Crawford FE headshot

Allow it to Be! A Conversation with Ashley Crawford

J.D.: Tell us about your background. What drew you to a life in music? Were there notable moments that helped cement your goals? 

A.C.: I’ve been engulfed in music since I was an infant. From the sounds of my father, Hubert “H-Bomb” Crawford, grandfather, Hubert Crawford, Sr. of “Hubert Crawford and The King Riders Band,” older brother and accomplished producer and bassist, Anthony Crawford, and cousin, Hank Crawford, legendary saxophonist, I was destined to pave my path in the field of music. What drew me specifically to flute was the Disney movie “Pocahontas.” Indigenous music is full of flute and percussion, and hearing those sounds at such a young age instantly enticed me. I began flute at age 10 and have been at it ever since. Many notable moments helped shape me into the musician I am today. From my studies and performances at Tennessee State University to winning concerto competitions and principal flutist at Belmont University, every experience on my instrument created the flutist you see and hear today.  

J.D.: What are you up to these days professionally? 

A.C.: This year I had to honor of being a guest panelist/performer at the Umoja Flute Institute summer Flute Festival. It was a panel centered around the topic of HBCU flute professors and our experiences. I also presented “Flute & HipHop” alongside Dr. Brittany Trotter and Justine Lee Hooper at the 50th annual National Flute Association convention. It was such a powerful moment to see flutists come together and learn how flute has been instrumental in cornerstone hip-hop songs and mainstream music we hear today. It was also the first clinic of its kind to be presented at NFA. I also gave an improv clinic at NFA’s Youth Flute Day. Commercially, I’ve been involved with the production of the “Urban Hymnal,” an original gospel album created by Tennessee State University’s “Aristocrat of Bands,” Grammy award-winning artist “Sir the Baptist” and prolific music producer, Dallas Austin. Playing on this album afforded me the opportunity to perform at this year’s Essence Fest in New Orleans, LA. I’m also in the finishing stages of my original EP, “Black Prelude,” which was previewed in Nashville, Tn, on July 28th, 2022. All of this was jam packed into one summer. I was extremely busy yet grateful for these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  

J.D.: Who is Flutebae, and where can she go that Ashley Crawford can’t? 

A.C.: FluteBae was coined after the famous “MaskOffChallenge in 2017. I posted a video fusing classical elements with the song, and someone grabbed it and posted it on Twitter. No one knew who I was, so they called me “FluteBae” in place of the anonymity of the video. I thought, “Hey, I like that,” took it and ran with it. Through FluteBae, I’ve been able to explore myself as a flutist outside of just classical music. Ashley Crawford was so classical trained that anything outside the ordinary was never considered. FluteBae allows me to burst outside of that box fearlessly and unapologetically. It has truly been amazing growing the FluteBae brand throughout the years. It is now fully trademarked, taking me places beyond my wildest imagination. FluteBae turned me into a businesswoman, artist, creative, and most importantly, a better teacher and flutist. 

J.D.: Tell us about your life as a teacher. What is the best part for you?

A.C.: I’ve been the flute professor at Tennessee State University for the past six years, and I absolutely love it. Teaching keeps me on my toes and constantly sharpens my skills. The best part is reaching and changing students’ lives through music. Students come to me from all walks of life and major in various subjects. However, we always bond over the love of music; a universal human connection one can never take for granted. 

J.D.: What is the Nashville African American Wind Symphony, and how did it come about?

A.C.: NAAWS was created to present a broad range of educational, entertainment, and cultural programs. We aim to be a key regional service as a professional performance ensemble, a key youth instrumental musical training, and a means of preserving the wind band community in Nashville and as an established legacy organization. It strives to create a vital cultural experience within the African American community by establishing a world-class wind band ensemble while also providing exceptional music education, training resources, and performing arts entertainment exposure for youth musicians.

J.D.: What advice do you have for young musicians trying to find a way into our professional world? What’s important, and what is maybe less important that we’re taught?

A.C.: Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Music is a gift. Whether you’re teaching, performing, or both, we’re blessed with the gift of music and the courage to share it with others. What’s less important is others’ idea of success is for your life. You have the power to shape your reality. FluteBae was real to me, and it became so simply because I believed in it. So, whatever that idea or project is living inside you, waiting to burst out, ALLOW IT TO BE! It’s your vision. You can see it, therefore it’s possible. 

J.D.: What’s next for you?

A.C.: The official release of my 1st original project, “Black Prelude,” many more performances, and workshops. My life as a musician continues to surprise me. I’ve learned along the way that your gift will make room for you. So, I intend to continue to create, share, and curate opportunities for myself and others around me to succeed.

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