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A festival for flute fanciers

August 20, 2010 | 11:45 am
New life was breathed into a classical art last week as 3,000 people convened at the Anaheim Marriott for the National Flute Assn.’s 38th annual convention.

“Classical music is often perceived by people to be something that you have to have an erudition about you to understand,” said Cynthia Ellis, program chair of the four-day event. Ellis designed the schedule of almost 150 concerts and workshops to include both old-school and modern international flute music — something for every ear, trained or not.

EntBlog_Photo330 One of the most popular of the 600 performers was beatboxing flutist Greg Pattillo. “Let’s take some of the prettiness out of your flute — that thing you’ve worked so hard to get — and put some vampiness in it,” he said during his hipster-packed workshop. Beatboxing, typically associated with hip-hop, is making drum sounds with your mouth. The classically trained Pattillo blows consonant sounds into his flute, creating both tones and percussion with the same breath. “One of my missions is to make the flute as cool as possible,” he said after a rocking rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”

Crowds milled across the hall where nearly 80 vendors peddled flutes, piccolos, sheet music, flute-themed knick-knacks, coaching strategies for performance anxiety, and even bodywork services for the aching flutist.

Carol Wincenc, who celebrated her 40th anniversary season this year at Lincoln Center, led a workshop for fledgling flutists. “We want to feel like there’s this endless supply of air,” she said as she led them through stretches and lip trills. Wincenc then played pieces from the newbie repertoire with an effortless fluttering that conjured images of butterfly wings.

Tifanny Akkos, 7, caught Wincenc after the class and busted out a few bars of Handel in the lobby. “After I did it, I was like, ‘Did I do that? Was that a dream?’” she said, thrilled to have played for her idol.

No matter your audience, the goal is to make a connection through sound.

“The best that can happen is that you forget you play the flute and you just have the flow of emotions going through to people,” said Aldo Baerten, principal flutist in Belgium’s Royal Flemish Philharmonic. “And if afterwards they come up to you and say they’ve been touched, that’s the most important thing.”

What more could flutists hope for than to create something beautiful with their breath and quickly take ours away?

Click on the photo gallery above right for more images from the convention.

-- Amy Tenowich

Photo: Greg Pattillo listens to the music of participants after teaching some basic instruction on how to beatbox during the National Flute Assn. convention in Anaheim. Credit: Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times