On my first day of 6th grade Beginning Band, my teacher asked all of us to write down our top three instruments. Mine were:
1. Clarinet (because my aunt who played violin told me to write it down as my first choice)
2. Flute (because that same aunt told me to write it down as my second choice)
3. Trombone (because I didn't know what it was)
I don't know why my teacher ended up choosing the flute for me - maybe because I was a tiny ten year old girl, maybe not. Whatever her reasoning, my parents ordered a flute for me on eBay that cost well under $100 and I started learning. I had already been taking piano lessons since I was five, so reading music and rhythms felt natural to me, especially since now there was only one line of music to worry about. But I soon learned that playing the flute was not as easy as plunking out notes on the piano for a beginner. Most of all- breathing! I would get so dizzy from lack of breath control that I could practice for only short spurts of time before needing to take a break. Second, making an actual sound... Who would have thought that blowing into a metal tube would prove to be so difficult? I was listening to recordings of world-renowned flutists such as Emmanuel Pahud and James Galway, and the only noise I could get out of the flute was an airy whistle.
I've come a long way since that first year of beginning band. So I've come up with some tips for a beginning flutist on how to get through the initial challenges of breathing and producing a nice sound. Keep an eye out for our next post to read more!
Jessica Kelly is a flutist living in New York City. She recently held the flute chair for the first national tour of Love Never Dies- Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to Phantom of the Opera. Jessica is also a founding member and flute and piano teacher at The Smith School of Music, an after-school music program on the Upper West Side. She also is part of Redbrick Duo, a New York City based classical-crossover flute and classical guitar duo she and her husband founded in 2014.