By Helen Spielman
|The flute chosen by Martha Long!|
Martha Long, Principal Flute of the San Antonio Symphony
Orchestra, attended the NFA 2014 convention in Chicago with one intention: to
purchase a new flute. After trying a
huge array of instruments, she chose fifteen finalists, and through the
gracious help of Carolyn Nussbaum, we found ourselves in a private room,
listening to the same orchestral excerpts over and over again on those flutes.
I taught Martha for seven years during her teens. Martha
asked me to listen, along with her flutist friends Matthew Roitstein and Ben
Smolen as well as a pianist friend, so I happily spent most of this convention
hearing her play the same orchestral excerpts over and over. We narrowed it down to four instruments, but
I wasn’t fully satisfied. Martha sounds good on any flute, but I wanted her to
sound spectacular. So I practically
pushed Carolyn out into the hotel hallway, and said, “Don’t you know of some fabulous
instrument, something that will be even better than those she’s playing now?” I
knew that Martha’s flute was to be a gift from her parents, and they had
impressed upon me that they wanted the very best for Martha.
Carolyn energetically pointed her index finger up in the
air, saying, “Wait!! I’ll be back in five minutes!” ---- and whoosh!
---- she ran off down the
hallway. I casually wandered back to my seat in the room, and when Carolyn
returned, she had another instrument to add to the mix.
We went through yet another round of testing. I didn’t know
how Martha had the stamina. No one, including Martha, knew what brands we were
hearing. And then ------ one flute stood out so far beyond the others, it was
clear beyond doubt.
“What flute is this?” we all wanted to know. Mary Lyons, a
flute specialist who works for Carolyn, had been ably assisting us, and
announced it was a very special Powell flute. Carolyn had known about the
existence of this specific flute since the Spring and brought the instinct,
knowledge and experience of her many years in the business to believe this
would be right for Martha. Martha sounded amazing: as amazing as she always
humbly describes her colleagues and friends as sounding.
Martha worried about the wisdom and the expense of
purchasing such an elite flute. I asked her some tough questions: What is your
highest goal for the next ten years? Her answer: “To sound better each day than
I did the day before.” Does this flute sound like you
? “Yes.” Do you want to go back to work and have people notice
you have a new flute, or do you want to turn heads? “I know that I want to
share this instrument with my family, friends, and colleagues, and I want this
flute to be a voice in my orchestra.”
Well, then, which instrument will help you meet these goals?
And gradually, along with speaking to the Powell staff, Martha embraced the
idea that she could allow herself to fall in love with this flute.
Martha was so overcome with gratitude that she could not
think of a better way to thank her parents than by visiting them and showing
them the flute in person. So she switched her flight from Texas to my flight to
North Carolina. The mischievous part of me told her, “Don’t inform your parents
that you’re coming, Martha! Surprise them!”
My husband met us at the airport and we drove Martha to her
parents’ home. We stayed at the car so Martha could have a moment with her
parents. She walked into the house and we could see her parents’ mouths drop
open in utter shock. “What are you doing here?” exclaimed her mother. Her
father was simply speechless. At that point we were invited in, and watched
Martha show the flute to her parents. She played Bach. The joy and love between
them was a pleasure to see. Oh, except for Martha’s cat, Lola, who was staying
with her parents and doesn’t care for Bach.
Martha is now playing on her Powell gold flute in the new Tobin
Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio. The orchestra members and music
director are all thrilled with Martha’s new instrument. She is giving a recital
in December presented by Camerata San Antonio, and I will fly there to attend.
This time she is going to surprise me
she said, with her dress. I wonder what that might mean!
Maintaining such a close relationship with a former student,
one who is as kind, considerate, and fun as Martha has brought me more joy and
satisfaction than I can describe.
Helping, even in the smallest way, to find her way to this Powell flute, was a
rich experience. Except for previously
contributed articles to the Powell blog, having a few students purchase Powells
through Carolyn Nussbaum, and being acquainted with Powell’s friendly staff, I
have not been associated with Powell previously.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who were a part of
this story: Martha Long, Janet and John Long, the staff at Carolyn Nussbaum
Music Company, especially Carolyn Nussbaum, Mary Lyons, and Carolyn’s mother
Shirley, the staff at Verne Q. Powell Flute Company, Martha’s friends, and, as
always, my chauffeur and husband Fred.
Helen Spielman is a
performance anxiety coach who taught flute for 24 years. Her passion is to help musicians maximize
their highest potential on stage. She teaches positive self-talk for
performance, self-compassion, the alleviation of perfectionism and worry about
others’ approval, concentration, and consistent performance. Helen works with musicians, moms, and
business executives internationally via Phone and Skype. Her popular book A
Flute in My Refrigerator: Celebrating a Life in Music is selling
prestissimo and is available on Amazon as well as at
flute specialty stores. Please visit http://PerformConfidently.com for more information.