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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Kevra: Creative Recycling

Recently, I did a ruthless purge of my music studio. It was time to jettison obscure books, and musty musical scores... Inside of one of the many boxes that I hauled away to the Salvation Army was my first flute.

It may seem unsentimental, even ruthless to part with one's first instrument but this was a profoundly terrible flute. I couldn't sell it – or even give it to a student - but it was still playable. And it was after all how I got my musical start. Maybe it could work some more magic the second time around.

We musicians spend our lives searching for that holy-grail of an instrument and while I have two remarkable handmade flutes - I still sometimes wonder if there’s a more perfect instrument for me... And yet it's not so much the instrument but one's relationship to an instrument that matters. I’ve been playing the flute for 40 years and hardly has a day passed when I’ve not lifted that glorious perforated metal tube to my lips. My morning ritual includes producing one long steady tone after another from the earthy low notes to the brilliant high ones, then wending my way through scales and arpeggios - those "divine arabesques" - and finally digging into the rich main course of our deliciously French-slanted repertoire.

I’ve lived in many places for long stretches of time and worked a variety of jobs.

I've shared my live with loved ones for decades and yet it is my flute that has been the most constant player in my life. In fact, there hasn't been a major life event that hasn’t been underscored by my flute.

I played delicate lullabies for my infant son on the day he was born. I’ve channeled Bach on a camping trip in the zinging black silence of the night. Before making an offer on my 100 year old Vermont house, I tested the acoustics with my flute, and in the 19 years since it’s always been within reach in my kitchen to fill the intervals between sauce stirring and garlic mincing. I played my tenderest pianissimos at my mom's deathbed and then soul-opening sostenutos at her funeral – and my flute has sung out at countless weddings in churches, barns, and on windy hillsides from Vermont to the Sonoma Valley.

People often say if you want to meet others you should get a dog. But I say "get an instrument!" The open arms of my flute have welcomed the best of friends, dear colleagues, inspiring students, and introduced me to a musical mentor who did much to shape my life.

The study of a musical instrument is said to increase IQ, contribute to language development, and help with memory-building but that's the least of it! It also brings ritual, challenge, self-expression, beauty, and deep enduring relationships.

I hope that my childhood flute has been scooped up off of the Salvation Army shelves and is being noodled on as I speak...

Karen Kevra is a Grammy-nominated flutist and is the founder and artistic director of Capital City Concerts in Montpelier.
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