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National Flute Association Convention 2017 in Minneapolist, MN: Wrap-Up

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 by Jessica Valiente | Uncategorized

I've just returned from a 9-day trip to the northern midwest.  This year, the National Flute Association's annual convention -- a yearly gathering of thousands of flute luminaries, professionals, teachers, amateurs, and students -- was held in Minneapolis, MN, where I happened to live in the summer of 1986.

This was my first NFA convention when I had a greater role than that of a regular member and attendee.  In the fall of 2015, I was appointed chairperson of the World Music Committee.  A death in the family forced me to cancel my attendance at last year's convention in San Diego, so this year was the first when I could preside and participate over activities sponsored by the World Music Committee.

Our activities this year were a World Flutes Petting Zoo at the Shared Committees Table in the exhibit hall.  This table was a lot of fun and a huge success.  I displayed my own collection of 50 flutes from 15 countries, as well as CDs and related to global indigenous and traditional flute topics.  Dozens and dozens and dozens of NFA members stopped by every day to try the flutes, talk about them, tell me about their own collections, or take impromptu mini lessons on getting their first sound out of a notched flute.  Rim-blown flute experts stopped by to play the ney and ancient Pueblo flutes.  Flute makers of Celtic flutes and Native American-style flutes came by to visit and talk shop.  The NFA membership is definitely now more aware of the World Music Committee's existence and activities, and the NFA is expanding its scope beyond the modern silver flute and classical and jazz traditions.

The World Music Committee's sponsored artist was Latin and jazz flute legend Art Webb.  Art is perhaps the most extraordinary virtuoso I have ever heard, and has been one of my heroes since 1994, when I first heard him performing with SoCal-based Latin jazz charanga Bongo-Logic.  Since my appointment, I have made it my mission to bring Art to the convention to perform and to receive some long overdue recognition by the flute community.  Art's performance was outstanding, and far beyond even my greatest expectations.  He made such a tremendous impression on everyone in attendance the NFA Jazz Flute Big Band director Billy Kerr invited him to perform the following evening as a soloist on the big band's concert.  

I also presented as an individual, but on a world music topic, so I am unofficially considering it to be a World Music Committee success:  I compiled a panel of charanga experts from the NFA: myself, Ernesto Fernandez (University of Miami), Martha Councell-Vargas (Western Michigan University); all of us have written about charanga, and of course, Art Webb as our celebrity guest.  The panel was well-attended and well-received, so we are successfully spreading the gospel of charanga throughout the NFA membership.

Early on, I was introduced to David Wright, saxophonist with the Minnesota Orchestra and himself a fine flutist (student of Julia Bogorad).  He acted as our tour guide, booking dinner reservations and telling Rick and the kids about the best, most interesting activities in the Twin Cities.  I was also very happy to run into Jane LeNoir, another one of my heroes, who is a tremendous flutist in many genres.  She is one of the most accomplished classical flutists I have ever met, and she also plays jazz and Brazilian choro.  She runs the Berkeley Choro Festival and is a lady with true ginga.

In the NFA exhibit hall, I got to play on outstanding flutes from all of the established makers and some new upstarts.  I also tried out historical and vintage flutes, both pre-Boehm simple system, and vintage Boehm system flutes.  I also played keyless Celtic flutes, whistles, and checked out new publications, gadget, teaching tools, accessories, and more, from various vendors and exhibitors in the hall.  Yamaha Flutes sent me a special invitation to try out their newest handmade flutes in their private suite, so that was exciting!  Yamaha is making some great flutes, they also have wood Boehm system flutes, and I am very impressed by their new piccolos.

Gala concerts presented newly commissioned concertos, early music, composers from Latin America and Brazil, new and old pieces by American composers, and jazz/classical fusions, and beatboxing.  Their were workshops on Brazilian music, jazz, Native American flutes, baroque flute, headjoint making, and more.  It was an exciting convention.  Most exciting for me was, I WON the raffle held by Schmitt Music (Brookline, MN) of a brand new HAYNES Amadeus 780!! Woo hoo!  Seldom have I ever won anything, certainly not anything so valuable.  

On the trip there and back, we stopped to visit flutists doing interesting things.  Melissa Ashley Keim and Victoria Shumaker both showed us traditional flutes of many types on our journey.  We saw nose flutes, neys, ancient Pueblo flutes, Celtic flutes, bansuris, and more.  We're looking forward to next year's convention in Orlando, Florida!

Pictures from the convetion and our trip are available on the Facebook page! Convention Photo Album