We are about to embark on the National Flute Association Convention 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. As I sit in my cool and quiet hotel room, having just finished setting up our booth for day 1 of the event, I find myself thinking about all the people who will come through the exhibits this week. I am also thinking about what wisdom or information I would share with everyone who walks into the exhibits for their first time, or their hundredth time. Here are some of my thoughts going into a very busy week of networking, sales, and making music.
The first thing I would share is don’t be scared and try not to be overwhelmed. These events draw beginners through seasoned professionals. You will hear amazing performances and have the opportunity to see master teachers share vast amounts of accumulated knowledge. Be a sponge! You will also see and hear amateur players who play for fun or have just started their musical journey. Be kind! There is a place for everyone and so many opportunities to learn and grow. Be helpful! If you see someone who is completely overwhelmed, talk to them, share the experience with them and help them relax. You may not realize it, but you may be the person who influences their choice to stay or go. Be observant! There is so much to see that paying attention to the sum of the parts sometimes makes more sense than focusing on something specific. Don’t miss the experience of the event because you are too focused on one thing.
From the exhibitor’s side of the event, we are here to help you. We have wonderful instruments, music, accessories, and so much more we want to share with you. We want you to find that perfect instrument, or that wonderful piece of music that you enjoy performing. Being polite, saying hello and asking before trying an instrument is always welcome. When you ask before playing, we can make sure that it is disinfected for you and that it has been reset so that your experience is ideal. We do like to disinfect the instruments so every person is playing a clean instrument. We often ask for rings to be removed because they can scratch the instruments quite badly. We also frequently have specific cleaning materials we use on the instruments and using an alcohol swab on wood instruments is never good. So, please just ask if you have questions. We also don’t want you to have to worry about the cleaning of the instrument and sometimes our companies have set sanitizing protocols that we need to follow. We possess a wealth of knowledge about our products and are happy to answer any questions you may have, so please ask.
My advice, as someone who has attended many of these events as a non-commercial member and performer, is this: do all the things! Be adventurous! Take it all in and use it as an opportunity to take a chance on something. Try the improv class, go to the recital, play in the flute choir reading session. In the exhibit hall, try everything! The exhibitors bring the instruments for people to try. Of course they want to sell them, but if you don’t try it, how will you know if you would even want it? It is a great chance to try the low flutes too. There aren’t many contrabass or sub-contrabass flutes in the world, so try one while you can. Also, if you see a famous flutist who you admire, make it a point to introduce yourself and tell them. Most are really lovely people who are humble and will gladly accept your compliments and appreciate that you enjoyed their playing. They are people too and compliments make everyone feel good, so don’t hesitate. As for picking your dream flute out of the thousands of instruments in the hall, play away. The exhibit hall is overwhelming and loud and not the best place to really test an instrument, but it’s a great place to narrow down what you like and don’t like.
Finally, be reflective! After the convention, take time to think about all the things you saw, did, and heard. Make a list of music you want to play and flutes you want to try again. Make lists of performers you enjoyed and classes you took. Spend time thinking about all of the chances you took, people you met, and music you heard, and be grateful for the wonderful flute community we have available to us. Think about the different feelings you experienced and what brought you peace, joy, and happiness. What was your favorite moment? Take that moment and make it a memory you will treasure.
Be a Sponge – so much opportunity to learn
Be Kind – everyone has a journey and there is room for everyone
Be Helpful – you might be someone’s inspiration
Be Observant – You never know who or what you may see and hear
Be Adventurous – Try the weird instrument, introduce yourself to the famous people
Be Reflective – think about what you’ve learned and those moments that brought you joy