Friday, August 28, 2009

Francis Blaisdell: THE STORY OF THE FIRST GIRL FLUTIST FOR YOUNG READERS

Jim And Her Singing Flute

Hi. I am Frances and I am a girl. My father wanted me to be a boy. He called me, “my Jim.”

He loved to play the flute. When I was five he bought me a piccolo. That is a little flute.

He taught me how to play it like a harmonica.

He thought I was very good. He wrote a letter to a famous flute player in New York. He asked Mr. Wagner to give “my Jim,” some lessons.

Mr. Wagner said, “No. I will not teach a girl. Do not waste my time or your money. No one will let a girl play a flute in the orchestra.”

I was very sad. Mr. Wagner listened to me play. “Who taught this little girl to play?”

My father was very proud. He said, “I did.”

“Well, you taught her wrong. I will teach her the correct fingers to use.”

He was a very good teacher. I took a train from our New Jersey farm to New York City every Friday for four years to Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s house.

Mr. and Mrs. Wagner lived across the street from Carnegie Hall. They invited famous musicians to their house. I went to the parties too.

On Saturday Mr. Wagner gave me a flute lesson. After lunch I explored the city. I liked shop windows filled with pretty dresses. Mr. Wagner played with a big orchestra on Saturday night. He took me to listen to him. On Sunday morning I practiced with a children’s orchestra. Then I rode a train back home.

When I was 16, I wrote a letter to the great George Barrere. He was the finest flute player in America. He was tall man. His long black beard and beady eyes frightened me.

“We expected a boy,” the secretary said. “ Mr. Barrere will not teach a girl to play the flute.”

I played.

“You go to the office, and you tell them I want you. Do you understand?”

“Oh, yes. I understand. I am a girl who plays the flute.”

It was hard for some people to believe a girl could play the flute as well as a boy. One time I wore a gown of silver and gold and played at Radio City Music Hall. I looked out over the stage. It was dark and quiet. The Rockette Dancer nudged me and said, “Get going kid and smile.”

I played alone.

I played for the Nutcracker Ballet in New York City.

I played alone.

I played for a children’s concert. It was a big honor.

I played alone.

I played for many years.

I married a man who played the clarinet.

We had a boy and a girl.

One day the Philharmonic Orchestra needed an extra flute player. The director knew about the lady who played the flute alone. He asked her to join the other flute players.

I was very happy. Now I was the first girl to play the flute in an orchestra. I was Frances Blaisdell.

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