Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Protecting your flute from tragedy!


 It happens once or twice a year.  A customer calls with the terrible news that their flute has been lost or stolen.

Each one of us who plays the flute has a very personal relationship with our instrument.  It becomes our voice;  the embodiment of our unique concept of beauty of sound.

Having a flute stolen is a very real violation of our personhood.

When we at the shop recieve these calls, we feel the pain on the other end of the line. 

And then we ask, "How did this happen?"

Always, the incident could have been prevented had some simple steps been taken.  To follow, my talk to young flute players who are in possesion of their first very valuable instrument:

1.  Only you, or your teacher my play your flute.  No exceptions.  

2.  Leave your good flute at home.

3.  If you take your flute to school, it must stay with you at all times.  Never lock it in a locker, or worse yet, leave it in the band room.

4.  Never reveal the $$ value of your flute to anyone, even in confidence.  That news will travel like wildfire and your flute will become a target.

5.  Never reveal the metal content of your flute.  Frequently, when I travel with flutes, an enthusiastic TSA agent will say, "Are these real gold?"  And I say, "No. They are brass."  All anyone needs is for a security line of several hundred people to hear you are carrying precious metal in a carry-on bag!

6.  Never check your fine flute in your luggage while flying.  The temperature is unregulated in the cargo bay of the plane, not to mention that not every baggage handler is honest.

7.  Carry your flute in a larger gig bag.  I HATE shoulder straps! They scream: "Take me!  I'm a flute!" Leather or woven nylon shoulder straps are no match for box cutters.  Nor do I llike the gig bags with the flute compartment on the outside, looking just like, well, a flute!

Here's why I always carry a gig bag:  

It was a dark and stormy night.  Really.  

Anne Sullivan and I had just finished a flute and harp concert at Clarion University and were packing up and heading to Pittsburgh for the night.  Deciding that we didn't want to stay in our good black velvet concert shoes, we changed into less formal shoes in the parking lot.  

We get to Pittsburgh, unload, exhausted.  Then the shock of all shocks!  No flute anywhere to be found.  Several searches of the car prove fruitless.  It was then, when I recreated the scene back at the Clarion University parking lot, that I recalled putting the flute in its black case cover on the black tarmack on that dark and stormy night.

As you can imagine, there was no sleeping that night.

The next morning first thing, the call was made to the Clarion University security department, music school, and theater manager.  No flute.

In the days before cell phones, the only option was to stop at each service plaza along the PA Turnpike.  Call Clarion.  Next plaza, next call.  At Breezewood, good news!  The biology professor had seen the case on the tarmack, knew it was valuable, and took it to security.  By that time, security and I had become great friends, espeically after I had offered a generous reward for the flute. So he was almost as excited as I was when he told me the news.

The back story: my teacher, Murray Panitz had passed away the previous week.  I was asked to play during his memorial service on Saturday, and wanted to do it on my best flute, of course.  (The hardest performance of my career to date).  Thanks to my new BFF in security at Clarion, the flute was delivered by Fed Ex the day before the performance at the memorial service.  

Lessons learned:

1.  Always put the flute in a large gig bag that will not go unnoticed anywhere.

2.  Change your shoes in the dressing room.

3.  Make a check list of all the contents of a car when travelling to multiple venues on tour.  

4.  Be very nice to security at any venue when you travel.  Well, actually to anyone, anywhere, because you never know.

5.  Insure your flute and keep appraisals handy.

6.  Never, never say "yes" when someone asks you, as they gesture toward the harp, "Aren't you glad you play a small instrument?"

Finally, heed this advice from Clarion Insurance (no relation to Clarion University):



This is just a friendly reminder that in order to have a smooth claim process-we strongly recommend having an appraisal on file for all of your instruments. (Even those under the standard $5,000 requirement*.)

*We do "require" an appraisal or bill of sale from a bonifide store for any single item valued at $5,000 or more. We cannot add any single item over $4,999 without an appraisal or bill of sale.

Clarion Associates Inc | 35 Arkay Drive | Suite 400 | Hauppauge | NY | 11788***800-VIVALDI



  1. Luckily, I only play at my church but I'd be hard pressed to fake what my flute is made of when the head piece has 'solid silver' stamped on it. I will say, though, when I was in high school, I never left my flute in the band room or locker...and that's when I had the cheaper one.

  2. Don't ever EVER put that larger gig bag that your flute is in on the ground behind a vehicle! I had a friend once (yes, a friend, not me)... we were jamming on mandolins at a bluegrass get together. By the time we left it was dark and a bunch of us piled into his van. His wife was packing some stuff in the back and then hopped in with the rest of us. As we backed out of the space we heard a horrible crunching sound. His wife immediately started crying as she knew she had left his (expensive) mandolin on the ground and didn't see it in the dark when packing. His case wasn't a flight case and everything was totally pulverized.

    So I guess two other lessons would be:

    1. Never let someone else pack your stuff (especially someone who's NOT a musician, even if it's your wife).

    2. Get a case that will protect your instrument if it's dropped down the stairs or run over by a car etc....