Welcome to News & Views on BillyKerr.com. The purpose of this section is to have a place for Billy to post articles, news about events pertaining to him, his quintet or any other group with which he’s involved. In addition, you might find some comments about a musician or group that Billy finds interesting.

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August 19, 2009 Volume 1 - #3

Right now I’m on a plane heading back home from New York City and the annual National Flute Association (NFA) convention. This year’s convention was held from August 13 – 16 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, on Times Square, in Midtown Manhattan, playing host to more than two thousand eager flutists, flutenicks and flute-nuts. The convention paid homage to one of the world’s greatest flutists, Sir James Galway, recipient of the NFA Lifetime Achievement Award. Galway, who celebrates his 70th birthday in December, hosted a record-breaking event for the World’s Largest Flute Ensemble (as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records). One thousand nine hundred and eighty nine flutists (including this reporter) played the Galway Fantasie, a piece commissioned by Galway for this event.

The convention presented a wide variety of clinics, master classes, panel discussions, and performances featuring soloists and ensembles of every description, covering the worlds of classical music, jazz and everything in between. There were reminiscences of the teachings of William Kincaid as seen through the eyes of a newly discovered notebook of Julius Baker’s, as well as the artistry and teaching of Thomas Nyfenger (with whom I studied for three years). The Nyfenger discussion was highlighted by the publication of his second book titled “Beyond the Notes,” as compiled by Ed Joffe.

Some of the artists featured at the convention included William Bennett, Trevor Wye, Fenwick Smith, Michael Parloff, Ransom Wilson, Carol Wincenc, Jeffrey Khaner, Ali Ryerson, Holly Hoffman, Lew Tabackin, Hubert Laws and Sir James Galway.
Yours truly was honored to be able to present a jazz concert under the auspices’ of the Pearl Flute Company, with the aid of two wonderful musicians, bassist Yoshi Waki and long-time friend, pianist Joyce DiCamillo. Jazz performances and clinics were also given by Jamie Baum and Bill McBirnie as well as Hoffman and Tabackin. The crowning achievement for the jazz-flute community had to be the concert on Saturday night of the NFA Flute Big Band. The brainchild of jazz flutist Ali Ryerson, the idea sounded pretty crazy to almost everyone, but after hearing a rehearsal or two and then the concert itself, everyone in attendance became true believers.

The band consisted of thirty contest winners playing flutes encompassing piccolos, C Flutes, alto flutes and bass flutes. In addition a first rate rhythm section consisting of Mike Wofford - piano, Mary Ann McSweeney - bass and Alvester Garnett - drums. Arrangements were written by Mike Wofford, Kris Keith, Dominique Gagne, Bill Cunliffe and yours truly. Besides the terrific soloists in the band itself, guest soloists included Tabackin, Laws, Hoffman, Ryerson and Cunliffe. The band not only sounded great, but swung its collective brains out as was witnessed by the overflow crowd. It is my hope that the FBB will be a regular ensemble at the NFA and possibly beyond. Do I have any takers for a recording deal? One additional thing, one of the band members was a twelve-year old named Zachary Kellog, a student of famed flutist Jim Walker. I predict that Kellog’s name will be one you will be hearing about in the not too distant future.

Galway was featured throughout the entire convention beginning with the previously mentioned nearly two thousand-flutist extravaganza and a luncheon in his honor. The Friday night Gala Concert featured Sir James, his wife Lady Jeanne Galway, pianist Phillip Moll and a string quintet. I was only able to get to the last half of the concert, but I’m here to tell you that Sir James has still got it; it was some of the most beautiful flute playing I’ve ever heard. On Saturday, Galway gave a three-hour master class on the art of flute playing and in the evening a Lifetime Achievement Awards reception and dinner were held in his honor.

In case you couldn’t get enough flute from these concerts and clinics, there was an entire Exhibition floor devoted to manufacturers of flutes, music and just about anything ever connected with flutes.

The convention was extremely well organized with enough time offered to see just about any concert or event that you wished. As far as I can tell, nothing was too crowded or too long and there certainly were quite a variety of events. For this last point we owe a debt of gratitude to the organizers beginning with NFA CEO - Phyllis Pemberton, Convention Director - Madeline Neumann (who was never out of her little cubbyhole, averting one possible catastrophe after another for the entire five days), Convention Program Chair – Linda Toote and the countless volunteers who smoothed out all the wrinkles. Good work gang, BRAVO!

And now after a much-deserved rest, you get to do it all over again for next year in Anaheim.

Please check the events page from time to time to see what we’ll be doing. That’s it for now, and remember, please continue to support live music because dead music is no fun at all!

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