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Flute festival fills Bucksbaum with music

Large numbers of flutists gathered in Bucksbaum this past weekend. Photograph by Connie Lee.

By Meg Schmitt

Grinnell let the “Flute Out of the Box” this past weekend in Bucksbaum with a daylong statewide flute festival and competition featuring guest artists and native Iowans of all ages in an annual celebration. The day’s events ranged from arranged warm-ups and workshops to professional performances and “Master Class” critiques from 7:30 a.m. till 6:00 p.m. in the Rotunda and Sebring-Lewis Hall of Bucksbaum.

Grinnell earned the privilege of hosting the the event because of a five-year cycle that rotates the event among five colleges and universities in Iowa.

Large numbers of flutists gathered in Bucksbaum this past weekend. Photograph by Connie Lee.

“It’s the largest single flute event in the state, so it’s a big deal in that way,” said Claudia Anderson, Music, who organized the festival.

The festival attracts professionals, students and amateur flute fans across the state to attend performances and share an appreciation for the instrument.

Two guest artists were brought in by the College for their expertise and range in flute musical interests: Nina Assimakopoulos, of a more contemporary focus, and Linda Pereksta, a specialist in Baroque flute.

“My choice in guest [artists] is a reflection of my goal [to] try to push boundaries in different directions, both backwards in history and forwards,” Anderson said.

The morning part of the festival was composed mainly of performances from various groups, including ensembles from Northern Iowa University and Grinnell’s very own Fresh Flutes quartet. Anderson worked with her student assistants to provide some workshops in the morning to teach different flute techniques and expand attending flutists’ repertoire in music choice.

“We try to introduce new pieces so it’s a learning experience for all of us,” Anderson said.

This experience was shared across disciplines within the Bucksbaum community, both in organization and performance. The piece “Zoom Tube” included the artistic styling of dance interpretation to match the more contemporary technique of the trademark piece of Grinnell flutists.

Chair of the Music Department Jennifer Brown shared her skills on the harpsichord with several pieces in the afternoon concerts, and the Grinnell artists helped ensure everything ran smoothly in both the competition and the performances.

Besides the exposure to new and different skills in the flute community, many young flutists gained from the Master Class experiences. The guest artists, called “Masters” based on their expertise, joined students on stage to observe and evaluate their technique and handling of the flute by critiquing their performance in front of the crowd for shared instruction.

“We can all learn from one person’s [mistakes]…the point is to criticize the student so that they can try to improve on stage,” explains Olivia Wen ’13, member of the Fresh Flutes Grinnell quartet. “Almost everyone can learn from it. They were helping students improve by having a fresh pair of ears to listen to their music.”

The learning experience proved an enjoyable and successful one, if the reactions of visiting students and ensembles offer any judgment.

“I feel very fortunate, that as a senior [at Grinnell,] I got to have the festival here,” Wen said.

She and some of the other flutists at Grinnell, including those who worked with Anderson, responded with fervor equal to that of visiting groups.

“From my perception and the feedback I’ve gotten back already, [the festival] was really, really successful,” Anderson said.

Guest artist Nina Assimakopoulos shared the enthusiastic response to the festival’s success.

“I enjoyed the event very much and appreciated that it was eclectic!” wrote the contemporary flutist via email.

If the festival left a taste for some flute action, Grinnell’s own Fresh Flutes will be performing in the Faulconer Gallery this spring, on April 11.

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