And so I put away the flute one last time…

This article was originally published on JUNE 13, 2011

Playing flute in high school

Playing flute in high school

Yesterday was my last day as a performing flutist. After having played flute for some 51 years, I am willingly and with no regret putting the instrument down, opting instead to spend more time composing. I have so much music I still want to write, and, truth be told, I have accomplished most everything I wanted to do as a flutist.

This change-of-life has been looming for some time. I was exhausting myself with composing, teaching at UCLA and SMC, running Pacific Serenades, and performing, all at the same time, year after year. It took a long time for me to realize that something had to give, and as a result, two years ago, I took a trial hiatus from flute playing for a little more than a year. During that time, I realized I was content not to be a performer, but as I had already scheduled a number of performances for this season that has just ended, I decided to give it my all and then retire in peace.

I’ve often joked that performing was the price I had to pay for my love of rehearsing. Getting to play great music with wonderful musicians has always felt like a gift from on high, but playing onstage was never quite as fun for me. I was myopic enough to assume that this attitude was the norm, until eventually it dawned on me that many of the musicians I most admire actually enjoy performing. Imagine that! It was so revelatory—and such a foreign concept to me!—when I recognized that my fellow Pacific Serenades musicians were actually having fun onstage. From that moment on, I made it a life goal to know what it was like to truly enjoy performing.

Eventually I succeeded at that and did enjoy the next several seasons of performing. But there are still only so many hours per day, and now that I am just one year away from age 60, I am vividly aware that there are only so many years in a life, too. Now, I’d rather spend those limited hours and years composing, and that makes me very happy.

I am so grateful to have spent all of these many years performing. It has made me a better composer, a better and more complete musician, and a more integral part of the musical community than I would have been otherwise. I’ve been blessed by getting to work and play with many amazing musicians, both professionally and casually, and I am glad that they count me among their friends and colleagues.

I’ve had a handful of performances that I am truly proud of, and when listening to recordings of those, I think that they were as good as any I’ve heard of those pieces. Also, I made a few recordings for CD that I think are excellent.

And I’ve always enjoyed being able to produce a beautiful tone on the flute. All of my teachers were devoted to the ideal of an open, big, warm, and noise-free sound. It is that kind of sound that has made me love the flute, and the pleasure in making that sound has been one of the things that has kept me playing all of these years. In today’s world of flute playing, that ideal seems to have been supplanted by a harder, edgier, more closed sound, so much so that on those rare occasions when I hear the kind of flute tone that I love, my heart jumps for joy.

It is a beautiful sound, and I will miss making it.

Other than that, I am happy with my decision. And so, I say farewell to you—my beloved instrument, my constant companion for most of my life—with deep gratitude for all you have given me.