Musical Mishaps and Horror Stories: The Tragic Flute

This is the first article in a new series about music horror stories – gigs that have gone wrong, musical mishaps, and some other dramatic experiences I’ve had working and performing as a musician. I felt that this would be an interesting new series of articles to start to share a more intimate, personal and real view of the things that go on behind the scenes.

This first story took place while I was in high school preparing for college auditions amidst a series of performances. The narrative was actually composed immediately following the incident for Teen Jazz, but has since been removed from the web site, so I thought I would share it here.

I was playing in the pit orchestra for the musical “Honk”. As part of the show, I played flute, alto sax, and piccolo in the pit orchestra out of the Reed 1 book. At the end of the Friday night show, I picked up my horns to walk backstage and put my gear away. As I walked through the back of the pit, one of the production crew members had decided to run through it at the same moment, and crashed right into me as I turned a corner, knocking my flute out of my hands.

I remember I was stunned as I watched my flute bounce on the floor, landing on the keys. The girl who ran into me was completely oblivious, picked up my flute, handed it back to me, and took off again in the direction she was heading.

I didn’t think anything of it until I got to my cases and had put my sax away. I picked up my flute and tried to play it, and of course, it didn’t work. I looked at it and found that most of the keys would not close by about a quarter of an inch, and some of the keys that stick out more on the flute were entirely bent out of place.

The most stressing part of the event was that I had an audition for Berklee School of Music the next morning, and had intended on doing part of the audition on flute. When the girl ran into me, it was eleven at night and the audition was at seven in the morning. This left me without the option of getting a quick repair, and with little option of being able to find another
flute that I could use.

Due to distance, it took me a month before I was able to take my flute to my repair guy, but I was able to find another flute to use the next day for my audition (and the performance the following night). However, the flute I used was a flute made for a sax player who plays flute whereas I am a flute player who plays sax, so I needed a flute for a flute player. The flute I ended up borrowing had a wingtip head joint and the keys were in alignment, my flute had neither of these features. In addition the flute was made by a different manufacturer and it was made of a different metal, making it vastly different from my own. I was very grateful to have found a good flute to use for my audition, but I also had wished that someone’s carelessness had not prevented me from being able to use my own.

I never found out who ran into me that night at the show, I asked around the production crew, but no one would tell me her name because they didn’t want to sell her out (they knew who it was). It was an extremely unfortunate event, and although I performed somewhat shakily on flute during my audition, I was accepted (I decided later to attend a different university instead).