In the fall of 2004, I was on vacation on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina. It was there, in the gift shop of the National Museum of the Cherokee Indian, that I spotted Native American flutes. In all honesty, I had never ever been able to learn how to play an instrument, though I had tried several. Something appealed to me in the flute, so I bought one. It was a mass manufactured flute by a well-known maker. To my astonishment, within a day I was playing the old hymn Amazing Grace like a pro.
In the early part of 2006, I had been playing the native flute for just about two years. I wanted more flutes in different keys. I had always been somewhat good with working with my hands, I decided to try to make a flute. I said to myself, “Just how hard can it be?” The answer was a bit more than I expected. I had bought the Ki-e-Ta Flute Making Manual by Keith Stanford, and I was off. My first flute was playable, had a nice sound, and surprisingly for me, it played better than some of the ones I had bought. I made a few flutes for family and friends, and was generally enjoying my new hobby.
Then my world changed.
I was playing one of my flutes at breaktime in the shop where I worked. One of my co-workers was listening to my playing and then he asked me if I sold them. I hadn’t thought about that, but I decided that I would give it a try. However, I decided if I was going to make and sell flutes, I would be different. I would not be charging a lot for my flutes – because I wanted to help other people into beginning to play.
That has been my guiding principle for the ensuing years. I have kept my prices as low as I could, earning a fair profit. I began building my flute making workshop with the proceeds from flute sales.
About that time, I made the acquaintance of a man named Bob Willasch who had been making flutes for a number of years. Bob became my good friend and mentor, guiding me to the directions where I could find the answers to my flute making questions. Bob guided me and helped me improve my skills. He is a good friend, and I have tried to repay his kindness by sharing what I know with others who are wanting to learn.
In the years since I first started making flutes, I have made quite a few. I have added new tools: Laser engravers, 3D printers, little desktop mills. My shop is very well equipped. I’ve vended at many powwows and flute festivals – the flutes have pretty much taken over my life. Although I have retired from a day job, I still make flutes, and I will probably make them until I am no longer able.
At the present time, I make many different styles of Native American style flutes. I make flutes in the style of the Eastern Woodlands peoples, in both wood and river cane. I make the rim blown flutes in the styles of the peoples of the southwest, in the Anasazi style and Mojave style tunings. I make drone flutes, a gentleman’s walking stick type flute, and hiking stick drone flutes. And as of this year, I am making a high-quality PVC flute using PVC electrical conduit and 3d printed parts of my own design. I am always looking to improve on my work, trying different methods and tools.
So I thank you for visiting my pages. If you don’t currently play a Native American style flute, you are missing out on a very rewarding activity. Do consider getting one from a reputable maker and learn to play it. You will be glad you did!