In Focus: BSU Hosts Native American Flute Festival & Workshop
“About a year ago, we had a dream to build a flute and today, you saw 30 flutes being built, and last night an incredible multi-dimensional performance with sort of flute at its heart,” says Jim Barta, the college of Arts, Education and Humanities dean at BSU.
There are a lot of different stories that music and instruments can tell. Recently, a group set out to learn the story of the Native American flute. The Native American flute is an instrument that dates back to as early as the 1500s. It’s a huge part of Native American culture. Naturally, there are many different versions.
“It’s different for different tribes and cultures. You know, they make them a different way. They play in different styles. I play more eastern style, woodland Indian style and we have these kind of higher quality heavy tones. A lot of the plains Indians play a raspy, whispering, warbling flute which is representative to being on the plains,” says Randy McGinnis, a professional flute player who lead the workshop.
The workshop started by having participants physically makes their own flutes. One woman, whose sister passed away recently, says she found the process healing.
“They basically made the prototype for us and then we sanded it and did our own thing with it, and then I’m going to be doing some wood burning in memory of my sister on here, so it will really by my own flute and I really – eventually, when I have the skill, I would love to completely hand make my entire flute,” says Luna Harbour, a participant in the workshop.
Next, the group learned how to play the instrument. Overall, participants say the class gave them a unique new skill and an invaluable gift, since they all got to keep their flutes.
“This is the big one! It’s wonderful and learning how to play it from a master,” says Kiki Schnackenberg while marveling at her flute.
“Getting to see the performers today was excellent and was wonderful,” says Katrina Stewart about the class.
Bemidji State University says they hope to offer more workshops like these in the future. If you want to learn more about the Native American flute, check out flutetree.org.
“The Native American flute was almost gone in the ’70s, it had almost disappeared. Well, now there’s all kinds of people making them, playing them, so it’s bringing it back – so the instrument didn’t die away,” says McGinnis.