Rhonda Larson is a Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist. She is a flutist who has trained with experts all over the world. Her compositions and performances reflect the ultimate example of commitment to her craft. After putting her mark on literally every style of flute playing in the world, she has also pushed forward the technique of singing into the instrument while creating unique harmonies and ethereal tones that have to be heard to be believed. She took a moment from traveling the globe with an intense touring schedule to answer some questions for The Times about her upcoming performance at Edgartown’s Old Whaling Church on August 24, at 8 pm.
When did music first enter your life?
I realize it sounds like a cliché, but it seems I was born wanting to play the flute. From the earliest age, I knew I would play flute, but I had to wait until grade 5 to start, when the school band program began. I started on the piano in second grade, taught by my loving grandmother, but it was really an appeasement for me to “wait” until fifth grade and the flute. I thought everyone arrived on the planet knowing what they would do in their lives, but it is clear now that knowing one’s path at an early age is the exception, not the norm.
What advice would you give to aspiring young flutists and their parents?
Learn the flute along with your child! My parents did not necessarily understand my passion for the flute, but they completely supported me in all it took for me to become proficient. As for flutists, love and enjoy what you are doing; it will get you through everything else.
How many instruments do you play, instruct, and write for?
I began to discover flutes from around the world following my college education. This currently includes Celtic whistles (wood, tin, and plastic), seljeflote (Scandinavian overtone flute), panpipes, crystal flutes, Native American flutes, bansuri (India’s word for “bamboo”), dizi from China, dvoyanka (Bulgarian double flute), ocarinas, 17th century wooden flute, and shakuhachi (Japan). I’m bringing a rich palette of music from around the world, much like the sea captains brought treasures home from their distant voyages.
You are so busy performing; how do you stay centered?
My daily routine before going on the road is what keeps me centered. Early-morning yoga (a practice of silence and focus), flute practice (a method of how to live, be, and improve), journaling (a rake to the soul), and the beauty of nature are what keep me grounded. On the road, yoga is often the only constant — my perpetual rejuvenator/resuscitator.
Singing while playing the flute is so beautiful. How did you develop this technique?
I was determined that there must be a way to do this without that acoustic “buzz” created from the two different tones at the same time. It took me two years before I brought it to the stage, and now I have developed the technique further by playing with other sounds on the flute, and more complex harmony (flute) and melody (voice) combinations. I often hear, “I’ve never heard anyone do that before!” and my reply is, “They haven’t, not in this particular way.”
Have you been inspired by the natural beauty of the Vineyard?
I was at Oak Bluffs in early July to perform at the Tabernacle, and I was absolutely taken with the beauty all around me. I had brought my bicycle — which is like saying “I brought freedom” — so I got up very early in the mornings and rode with the sunrise and fresh air, and stopped on an empty beach to do some yoga. It is places such as Martha’s Vineyard that fuel my music. After all, I am from the mountains in Montana, and it is the best place I could have ever grown up in the world.
What should your audience expect from your show?
Expect to be uplifted and even surprised! It is an intimate show with music and stories, it is Winds of the World, not your grandmother’s flute recital.
Tickets are $25 for general admission and $50 for V.I.P. packages, which include preferred seating, signed CD, and artist reception. Tickets and more info as well as links to Ms. Larson’s live performances are available at rhondalarson.com.