For decades, American flutists have sought to identify specific traits that define their playing as a whole. While the “French School” has been characterized by a preoccupation with tone, a standard repertoire, and set of teaching materials written by Paris Conservatoire professors, no such definition can yet be set forth for the “American School.” This document provides a clear starting point for research into the what, where, why, and how of the “American Flute School” by first identifying who is associated with that school.
By tracing the lineage of transverse flute playing from teacher to student through the past 300 years, we may identify orchestral flutist, soloist, and teacher, Georges Barrère, as a primary influence upon American flute playing. Barrère and his students – and his students’ students – have taught approximately 91% of all living flutists in the United States today. Of that vast number, approximately 87% can trace their heritage (through one or more of their teachers) to Barrère student William Kincaid, renowned flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and pedagogue at the Curtis Institute of Music.
It is important to note that most modern musicians study with more than one teacher over the course of their career (usually between three and eight). By looking at the data from different perspectives, we can see a second important tradition of flute playing descend from Georges Laurent, principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and instructor at the New England Conservatory of Music, including approximately 59% of American flutists. A third tradition of flute playing in America (including roughly 55% of American flutists) descends from French flutist and pedagogue, Marcel Moyse, who taught summer classes in Vermont for several decades after a lengthy career in Paris. Each of these influential pedagogues graduated from the Paris Conservatoire, having studied with the distinguished master, Paul Taffanel.
A lengthy appendix of biographical information contains data for more than 8,000 flutists, obtained from a combination of primary and secondary source material, and will underpin numerous related studies as we continue to define the “American Flute School.”