Saturday, February 24, 2007


My daughter and I had the opportunity to attend a masterclass in Dallas this morning with the preeminent flutist alive today, "the man with the golden flute" himself, Sir James Galway. Oh. My. Gawd. Becky. The man is truly phenomenal. I have enjoyed many of his recordings over the years and shared them with my students, but they don't do him justice. Even the Girl, who at 15 often bears the title "Miss Way Too Cool For The Room," was impressed.

Sure, the man is a true virtuoso in every sense of the word. His 50 plus years of dedication to the instrument shine through in his impeccable tone and technique, and he was all too willing to share his secrets with us. I got chills when he began Debussy's "Syrinx" and gracefully and seamlessly segued into "Danny Boy," before we knew what hit us.

It wasn't just his incredible flute playing that got to us though. It was Galway's charm, grace, sense of humor and ginormous heart that won over every person in that hall today. Consummately funny, we laughed at the stories and jokes he told throughout the class. The Girl confessed to me at intermission that she was expecting "some boring old flute guy," not a good time. She added that she only agreed to go along because we would be in Dallas, within a couple of miles of Herrera's, our favorite Mexican food restaurant and knew that if we were anywhere near, we would go there for lunch afterwards. At least we know where her priorities are.

The first student performing in the clinic was a high school sophomore from Houston. The boy's flute wasn't functioning quite properly, so what did Sir Galway do? He carefully inspected the instrument, mumbled something to the effect of, "Oh, that will never do," and without hesitation handed the kid his brand new (as in just acquired yesterday) solid gold handmade Nagahara flute to use instead. That unflinching gesture of kindness and generosity to a child earned him a spot in my heart.

We learned so much today about embouchure, technique and tone and how most of us (myself included) have received incorrect instruction on, as he so aptly phrased, "how to do it," from those who received incorrect instruction from those who received incorrect instruction & so on... It will take a little practice to do it his way but the reason we practice is to get better, right? I'm always game for a good distraction. The most important lesson we came away with though was to play from the heart or it's not music at all. Of course, that's similar to what I've been trying to tell my students all along ("Do it like you mean it!"), but it sounds so much cuter in his lilting Irish brogue talking about playing from the heart, not the head.

The Mexican food afterwards was out of this world, too. It was a guuuud day.

(Yes, I know the picture, taken at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is really way past crappy but it was taken with that gawdforsaken Treo since I was too much of a spaz to remember to take a real camera.)

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