Report: National Flute Association Convention 2011

August 14, 2011

This year was my first time attending the National Flute Association‘s annual convention, held this year in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I’ve been to conferences of all the other major woodwind organizations in the US (IDRS, ICA, NASA), and here are some things that I think the NFA did exceptionally well:

  • Organization and planning. From what I could tell, nearly everything ran smoothly and according to plan.
  • Engaging younger players. There were a number of competitions and masterclasses for high school and college students, and a Saturday “Youth Day” for flutists aged 8-13.
  • Engaging non-professional flutists. My sense is that the NFA has a stronger amateur contingent than the other organizations, and that they are working to ensure its future.
  • Appealing to broad musical interests. In my opinion, the NFA is doing a better job than anyone, including NASA, of integrating jazz into their convention in a serious way, and is integrating historical instruments at least as well as the IDRS. Ethnic flutes also got some good representation. Thursday night’s big feature concert was Baroque flute, and Friday’s was world music. Saturday’s concert was more standard concerto fare, but with a strong jazz representation. Kudos to the NFA for acknowledging that there is life beyond conservatory repertoire lists, and to its members for seeming to genuinely embrace and enjoy the varied offerings.

Like the other major woodwind conferences, the NFA’s is packed with so many events that it’s impossible to get to everything you want to attend. Here are a few personal favorites among the things I saw and heard (in no particular order):

  • A panel discussion by John Bailey, Tadeu Coelho, and Terri Sundberg on tone production. An outlook-changing hour.
  • A no-nonsense lecture by Lea Pearson about the anatomical realities of breathing. Can you point to where your diaphragm is? Are you sure?
  • Rachel Brown‘s performance of the J. S. Bach solo partita on traverso. Lovely.
  • A hands-on introduction to the traverso for modern flute players, presented by members of the NFA’s historical flutes committee.
  • Genius/madman Trevor Wye‘s very entertaining performance of The Carnival of Venice on 60 “flutes.” The instruments included modern, historical, and world flutes, and various other noisemakers. Some of the instruments, which I presume are Mr. Wye’s creations, included flashing lights and other surprises.
  • Omar Faruk Tekbilek‘s spellbinding performance on Turkish ney and zurna. Goosebumps.
  • A very practical, doable approach to Baroque ornamentation on historical or modern instruments, presented by Na’ama Lion.
  • Nelson Rangell playing absolutely jaw-dropping after-hours jazz flute. Confession: I enjoy his stellar saxophone playing, but when I’m listening to his albums I skip ahead to the flute tracks.
  • A rollicking final concert, featuring some jazz, some klezmer, mass choreography, silly hats, a 10-year-old virtuoso, a low flutes trio, and other oddities and hijinks.

I also participated in a panel discussion on woodwind doubling with a few of my heroes. More details to come in a separate blog post.

I was pleased to meet several of you in person who I have been in touch with by email or Twitter! It was great to match up some names with some faces.

Next year’s conference will be held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and NFA President Jonathan Keeble assured us today at the closing concert: “What happens in Vegas, will stay in Vegas.”

View of downtown Charlotte from my hotel room
Group traverso instruction
The lovely Belk Theater, where the evening concerts were held
Trevor Wye playing, I believe, a bicycle pump
Nelson Rangell playing jazz on, yes, a piccolo

Comments

  1. patty

    I think that’s where my friend, Isabelle Chapuis was, and her young student, Annie Wu, took part in a competition. I read, via Robert Stallman on Facebook, that Annie won two prizes! I can’t wait to hear all about it when Isabelle and I meet up at opera in a few weeks!

    Sounds like loads of fun. ONE of these years I hope to get to the IDRS convention. I’ve never been.

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Patty, I think you would be in heaven at an IDRS conference. It’s great concerts, recitals, workshops, lectures, and hangouts, all day, every day, for a solid week. I think you would also find that many of the attendees read your blog and would be thrilled to meet you in person.

      Reply

  2. Jeff Driskill

    Thanks for this, excellent report. Did you happen to meet Roger Neumann while you were there? Great guy and a fantastic saxophonist.

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Thanks, Jeff. I don’t believe I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Neumann, but I hope to at a future event.

      Reply

  3. Monica Shriver

    I wish I could have been there, but I guess since Vegas is within driving distance, I don’t have as much of an excuse next year. I’m really glad to see the many things that NFA is doing “right”. Thanks for sharing!

    Looking forward to the doubling panel post as well!

    Recent blog post: WELCOME! (September 20, 2010)

    Reply

  4. Piccolo Phil

    I have yet to attend an NFA Convention, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it to the 2013 Convention in New Orleans. I always have a great time at these sort of things!

    Recent blog post: Opening Night! (November 23, 2012)

    Reply

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