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Happy Birthday

Patricia George | February 2015

    This month we send 90th birthday greetings to Walfrid (Wally) Kujala. His long history with our magazines began with articles he wrote for The Instrumentalist in 1971. He soon became a contributing editor who wrote regular flute articles, and with the creation of Flute Talk in 1981, he became a contributing editor for that as well. Over the years he has inspired flutists with his articles about anatomy, Jawboning and the Flute Embouchure, music theory, The 5 W’s of the Major Scale, performance guides, Debussy’s Syrinx, Bizet’s Minuet, Andersen’s Scherzino, Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto, Mozart’s Concerto in G and Cadenzas, and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chlöe, practice hints, Flute Fingerings: In Homage to Henri Altes, Shifting the Beat for a Cleaner Technique, flute history, and much more. His well-researched articles are appropriate for readers at all levels from students to professionals. This month his contribution, On Memorizing, continues this legacy.
    Kujala’s article, Embellishment, Italian Style: Ornamenting the Largo Movement of Vivaldi C Major Piccolo Concerto (The Instrumentalist, Dec. 1976), is one of the most widely studied of his articles. What is remarkable is that he wrote it just at the time when the early music movement was beginning to take off in the United States.
    To explain his ideas on embellishing the second movement of the concerto, he included Vivaldi’s piccolo part on the top line and put the embellished version directly underneath. Kujala stated, “Although it will probably undergo further change – most likely toward more simplicity – I am glad to share this current version with interested readers in the hope that it will offer encouragement to their own efforts in this direction.” Interested readers did pick up the banner. There isn’t a piccolo player today who is performing the Vivaldi who hasn’t looked at Kujala’s scholarship and based his own performance on this 13-measure example. Kujala suggested a tempo of eighth note = 69-72, pointed out that on some piccolos the high C#s may sound flat or harsh, and offered two fingerings to rectify the issue.
    He further wrote, “I have purposely omitted editorial dynamic markings, trusting that the performer can work out a tasteful scheme of dynamic inflections that would in the long run sound better than some necessarily sketchy editing might suggest. There are obviously a number of opportunities for echo effects in this movement, but one should not do them too predictably.” (To read this article in its entirety, please go to
    Kujala’s long and distinguished career began in Rochester, New York where he graduated from the Eastman School of Music (BM and MM degrees). Between 1948 and 1954, he played alongside his teacher and mentor Joseph Mariano in the Rochester Philharmonic. Later he would return as visiting professor of flute at the Eastman School of Music (1973-1975). In 1954 he joined the Chicago Symphony as assistant principal flute and became principal piccolo in 1958. He continued in this position until his retirement in 2001. During his tenure at the CSO, he was featured in concerto performances as well as in the orchestral repertoire. In 1962, he became professor of flute at Northwestern where during his 50 year teaching career, he directly influenced several generations of flutists.
    Kujala is the author of several textbooks including The Flutist’s Progress, The Articulate Flutist, Orchestral Techniques for Flute and Piccolo, and The Flutist’s Vade Mecum of Scales, Arpeggios, Trills and Fingering Technique. These are all published by Progress Press, a publishing house he founded in 1970. Kujala has served as president of the National Flute Association and was the recipient of the NFA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
    In the music world, Wally has set the bar for performance, scholarship and teaching. His lifelong pursuit of knowledge is an inspiration to us all. Happy Birthday Wally and keep those articles coming.
– Patricia George
Flute Talk