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NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE FORUM
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Spirit of a Flute Maker: A Conversation with Scott Loomis
By John Sarantos
 
Originally Published in "Voice of the Wind", April 1999
 
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  Spirit of a Flute Maker: A Conversation with Scott Loomis
  Page #2 of 7

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     John: Even with your own flutes, your standard flute's physical appearances are different from your museum-styled flutes, but your sound signature is there in all of them. It is your sound coming through the flute.

     Scott: That's one of the things I talk about with people who ask me how to make flutes. I say first of all you need to have a sound in your mind. What are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to make these flutes sound like? And then I can give you the things to do to that flute to make that sound come out.  But if you don't have that in your mind, what you want those flutes to sound like, then you are really beating your head against the wall. And that's the one thing I had in the beginning, I knew what I wanted the flutes to sound like and tried very hard to strive for that sound. And I have been told that it is different from a lot of others. And I think that's really important to a flute maker to have that intention of creating something out of himself and not just copying something from somebody else. A guy says, "Well, I want it to sound like yours." And I said, well you won't get it to sound like me. (big laugh) You need to get it to sound like you.
     Like the other day, I told you that I finished that one fancy flute, and I did this with furniture too.  You finish something and you stand back and look at it and you wonder where it came from. Because you are so overwhelmed with the finished product that you ask yourself, how.I couldn't have done that. I mean where did that come from? So you feel real appreciation for the finished product, even though it came out of your hands, it's not an ego thing, it's an awe. I really believe that something outside you helps you with the creative process. That the creative process gave you this gift. So, I'm truly blown way sometimes by…whoa, look at that. (big laugh) Does that make sense?
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     John: Oh, yes. There have been times when I have written poetry in the middle of the night. I wake up the next morning and read it and wonder, who wrote this?
     Scott, I've seen the evolution of your flutes over the past few years. You are constantly working on improving them. It appears to me that you do this so it just doesn't became a job to you where you are just an assembly line knocking out flutes.

     Scott: Good Point. What I said earlier about making flutes with the same intention, with making it the best that I can do. That's why I can't bring myself to make two lines of flutes; one a beginner line and one a professional line. I don't know how to make any flute less than my best. And so every innovation that I come up with to make my flutes sound better, goes into all of my flutes. What you're paying for with these carved and fancy flutes are the carved and fanciness of them, you're not paying extra for the quality of sound, because the quality of sound coming out of this carved and fancy flute I hope is the same quality of sound that comes out of that standard flute. So, that's what I mean about making one line of flutes. People say, "Make a less expensive flute." I don't know how to make a less expensive flute. "Make less expensive cabinets." I don't know how to make less expensive cabinets. I know one way of doing that, and that's the best way that I can make it. And that came from my Dad and my Mom. Any job worth doing is worth doing well. (Laugh) You've heard that one before, you're from that generation.
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     John: Many times.
     The other thing along the line of quality is that lately the market seems to be flooded by individuals who are making a cheaper quality of flute and selling them for 75 to 150 dollars. What are your feelings about some of these people who are just doing a fast assembly line of flutes? Do you think they might be hindering the consumer from understanding why the reputable flute makers charge more for their flutes?

     Scott: I think that it is not only the Native American flute that suffers from that  All instruments have different levels of quality and different levels of tonality and sound. The shame is those people who misrepresent them and call a flute that isn't really as responsive or doesn't have the quality of sound as having a professional sound.
     I don't want to get into the political thing, because I have respect for anybody who creates something with their hands.
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     John: What I am hearing you say is that it is the representation of the quality of the flute that concerns you.

     Scott: Yes, because there is a place for a beginner flute, for an intermediate flute, a place for the professional recording flute. It only does everybody else good to have those different levels, because a person who isn't quite sure about the flute shouldn't have to pay $300 for a flute.  But if they can get a pretty sounding flute for $100, $50 or whatever and see the potential that this instrument gives them for bring their inner music out, then they can grow up the levels as their proficiency grows. So there is a place there. Once again, it's the misrepresentation that I have a problem with.
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     John: I've taken two of your flute making workshops that you give all over the country. You mentioned that the sound of the flute has a lot to do with the spirit of the flute maker. Have you ever been surprised by the quality of flutes by some of your workshop participants?

     Scott: Yes, definitely! I really, really feel that the spirit of the maker follows the flute, and that people can feel the spirit of the maker in a flute when they play it. I've been told that a number of times. There were the ones from Pat Partridge, she brought out those cane flutes that she had made, and I felt the spirit immediately, as soon as I touched the flute I felt it. She is also the only person I know who can put a spirit into a plastic flute. She had one plastic flute that she brought and that was the first time I ever felt a live spirit in a plastic flute. And so yes, when the intention is there, you feel it.
     I really haven't played many flutes that were made after the workshop, but I've heard that people are saying "Oh, this works!" "Oh, this sounds different now that I've done what Scott Loomis suggested."
     The more the sound is projected out there and is pleasant to the ear, the more people are going to be coming to the flute. So helping people make a better flute only does all of us good. We are educating people to the sound of this instrument. It makes me feel good because I recognize so intensely and so personally the satisfaction one gets from producing something with their hands, and mind, and their heart. You can see the pride and the goodness there.
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Updated April 18, 1999 by LH
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