July Newsletter

Stars and Stripes Forever

by Nan Raphael

The first time I played Stars and Stripes was with my high school band. It was tradition that whoever was playing solo flute got to play the solo in Stars and Stripes. It was quite an honor. I prepared by playing along with a recording from an LP of Sousa Marches. 

During the course of my 26 year career in the US Army Field Band I had the honor of playing the solo in Stars and Stripes Forever at the end of every concert. I would estimate that I played that solo around 3,000 times and never tired of it. Since out of the band I still occasionally get to play it as a guest artist with a community or university band. Most recently, I joined 13 other well known piccoloists from around the world in a performance of it on the closing concert with the US Army Field Band (my alma mater) at the National Flute Association Convention in my hometown, Washington, DC.

I feel a special affinity for John Philip Sousa since he was born in Washington, DC and lived in my neighborhood… Capitol Hill. Mr Sousa was born in 1854 to a large musical family. He was the 3rd of 10 children. He got an early start with his musical studies at the age of 6. He learned to play several instruments and at the age of 13 he was enlisted into the Marine Band by his father after he attempted to run away and join a circus band. His first composition, Moonlight Over the Potomac, was published when he was 18. After 5 years away from Washington, performing and conducting, he came back to lead the Marine Band which he did for 12 years from 1880-1892. With the encouragement of the band's promoter David Blakley, John Philip started his own band which became the first American Band to tour Europe and the first to log over 1,000,000 miles on the road.

In 1896, while on vacation in Europe, John Philip Sousa's promoter David Blakely died so he had to return home to take care of the Band’s business and prepare the band for an upcoming tour. Following is a quote from his journal on how S&S came to being. “Here came on one of the most vivid incidents of my career. as the vessel (Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor, I was pacing the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager’s death and the many duties and decisions that awaited me in New York. Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed.” 1932- one year after the Sousa Band folded- Sousa died at age 77 after conducting a rehearsal of the Ringgold Band in Reading, PA. The last piece he conducted was the Stars and Stripes Forever. The march became immediately popular and in 1988 it became the official National March as stated in Title 36, Section 10, paragraph 188 of the US Code. 

John Philip Sousa and family members are buried at Congressional Cemetery which lies on the southeastern corner of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  The Cemetery is one of the most historic cemeteries in the country and has become a popular place for both locals and tourists to visit. The dog walking community was the catalyst for it's revitalization and now offers a wide variety of activities such as tours, 5K races, movies and even a chamber recital series called Notes from the Crypt. 

How fortuitous after playing Stars and Stripes so many times that I get to pass by his resting place every morning with my dog. Perhaps the spirit of John Philip Sousa had a hand in this? So, if you are planning a visit to DC, please add Congressional Cemetery to your list. 

fNan RaphaelSince retiring from the US Army Field Band in 2003, Nan Raphael, now an artist for Gemeinhardt Flutes,  has been a guest artist/clinician nationwide, piccoloist with the International Flute Orchestra, Washington Winds, Columbia Flute Choir and Capitol City Symphony. Nan has written several articles about piccolo playing for Flute Talk and the Flute Society of Washington Newsletter as well as being published in the National Flute Association’s Pedagogy Anthology Vol. 2. She has 4 piccolo CD’s and a book of piccolo excerpts from the symphonic band repertoire.

June Newsletter

The Magic of Moyse

by Dr. Cate Hummel

In his long career as a performer and teacher, the flutist, Marcel Moyse (1889-1984), influenced many musicians around the world. From Europe to the US and even to Japan, there are musicians alive today who studied with Moyse and pass his musical tenets on to their students. He always credited his own teachers, Paul Taffanel, Philippe Gaubert and Adolphe Hennebains for teaching him these principles. Moyse was mindful of the legacy of his teachers passing their knowledge to him, which he then communicated to his own students. 

Perhaps the most magical aspect of Moyse’s playing and teaching was his gift for communicating the qualities and nature of a beautiful sound. He could make an analogy or create a metaphor for the quality of sound that would help a student find the right color or shading suggested by the dynamics or contour of a phrase. Here are just a few: 

“Alors, you ‘ave a gold embouchure? Yes? Well, I want the tone the same!” 

“Don’t change the color in a phrase just because it’s easy. When starting a new phrase, keep the color.”

“You have to practice the breathing as you practice the notes”

“Play your Bach appoggiatura with love.”

“Don’t simply blow in the flute – give it your warm breath.”

“You try to make an effect. No—you must feel.”

“When playing really softly, try to get the shadow of a sound—not the sound.”

“Vibrato? You need luminosity on a note—like sugar on strawberries or dew on a leaf.”

Over and over in his teaching, Moyse stressed that it was important to “play the music, not the flute.”  He said, “…First of all be a musician. Love music. Have something to say and feel, however vaguely, that this ‘something’ needs a means of expression – a voice, an instrument…a flute, for example.” To Marcel Moyse it was of paramount importance that you “Do not show your own temperament but that of the music.” He related to Trevor Wye, “When I die, I want to leave behind a tradition for flute players; a respect for the music.”

Of utmost importance to understanding Moyse's teaching is to begin to realize how intensely he valued the ability to speak musical language clearly.  Moyse writes in The Flute and its Problems: Tone Development Through Interpretation: “Certainly music has its own language.  The laws which govern the construction and consequently the interpretation of a musical phrase are as precise and as subject to analysis by a musician as the laws of prosody are for a writer;  but in music, they are often more difficult to discern.” This hierarchy of beats is so clearly delineated in the first two melodies in the 24 Petites Études Melodiques, and throughout the rest of the book. In a nutshell, make the hierarchy of beats audible. In 4/4, beats 1 and 3 are strong, 2 and 4 are weak. In 3/4, beat 1 is strong, beats 2 and 3 are weak and weaker. Weak leads to strong, especially going from the last beat of a measure to the first beat of the next measure.

Use your color to define the phrase structure. For example, in a 2+2+4 phrase structure, taper the first phrase, and release the second phrase so it leads to third phrase. Show how in 4 + 4 phrasing, the antecedent is like a question and the consequent is like the answer. Recognize and make the apex of the phrase audible with color and dynamics.

Moyse taught that the recapitulation or return to opening material is special. It should be like a fond memory. If the phrasing permits, no breath before the return, go right into the phrase. There are several great examples of this in the 24 Petites Études Melodiques. An excellent example from the repertoire is the recapitulation of the Chaminade Concertino. It should be ever so quiet, with a light, clear color, supported by the piano or orchestra playing pianissimo. 

Find the skeleton of the phrase and practice the skeleton as a melody in its own right. There are some outstanding examples in the Andersen etudes, e.g. op. 33, #5; op. 15, #3. Let the skeleton be the thread that ties the entire section/piece together. There are other famous examples from Bach Sonatas and the Mozart Concerti that Moyse cited repeatedly in his teaching. 

Moyse emphasized that it is essential to understand how to correctly execute expressive devices, for which there is a long tradition from the 19th century that he inherited from his teachers, such as appoggiaturas, acciaccaturas, syncopation and gruppetto.  Appoggiatura means “to lean”. Lean on the dissonance with color, and then play the resolving note simply. With an acciaccatura, the grace is louder than the main note, like a singer’s cry in the voice. Moyse always explained that the word syncopation comes from the Latin “syncope”, which means to faint. No vibrato in the long note. Like a gasp or a startle. Moyse said of gruppetti (turns), “Eat every note”. 

Finally, there is a distinct vocal pedagogy known as the French declamatory style. For Moyse, this meant being able to speak through your instrument, not just sing. In French vocal pedagogy, there is an acknowledgement that the French language is very musical sounding language. Therefore, the melodic tessituras can be rather narrow because the language carries the expressiveness rather than the melody. There is also a kind of emotional restraint that is part of French national character. The emotion is there, but the expression of it is held in reserve, just beneath the surface. This lends an expressive potency where the expression is implied rather the overtly expressed. Moyse considered it crude to be too effusive. Perhaps another way of saying this is that “less is more”. 

The Magic of Moyse was his unique and enduring ability to make musical expression come alive for his students and for us today. 


Marcel Moyse, Tone Development Through Interpretation for the Flute (and other wind instruments: The study of expression, vibrato, color, suppleness and their application to different styles, New York: McGinnis & Marx Music Publishers, 1962.

Marcel Moyse, The Flute and Its Problems: Tone Development Through Interpretation for the Flute, Tokyo: Muramatsu Gakki Hanbai Co., Ltd., 1973

Marcel Moyse, 24 Petites Etudes Melodiques avec variations (facile) pour Flûte, Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1932.

Susan Fries, “My Teacher: Remembering Marcel Moyse, Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2007.

Cate Hummel, “Marcel Moyse and Tone Development Through Interpretation: A Study Guide”, DMA dissertation, Manhattan School of Music, 1996.

Ann McCutchan, Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1994.

Trevor Wye, Marcel Moyse: An Extraordinary Man, Cedar Falls, Iowa: Winzer Press, 1993.

Cate Hummel Headshot

Dr. Cate Hummel is in demand as a performing artist and clinician in the Midwest and around the country. Dr. Hummel is Adjunct Professor of Flute at the University of St. Francis in Joliet. She is a clinician and scholar for Altus and Azumi flutes. In this capacity, she travels to schools, music dealers, flute events and educator conferences around the country performing and presenting on a wide range of topics including her research on the teaching of Marcel Moyse, good practice habits and flute pedagogy. She also created the popular blog Dr. Cate’s Flute Tips, at especially for music educators about flute pedagogy. She is the founder and director of Dr. Cate’s Flute Camp, a day camp for 7th-10th grade flute students that meets every July.

May 2016 Newsletter
Merging Cultures Through Music 

From an early age we've familiarized ourselves with foreign music: ethnic, urban, ancient or contemporary music from other cultures, yet our instrumental techniques, our learning methods have remained relatively static, repeating the same exercises and patterns for decades, and even centuries.

Diversity is a motivating force; a creative, renewing source of ideas and concepts when the origins of these ideas are understood and respected. As soon as we understand that we can actually participate and learn from these cultures, and use this new knowledge for our own growth and benefit, we are building the bridge that connects us to the world, and to these sources. We begin to broaden our perspective and renew our understanding of things we previously saw under a single light source. We discover historical and cultural values; by opening up this different view we understand the wealth of instrumental, rhythmic, formal elements that we have overlooked, perhaps even in our own musical sphere.

In our unlimited era of global information it's good to be exposed to foreign music, but it's even better to find a way to reach some degree of immersion, to investigate and perform, to keep an unprejudiced curiosity that will allow us to integrate what these sounds can teach us. Curiosity can't harm us, yet it can certainly teach us a great deal!

Carmen HeadshotColombian flutist, composer and arranger Carmen Marulanda absorbed the musical roots of her country at a young age. Her entire artistic and educational trajectory expresses essential links to these traditions. Her projects: 12 Original Colombian Pieces for Flute and Guitar, Traversuras for Flute and Piano, Traversuras Warming Up! and the Flute Duets 1&2  are an eloquent collection of studies based on Latin American genres. The ingenuity of this works, in addition to the varied musical content, is the presentation: all the musical accompaniments are recorded in a play-along Mp3 files, giving the flute student direct access to the original style of each region. Uniting teaching and composition, these works represents one of the newest musical trends, where the dialogue between composer and tradition is partnered with educational values.
April 2016 Newsletter

The Flute and Flight: A Composer’s Source of Inspiration

Howard J. Buss, Composer

There is something special about the timbre and agility of the flute that suggests a sonic kinship with birds and the action of flight. Several versions of the creation myth of the Apaches describe how a man, looking for his missing wife, used a flute to transport himself over mountains (“He started away, traveling with a blue flute which had wings … he went entirely around the border of the world.” )1 Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals, and Messiaen’s Le Merle Noir are just a few examples of the numerous compositions that associate the flute with the avian world. 

As a composer I am inspired by many sources including nature, the human condition, literature, and mythology. Among my compositions for flute with a connection to flight are Pipe Dream for solo flute (written for Kim McCormick) in which birdcalls are interjected to present new melodic and rhythmic ideas and influence the overall development of the work. In “Treetop Capers”, the second movement of Tennessee Suite for flute, viola, and piano (written for Shelley Binder), the character of the music is based on observations of the antics of the songbirds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Night Flight for piccolo, clarinet and piano (written for Rebecca Arrensen) depicts an eventful flight of a jetliner that culminates in a section conveying a dramatic descent through heavy clouds and a ferocious thunderstorm. My composition, Dragon Flight for flute and piano (written for Marianne Gedigian) is an evocation of a colorful fantasy world in which a dragon awakens and takes flight. 

Some of my compositions for flute have been inspired by outer space and mankind’s relationship to it. A full listing is below; however, the purpose of this article I will focus on two recent works:

Space Renaissance Suite for unaccompanied flute was composed for the renowned Italian flutist, Elena Cecconi. It was inspired by the tenets of the Space Renaissance Initiative, which is dedicated to influencing world opinion to support space travel and to “lift humanity from the cradle of the Earth.” The 4 movements explore imaginary scenarios one may experience during future space travel and the colonization of distant worlds. Through the Portal  and Alien Storm musically depict one’s first glimpses of an alien world about to be settled. Introspection and Reaching Beyond address the intriguing opposing mental capacities that allow a human being to tap into his/her inner self to connect with the universe, and also to kindle the desire to reach outward to new adventures and exploration.


Space RenaissanceAlien Loop de Loops

Alien Loop de Loops for flute and electronic recording is a playful and capricious fantasy piece designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences. The title refers to both programmatic and technical elements in the composition. I imagined a flutist standing outdoors during an air show by an alien craft. In the opening section he/she plays unaccompanied, but is then joined by the recording, which contains sounds generated by traditional instruments as well as an "alien" voice, the spacecraft, and various elctronic effects. Technically, the title refers to how the recording was made. It consists of numerous sound loops that combine to form a sonic tapestry that provides the sounds of the air show as well as the accompaniment for the flutist. Sound samples: 1, 2, 3, 4

Below is a list of my flute compositions that are in some way connected to flight. All of these works are published by Brixton Publications.

Commercially-recorded flute works::

Composition / Instrumentation / Flutist / Title of CD / Record Company      

Night Flight / piccolo, clarinet and piano / Lois Bliss Herbine / Take Flight / Crystal

        Sound samples: 1, 2, 3

Dragon Flight / flute and piano recorded / Elena Cecconi / Flute & Piano / Bottega Discantica          Sound samples: 1, 2

Moon Glow / flute and piano / Elena Cecconi / Sognando lo Spazio / Urania  

           Sound samples: 1, 2

Pipe Dream /solo flute / Kim McCormick / Twilight Remembered / Capstone  

        Sound Samples: 1, 2, 3

Stellar Visions / flute and marimba / Kim McCormick / McDuo / Ravello 

        Sound samples: 1, 2

Other works:

Composition / Instrumentation / Flutist for which it was written

Space Renaissance Suite / solo flute / Elena Cecconi

        (Sound samples above)

Alien Loop de Loops for flute and electronic recording / solo flute / Elena Cecconi 

        (Sound samples above)

Cosmic Portraits / versions for flute, clarinet, alto sax & tenor sax; and woodwind quartet /    Shelley Binder / YouTube performance:

Constellations for flute, one percussion and piano / Kim McCormick 

       YouTube performance:

Sky Blossoms  for flute and one percussion / Connie Lane

       YouTube performance:

Tennessee Suite / flute, viola, and piano / Shelley Binder

       YouTube performance:

1 Pliny Earle Goddard. “Myths and Tales from the White Mountain Apache”

About the author/composer

Howard Buss

Howard J. Buss is recognized internationally as a composer of contemporary classical music. His compositions have received critical acclaim and have been performed in more than 50 countries. Faculty musicians from major universities as well as current and former members of organizations such as The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, etc have performed them. Buss’ more than 170 published works include instrumental solos, chamber music, symphonic, choral, and band works. 

Buss has received numerous awards and his commissioned works include original compositions and arrangements. They have been recorded on the Albany, Bottega Discantica (Italy), Crystal, Capstone, DUX (Poland), Equilibrium, HoneyRock, IBS Classical (Spain), PL Productions, C. Alan Publications, Ravello and Urania (Italy) labels.

Howard J. Buss received his B.A. in Applied Music from West Chester University, M.M. in Performance and M.M. in Composition from Michigan State University, and D.M.A. in Composition from the University of Illinois. He is the founder and editor of Brixton Publications (ASCAP) and Buss Publications (BMI), which publish contemporary American concert music. 

March 2016 Newsletter

The History of Altus Handmade Flutes

Altus Factory ImageThe founder of Altus flutes, Mr. Shuichi Tanaka, known as “Speedy” to his friends, is a man of many talents. He is an artist, musician, engineer, businessman, and most notably a master flute maker.

As a teenager, Mr. Tanaka studied flute with renowned Japanese teacher and performer Toshio Takahashi. During this time he not only developed into a gifted flutist, but also a sensitive student of flute making with keen insight into the needs of flutists. 

In 1977, Mr. Tanaka met British flutist William Bennett. The two men had much in common including their respect and admiration for the vintage flutes of Louis Lot. With Bennett’s influence and the inspiration of the finest vintage flutes, Mr. Tanaka designed an innovative modern flute rich in expressive tone colors, with ample capacity for resonance, accurate intonation, and mechanical strength. This was the first Altus flute, built in 1981.

William BennettOver the next decade, global respect and interest for Mr. Tanaka’s innovative Altus flute increased. In 1990, he designed a beautiful building on a peaceful site in Azumino, at the base of the Japanese Alps, to inspire his artistic creations. This breathtaking facility is where Altus flutes are still handcrafted today.

Tanaka and William Bennett shared an admiration for Albert Cooper’s vision of updating and modernizing the traditional flute scale. Bennett combined his vast performance experience and quest for precise intonation with Mr. Tanaka’s flute making vision to create the Altus-Bennett scale. 

Altus EngravingAn instrument’s scale is determined by the size and placement of each of the tone holes and their relationship to each other. This crucial design aspect allows flutists to play with accurate intonation and effortless tone. 

The collaboration of Tanaka and Bennett set a new standard for flute design. The Altus-Bennett scale was carefully designed to provide effortless intonation, impeccably tuned harmonics, and exceptionally balanced registers. This monumental achievement is one of the hallmarks of the great Altus flute making tradition. 


The Altus flute is founded on friendships, collaborations, intense research, and a passionate devotion to music as an essential part of life. 

For more information on Altus flutes, please visit our website:, or contact Altus Sales Manager, Chiarra Conn, at

Virtual Easter Egg Hunt!

Easter Egg Hunt Flyer

February 2016 Newsletter

Flute Carrot

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome 

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (QTS) is a common problem in flutists, yet it is not as well known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is the second most common nerve entrapment disorder, after Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and is frequently seen in flute players, especially in the left arm and hand. The typical causative factors are repetitive movement, coupled with the posture and positioning of the left arm. This problem arises from the repeated bending and straightening of the elbow or prolonged bending of the elbow, putting pressure on the nerve. 

Cubital Tunnel occurs when the ulnar nerve is caught, or entrapped between the bones, tendons, ligaments, and other tissues in the elbow. The ulnar nerve innervates the fifth finger and the fifth finger side of the fourth finger (called the ulnar side). The ulnar nerve is what most people recognize as the tingly sensation you have when you ‘hit your funny bone’. 


      Flute players are prone to developing this, in the left arm, because of the way we stretch that arm when we hold the flute. (String players get in in their bow arm, because of the same type of positioning). Posture can play a role, especially if the flutist is holding the left shoulder higher, which stresses the muscles, causing inflammation in the areas that surround the nerve even more. This will lead to swelling which causes an increase in the pressure on the nerve. 

The main symptoms of QTS are pain in the elbow, and along the path of the ulnar nerve. This will result in numbness and tingling in the fifth finger and the side of the fourth finger that touches the ring finger. If QTS is left untreated, it will result in the loss of function in the small muscles of the hand. 

The tests used to diagnose QTS are the same as for Carpal Tunnel. 

The Phalen’s test is not going to diagnose QTS, but will assist the flutist, or teacher, in knowing when to seek help. When performing this test, we hold our wrists in a flexed position for 30-60 seconds. The back of the hands should be touching. It looks similar to mirror image of praying. If you have any nerve impingement, it causes numbness and tingling. The numbness and tingling does not have to be dramatic, so if you experience any, you will need to address it before the damage becomes severe. 


Another test to assess for QTS is to tap over the nerve in the affected elbow. It is considered positive it the causes tingling in the elbow or fingers. You can actually palpate the nerve in the elbow, or the ‘funny bone’, which will cause pain, tenderness, or tingling in the affected fingers. These are not meant to take the place of seeing a health care provider. Instead they can help us in managing the condition, and knowing when we need to see a health care provider.

So what do you do if you think you have QTS? Untreated, it will progress to loss of function, which could limit or end the ability to play. Consequently, it is very important to get to a medical provider that is knowledgeable about these type disorders in musicians. The exact course of treatment will depend on duration of the problem, causes, and severity of the nerve compression. 

There are many treatments that you can do at home, and should do as soon as you suspect you might have QTS. It frequently takes a while to get an appointment, so these things should be done while you are waiting. Easy treatments at home are the use of ice, and splinting. Ice will help with the swelling, and the pain. The splints are not as easy to find as those for Carpal Tunnel, but they can be found online. A suitable splint is anything that will keep the elbow straight, especially while sleeping. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds, such as Ibuprofen, Naprosyn, or Tylenol, might help, but are not as useful as in Carpal Tunnel. Stretching before and after practise sessions or concerts will be very beneficial. Complementary treatments, such as therapeutic massage and acupressure can provide significant relief to the areas that are inflamed and causing pressure on the ulnar nerve. 


Any musician that has QTS should limit playing sessions to no more than 25-30 minutes, followed by a break. A flute with an offset G will be advantageous, since it lessens the stretching of the ulnar nerve, especially in someone with smaller hands. There are key extenders you can purchase for the flute that extend the G key, which can help alleviate the stretching of the nerve also.  


One of the tests that is done to assess the damage to the small muscles is a non-invasive test called a Nerve Conduction Test. This test will be useful in treatment decisions. Upon completion of appropriate testing and evaluation, and if conservative or complementary methods fail, surgery may be necessary. There are several different types of surgery that can alleviate QTS, and which one performed would be individualized. Even with surgery, if the problem has been untreated and allowed to linger, there can be loss of function, which will be permanent. This is why it is so important to find a provider as soon as you notice symptoms. While this is very frightening for the musician, it can prevent worsening of symptoms, and permanent loss of function. 

The best treatment is to avoid the problem. This means correcting bad posture, and hand position, before it causes an issue. Small hands benefit from a flute with an off-set G. Seeking the advice of a teacher can help with finding a flute that fits the hands, posture and hand position. 

Another important point to remember is that there are many tasks we perform that can aggravate this problem. Gardening, washing dishes, computer work, and certain sports can aggravate QTS. Avoidance of the non-musical activities is very important in recovering from this problem.  

Some of the most important things to remember if you do develop any of these symptoms, or are diagnosed with QTS:

  1. It is treatable. 
  2. Do not be afraid to see someone about the problem.
  3. Try the easy things (ice, NSAIDS, splint) while waiting to see someone.
  4. We usually do not recommend complete rest anymore. There will be a period where you can’t play as much. You have to learn to pace yourself and take breaks. 
  5. Avoid non-musical activities that aggravate the problem. (Not doing the dishes and pulling weeds was a big plus for me!)
  6. Follow what the doctor recommends. It is better to miss a gig, than have to stop playing altogether!

Dr. Sandra Cox was the winner of the National Flute Association’s Convention Performer’s Competition in 2003 and 2004. Advanced degrees in the medical field, combined with music degrees, give her a unique perspective on musician health, and performance-related injuries. She is on the NFA Performance Health Committee and is a frequent presenter on performance health topics, having presented at  Kentucky (KMEA), Tennessee (TMEA), Texas (TMEA), Hawaii (HMEA), Milwaukee (MTNA), China (ISME), Greece (ISME), the Midwest Clinic, International Horn Symposium, Mid-Atlantic Flute Fair, and the National Flute Association.

She is on the faculty of Southwest Tennessee Community College, and freelances in the Memphis, Tennessee area. 

January 2016 Newsletter

Options for Supporting the Bass Flute

By Christine Potter

Bass flute players frequently develop fatigue in the right arm when holding up the instrument. This problem is most prevalent during rehearsals when the bass is held up for long periods of time. Because the right arm is extended out from the body, it is difficult for back muscles to hold up the weight. Some strengthening of the back muscles can improve endurance, but there is also weight focused on the side of the right thumb. There are some adhesive cushions that can improve the discomfort in the thumb. Look under the performance aids category of a retail website to find these.

Note from Flute Specialists: Try the Thumbport for Alto Flute or the Flute Gels. Click here to see our inventory of finger assists for both the right and left hands.

Swimming is great exercise for strengthening the back muscles and improving posture in general. Contact a physical therapist about your individual issues. At the end of the article, there is a description of an exercise that I use to strengthen the back and arm muscles.

For rehearsals, the easiest solution is to use a second music stand to support the end of the bass. The first option is to use the kind of stand that has a solid music rack (commonly referred to as a “black” music stand). Turn the rack section upside down so that the ledge where the music usually sits is at the top. Place a thick cloth on this ledge and position the end of the bass on the cloth. You can raise or lower the height of the stand to suit your needs. The second option is to use a lightweight folding metal stand (commonly called a “wire” stand”) and nestle the flute into one of the joints of the music rack on top of a cloth. Here is the link to a YouTube video I have made demonstrating these solutions.

Note from Flute Specialists: See our full inventory of music stands here. Also, check out this Roi Flute Resting Pad.

There is also a device called a Bass Flute Lap Crutch that has been developed to solve the arm fatigue problem. It is also demonstrated on the YouTube video mentioned above. Some of these crutches have quality control problems, like the adjustment screw does not tighten enough to hold the rod at different heights. The main problem with the crutch is that it is not attached to you or the flute and you need a free hand to grab it quickly when you lift the flute off. Look under the performance aids category to find this product.

Note from Flute Specialists: We just added a Bass Flute Crutch to our inventory.

It is possible to construct a bass support from rigid, hollow, plastic pipe available at hardware stores. If you have some construction skills, or know someone who does, this would be a good project. The simplest form of the support would require two pieces of pipe glued together. One length of pipe would go from your right leg up to where you want the flute to rest, and a second short piece of pipe cut in half length wise would form the cradle in which the flute lays.

The extra stand and the plastic tube support we hope to only need at rehearsals. They take up extra room that isn’t always available and they are not particularly attractive for the audience to look at. When I am working on piece, I practice sitting down with my support in place, but always transition to playing with no support as I get closer to a performance. As a soloist, I usually play standing, so supports of any kind are not a realistic option.

Some people have had luck adapting supports made for other instruments. Bass clarinet stands seem to be a good fit. They can provide both a spot to rest the end of the instrument when playing and a place to put the instrument down when not in use. Those wire stands mentioned above can also be repurposed by constructing a padded support in the shape of a “y”  that attaches to the top of the rod instead of the music rack.

Bass Flute Stand

 Myra Fox, an attendee at the 2016 Alto and Bass Retreat, came up with this solution to holding up a bass or alto.

One brand, Kotato, has solved this support problem for bass players. They have designed the body of the instrument to include screw threads on the bottom under the F key. The maker provides an adjustable rod with a threaded swivel joint which screws onto the threads. The flute is free to move around because of the swivel joint, a decided advantage over the plastic tube construction mentioned above. A small leather foot on the opposite end of the rod sits on the chair between the player’s legs. The new Sankyo bass is also working on a support system using a neck strap but it still needs some improvement.

Note from Flute Specialists: You can see Kotato alto, bass, and contrabass flutes here. Also, see the full line of Kotato Alto Flutes here. Also, check out the DiZhao Vertical Bass Flute here

I would like to encourage you to join the low flutes Facebook group which frequently discusses these and similar issues. Just put "low flutes" in the search field. 

I am interested in hearing about other people’s solutions to this problem so I can pass information along. Please contact me if you would like to share your ideas.

Here is a description of an exercise that I use to help me strengthen my back. 

Take a stretchy exercise band and wrap part of it around the doorknob on the outside of a door. Flatten out the rest of the band and position it across the edge of the door above the latch and close the door with part of the band sticking out on the inside of the door. Stand sideways to the door and hold the taut band with your outside hand. With the elbow remaining in contact with your waist, rotate your lower arm out until there is resistance. Do sets of 10, then switch to the opposite arm. You will find this improves your posture as it as strengthens your back.

Online Flute Workshops
Dr. Chris Potter will be teaching a series of online workshops through New York-based company LessonFace beginning January 30th. A video is made of each workshop which is available to those who register before the class starts. The video can be watched at anytime, day or night, for at least one year, beginning the Monday after the class.
The topics are: 
Saturday, Jan 30th 1 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST) Improving Breath Control
2:30 EST Setting up the Curve of an Alto or Bass Flute
Saturday, Feb 6th  1 PM EST Tone Development
2:30  (EST) Solutions for Cracking Notes on Alto and Bass
Saturday, Feb. 20th 1 PM EST Taming the Third Octave 
2:30 EST Performance Aids for Alto and Bass Flute

Chris Potter Bio PicChris Potter is an internationally recognized alto and bass flute expert. She was the first chair of the National Flute Association’s Low Flutes Committee and has commissioned and premiered many pieces for alto and bass. Performances have been presented in all major US cities, and in Paris, London, Toronto and Mexico City. Her numerous books are published by Falls House Press and British publisher Kevin Mayhew. She has numerous helpful videos on bass and alto on YouTube, and her 12th Alto and Bass Flute Retreats will be held in June in North Carolina and Colorado. Chris is also the Flute Choir Coordinator for the James Galway International Flute Festival in Switzerland.

Chris Potter

NFA Low Flutes Committee

James Galway Festival Flute Choir Coordinator

December 2015 Newsletter

Alto Flute: choosing a curved or straight head-joint

By Dr. Christine Potter

People who are interested in purchasing an alto flute must make a decision whether to get a curved or a straight head joint. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and people should try each design before deciding. Most entry-level altos can be purchased with either head joint or both head joints.

If you are a flute choir director purchasing an instrument that several people will use, I suggest getting an alto with both head joints. You will have short people and tall people, people who just can’t balance the curved head well, and people whose hands hurt if they play a straight head.
The primary advantage of a straight head joint alto is that the intonation is better in the third octave. It is not as good as a c flute’s intonation in this octave and you will still make some adjustments, but it is better than the curved head. The reason the intonation is better with a straight head is that makers are able to make a continuous taper from the crown end of the head joint to where it joins the body of the flute. If you look at your c flute head joint, you will see that the crown end of the head joint is smaller than where it goes into the body. This was one of the design features found to be necessary to improve overall flute intonation.

Some people prefer the more flute-like physical relationship of the straight head alto, it feels very similar to what you already know and there is just the one adjustment needed to line up the mouthpiece with the body, just like the flute.

The big disadvantage to the straight tube is that if your arms are short, the right hand has to twist to the left when you reach for the keys. This is painful for many people, and the foot joint notes are even more difficult to reach and are more awkward to play. The right hand thumb is put under even more stress as it tries to keep the flute from rolling backwards while having an even heavier instrument to support that is farther from the player’s body. The tube is larger in diameter than c flute, so it makes balancing the alto on the left index finger joint also difficult. This was my situation when I was looking for an alto many years ago, and I found a curved head instrument with a stunning sound that I have had ever since.

The big advantage of the curved head joint is that your right arm and hand are a comfortable distance away and there is no twisting of the right wrist. The little finger is perfectly positioned to play the foot joint keys with ease. The lowest notes are easy to play and access.

A second advantage of the curved head joint is that with a little experimentation, one finds a spot to set the position of the head joint so that it leans slightly back against the chin and prevents the flute from rolling backwards. The curved head joint actually allows a more stable position for the instrument than the straight head.

The big disadvantage is the intonation of the notes in the third octave. Starting with the C above the staff is almost all ¼ step sharp. It is not yet possible to make a continuous taper from the crown end of head-joint, through the curve and into the flute. Makers are using a graduated cylinder approach, where each section is slightly larger than the one before.  This helps, but not enough. Look for improvements in this design in the future.
Choosing a curved head joint means you will need to develop alternate fingerings for the third octave when you have notes up there. You will need to become fluent with these fingerings, and you will find that more than one will be necessary depending on dynamics and surrounding notes.

A second disadvantage of the curved head joint is the challenge of finding the best possible position of the two independent parts of the head joint in relation to the flute body. The head joint does not go directly over the flute body or directly between the flute and the player. Start from a position on top of the flute and then tip the curved part about ½ an inch towards you, then adjust the short straight part of the head joint where you need it to be. Experiment with these angles until you find what works best for you. Once you find the correct relationship of these two parts, you will find that the balance is even easier than on the c flute.

If you are thinking you will do most of your practicing on the curved head to save your right wrist and then switch to the straight tube as you get closer to the performance, it’s a good thought but doesn’t work in reality. You will have to spend plenty of time on the straight tube to work out intonation and tone issues, and your wrist will still hurt. Go for the curve.

Copyright Nov. 2011, Chris Potter

Chris Potter is an internationally recognized alto and bass flute expert and flute choir conductor who commissions and premiers pieces by a wide variety of composers. The next premier will be a piece for low flutes ensemble by Katherine Hoover. The composer/arranger of many books, her next publication will be a method book for alto flute, scheduled to be available in March 2016. Her 12th annual Alto and Bass Flute Retreat will be held this summer in Boulder, Colorado with a second retreat on the east coast. In demand as a conductor and performer, she is also the flute choir coordinator and conductor of a low flutes choir for the James Galway Festival in Switzerland. Contact Chris at

Fall 2015 Newsletter

Have Flute…. Will Travel!

by Katherine Calvey

I intended to compose (not music, but rather this article) in the sierra mountain village of Mexiquillo Durango, Mexico last week, until a power outage left me with my thoughts to ponder in the darkness.  Although the glow from the fireplace lit by my fellow campers (motorcycle aficionados- not classical music devotees) only softly illuminated the paper on which I had been notating adventures lived while devoted to playing the flute transnationally, the warm jovial conversation shed light on many facets of my career as a flutist. 

While other campers romped through mountains on their motor bikes, one gentleman stayed back at the cabin in case I needed anything.  Although I was obliged by his attentiveness, I confess I secretly prayed for a way to silence the CD of brassy Mexican “banda” music he demonstrably enjoyed. I certainly wanted to avoid complaining since I was the only ‘señorita’ allowed at this type of event in history. I didn’t want to appear as a stuffy classical musician!  Some orchestra colleagues - a talented Georgian pianist and her oboist husband coincidently came to escape music and enjoy the September Mexican Independence Day weekend in the cabins down the path in peace and quiet. Without any alternatives in the listening music repertoire, my friends joked my prayer was answered with lightning literally striking in front of our cabin causing a black out for two full days!  

Most fellows enjoyed their jokes while cooking out around the fire yet one friend started a deeper conversation about my solo concerto. He had not attended many live orchestra concerts, but he perceived my desire to express something special to the audience a few days prior in my performance of Zyman’s Flute Concerto. He enjoyed listening to a few impromptu songs I played at the cabin, mentioning a connection felt as I played ‘from the heart’. I told him that is precisely why I perform music. 

When I graduated with my master of music from the University of Michigan as a young lady, I enjoyed playing in several area orchestras as well as teaching many students. Nevertheless, I was willing to give them up to explore new territories in pursuit of a full time orchestral career.  That is why when my teacher Leone Buyse called me with a job opportunity as principal flutist of the Barranquilla Symphony in Colombia, I knew it was a matter of how fast I could pack my bags, grab a Spanish dictionary and hop on a plane to an unknown land. My concerned mother warned Colombia could bring hardships such as encountering a tarantula (I did end up seeing a few) or a more dangerous animal such as the ‘guerilla’ (not the animal ‘gorilla’).  In Popayan, Cauca where I taught flute at a branch of the national music conservatory, one recital was canceled three times due to political unrest. When the atmosphere settled, we finally performed and it was magical!  People were crammed into the concert hall so tightly they had to sit in the aisle on the floor.

I personally saw the opportunity living in Latin America to perform in an orchestra also as a means to visit interesting places.  While working as the principal flutist in the orchestra of Cali Colombia I headed south to see the equator while performing as a guest for a flute festival in Quito, Ecuador and further south to visit Machu Picchu after my flute festival recital in Lima, Peru.  As a Siren at heart I am definitely a water lover. When I moved to Acapulco to become principal flutist of their orchestra, I was delighted to live by the beach. I also had the opportunity to visit a friend in Panama I met along the way.  It was I who convinced this friend to not only to travel to The San Blas Islands off the coast of The Darien Gap, but also to swim from one island to another and back – fortunately avoiding sharks! While I was in San Salvador as a soloist with the National Symphony of El Salvador, I was invited to the ocean by the clarinetist and his viola player wife whom brought along young people from a hearing impaired missions group for which they volunteered. We enjoyed a day at the beach and later that evening they even went to watch my performance of Nielsen’s Flute Concerto - ecstatically sitting in the front row watching the orchestra’s movements, seeing the conductor, feeling the musical vibrations and a few were even able to slightly perceive sounds of loud accents and fortissimos!  When I thereafter accepted a job offer to become the principal flutist of the orchestra in the northern desert area of Chihuahua, Mexico, I was focused on being close to ‘home’ – the U.S.A.  I still enjoyed the area, visiting Copper Canyon and I even made a CD Canyon Echo inside Namurachi Canyon of solo flute repertoire with all natural affects that actually occurred at the moment of recording.  

Unfortunately, not every story had a happy ending. The town where I live now suffered some terrible years of extreme violence for which no one could have prepared. Shootouts were a daily occurrence. People feared for their lives. Two lives of people I cared for were lost in the violence. At that point I was ready to return to the USA regardless of having a music job lined up or not. Somehow I ended up staying though. I’m not sure how I managed other than by the Lord’s blessing of music and sharing it with people. Maybe I was touched by the gratitude in an eighty year old lady’s eyes as she told me it was the first time she had ever seen an orchestra when we performed in the outskirts of a Mexican town. Perhaps I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be when a friend’s elderly ailing father was inspired by my flute playing to play his guitar at their family gathering in Torreon and that would be the last time he played before departing from this world. Possibly my music contributed to a more profound purpose in facilitating things such as ‘new beginnings’. In northern Mexico, a student’s parents were separating but her mother agreed to attend her father’s church once with the sole purpose of hearing me perform that evening. Something wonderful happened at the service and she continued to attend so regularly with her husband, they reconciled!  

I am not sure how much longer I will stay in Latin America. I have a great desire to finally return home and I believe my experiences have helped me acquire much to share via performing as well as teaching in my homeland of the USA.  I am thankful for the sustaining hand that has kept me safe during my wonderful journey. When I left Michigan as a young flutist, someone told me my road would be winding but would be paved with gold, and that it certainly has been. 

Katherine Calvey

Principal Flutist – Camerata de Coahuila in Torreon, Mexico.

Orchestra Director of the Centros Estudios Musicales de Torreon music college.


Facebook page:


Please ask Flute Specialists about:

 “Canyon Echo” CD’s of solo flute repertoire recorded live in Namurachi Canyon Mexico or for “Silent Night” CD/ classical flute and guitar duo. 

“Road Paved of Gold” book of more detailed adventures during the travels of flutist Katherine Calvey. Anticipated release 2017.  

*Katherine has always found a road leading back to Flute Specialists to have her flute maintained or repaired by Robert Johnson for the past twenty years!

Flutist, Katherine Calvey began her studies with various members of the Cleveland Orchestra, (William Hebert & Jeffrey Khaner) while playing in The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, directed by Dr. Jahja Ling. She received Master Classes with flutists Julius Baker, Robert Willoughby and James Galway. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance from The Peabody Institute of Music as a student of Mark Sparks and a Master of Music degree from The University of Michigan where she studied as a full scholarship student of Leone Buyse.

Katherine won first place in various music competitions including The Littmann Music Competition/ New York and The Mid-Atlantic Flute Competition/Washington D.C amongst others. She has performed as a concerto soloist with international symphony orchestras in Central America, South America and in North America (Mexico & the USA) and has enjoyed performing recitals in places such as Curacao, Hawaii, Italy etc.. 

Ms. Calvey's orchestral career includes important concert venues such as Carnegie Hall with The National Youth Guild Orchestra and Europe with The American Wind Symphony. She has also performed as a member of orchestras in Colorado, Michigan and Ohio. She has served as the principal flutist in a variety of orchestras in Colombia, Mexico and China. Her current position is principal flutist for The State Chamber Orchestra of Coahuila, Mexico.

Katherine has actively served as a flute professor; head of wind instruments departments; and has been a college conservatory orchestra conductor. She is proud that all her students have either won competitions; orchestral positions or are successfully employed in  music. She has given master classes in China, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Europe, Peru, and the United States. 

Ms. Calvey has recorded three compact discs, “Flute Fantasia”; “Silent Night”- flute & guitar; “Canyon Echo”- repertoire for solo flute recorded live inside Namurachi Canyon; and “Flute Fantasia”. Katherine is working on a book “A Road Paved Gold” (to be published hopefully by 2017)  in which she shares more about her adventurous travels throughout her career. To schedule a recital/concerto performance, master class, orchestral section flutist,  purchase CD’s or view her performance schedule, please write to:  Katherine Calvey Facebook page