Transformed: How Rachael Began To Play The Pan Flute After earning an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts (AFA) at Johnston Community College, Rachael Elder went to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts (BFA), a concentration in General Art Education and a teaching licensure for the K-12 classroom. While at UNCG, she experienced a roller coaster of emotions and spiritual battles. However, she learned to deal with the complications of college life by switching her focus off of herself and onto God. She does this by reading her Bible, praying, talking with friends from church and pursuing dreams to encourage and build up the church. When her friends convinced her that she needed to take time to have fun, she decided that she wanted to learn how to play musical instrument. She wanted to play something exotic, different, and tranquil. At first, she wanted to play the sitar (a long-necked lute from India). However, since the sitar kit and lessons was out of her price range, she wanted to find something that was less expensive. She considered the lap harp, but going to lessons would be too far away from campus. Finally, Rachael had another consideration: since she liked pan flute music, why not play the pan flute? When she researched the instrument, it seemed to be easy to learn and not too expensive. Even though she did not ask for a lot of things, Rachael did request a pan flute for Christmas. About two weeks after Christmas, Rachael received an 18-pipe tenor pan flute in the mail.
At first, Rachael wanted the pan flute to tinker with and play improvised melodies for God during her quiet times (most disciples of Christ will refer to a quiet time as a special time when a person takes a portion of the day to spend time with God by praying, reading the Bible and connecting with God in a personal way). Since Rachael doubted her potential future of being a pan flautist and thought it would be best to keep the pan flute as a private hobby, she didn’t intend on performing. Upon receiving the pan flute, she struggled to even get a clear and crisp sound out of a few pipes. She noticed that she became very dizzy after blowing only a few notes at a time. This caused her to doubt her ability to become a better flautist but it didn’t discourage her from doing her best to play for God. After some tinkering and minor practice, she recognized a few of the notes on the pan flute and started attempting to play familiar songs by ear. The first song she attempted to learn was “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”. Despite her novice technique and transition, Rachael was on fire to learn more songs that she heard over the years while growing up in the church. However, there was still something that Rachael needed to accomplish: learning the basics.
When Rachael started the Semester of 2008 at UNCG in January, she decided to browse Youtube to see if she could find any free pan flute lessons. To her surprise and great delight, there was a complete series of pan flute lessons by renowned pan flautist Douglas Bishop. “This series covers basic, intermediate and advanced techniques for any pan flautist of any age;” says Rachael, “it is essential for those trying to learn or gain more insight about the pan flute.” After reviewing Douglas’ videos extensively and repeatedly, Rachael’s pan flute practices were transformed into a whirlwind of success and joy. Little did Rachael know that the professional in the videos would actually later on become one of her friends in addition to being a pan flute instructor. Douglas invited Rachael to join Pan Flute Friends: the most active pan flute chat group on the Internet. Rachael quickly warmed up to the group and became a very active member (Pan Flute Friends Meeting 2008).
In a matter of months, Rachael’s repertoire and knowledge of the pan flute has grown tremendously (however, to this day, Rachael still watches Douglas’ videos for clarification and review and will admit that there is still much to learn). It even surprised Rachael that, after being a part of Pan Flute Friends for only a short while, she was on Yahoo! Messenger with others trying to give them insight on the pan flute as well as trying to help them build their repertoire.
Within a year’s time of learning the pan flute, Rachael took her pan flute to the next level: performances. Rachael mainly plays for the church congregation where she attends. On occasion, she plays for other church congregations and functions. Despite her rapid growth and success with the pan flute, her fondest moments are when she is practicing and playing the tranquil instrument in solitude.
Rachael is now the owner of three pan flutes. The first pan flute that she received is an 18-pipe tenor pan flute made from bamboo. The second pan flute that she received was a 12-pipe alto pan flute made from PVC pipes. Her newest flute is a professional 22-pipe alto pan flute made from bamboo. Sean Koreski, a wonderful pan flute builder and performer, crafted this wonderful piece. Rachael recommends his high quality work and music to any pan flautist or enthusiast.
Feel free to e-mail Rachael with any questions you may have! You can learn more about the pan flute at www.panflutejedi.com