by Lynn Hedl

My journey with Native American flutes began three years ago when I won a beautiful cedar flute in a raffle. I fell in love with this instrument as soon as it was carefully removed from the long triangular box that came through the mail. The wood was smooth as silk, light as a feather in my hands. It smelled faintly of cedar and smoke; it was magical! I put my fingers on its six holes and blew into the end of the instrument, and actually produced a note! Through further experimentation, I was able to produce the five notes of the scale on which traditional Native American music is based. The flute came with a print fingering chart, but I found a chart at I also had many conversations with Tom and Erica at Stellar Flutes; they provided lots of encouragement, and confirmed that I was using the correct fingering. I was truly hooked!

After some practice, I started to play short melodies. I made them up, and didn't retain most of them, but one kept recurring as I played. Expanding on this, I soon came up with a song I called "The Gift," because that is what this flute had truly become.

Through further exploration, I discovered it was possible to produce several other notes required for melodies like "Amazing Grace," "Oh, Suzannah," and even "Smoke on the Water" by the rock group Deep Purple!

At first I just played alone, but I finally got the courage to bring my flute to a healing service at a friend's church, where I played a short improvisation during communion. People loved it. Now I got more courageous and took the flute to the VA hospital, where I often go as a volunteer to play my harp for patients. "This is really relaxing," was the most frequent comment, but one gentleman demanded to know where I had gotten the flute. "I want one so I can play it out on my back porch when I go home," he explained. I provided him with the 800 number for Stellar Flutes, and warned him that a basic flute like mine would cost around $100. Undeterred, he soon had his flute and I was able to come and give him one brief lesson in holding and playing it before he left the hospital for the last time. Even though he had some difficulty producing the notes, I am certain his flute provided much comfort during the short remainder of his life.

The Native American flute is a relatively simple instrument to learn to play. You can sit for hours, just improvising melodies with the traditional scale, or you can include more notes and play familiar tunes. Whether you are playing this instrument or listening to someone else perform, it seems to promote relaxation, calmness and spiritual well-being. There are countless recordings available where you can hear complicated melodies, full of elaborate trills and grace notes, often interwoven with other instruments or with sounds of nature. As enjoyable as these are, there is nothing like holding one of these instruments in your hands, feeling your breath as it vibrates through the wooden cylinder, to produce music that is simple, haunting and beautiful.

If you want to start your own journey with this amazing instrument, I invite you to come and participate in a Native American flute workshop that I am offering this year at the ACB convention in Orlando. The cost of the workshop will be $30, which will include the cost of a wooden flute which you can take home and enjoy. During the workshop you will learn to play the traditional Native American scale. Together, we will play simple melodies and try some more familiar tunes as time permits. Space will be limited to 15 participants, so plan to sign up early! If I can get extra instruments, I will have them for sale in the Friends-in-Art exhibit booth. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have in the meantime concerning these instruments. Feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].

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