One advantage of having your own domain is being able to
speak your mind. There are a lot of fantastic folks in the music world. Here are a
just a few of my personal favorites:
- PLEASE FIX MY FLUTE!
No, I just don't have the time anymore (unless it's
something very interesting and unusual). There are a lot of good
repair people out there. It's much like finding a family doctor. If
you want a healthy flute, you need to find a really good repairman and
establish a long-term relationship. The ones I'm recommending here are
people I know well.
I've been teaching flute repair for about 25 years now,
mostly for flutists who just wanted to understand their instruments a bit
better. About ten years ago I started offering graduate courses here at
WCU with a similar modest goal. My best hope was that at the end of two
years of training, a motivated student would be competent to replace pads in an
otherwise sound flute. This is part of a performance degree and was never
intended as a vocational course. HOWEVER, out of the eight people who have
finished the coursework, three went on to work for major flute companies (plus
one undergraduate). And one simply decided to be a full-time flute
Reuben Councill is one
of the most gifted individuals I've encountered in a long teaching career.
He is a fine performer and certainly could have followed that path. He is
also extremely curious and simply smart, -- in the best sense of the word.
Reuben could have done anything. However, he REALLY loves working on flutes and
has focused all his gifts in this area. Reuben is now well experienced and
equipped to handle almost any problem. He is great with routine repairs,
but amazing with unusual problems. He just loves the detective work -- tweaking
a flute to get the absolute most from it. He has a great ear, a very light
touch, and his attention to detail is second to none. He is also totally
honest and reliable. I trust him with my flutes. He has recently
moved to Pennsylvania and set up shop in Selinsgrove. Check his website
for directions. If you are within driving distance, I'd make an
appointment to visit him. Take your best flute and let him check it over.
You will be amazed!
While I'm on the topic, here are three people that I
didn't train who I can also recommend without reservation. I've visited in
their shops and learned quite a bit from all of them:
lives near LA and is a protégé of Bob Gilchrest. He is simply a
miracle worker. I've seen and heard him do things to a flute that blew my
mind. All these folks are really bright and could be making a lot more
money doing something else. Paul actually has done other, much more
profitable things, and simply has a passion for working on flutes. His
time is worth MUCH more than he charges. He is a wizard with modern
flutes, but has also developed an interest in restoring old French flutes.
Paul is also as kind and generous an individual as you will find.
lives near Lansing Michigan. He's been a good friend for a VERY long time.
These other folks are flute specialists, but Eric can repair ANYTHING.
Lucky for us, he has a particular gift for piccolos. I (and most
repairmen) HATE padding piccolos. Eric actually seems to enjoy
working on the little monsters. I have a piccolo that he repadded about a
decade ago and it's still going strong - no adjustments whatsoever. He is
direct and prompt about getting things done -- something very rare -- almost
impossible -- in the repair world.
lives in Asheville, NC. Another fine flutist, Clifford worked for
Brannen for twelve years. He's been responsible for any number of
technical developments, both at Brannen and on his own. His understanding
of the mechanics of padding and the results he gets are simply the best.
And he's just a great guy.
- There are a lot of fantastic flute makers working today and for decades I've
avoided giving any one a public endorsement. When I think about a flute
company, it's the people that matter. I really like the folks at Altus.
I've known Suichi Tanaka for nearly twenty years. There is no more
committed or more intelligently innovative flute maker working today.
Brothers Flutes, Inc - They certainly don't need my recommendation.
I've known Bob and Bick Brannen a very long time, though not as well as I would
like. I don't write fan mail, but Bick is something of a personal hero to
me. He's created the ultimate flute company and done it it a way that will
employ and take care of a group of people for a very long time. A bit of
flute history: William Haynes founded his company and eventually hired a
guy named Verne Powell as foreman. Powell quit and started his own
company, which got it's identity from his very strong personality. After
he retired, the company lost direction. A lot of Powell-trained folks left
and started their own companies. These include (among others) Ed Almeida,
Jon Landell, Jack Gooseman, and
of course Bob and Bick Brannen. All of these were truly gifted people, but
the success of Brannen Brothers speaks for itself. Talented people often
decide that they're ready to strike out on their own. In the past decade
four of Brannen's best have left - and three have ended up in nearby Asheville
(lucky me!). When Powell left Haynes, it was not on friendly terms.
Bick Brannen seems to be both friendly towards and truly supportive of his
former employees. This speaks volumes about the man.
Roger Holman - Roger is a terrific person always my #1 criteria.
He's also got a truly innovative and creative mind. One of my hobbies has
been tracking the invention and reinvention of flute related gadgets. The
original concepts are few and far between. Roger's Flute and Piccolo Flags
are a new and original solution to an age-old problem. I use them myself
and strongly recommend their use in my wooden piccolo heads.
- Amy Blumenthal was a pioneer publisher for flute choir who has built a "garden
shed" company into something quite impressive -- and not confined to flute
- Chris Abell was committed to wooden flutes a very long time before they were
fashionable. In fact, I thought he was a little crazy when he started his
own company to make wooden flutes exclusively. Time has shown him to be
both a brilliant flutemaker, but right on target about wood. And he's a
genuine human being.
Retreat - I attended the first flute class at
Wildacres in 1978. This was organized by Anne McFarland and taught by
William Bennett. I arrived wide eyed and totally unprepared -- only to
find that I was first up to perform. I was terrified and later learned
that so was Wibb (nobody calls him Mr. Bennett). I kept going back, first
as a student and later to teach a class in flute repair. Through Wildacres
I got to know Wibb, Trevor Wye, Stephen Preston, Robert Dick, and large
group of flutists who have become my second family. Anne eventually moved
to England and the class was run by Amy Rice Blumenthal and later Karl Barton.
Things came full circle for me in 2002 when I was asked to serve as William
Bennett's teaching assistant. And they will come full circle again in 2003
with the return of Anne (now Anna Thibeault) to run a completely new class with
Goran Marcusson and Stephen Preston.
More to come . . .