Being a member of a flute community or larger musical family is a very fulfilling experience for me as I imagine it is for most flutists. You can run your scales and practice repertoire all you want, but with no outlet to share your music, what’s the point? Sure, practicing and conquering technique or attaining a beautiful, sweet tone is a worthy goal, but if these qualities never shine outside of the practice room, then the accomplishment feels pretty hollow.
I’ve had times in my adult life when I wasn’t a part of a musical group. I would go months without touching my flute and feel incredibly guilty about it. Occasionally I would pull it out and start practicing scales or playing through some of my favorite repertoire, but I never was able to maintain the routine. There was no purpose to my playing. Why should I practice if I’ll never have an orchestra to accompany me on that Mozart concerto, or another flutist to run through Kuhlau duets with? Practicing without a purpose, without friends and without an audience turns out to be a lonely, boring exercise.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The world is full of excellent musicians and the flute community is thriving. Most flutists, like me, spend their days working for a living in a non-musical field. The demands of a career, family and maintaining a household may not leave us with the kind of free time to devote to music that we had in your carefree youth, but music doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Chances are there is a community band, flute society, church, theater group or flute choir near you that could use your talent for a couple of hours a week. These groups offer lifetime opportunities to hone your skills, make new friends and grow musically.
My re-entry into the flute community came when I worked up the courage to attend a rehearsal of my local community band. I hadn’t played seriously in about five years and was nervous about walking into a group of strangers and presenting myself as one of them, as a musician. As it turned out I had little to worry about. Most of the players were like me, people who had played throughout high school and college and joined the band as a way to continue doing something they loved. It’s not uncommon for musicians to take a five or ten or even twenty year hiatus from their instrument before picking it back up and joining a group. I’m glad I made the plunge. Being a member of the flute community has enriched my life immeasurably.
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