How did you get into making flutes?

This is THE one question I get asked most. Followed by “how many can you make in a day?”

Well, I’ll tell you. After I ended my brilliant summer career as a performer on the streets of Toronto, I got a busboy job in a seafood restaurant. It lasted three weeks. As I mentioned, the owner hired me because I had the balls to cut my hair at his snide suggestion. But he really couldn’t afford the payroll. However, three weeks doth a resume make and I now had job experience to sell.

View from the top of the Sheraton Hotel

I went to the new Sheraton Hotel, lied that I was 18 years old, and got hired as a busboy at their signature restaurant & nightclub on the top floor. Talk about glam! Crystal glassware clientele for lunch, live music and a sparkling 360 view of the city by night. Not bad. Between shifts, I practiced my flute in the hotel stairwell. What an echo!

I spent the rest of my waking hours studying flute under the tutelage of Mara Goosman.  I’d never taken private lessons before and she loaded me up with Taffanel & Gaubert, Moyse, long tones…well, you get the idea. Because the waiters in the dining room were all middle aged European immigrants raising families and the cocktail waitresses in the nightclub were college girls who didn’t want much to do with the kid busboy, either, I had no social life anyway. The DJ called me ‘little brother’ and the girls grabbed my ass.

After I think 3 months I moved on to a different restaurant and then repeated the process until I ended up with a part time waiter job that paid worse than busing at the hotel. I felt totally frustrated by what was obviously a downward spiral. That’s when Mara Goosman told me that her husband Jack was considering hiring an apprentice flutemaker and thought, by the example I set as a student, that I would be a good candidate. The pay would be lousy, the work would be difficult and isolating, and I’d have to deal with Jack, who she conceded was no picnic. I jumped at it. Are you kidding? I could learn to make flutes, improve my playing and save for University all in one tidy package.

Not quite as it turned out. But that’s for another day.

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