|Left to right: Christina's Powell, high school flute, beginner flute.
From her beginning days through the present, Christina has had a total of four flutes. In addition to her administrative responsibilities at Powell, she is also a professional performer and educator. Her first flute was a popular closed hole, C foot, student model. It served her well in the formative years, and when she began high school, she progressed on to another flute – this one being a popular step-up flute with open holes and a B foot. She continued on with her studies, majoring in flute in college. In her second year of college, she purchased a pro flute with a solid silver headjoint, solid silver body, and drawn tone holes. The very next year, she purchased an additional professional, custom headjoint for this flute.
Christina mentioned that most beginners play on a closed hole, C foot flute, because it allows them to focus on developing a good tone and facility. The C foot flute is lighter than a B foot, and the additional range of the low B would not be critical in a beginner’s studies. Some teachers feel it is best to start students on an open hole flute because it helps them establish proper hand position from the get-go. There are different schools of thought, and they are all valid for their points. However, Christina mentioned that there is always a point in the development of a flutist where you need to make a change in equipment. She says, “With flute, you progress to a point where you are providing more air than the instrument can take. You may start cracking and splitting notes. At this point, it’s best to go to a solid silver flute --- or at least a solid silver headjoint.” For those who have started on a closed hole, C foot, beginner flute, this next flute is also usually an open hole, B foot model. Her point became very clear when she shared the following story with us:
I had a student who came to study with me after having played for three years. After her second or third lesson, I felt that she could not continue to play on her closed hole, C foot flute, because it was really holding her back. You could hear that she had much more air than the flute could hold and was advancing quickly. There were 16 flute players in her school, and she was 14th chair. She went with her parents and bought a new solid silver flute with open holes and a B foot. She instantly sounded better without having to use more air. She went back to school with the new flute and moved up to 2nd chair.
Open hole flutes with a B foot are important when stepping up from a beginner model, but material is important as well. The material of the flute needs to be firm and solid enough to hold the air that an advancing player can put through it. Eventually, when one goes to a fully professional model like a Powell, you have many choices on customizing the material for multiple parts of the flute – not just the body and headjoint, but tone holes, ribs, posts, and rings as well. You can also customize the material for the lip plate and riser of the headjoint.
When Christina began working at Powell in 2002, she decided that it was time to purchase a fully professional, Handmade Custom Powell. She had the opportunity to choose exactly what she wanted in the design and materials, and the choices were quite overwhelming. She tested a few solid silver models and was interested in the 14K Aurumite but was a bit concerned with the weight. With her previous pro silver flute, which was inline, she developed severe pain and problems in her shoulder. However, she picked up a 14K Aurumite with an offset G and had absolutely no problems with the weight, and she felt no discomfort. She played for her colleagues, and they agreed that this was the perfect flute for her. At this point in the process, it was September, and her birthday was approaching. She came to work and was immediately called to the president’s office, where the entire staff was gathered. They handed her a box with a pamphlet that came with all the 75th Anniversary flutes. As she recalls, “They asked me to read it, and I thought, ‘Why should I read something I wrote?’” Well, as she read through it, the specs at the bottom of the form said, “to be determined… Happy Birthday, Christina!” Her parents came through on the speaker phone to wish her a happy birthday, and at that point, she said, “I knew I was getting the flute for my birthday!”
So, there are certainly no “correct” number of flutes to own as one progresses from a beginner to a pro, and the specs will differ based on many factors, including a family’s budget and the popular question of “will my child continue on with the flute?” What is most important to remember is that the right flute at the right time will certainly make a difference. By the time one chooses a custom, professional flute, no two flutes (like no two flutists) are the same. The flute should always be comfortable for you so that you can enjoy many years of healthy, happy music making!