Arts and Entertainment

Flute choir blows like a gentle breeze

Sharla Graham is always looking for the next great pucker.

“I might be speaking with someone, and I’ll be thinking ‘great mouth,’” said Graham, whose Zephyr Flute Choir plays Pegasus Coffee House Oct. 20.

“It’s the lips that are most important. Anyone can learn how to play the flute, but there are mouth shapes that are just better.”

A “good” mouth, she says, naturally assumes the right embouchure – the angle at which to blow air across the hole.

Graham herself picked up the flute by chance.

“I had begged to play an instrument,” she said. “Then, my school organized a band when I was in the eight grade. I went with my dad to the organizational meeting and there was a flute lying on a table. I picked it up, and I could play it right away.

“That was it.”

Graham became a professional musician, attending both the undergraduate and graduate school.

She was too busy studying to join musical ensembles at college, but she made a mental note that some day she wanted to play in a flute choir.

After she and her husband settled in the Pacific Northwest and she had a full roster of flute students, Graham remembered her dream.

She formed Zephyr Flute Choir in March, with members of the flute family that range from piccolo to alto flute.

The group has performed at Arts Walks and the Island Music Teachers Guild, as well as for a variety of outdoor concerts on the island, in Kingston and Port Gamble.

While flute choirs have been in existence for hundreds of years, they are now enjoying a revival, Graham says.

The flute – a relatively low-tech instrument – owes a big debt to the computer for the upsurge in interest.

Software makes arranging music for the flute relatively easy, Graham says; one needn’t be a composer to transcribe piano music for the instrument and print out sheet music.

Graham’s Zephyr Flute Choir is one of the few flute ensembles in the Puget Sound region, though.

The group’s repertoire ranges from popular tunes to classical works. The ensemble welcomes both students and professionals who enjoy the rare chance to perform with fellow flutists, including Graham’s husband Liam.

Sharla Graham would like to practice two hours every day, but has no desire to make a solo career.

“I did spend time ‘in the trenches’ with hard-core, ambitious musicians who were not very nice,” Graham said. “They had their objectives, and people had better get out of the way. But I didn’t feel like I was a whole person.”

She refocused her energy, taking up the role of teacher with enthusiasm. Today, she tries to balance demanding that her students set high goals with making sure they have fun.

“I have been a member of a women’s music fraternity, Sigma Alpha Iota, since college,” Graham said. “Their whole idea is to support music and make it both high quality and available to everyone. That’s what I believe, and that’s what I practice.

“I love to help people get there, musically.”

* * * * *

Violist Alexis Schultz shares the stage with the Zephyr Flute Choir 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at Pegasus Coffee House, for the Island Music Teachers Guild series.

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