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