The first week (well, 12 days to be exact) is complete here in Elmsted. I am sitting in my bedroom at The Old Dairy listening to flute music, live and recorded! My roommates, Matthew from Hong Kong and Miharu from Japan, are practicing on either side of my room currently while I listen to recordings of William Bennett. We have great fun here. The Dairy gets its name from the original building- it was a dairy barn that has been converted into a bed and breakfast. In our living room there is still a hook on the wall from where a chain must have held cows in place. My room is the size of a large walk-in closet, basically. There is space for a twin bed, a chest of drawers the size of a normal bedside table, and a closet with enough room to hang 10 shirts. We’ll go with cozy at the adjective to describe it. I’ve filled the walls with photos from home, though, so it’s actually not too bad in here. It’s also quick to warm up when I turn on my wall furnace and that is a bonus of having a small room.
Last week we all arrived at different points in the day Saturday (10/1) and met each other either at the dairies or later at the Boxalls house for dinner. Walking through the door at their residence felt like coming home and it was wonderful. Sue, Paul, and Robbie are always so kind to look after all of the flute students while we’re here, and especially to cook us all dinner the first night so that we don’t need to worry about it. Robbie made his traditional apple crumble and we all went home exhausted, jet-lagged, but warm, full, and cheery.
We’ve had 4 classes so far, full of fingers moving in new and unfamiliar patterns, stomping on exercise books, and of course wonderful stories told by Trevor. Tomorrow we have a class over the Griffes Poem, and the Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune (Debussy) excerpts. He agreed to a later class time tomorrow, since we arrived back from London not too long ago and was gracious to start class at 9:31am ( exactly 31 minute later). How kind!
Today we attended a masterclass by William Bennett at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Wibb is nice enough to allow Trevor’s students to attend, as these classes are normally only attended by flute players of the RAM. We met a former Studio member from 3 years ago, who is now studying with Wibb- that was so nice! Overall it was a nice day in the city, and the music was lovely, but I found myself very aware and frustrated with how the times are truly changing. I’ve spent this week reading Edward Blakeman’s biography on Wibb. It’s full of all sorts of anecdotes and stories from Wibb, his own drawings, and a glimpse into his life and his complete devotion to all of the arts and all aspects of music, not just the flute. It’s humbling to read that he had a lot of support from his parents along the way, often asking them for loans and extra funding for extended time in Paris studying, or to go take 4 lessons with Rampal (I hope my parents back home reading smile at that bit). He didn’t make it “big” right away and spent a long time learning, seeking answers to his questions, and most importantly listening. It doesn’t seem like his beginnings were much different from mine, and that is both humbling and inspiring! He had some lucky breaks along the way, but mostly just kept forging forward and working hard. So today, as I watched a few students get up to play for him, I found myself disappointed. Some didn’t seem interested in what he had to say and at times it seemed like they were humoring him, when to me it was obviously the other way around. How silly! Flute history was quite literally standing right in front of them, sharing his knowledge and insight, and they seemed like they couldn’t be bothered! I should point out that not all of the students were in this way, but how horribly upsetting! This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way in a flute class, and that is even more disappointing. How many times have I sat in master classes and looked around the room and half of the people are just sitting on their phones, not even listening to the person teaching? Or not taking notes? Or don’t have the score in front of them to observe the intricate details that are being discussed? The Flute Greats are dwindling! Wibb, Trevor, and Galway are getting up there, and these guys are the descendants from our Master Teachers- Moyse, Gilbert, Rampal, and those names go back to Taffanel, Gaubert, Hennebains, Dufrene, Rene le Roy. These chaps are the ones who paved the way for us, made history! Sure, we have great teachers and players left today; those that have studied with Wibb or Trevor, or those still around who also studied with Moyse (and even those that haven’t studied with any of these names), but what will we do when those are gone? ESPECIALLY if those (of my generation) who attend classes presently can’t be bothered to listen or soak in every bit of information these musicians have to offer? It starts at home; we must listen to our colleagues and learn from each other, listen to our studio teachers every time they give us information, and we have to learn from The Greats while we still can!
And The Greats got that way by being concerned by more than just silly flute pieces- they studied with vocalists, with violinists, spent time listening, spent time understanding music as a whole. I mean, it’s incredible to read stories about the lives of Moyse and Wibb, and to listen to stories passed down through the years. These guys, they LIVED music. I think that’s it, really. They were and are musicians; whole musicians. One day I hope to be an ounce the kind of musicians all of my teachers are.
I’ll leave you all with this quote for tonight. For those of you that know me well, you know it’s one of my favorites:
“I long ago observed that the real beauty of the sound comes from the generosity of the heart.” - Marcel Moyse