in Tucson. You can learn about the Arizona Flute Circle— Phoenix Area on their Facebook page. 

If you are looking for some events reflective of a flute circle during the convention, check these out!

Friday, August 4, 1pm, Location 225AB 

  • “Introduction to the Native American (Style) Flute— Hey, What’s Up With the ‘Style’ Part?” 

  • 225AB is also the Native American Flute collection room! 

Saturday, August 5, 8am, Location: 229AB  

  • Flute Choir Warmup with Native American Repertoire with Mihoko Watanabe– be sure to bring your flutes for this one! 

Saturday, August 5, 2:30pm, Location Zona ArtSpace 224AB 

  • “Coyote in the Outer World” with R. Carlos Nakai. From the convention schedule, “Of Navajo-Ute heritage, R. Carlos Nakai, the world’s premier performer on the Native American flute offers a performance and discussion of cultural issues.” 

The Flute Clubs Committee is looking forward to a wonderful convention that will surely extend “beyond borders!” Please come visit us at one or more of our many committee-sponsored events:

Thursday, August 3, 12-1 pm, Location: 132 ABC

  • Beyond the Notes - Addressing Flute Choir Intonation

Thursday, August 3, 2-3 PM, Exhibit Hall— Committee Booth 

  • Office Hours with the Flute Club Committee at the Committee Booth

Friday, August 4, 8:45-10:00 AM, Location: 228 AB: Double Panel session

  • Title: Double Panel Session with the Flute Clubs Committee: Keeping the Torch Lit and Building a flute Community

Friday, August 4, 2-3 PM, Exhibit hall - Committee Booth

  • Office Hours with the Flute Club Committee at the Committee Booth

Saturday, August 5, 8-8:45 am - Location: 221AB

  • Flute Choir Warm-up with Native American Repertoire

Saturday, August 5, 10 am, Exhibit Hall— Committee Booth 

  • Office Hours with the Flute Club Committee at the Committee Booth

Saturday, August 5, 2:45-3:30 PM, 228 AB

  • Teaching and Exploring Diverse Flute Choir Repertoire

Saturday, August 5th, 4:30-5:30 PM , 122A

  • Flute Choir Enthusiasts Meet-up

To learn more about these or other events, view the complete 2023 Convention schedule here