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I often receive emails and letters from flutists with very interesting and important questions. These questions are posed by professional flutists, students of all ages, and amateur flutists. Each month I will select a question or two to answer on this site.

Use our contact form to submit your own question for Ms. Baxtresser to answer. Ms. Baxtresser receives many questions, but she will do her best to answer your inquiry. Please check the “Question of the Month” page to see if your question appears and check out past questions.

QUESTION: Can you say a few words about amateur flutists?

ANSWER: With Gratitude and Praise for the Amateur Flutist!

I was born into a household of two pianists…my mother was a concert pianist, and she was often on tour during my childhood. She was a dedicated professional musician, but she was also a remarkable mother to six children. My father was a businessman, but his greatest passion in life, next to his family, was classical music. In addition to his great knowledge of orchestral and chamber music, he was also a fairly accomplished pianist.

My parents provided an amazing education for me! I had a front row seat to observe the lives of two people who had chosen to make music the center of their lives, but in different ways; one as a professional and one in the grand tradition of the musical amateur.

As my career progressed to the point where I was able to live my dreams of being a flutist, beyond my wildest expectations, I often found myself remembering my mother’s and father’s relationships to music. I so envied my mom for her brilliance on the piano…she could play the greatest composers and make beautiful music all by herself into the early hours of the morning. But I also remembered the “burden of responsibility” that was always present. As a concert pianist she had an obligation to serve the composer to the best of her ability, and to serve the audience so their investment was rewarded with a concert of great music presented to them by an expert.

I remember my father luxuriating in making music in our living room. He could play for his own pure joy without the care of responsibility to anyone but himself. Occasionally, my parents would play together…transcriptions of Beethoven and Mozart Symphonies for four hands…I recall hearing my father laughing with glee if he played something particularly well, and his equal amusement at his inadequate playing in the more treacherous passages. My mom’s greatest pleasure in these family musicales was observing her husband’s total involvement and pleasure.

All through my career I have taken time to teach amateur flutists…for one very important reason: I need to be in touch with their unselfish love of the flute and music. It always gives me so much inspiration. In my masterclasses, I always have a special class for amateurs of the flute. I have a very simple reason for this…I like to be reminded of our shared love for music and its place in the world. And music needs all of us.

I have learned a lot about the amateur throughout my career. Just as in the professional world, there are amateurs at every level—some are of professional quality and some are, literally, just beginning. In my teaching of amateurs, I always tell them that their level of expertise on the instrument is of no consequence to me. I enjoy being part of a process that enables them to improve their skills and allows them to feel greater confidence and inspiration. It simply doesn’t matter how well they play…it is their sincere DESIRE to participate in music that I love, and their genuine longing to improve.

The most essential truth about the amateur, however, is that whatever the ability, they MUST feel that their pursuit of excellence is a worthy and a meaningful pursuit. They must know that this endeavor is important enough to be taken seriously by friends, family, and teachers. The support they receive from those around them is critical in validating their noble and beautiful avocation. In a way, this is simple human nature: the need to feel that we are growing, changing, and improving ourselves, and the knowledge that our efforts are appreciated by those who are closest to us.

This is why I am so pleased to write this tribute to my amateur flutist-colleagues. To tell you all how much I treasure you, how you inspire me, and to thank you for your tremendous support of the arts and of all of us who make our living in the arts. Without the amateur, there would be no professionals…it is that simple. I will always support you and be honored to teach you and to encourage you…for as long as I can hold a flute!!

© Jeanne Baxtresser 2009

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