Don Hosek - Flute - September 1999
In which it is discovered that a 50-year old Arnold flute really is a bad flute

Faced with a semi-functional flute, I began examining the mechanism a bit closer until I could get the replacement. Even though I can't actually sound the notes, I began examining the fingerings for the full C-C chromatic scale. It turns out that I can hit some of the lower notes in the second octave so with a bit of practice, I have a range of roughly F#-F#, although my tone in the second octave is a bit dicey and some of the notes are unfingerable with the broken spring.

Meanwhile I start making some calls to sellers of used flutes, only to discover that every single used student model flute available in the greater Chicago area has been purchased by hordes of band parents. Never mess with the band parents. As a one time band and orchestra child, I can recall the awesome power of the band parents.

Political aside: The band and orchestra programs at the elementary school level where I grew up have been canceled by the local school boards. UNBELIEVABLY SHORT-SIGHTED. If you're reading this, you care at least somewhat about music. I implore you, be aware of what's happening with your local elementary schools, if they don't have a band and orchestra program, organize your friends and neighbors to get one started. If they have one, make sure that they don't even contemplate cutting it. Run for school board if you have to. The benefits to students of being involved in band and orchestra are powerful and well-documented, plus it's just a lot of fun for the kids involved. And a strong program at the elementary level leads to a strong program at the high school level. And despite the secret music club bank account at Lincoln Savings and Loan (no, really!) when I was in high school, kids who are in band and orchestra are less likely to have discipline problems and more likely to be achievers in school.

So, I'm having a hard time finding a flute. Talking with another flute-playing friend on the phone (not the one who found the wood in the headjoint), she offers to let me have her student flute on an extended loan ("I might ask for it back in ten years or so").

The transfer of the flute, we decide will take place at the high school homecoming game (she's now a chemistry teacher and poms coach). The football wins a homecoming game for the first time since I was a high school student. The band is really small, not as good musically as when I was in band but does a much better drill routine. And the sousaphone player wears a beret rather than a helmet (having been one of five sousaphone players in our glory days, I know how difficult it can be to play the big horn with a helmet on).

The flute is all shiny, much prettier than Dad's old Arnold. I rush home, assemble the flute and see if it makes a difference.


The day before, I had somewhat miraculously sounded a low E out of Dad's flute. A very thin tone, barely a note at all. But the new flute, an Armstrong 104, sings for me. I can play all the way down to low C# clearly and cleanly. I call up my friend to thank her. She was taking a nap & I apologize as I thank her. But I'm very excited.

Real work that I should have been doing gets postponed so that I can play the flute. Because now I can actually play the flute. I play so much that I start to get a bit lightheaded. But I've managed to extend my range from middle C up to G in the second octave. In good moments, I've hit the whole second octave.

But the really big moment comes two days after getting the flute. I take it to a jam session on a lark, expecting another flute player to be present from whom I figure I can pick up a few tips and corrections to my technique. She doesn't show, but I figure I'll give playing a shot on a few songs. An attempt on the first song to play a written part doesn't pan out well. But when I abandon written parts and try just ad libbing a flute part, things come together quite well. I get a bit tripped up at times, frequently mixing up the fingerings for B and C or D and D#, and occasionally my embrouchure fails me leaving me unable to sound any note at all, but I'm doing quite well otherwise. By sticking to flute on songs with easier keys for me to play in (C, D, F and G) and playing guitar on the rest, I'm able to create the illusion that I'm better than I am (after all, I can adjust what I play to compensate for my shortcomings as a flute player). I may be bringing the flute to church for the contemporary ensemble sooner than I was planning to.