The piercing sound of the piccolo and the mellow tones of a Native American flute filtered through Warren County School District schools on Friday.
LeAnne Wistrom, principal flute of both the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and the Lake Erie Ballet Orchestra, demonstrated five different flutes for music students at Beaty Warren Middle School and Warren Area Elementary Center.
The concert flute, the one the students had seen in their band and orchestra, was the only one familiar to many of the students.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
A whole lotta flute
LeAnne Wistrom, principal flute of the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and of the Lake Erie Ballet Orchestra, helps Beaty Warren Middle School seventh-grader Michelle Gray with a bass flute on Friday as seventh-grader Gabrielle Hahn checks out Wistrom’s four other flutes.
When Wistrom introduced the piccolo, about half as long as a concert flute, she played a tune that sounded like a bird singing and explained that flutes had been used by European nobles at one time to train sparrows and parrots to sing songs that were human, not bird, in origin.
The alto flute, longer and wider than a concert flute, is tuned four notes lower.
The largest member of the family that Wistrom brought along was the bass flute - one full octave lower than the concert flute. The instrument would be well past three feet in length if not for the bend in its head joint.
All of the flutes feature the same fingering patterns.
She chose not to being a contra bass flute due to its weight and how long the instrument takes to assemble.
Wistrom also demonstrated the use of a five-hole Native American flute which created a haunting sound.
Other than construction, appearance, and sound, there are some basic differences between flutes and other wind instruments. "You can hear different pitches on the flute when there's no air going through it," Wistrom explained.
Also, in a flute, the source of the vibrations that are sounds come from air being split by a sharp edge on the instrument's mouthpiece.
One of the songs Wistrom played for the students was called 'Voice of the Whale'. In it, the flute player sometimes vocalizes sounds while playing the same or different notes on the flute. "This piece was inspired by the study of whale song," she said.
Wistrom asked the students how many practice every day. When only a few raised their hands at Beaty, she said, "It doesn't matter how talented you are, you won't get anywhere unless you practice every day."
She said the fun part of music performance comes when one gets better. The musician has to put in the time in the early practices to realize the full potential of performance. "There's more to music than what they're currently seeing," she said. "The fun part is when you get good at it. Music is an art of such joy."
For those students who are interested in advancing their skills, Wistrom suggested a youth orchestra.
The Erie Philharmonic hosts Intermezzo chamber groups of strings, woodwinds, and brass, for youth. There is also a combined orchestra - the Erie Junior Philharmonic - that combines the students. Those groups meet at General McLane High School in Edinboro on Tuesday evenings. Those looking for more information about the program may call 814-455-1375.
Struthers Library Theatre Artistic Director Sue Spencer said Wistrom's visit was sponsored in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Wistrom invited the students to the Erie Philharmonic performance at Struthers Library Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 11.