Dayton C. Miller Collection

As promised, I wanted to detail the really special way the NFA convention in D.C. started: with a trip to the Library of Congress to see the Dayton C. Miller Collection!  Curator of Musical Instruments Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford, Nancy Toff, and Loras Schissel really went above and beyond for this, it was so cool.

Dayton C. Miller was a scientist whose discoveries in musical acoustics led to his appointment as chairman of the Case Western Reserve University School of Applied Science Physics Department.  He was also an amateur flutist who amassed a collection of 1,700 flutes.  460 different instrument makers are represented, from America to Europe.  Along with catalogs, music manuscripts, photographs, programs, trade publications and correspondence with early commercial flute makers, his archive is a treasure trove of how the flute (and it’s repertoire) evolved into the instrument we know today.  Anyone can make an appointment and visit the collection.


A funny cartoon

We weren’t allowed to touch anything, but we could take pictures without a flash.


I love this early ad from Haynes featuring a boxer, for the Haynes “sport model” flute!

Then there are Nat Rapport’s sketches of the movement of a flutist during a performance:





Bloch’s “Suite Modale”


Poulenc’s “Sonata”










The collection also includes a number of significant manuscripts, including autograph copies of the Block “Suite Modale” and Poulenc’s “Sonata”.

There is also interesting correspondence between Harold Spivacke at the Library of Congress and Francis Poulenc, asking him to clarify the definition of the term “manincolico” (sic).  Poulenc writes back that it should be “malincolico”.









And then there are the flutes!


English double flageolet from 1821.












Various flutes and recorders.  At the bottom is a Haynes “special Medicus model” flute from 1939.



This Haynes piccolo from 1897 no longer plays, but note the C key – yes it went down to a C!  This was the instrument used in the first performance of “Stars & Stripes” in Sousa’s band.IMG_2389




The gold flute on top of this picture was made by Dayton C. Miller himself, and became his primary instrument.  The flute on the bottom is a 14K gold Haynes flute from 1920, made for Manuel Berenguer, flute soloist to Galli-Curci:




Love the cleaning/dusting rod!

My favorite box: an 1880 Louis Lot flute is on top, then a Theobold Boehm flute from 1847 in the middle, then a diamond faceted-glass flute from 1818, made in Paris by Claude Laurent.  See the bottom picture, each key has an amethyst or garnet!












Sousa’s band lineup:







And the crowd viewing the exhibits.  So glad I went, thanks NFA!


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Air Alight – the big day!!

Day 126/126

The concert is over, what a day!

Had a great morning at the convention, skipped lunch and met everyone in Maryland B&C at 1pm, the location of the Alexander Murray Lifetime Achievement Award Tribute Concert at 1:30pm.  Every person and group performing on the program had the same idea, we all arrived at the same time!

NWF checked to make sure there were enough stands in the room (there were), and asked Robert if he wanted to run anything before hand (he didn’t).  So we found some seats and visited with the other performers.

I have to say that all through the convention I’ve seen Program Chair Joanna Bassett floating around from event to event making sure everything is running smoothly.  Unless you are looking for her you almost don’t see her!  I don’t know how she is able to maintain such a cool and composed demeanor, but I was able to introduce myself and thank her for everything she did to make this convention possible.

I had a few minutes to chat with Nicole Riner, and it turns out that we were at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at the same time.  Her performance of Debussy’s “Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune” was spectacular on the program.  I also spoke with Pat Zuber and Leslie Timmons, who had organized this whole tribute to Alex.

Alex arrived early and immediately got mobbed.  I was grateful for a few moments to speak with him, to reintroduce myself since I left UIUC 18 years ago.   We had a good laugh about the way we used to do lessons, and then he got very serious and wanted to know if I was still pursuing my musicology.  When I said not really, he got even more serious and said I should reconsider – that the musicology field could really use musicians of the caliber who perform at flute conventions.  I was very flattered.


Northern Westchester Flutes

But I digress!  There was a great crowd at the concert.  We were the fourth group on the program.  And eight short minutes later, it was completely over.  “Air Alight” went really well, and we all commented that we’d like to play it again.  Robert had another event to go to and didn’t stay afterwards for all the pictures.  We got great feedback from the audience, the effects that Robert wanted were really well received.  With his permission we took a video of the piece and I need to figure out how to create a still from it.


All the performers. Alexander Murray is in the tan suit.

The concert went way long, and all the tributes from Alex’s students were beautiful.  Alice and I chose not to speak, or recognize the typos from the stage.  Before we played, Robert spoke about his work with Alex, and that was where the focus should be.  Alex also got up to speak towards the end, and read a gorgeous poem about blackbirds that had everyone in tears.  Truly a memorable afternoon.

Dear readers, thank you for following me on this journey this summer.  I hope my students have learned a couple of things about working with composers and what it is like to play at the convention.  I hope I have accurately conveyed Alex’s and Robert’s places in history; the flute world is forever grateful for their visions and for their guidance as they coax us along with them.


I love Alex’s laughter in this shot!








Lady Jeanne and Sir James Galway

Oh, and this happened!  Beyond happy to have shared this day with my students Katie and Abby.

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Air Alight – Second convention rehearsal

Day 125/126

Second (and final) rehearsal with Robert today!   We met for a 30-minute rehearsal in Room 8217, these are meeting rooms that the hotel has just off of the ballroom space on the lobby floor level.  Tables and chairs had been pushed to the edges of the room to make a square open space.  The acoustics in this room were a huge improvement over yesterday!


Rehearsal schedule for Room 8217

When Robert arrived he announced that he just wanted to run the piece two times today, since we had gone over so much of it yesterday.  But when we started the first run-through, he stopped us because we were too fast.  He made the great comment that when you ask people to play quarter note = 60, that most people will give you quarter = 72.  He really wants 60, just as it’s marked.  I was definitely guilty of this!

Robert also cautioned us to take time getting up to the top of the arcs in the first section, and reminded us that the arcs are more important than seconds.  Pam was continuing to have trouble switching between bass and C flute: it’s a quick transition and she starts all of us on Section III.  She worked out a better cue with Robert and moved her stand forward so she could see him better.  Hopefully visibility won’t be an issue tomorrow.

During these run throughs, we did a lot of listening to make sure the transitions were smooth.  Robert called this “letting the tide go out.”  I love this imagery!

We ended up running the piece almost three times.  Yesterday Robert had timed the piece at about 7 minutes.  Today Cecilia clocked it at around 8.

We took care of housekeeping at the end: we told Robert we were going to wear all black; he thought he would wear white pinstripe pants with a black shirt.  We agreed to meet 30 minutes before the concert tomorrow to get the lay of the land and set up.  Pam also needs a chair near her so she can switch instruments quickly.

I can’t believe this is really happening tomorrow!

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Air Alight – First convention rehearsal

Day 124/126

Super stoked, first rehearsal with Robert Dick today!


Rehearsal schedule for Lincoln 4!

So the convention is in full swing now.  I arrived Tuesday night; Pam, Dianne, and Elyse arrived yesterday, and Alice and Cecilia got here early this afternoon, just in time.  We rehearsed with Robert for 60 minutes in Lincoln 4, a large room in the lower level of the hotel.  It felt like we were in the basement, but this was just the lowest level open to the public.  There were large, movable partitions for walls, and somebody else was practicing in the space right next to us.  Between the other rehearsal and the rumblings of the bowels of the building (A/C), it was very hard to hear.

We all introduced ourselves to Robert again, and we commented that he was playing this piece on his glissando headjoint.  He gave us a super close look at how it is constructed and said this is his primary flute, he uses it most of the time.

Robert felt that our residuals were not loud enough, and recommended actually saying the word “shhhhh” with the forced air to make it more effective.  But then he stopped playing and stood in the center to listen.  He reported that everything was actually OK, we just couldn’t hear each other!

We ran the sections of the piece, then worked on connecting them.  We had previously thought that Robert would cue us individually moving to each new section, but there is actually a hard stop moving between sections I and II.

Robert fixed a couple of fingerings, and also asked that Cecilia’s piccolo solo be louder and longer.

We also worked out our stage positions.  We like to put the bass on the right of our semi-circle as you face the audience, so the sound projects out.  Robert chose to stand next to Pam, and she reported that she was having problems seeing his cues because of her proximity to him.  I want to try being in more of an arc tomorrow and see if we can fix this.

At the end of the rehearsal we pow-wowed the plan for tomorrow.  We originally scheduled an hour long rehearsal with Robert in his room, but I was able to secure a NFA rehearsal space, but just for 30 minutes.  We agreed to try the 30-minute space and see if we need extra time.

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Air Alight – typos!

Day 123/126

I arrived in DC late last night, super excited to visit the Library of Congress and the Dayton C. Miller Collection of flutes today (separate post to follow!).  I picked up my badge and program book, and of course I flipped right to the program for Saturday’s big concert.  Doh!  There are two typos are in our group listing!!  First, they have Alice listed as playing C flute, and Elyse as playing alto.  Honestly, that might have been my mistake: we first discussed the parts this way (which was when I submitted everything for the program), but then Alice switched to the Murray system alto and we never looked back.  But the biggest typo is in our name, they’ve called us North Westchester Flutes!   No big deal, only 3,000 flutists will see the wrong name.  Argh.  Let’s hope things go up from here.IMG_2425IMG_2426

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