All posts by Adam Clifford

NFA 2018 Newly Published Flute Music Competition Winners

The results of the 2018 National Flute Association Newly Published Music Competition are in! Here’s the run-down of the winning titles by category.

Flute and Piano


Georg Philipp Telemann – Sonata for Flute and Basso Continuo, TWV 41:h4 (Wiener Urtext Edition)

Telemann Sonata for Flute and Continuo, Wiener Urtext Edition

Telemann Sonata for Flute and Continuo, Wiener Urtext Edition

Telemann’s Sonata (Solo) for transverse flute and basso continuo comes from his ‘Tafelmusik’ published in 1733, one of the most important instrumental cycles of the late Baroque period. The prominent themes of the Sonata seem to have impressed G. Fr. Handel so much that he took them up in his Organ Concerto No. 15 in D minor. Buy Now


Honorable Mentions

Flute and Piano Arrangements


Traditional American, arranged by Marietta Simpson & Evelyn Simpson-Curenton – Three Sprituals for Flute and Piano (Theodore Presser)

Three Spirituals - Theodore Presser

Three Spirituals – Theodore Presser

The original publication from July, 2015 of the spiritual Calvary (114-41726) as arranged by the Simpsons proved that their grasp of the material translated wonderfully into a highly musical, highly enjoyable, and somewhat challenging performance piece for an accomplished duo. We are pleased to add Calvary to their arrangements of Git on Board and Li’l David to present Three Spirituals for flute and piano. For advanced performers. Buy Now


Honorable Mentions

Flute Quartets


Roger Derongé: Fanfaflut (Digital Music Print)

Roger Derongé - Fanfaflut (Digital Music Print)

Roger Derongé – Fanfaflut (Digital Music Print)

Fanfaflut is a flute quartet by Belgian composer, Roger Derongé, featuring a variety of styles, from baroque to modern, utilizing a variety of extended techniques, including singing while playing and beatboxing. Part 1 (Flute & Piccolo), Part 2 (Flute & Alto Flute), Part 3 (Alto Flute), Part 4 (Bass Flute & Flute) Buy Now


Honorable Mentions

Mixed Ensembles


Ned McGowan: Garden of Iniquitous Creatures (Donemus)

P. Brent Register: Bedtime Stories (Jeanne Music Publications)


Gerado Dirie: Overwintering (Cayambis Music Press)

Stephen Lias: Forever Alive, Forever Forward (Alias Press) 

http://Buy now

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arranged M Ackroyd: Valse (Wonderful Winds)

Honourable Mention

Spillville Variations on a Theme by Dvorak: 16 commissioned Iowa composers (Alry)

Wind Quintets


Eric Ewazen: Reverie (Theodore Presser)

Eric Ewazen: Reverie (Theodore Presser)

Eric Ewazen: Reverie (Theodore Presser)

Reverie celebrates the wonderfully lyrical voices of the “traditional” wind quintet – blending together as five singers, yet remaining distinct as individual voices. The work opens and closes as the voices float individual melodic lines amid the sparkling colors of the higher instruments and the rich resonance of the lower instruments, while the middle section is intense and bold. Commissioned by the Monmouth Winds, this quintet is a true reverie – sweet, pastoral, and dream-like. Buy Now


Two Flutes and Piano


Robert Russel Bennett, edited by Janet and Paul Somers: Six Souvenirs (Maurice River Press)

Six Souvenirs for Two Flutes and One Piano were written in 1948 for, and premiered by John Wummer (1899-1977) and his wife Mildred Hunt Wummer with Bennett at the piano in the Chamber Music Hall, City Center, New York. In it he honors his flute-playing friends, who just happen to be some of the most distinguished flutists of the twentieth century. Buy Now

Scott Joplin arranged by David Gilliland: Four Joplin Rags (Theodore Presser Comp

Scott Joplin’s ragtime gems are American classics, equally suitable for the recital stage or less formal occasions. David Gilliland’s transcriptions for two flutes and piano may be presented either as a suite or individually. Gilliland has crafted the collection so flute duos may share the joy of performing Joplin together, while the pianist provides the big “stride” accompaniments. Buy Now


Honourable Mention

Solo Flute


Timothy Hagen: Pop for Solo Flute (Owl Glass Music)

Nuno Peixoto de Pinho: #5 Letters to Wolfgang (Scherzo Editions)


Honourable Mention

Low Flutes


Greg Lutz: The Continuing Adventures of  Dexter the Danger Donkey (Alry Publications)

A vibrant conga, playable by a quartet of low flutes with many optional parts available to join the party! The title says it all!Buy Now

Sergei Rachmaninoff/Gabriel Faure/Maurice Ravel, arranged by Christine Potter: Three Vocalises (Falls House Press)

Buy Now

Flute Duets and Trios


Sadiel Cuentas: Five Duets (Cayambis Music Press)

Ricardo Matosinhos: Trio Op.65 for Flute, Alto Flute and Bass Flute (Scherzo Editions)


Honourable Mentions

Solo Flute and Orchestra


Sarah Bassingthwaighte: House of Doors (Alry Publications)

From the composer: “The title, House of Doors, comes from a meditation exercise in which you imagine walking through a hallway full of doors, choosing one, and exploring what’s inside. The exercise is designed to increase creativity and the ability to make positive changes. To me, this meditation is fun, like being in a dream where I can make some choices. The starting point for the Concerto came from three different “rooms” I encountered, and each is translated into sound. The piece is divided into two continuous movements.” Buy Now

Eugene Magalif: Concerto for Flute (Alry Publications)

The Concerto for Flute by Eugene Magalif was completed in 2015. In February 2016, it was recorded for the CD album “Colibri” by soloist Patrick Dillery, flute (USA) and Dnipro Symphony Orchestra (Ukraine), and a few days later, in March, the World Premiere took place in Dnipro Philharmonic Hall. It consists of three movements: Allegretto – Andante – Allegro, and the form is close to similar works of the 18th century. The first and third movements are written in the rondo-variation form, while the second movement is a three-part fugue with a freely-floating flute obbligato, each combining styles of 18th-19th century classical music with modern popular music. Buy Now

Honourable Mention

Solo Flute and Flute Choir


Ricky Lombardo: Tango Time (LMP)

This is an original composition featuring a “C” flute soloist with flute choir accompaniment. There is an opportunity for improvising if desired. Should the soloist prefer to read the solo, there is one written. In addition to being expandable for the flutes, optional sting bass and percussion parts are included. Light in nature, the beautiful melodies will captivate your audience and musicians. Buy Now

Jules Mouquet arranged by Matt Johnston: Pan et les Bergers (Alry Publications)

This arrangement features a colorful, yet light accompaniment to this delightful flute solo. A great piece to feature your first chair player or a visiting soloist. Buy Now


Honourable Mentions

Trios with Other Instruments


Blaz Pucihar: Full Moon Trio for flute, cello and piano (Pucihar Music)

Buy Now


Honourable Mentions

Duets with Other Instruments


Tom Febiano: Alma for alto flute or flute and guitar or piano (Forton Music)

Alma, a suite for alto flute (or flute) and guitar, was written in January of 2010. A pensive and tonal work infused with Iberian textures, its five movements are: Alma, Soneto 1, Lisbon, Soneto 2 and Alma. Performance time is about 19 minutes, and an additional piano part is included to substitute for the guitar accompaniment. The piano part can be used with either alto flute or flute. Buy Now

Antonio Grevasoni: Il Giardino della Costa (Cayambis Music Press)


Honourable Mentions

Flute Ensemble


Adrienne Albert: Across the C’s (Falls House Press)

Across the C’s is an original work by the celebrated American composer Adrienne Albert. This 7-minute work was commissioned by the Norwegian quintet “5 pa Tvers/5 Across” who traveled across the seas to premiere the work at the 2015 NFA convention. In addition to the beautiful flowing feel of an ocean crossing, the music begins and ends with a special sonority of winds blowing on the open sea. Across the C’s may be performed by professional as well as advanced student ensembles. Buy Now

Nicole Chamberlain: Chivy (Spotted Rocket)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines chivy as a method to tease or annoy with persistent petty attacks. Buy Now

Peter Senchuk: North Star Overture (Forest Glade)

North Star Overture portrays the feeling of looking into the night sky on a cold crisp evening to find the North Star. The piece opens with a sparse opening that builds in intensity, just like the stars coming out as night descends. The flutes give us the sound of the night breeze with wind sounds on the held notes. As it progresses the music increases in tempo and becomes an energetic piece with joyful flourishes for all the flutes. Buy Now


Honourable Mentions

Important New Regulations on Wooden Instruments

In January 2017, new rules came into force regarding the wood used to make some musical instruments. We’ve put the following advice together which we recommend reading carefully as it may affect you and your instrument.

What’s happening?

From January 2nd 2017 new regulations were introduced concerning all forms of Dalbergia (rosewood), a genus of plants from which many woodwind instruments are made. This includes African Blackwood (Grenadilla), Cocobolo, Rosewoods/Palisander and all other woods from the Dalbergia genus.


Woods in the Dalbergia genus are used in many products, from furniture to car dashboards to umbrella handles. Illegal logging by less scrupulous individuals has resulted in rapid deforestation in some countries (mainly of palisander woods rather than grenadilla) . As a result, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) introduced regulations, bringing the genus Dalbergia to Appendix II.
More information regarding CITES can be found at

What does this mean?

Appendix II status that any product containing these woods require certification. Manufacturers and suppliers will need to obtain permits to import and export instruments in and out of the EU. In the UK, this costs £59.00 each way – if you are based outside the EU and buying from us, the export licence will be added to your basket.

We will also need to keep precise records of wooden instruments we stock, and where it originates from. We have therefore updated our invoices to show this information.

Any instruments that are affected by the new regulations will be supplied by us with this style of invoice. Customers who have already purchased instruments from us can request copy invoices / documentation that shows this information if required.

What if I want to travel with my instrument?

Currently, it is our understanding that instruments weighing less than 10kg are exempt from these regulations if they are being shipped or carried for personal use. Instruments being shipped within your own country or within the EU can also be sent without documentation.

However, it might be beneficial to check with the relevant CITES Management Authority in the destination country to ensure no extra paperwork is required. CITES have a  list of national contacts.

What happens next?

This is a developing situation, as the CITES regulation was only confirmed in October 2016, so what is written on this page is very likely to change. The music industry is still developing the administrative procedures needed to deal with these changes. We will be keeping this page updated as we learn more about the process. For further information, please contact your local CITES Management Authority.

Haynes Flute

8 Top Tips on Testing a New Flute

When it comes to testing out a new flute, the experience can be overwhelming – what is the best way to test a new flute? We’ve put together our top tips to help you narrow down the choice and find your perfect upgrade flute. Whether you are looking for a step-up instrument or a professional model, follow these pointers to help you on your way!

1. Warm up on your current flute first

It’s natural to be excited about trying new flutes, but don’t test one of the new flutes with Flight of the Bumblebee quite yet – hold back! Get your chops warmed up on your existing flute with some long notes first. This has the added benefit of giving you a reference point for what you are comparing the new flutes to.

2. Scales. Sorry!

Once you’re warmed up, hold off the tunes for a little longer. Play some slow scales on each flute – this will give you an idea of how the instrument sounds across its entire range, and may expose weaker areas.

3. Check the dynamic ranges

This is something that can be done while you are playing scales. Can you play the low register with a strong, full sound? Can you play high notes quietly and sweetly?

4. Test the articulation

How responsive and clean is the articulation? Again, simple scales played slowly and tongued will give you a good idea. Also, try without tonguing (diaphragm only).

5. Get an idea of its tone colours

Play low, simple tunes (good ones are Fauré’s ‘Pavane’ or ‘The Aquarium’ from ‘Carnival of the Animals’), and aim at a very hollow, open sound. Go up an octave and see if you can produce the same sort of sound. It is very important that an instrument is capable of producing a similar quality of sound throughout the full range. Next, try a much harder sound with lots of harmonics, again in different octaves (Moyse 24 Easy Melodic Studies No. 10 – strong and trumpet like, is ideal).

6. Get a friend to help

A listener comes in useful when testing the projection. Some instruments appear to play loudly close up, but cannot be heard at the back of a concert hall. Others don’t sound loud close up, but the sound travels better – this is projection, and can be very deceiving. A good way to test this is to compare instruments while you have a listener outside the room with the door closed: which sounds louder?

7. Be prepared to compromise

You may have a pre-conceived idea of your ‘perfect’ instrument, (in terms of sound, feel or any other area really!).  But – take our word for it – it probably doesn’t exist!

8. Be realistic about what an upgrade offers

A new instrument can’t compensate for shortcomings in your playing – only hours of careful practice can do this. But a new instrument gives you the potential to improve your sound in all areas – practice will then make this a reality!

7 tips on choosing a beginner flute

Yamaha YFL-211 Flute

This article was first written in February 2011, and has been updated in February 2018.

Buying your first flute can be daunting: there are so many different makes, models and types of flutes available, and the variations in price can be hundreds of pounds. Below, we’ve compiled our top tips to help a complete newcomer decide on a new flute.

1. Do plenty of research on the different brands available

The ABRSM Viva Woodwind forum has a lot of helpful information from players and teachers, detailing some good and bad brands. If you already have a flute teacher lined up, they should also be able to offer their own advice on what to buy.

2. Be careful of flutes which look too cheap…

This is important. Some supermarkets, high street chains and online-only warehouses sell their own brand of flutes. In our experience, these flutes should be avoided: while the quality of Chinese flutes has undoubtedly improved since this article was originally written, there are still many poor-quality, cheap flutes around, and while the initial outlay is low, the running costs can quickly overtake the price of a good branded flute.

As well as the high running costs, cheap flutes are not as easy to play, and can be difficult even for an advanced player to make a decent sound on. We see so many players on the verge of giving up because they thought they were just no good at the flute – when in fact the problem was caused by a poor-quality instrument.

Our own-brand budget flutes may be priced a fraction higher than the very cheapest flutes available – but they have been designed by flute players (us!) and will give a student a good start.

We recommend that you should budget between £250 – £500 for an entry-level flute, although rental schemes, Take It Away and buying second hand can help to reduce the up-front strain on your wallet.

3. …But don’t buy something that’s not designed for a beginner

It should go without saying that flutes classified as ‘beginner flutes’ have been designed specifically for beginner players. A good quality beginner flute should be easy to play, lightweight, and be able to withstand knocks and bumps.

On the other hand, step-up flutes, professional flutes and so on, have been designed for players who can already play the flute to an extent. They’re not designed to be as easy to play, but they don’t need to be – they tend to be heavier, offer the fuller sound and increased projection that an advanced player needs.

4. Stick to ‘traditional’ specifications

There’s a whole raft of options available on flutes. Open holes, C# trill keys, E mechanism, B footjoint, D# roller, silver this or that.

In our opinion, a beginner should start on a silver-plated flute with closed holes, E mechanism (sometimes called a Split E) and C footjoint. If you want to know what these terms mean, read our Jargon Buster, but basically a flute with these specifications will be (a) easier to play and (b) easier to re-sell at a higher value when the time arises.

5. Get the right size

Flutes don’t come in different ‘sizes’ as such, but you can get curved headjoints for a small beginner. This brings the keys of the flute closer to the body, reducing the stretch. If your child needs a curved headjoint, the truth is that it will cost more; but the problems if you don’t get a curved headjoint could far outweigh the price difference. Neck and back pain from over-stretching can arise, and players can easily get into the bad habit of poor posture. It can take many years to sort out a poor posture that wouldn’t have arisen with a curved headjoint.

For very small players (ages 5 to 7), you could start on the fife or Apprentice flute, both of which are affordable ‘mini’ flutes.

6. A good brand will hold its value

Unlike many things in this modern world – cars, computers, phones etc – flutes can hold their value very well. Many model numbers have been around for years – so you shouldn’t worry about your flute being obsolete in six months’ time. In fact, because of increasing metal prices, some customers have been lucky enough to discover that a Yamaha 211 flute bought new a few years ago is now worth more second hand than they paid new!

7. Think ahead

Hopefully, you’re buying a flute with the intention of sticking at it and developing your ability and sound. Certain beginner flutes – notably the Pearl PF-505 and Yamaha YFL-212 – are upgradable by replacing the headjoint (the part that you blow in to). Putting a handmade silver headjoint on one of these is like loading it with rocket fuel – the improvement is immense, for a fraction of the price of an intermediate flute.

Follow this advice and you’ll have an instrument that will give years of use and enjoyment. What’s more, it will give you room to develop your playing skill, too.

Now that you know what you are looking for, view the selection of beginner flutes on offer at Just Flutes

Hidden Histories: Being a Flute Detective

Adler-4Whenever we get an older second hand instrument for sale, we research its history and background for its story. Sometimes the maker is obscure and there isn’t much information around, but occasionally a fascinating story is revealed. Often more than a little detective work is required to find an instrument’s story.

This was recently brought to mind, when we had two Adler piccolos for sale. One was marked Oscar Adler & Co while the other was stamped up F. O. Adler.

The first piccolo I was researching was the Oscar Adler. As a maker, Oscar Adler is well-known in woodwind circles: born in 1862, he produced woodwind instruments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Markneukirchen, Saxony. He held numerous patents: along with a chap named Hermann Jordan, he held in 1903 a patent for an instrument called the Oktavin (page in French), which was a hybrid of a clarinet, oboe and bassoon! By 1902 Adler was the largest woodwind manufacturer in Germany, and the Adler company continues today, concentrating nowadays on oboes and bassoons.

This piccolo was stamped with the Adler roundel with a serial number on the reverse and year of manufacture – 1936 – on the front. The year of the Berlin Olympics in Hitler’s Germany, and the year that Germany reoccupied the Rhineland.

Adler-3Aside from the maker’s stamp on the piccolo body, the headjoint had another mark: Fl. H K Wunstorf. I had no idea what this was: whether it was the name of a previous owner or even if it was another maker’s name. In this case, might the headjoint not be original?

A quick search and it was revealed to me that Wunstorf was (and still is) a German air base in Lower Saxony, not too far from where Adler’s workshop was in Markneukirchen. This air base was built in… 1936!

The Fl. H. K. abbreviation stands for – I believe – Fliegerhorstkommadantur, or Air Field Station Command. So, it seems that this piccolo was purchased by the Luftwaffe specifically for their new airbase and was played by the band of the Luftwaffe! One can only speculate on the rallies that this instrument may have been played at.

This was fascinating to me: what this seemingly innocuous piccolo has seen in its life and the journey it must have made to end up for sale in a music shop in London. The RAF took over the German air base at the end of the war, so presumably this is when the piccolo came in to British hands.

Piccolo by F.O. Adler

F. O. Adler stamp on a piccolo

The second piccolo, which was marked as F. O. Adler, was the first instrument I had seen from this maker. Since I had no information on who this maker was, I turned to the trusty Langwill Index, which is a bible in these situations. It lists thousands of wind instrument makers from the infamous to the obscure: sometimes there is a lot of information, often there is just a scrap, or occasionally there is none at all.

Adler is a fairly common surname in Germany (it means ‘eagle’ – hence the wings sometimes found on a headjoint are called Adler wings, or eagle wings – nothing to do with an inventor), and there are several Adlers listed in Langwill: there are the three Adlers of Oscar’s family tree (his father Johann and brother Robert Oswald who were both also woodwind makers); Adler a brass instrument manufacturer; Eduard Adler a stringed-instrument maker; Frederic Adler of Paris, a bassoon technician and inventor; and Johannes Adler (of Markneukirchen, the same town as Oscar), who started making woodwinds, before branching into brass and strings. But, no mention of an F. O. Adler.

The Oktavin Patent in Music Trade Review

The Oktavin Patent in an 1896 edition of Music Trade Review

I then came across this article in the Patents section of Music Trade Review dating from 1896, which mentions an 1893 patent owned by F. O. Adler and Hermann Jordan, both of Markneukirchen. The text of the patent and accompanying picture shows the Oktavin! Putting two and two together, it turns out that the two Adlers were one and the same, that the initials F. O. stood for Franz Oscar, and that at some point between 1896 and 1903 he dropped the name Franz from the company name. This piccolo was certainly made before 1903 then, but beyond that it is hard to pinpoint a date.

As an aside, during my search through Langwill for F. O. Adler, I discovered one more interesting little snippet that reminds us of conditions in 1930s Germany. Here is part of Johannes Adler‘s entry in Langwill:

“A mid 1930s advertisement stated ‘note the forename – a purely Aryan business!’, an anti-Semitic reference to their local competitor O Adler.”

Perhaps Johannes Adler was envious that his Jewish competitor’s instruments, and not his own, had been purchased by the Luftwaffe. Maybe business was just slow, but either way I thought this was an interesting twist in the tale of these piccolos.

Gareth Davies

An Interview with Gareth Davies

Gareth DaviesThe following interview with London Symphony Orchestra Principal Flute Gareth Davies interview was originally posted on Principal Chairs. He talks about everything from the LSO to auditions, colleagues in the orchestra, preparing for auditions, his Royal College of Music teaching appointment and his new book about the LSO on tour.

Hi Gareth! Thanks for coming to chat with us. As a lot of our subscribers are recent graduates could you tell us what you found to be the challenges in bridging the gap between college and professional work?

Well when you start at college it’s difficult to know what’s expected of you in the workplace. You’re obsessed with all the things you have to get right like exams, and other things, and you compare yourself with other flute players around you. It was quite an eye-opener when I went out and did a bit of freelance work. It is difficult to pick up your first date, but I remember turning up for an audition as a rookie student flute player and in the same room as me were three well-known, established flute players, all warming up about to audition before me. That’s when I realised that one can be the best flute player in the college, but when you’re out you’re judged against every other flute player and that’s a quite big leap to make.

So how did the audition go?

I got the job! It just depends; if there was a job going in the London Symphony Orchestra then you know that a lot of other principals would be going for that. Having said that, there is always room for somebody else. I mean, take Adam Walker for example; he was 21 when he got the job [co-principal LSO] and of course there were other excellent flute players going for that seat. If you don’t get the job in one orchestra it doesn’t mean that you won’t somewhere else. All orchestras have a different style of playing. There is no right and wrong way of approaching this kind of thing.

What aspects of your job do you feel college couldn’t prepare you for?

I was at the Guildhall, but it has changed a lot since then! At the time I played in lots of repertoire sessions with just the wind, which were really useful, but we did very few concerts. For instance, I played second in Symphony Orchestra in a concert and that’s all I did in the entire time. The concert we did was Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony. It has taken me almost 20 years to come up against that piece again and it took it off!

It’s interesting that what college didn’t prepare me for is the repertoire. The dream is to come out of college and get a job in the Berlin Phil, LSO, LPO etc., but the reality is that most people will come out and start doing small shows, local orchestras and dates in muddy fields playing the 1812 Overture. The Overture is really hard! Certainly when I was at college no one ever told me that.

Actually, one thing I really try to work on with colleges (since I have been in the LSO) is doing rep. sessions on standard repertoire that you are likely to actually play in real life. The first time I played in the LSO I had to sit down and virtually sight-read. Martin Parry, who was second flute then, had broken his ankle and I had substitute. It was Mahler 2 and I had to learn it pretty quickly. I got the score, looked at it and relied on my nerves for the concert. I felt that the college really did not prepare me for that. To be fair, there is no way it could have prepared me for that situation.

Usually you prepare for weeks for a concert and you practice for hours. I simply do not have the time for that now. I would be lucky if I could look at the music we’re playing in the next concert for an hour. You have to be quick and flexible. I think that was the biggest shock when I moved from college to the profession.

How did you prepare for the auditions?

When I applied for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra I was 22. I think I was in the last day of the auditions when they were probably just ‘sweeping-up’. I made sure I knew the excerpts.

I had a few ‘moments’ at college, like when I failed both of my technical exams, mainly due to laziness. I didn’t listen to the excerpts in context, just learnt the notes. Fortunately, I made that mistake at college so when I went to a real audition I was better prepared. When I went for that job I certainly didn’t expect I’d get it. I had no experience and the last time I had played in a Symphony Orchestra was about a year before at college. Since I’d left youth orchestra I’d played first flute only five or six times, so I prepared myself to just go in and do it. It was the end of the day, so I thought “what the heck, I’ve got nothing to lose!” I had had a few dates with some London orchestras just before, so I knew I wasn’t totally rubbish!

I didn’t think that I did particularly well in the audition, but no-one does, do they? It’s the same in a concert situation – I can play much better in my practice room, partly because I can play things three or four times! So I drove home after the audition and had an answer-phone message (pre-mobile phone era!) from the Bournemouth, offering me a trial. I was completely gob-smacked! I wasn’t a genius or anything, I had simply prepared.

I think it is important not to treat auditions with a “do-or-die” mindset. When I am on the panel for auditions I really want people to play well and it can be really boring listening to the Mozart again and again with varying degree of success, and the same three excerpts with the same mistakes. It’s a bit like going to a nightclub and the bouncer looks you up and down and says “Yep, you’re alright. You can come in.” Once you get a trial, then you really can impress.

It’s a whole different ball-game doing the concerts. I remember the first concert I did about three months after I got offered the trial: I got the music straight away (Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra) and learnt it. The problem was, I couldn’t get the part. I had to buy the score and write the flute part out by hand, which is why I really don’t have much time for students who turn up for classes with the excuse “I couldn’t find the excerpt!”. I never set excerpts to trick people. It’s all standard stuff.

Anyway, back in Bournemouth after the Bartok we did the complete Vaughan Williams Symphonic Cycle with Richard Hickox and I got offered the job pretty quickly after that. I think Bournemouth have a tradition of taking risks on good, young players. Karen Jones was my predecessor and it may have been her first job too. I really enjoyed it there and I think one of the reasons I got the job was that I was able to get on with people. I think they like attracting younger players and they thought “why not take a risk”. I am very glad they did because that’s when I actually started to learn!

How usual is it for people to get jobs straight out of college these days?

Well, take a look the LSO: we had two positions vacant in the last four years. The principal flute job was won by Adam Walker when he was 21. He had little bits of experience, but not a huge amount. But, he has a lot of natural ability, he works hard and learns unbelievably quickly. He’s a fantastic player and a great colleague.

The second flute position was won by Siobhan Grealy. I will not tell you how old she is because that would be very un-gentlemanly of me! Her and I are about the same age now and the LSO is her first job, so I think you’ve got your answer there. Some people are always going to be superstars and some people develop much later. First and second flutes are very different jobs too. Siobhan was a very experienced freelance player and having that support is important. I think second flute is a much harder job to fill, actually.

Congratulations on your new RCM professorship appointment!

Thank you very much! I’m very excited.

What are you intending on bringing to the department?

I will bring my flute. Definitely! [Laughs]. But seriously, it has taken me a long time to know what I think about playing the flute. I’ve always been an intuitive player, never a technician. I’ve had all sorts of problems. I am, by no means, a perfect player and I make mistakes all the time, I get nervous etc. When I am tired I fall into bad habits, especially when we’re away on tour for weeks; it’s just so easy to do. So it has taken me a long time to come to conclusions about things.

Somebody asked me the other day about ‘support’; the holy grail of air support! I suddenly realised that I have been as guilty of using that phrase as all of my teachers, but very few people can tell you what that actually means and what you actually have to do. There are things I can teach and things I can’t.

For example I can’t teach you how to get the right element of fantasy in the solo in Daphnis, or how to get the right mixture of pathos in Mahler 10. In many ways I do not want to do that because that is entirely open to your interpretation, which may be different to mine, but that is cool. What I can teach is the mechanics.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I became confident to be able to say “this is how I do it”. I’ve been thinking about it recently, partly because my daughter has taken up the flute. I’ve been thinking that I am 41 now, I’ve been playing professionally for nearly 20 years, and I didn’t feel ready to teach younger players until recently. I am still learning myself; I learn from teaching I do, or when I’m sitting down the section playing alto flute with Adam on principal I can learn stuff from him.

I always try to learn from musicians on other instruments too, which I think is so important. Playing in an orchestra is about playing in a team. I don’t do a huge number of recitals, apart from the recent one at RAM for the BFS artist series. I don’t actually like the flute repertoire! The reason I love playing in orchestra is that I have the opportunity to play Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss! In the flute rep. there is one piece written by a great composer and it’s played to death. So I really enjoy being part of the team in the LSO.

It’s nice to have your moments to shine, but there is something about being a part of the core sound of the woodwind section which is so brilliant. When you do get the solo, like in Daphnis, it is great, and playing on the sound that the LSO makes is just extraordinary. I don’t really like teaching orchestral excerpts because they get done in a specific way which is so different to playing with the rest of the section.

For example, Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony is terrifying to play by yourself, but when you play it with the second flute player its not quite so terrifying, and then when you play it in an orchestra it’s ok … not easy but not terrifying because you’re part of the team. I’ve done this many times: I turn pages in a piece and suddenly there is an ‘excerpt’ and I start panicking! So I’m constantly relating solo things back to orchestral ways, especially in terms of intonation, sound and flexibility.

You have to be so flexible to play in an orchestra and I’d like to bring an awareness of this in approaching solo pieces to my students at RCM.

We’ve heard you’ve written a book! What prompted you to do that?

I started writing a tour blog for the orchestra in 2007 when we first started doing things like that. I enjoyed doing it and it gradually it became a bit of an obsession of mine. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words now! I found it became more and more difficult to describe concerts as I started to run out of adjectives quite quickly…. “it was a sensational concert”, “a marvellous concert” etc. So, it ended up being much more about what it was like being away in New York, for example, or what it was like being away from your family for months at a time. People also enjoy hearing about the backstage gossip!

The blog became more of a description of what it is like to be a musician, rather than a dry description of concerts from a musicologist. Lots of people said to me “oh, you should write a book”, but I couldn’t just regurgitate the old stories because that would just be boring!

2012 was the centenary of the LSO going on tour to New York for the first time; we were the first European orchestra to tour the US in 1912, which was a long time ago. 100 years to be exact!

To cut a very long story short, I was talking to our archivist, who found a diary which was sent to us and which I found very interesting. It was actually a diary of Charles Turner who was the timpanist on that very tour in 1912, a founding member of the LSO in 1904. So this diary described that tour to the US. He describes what they ate, what the living was like; he said New York was dirty and that they didn’t really like it and so on. Then another diary surfaced, written by Mr Nisbet who was the second flute player. His wasn’t quite as interesting!

What I realised from those diaries was how different and similar things were compared to now. Some things haven’t changed a bit. So after reading the things they did in New York back then I thought ‘if one was to simply change the names of the people and places, it would virtually be the same as today.’ I started comparing it all and the research just got bigger and bigger. The book is basically comparing the 1912 and 2012 tours. Anyway, so it’s coming out in May. I really enjoyed writing it and it’s something I would like to do more of. We’ll have to see if anybody buys it!

Last question! Do you think that Principal Chairs is a useful resource?

Yes, I think it’s a really useful thing and I do wish it was around when I was at college. As I said, I wrote out the part for Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. It was time consuming, I did it myself and then had to figure out what to do from recordings.

Because I’d left college by that point, I didn’t have a teacher to go to and get help. So to have all that online ready, and to have Michael’s advice would have been invaluable. Michael is a fantastic player and experienced in orchestras; he really knows what he is doing!

Principal Chairs

Reproduced with kind permission of Principal Chairs, the leading website for orchestral audition preparation.

Flute Pad Saver

Flute Essentials: Cleaning and Maintenance Accessories

There are masses of accessories designed for cleaning your flute and keeping it in top playing order. Here’s our round-up of what we suggest every flute (and piccolo) player should have in their cleaning arsenal.

1. Cleaning Rod and Gauze

Flute Cleaning RodThe most important cleaning accessory for every flute player! You should use a good-quality wooden cleaning rod (a metal one can scratch the inside of the instrument) with a lint-free, non-fluffy gauze, after every playing session. This will absorb the bulk of the water from inside your instrument, meaning your pads will last longer.

You shouldn’t store the gauze in the case with the flute – leaving a soggy cloth in the case isn’t good for the mechanism, plus there often isn’t space! Store it in the side pouch of your case cover.

Wood Cleaning RodCleaning Gauze

2. A Silver Cloth

Most flutes are either silver or silver-plated. Silver reacts with sulphur in the air over time, making it look tarnished, dull and blackened. A silver cloth is impregnated with a chemical compound, and can polish silver up to make it bright again. If you notice that your flute is looking tarnished, a silver cloth will almost certainly do the trick.

Silver Cloth

Silver cloths are very mildly abrasive, and so should be used just once in a while on a lightly tarnished instrument. For everyday use, you should use…

3. A Fine Microfibre Cloth

Shinvision ClothYour finger prints contain grease and mild acids, and you should use a fine polishing cloth to gently remove them. This will keep your flute’s finish in its best condition, and is especially important on a silver-plated instrument, where silver-plating can begin to come off (‘pit’) if not kept clean.

Fine Microfibre Cloth

4. Pad Saver

Flute Pad SaverWhen used correctly, a pad saver can help increase the life of your flute’s pads. They work with the help of an impregnated dessicant which draws extra moisture from the pads’ surface. You should use the pad saver after cleaning your flute with a rod and gauze, and not as a substitute. Store it inside your flute body while it’s in its case, and it will help to reduce condensation when moving from warm to cold environments, too.

Flute Pad SaverPiccolo Pad Saver

5. Picc Stick

Picc Stick

This is an incredibly useful cleaner for piccolo players who suffer from water-logging keys. It assembles to the full length of your piccolo, so can be used mid-gig to quickly swab it out without having to take the headjoint off and re-tune. It takes down in to two pieces, which will easily fit your shoulder bag.

Picc Stick


Welcome to the Just Flutes blog.

The Just Flutes showroom in Croydon, London, UKOur plan is that this blog will develop to become a huge resource for flute players, comprising of ideas for flute music, books and recordings, instruments and accessories – some of which will be new, some not so new, some hidden gems you may have missed, others old favourites that every flute player should have in their library.

So, watch this space, enjoy, and feel free to register, comment and make suggestions!