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Jazz Flute at the N.F.A.

Victoria Jicha | July August 2009

    The National Flute Association rolled out the Jazz Flute Big Band in 2007, and jazz flute officially became a major component of the organization. The idea for the band was conceived by jazz flutist Ali Ryerson (see Flute Talk, July 2008), who approached the N.F.A. board in 2005 with her idea. The band now performs at the convention every other year. Members of the band are chosen through a competition similar to those for piccolo and Baroque flute.
    Prior to 2007, conventions had included Late-Night Cabaret performances by jazz players and occasional workshops geared for classical players with jazz interests, but the advent of the Jazz Flute Big Band seems to have added strength to the jazz genre and its position within the N.F.A.
    Last year at the Kansas City convention, jazz flutists of all ages were in abundance and extemporaneous jam sessions broke out around the convention hotel and exhibit hall. Holly Hoffman offered a workshop on how to play and teach the Blues, Horace Alexander Young, Jim Walker, and Greg Pattillo participated in a panel discussion about alternate careers, and there was a band session for anyone who wanted to sight read with a jazz flute big band.
    Of particular note in 2008 was 10-year-old Zachery Kellogg from Seattle, Washington, who shows an amazing amount of potential and improvised with Ryerson, Pattillo, and Young during the four-day event.
    In New York this August, the Jazz Flute Big Band returns with members selected by audition tapes. Ryerson notes, “This past February, I received 48 entries for the first biennial 2009 Jazz Flute Big Band Competition. We were very pleased with the great response. Jill Allen (former N.F.A. jazz chair), Dominique Gagne, and I judged the tapes. Making final choices was not  easy. We selected 30 players and two alternates. I’m very glad it’s a biennial competition so that some of the flutists who entered will have another chance in 2011. Several who performed with the band in 2007 entered the competition, which I think is a resounding endorsement of the experience. With this kind of support from the players, the N.F.A. can build a jazz flute family.
    “My mission is to develop the jazz flute community. By bringing seasoned pros and promising young talent together, an ideal mentoring environment is created. I also hope the August performance encourages all flutists to explore jazz.

“A case in point is Zachary Kellogg, now 11. The very first time he heard jazz flute was in Albuquerque at the premier performance of the N.F.A. Jazz Flute Big Band. He was so entranced by the performance that he began studying jazz flute in earnest. When he asked if he was too young to enter the competition, the age restriction was quickly lifted. Zachary performs with the band this summer as our youngest role model.”
    The performance will also feature this summer’s jazz masterclass teacher Lew Tabackin and a rhythm section of  Mike Wofford, piano, Mary Ann McSweeney on bass, and drummer Alvester Garnett. Ryerson adds, “I especially want to thank the N.F.A. for their incredible support of this competition. The budget they alloted to the competition makes this event possible and includes a biennially commissioned arrangement. This year’s is written by noted jazz arranger Mike Wofford.”
    Aside from the Jazz Flute Big Band, convention goers will hear Anne Drummond make her premiere appearance with the N.F.A. in a Late-Night Cabaret on Friday evening. Bill McBernie teaches a Techniques of Jazz workshop, and Jamie Baum performs on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.