From Mozart to Denver
Laura Frith, has a lot of passions — highland dancing, sewing, science, Sea Cadets, but playing the flute is “high up there” on her list of favourite activities.
“I like that it is very pretty and it is fun to play once you know how,” the 12-year-old said. “I also like looking up different music and playing it. And the flute can be used to play a lot of different kinds of music.”
She has been taking lessons with veteran educator Derek Tully for the last six years.
“He has a lot of quirky ideas,” she said.
This summer one of Dr Tully’s ideas, was for Laura and his seven other music students, to perform in the foyers of local hotels to get some exposure.
“We couldn’t do that because of Covid-19,” Dr Tully said.
So in July, he took his students to John Smith’s Bay in Smith’s Parish, instead. Playing the flute at the beach was definitely a learning experience for Laura.
“The acoustics are really different on the beach,” she said. “The wind has a way of carrying the music in different directions. I really had to play loudly to be heard.”
She played everything from John Denver to Mozart for the scattering of people lounging on the sand.
Laura added: “There was a group of four people that gathered around us to listen,” she said. “Other people were a little suspicious of us, I think because of Covid-19.”
Now Dr Tully is looking around for other outdoor venues for his students.
“It’s difficult just now with the heat, the masks, and the shutdowns,” he said.
Last summer Laura spent two hours every Saturday playing at the Globe Hotel at Kings Square in St George, while Dr Tully manned the museum’s gift shop as a volunteer.
“I played when guests came into the Globe Hotel,” she said. “I enjoyed it and I would do it again.”
She was amused by some of the visitors’ questions.
“One tourist asked me if I was playing a piccolo,” she said. “A piccolo is half the size of a flute.”
She started out playing piano and recorder when she attended the Bermuda High School for Girls. Then, at age 6, she wanted to start playing a new instrument.
Torn between the guitar and flute, she made the final decision by comparing her favourite song, Let it Go from Disney’s Frozen (2013), played on each instrument. “We looked at YouTube videos,” she said.
She thought one of the pluses of the flute was that it fit into a small box when disassembled.
Her mother, Natalia Frith, also liked the instrument for that reason. “I’m just glad she didn’t pick the cello,” Mrs Frith laughed. “Then I would have had to carry it around.”
Laura admitted that sometimes she doesn’t practice quite as much as she should, and the flute languishes in the car, waiting for her next lesson.
Other times, she becomes obsessed with downloading flute music and playing it.
“First she will play a piece of music on the flute,” Mrs Frith said. “Then she will go to the piano and play it and then go to the recorder and play it there.”
“Sometimes I just wonder what the song would sound like on a different instrument,” Laura explained. “Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes my older sister Alana comes down and yells at me to stop. Sometimes she doesn’t.”
Laura is doubtful about whether learning to play music makes you more disciplined. She holds up her battered, coverless music book as evidence against that theory.
But she does agree there is a connection between math and music. “I just love math,” she said.
And unlike a lot of other music students she also loves musical theory.
Under Dr Tully’s tutelage, Laura passed her Royal Schools of Museum Grade 2 flute exam and is hoping to pass her Grade 3 exam in the coming school year.
“The examiner comes twice a year from London and we have to work hard on our music and scales,” Dr Tully said.
This year, she started taking oboe lessons at Dr Tully’s urging. She hasn’t quite decided yet if she likes the new instrument.
“It is not particularly easy to switch over to the oboe,” she said. “It is very difficult because you need to blow very hard.
“I played the clarinet for a couple of lessons at school. That was my only experience playing a reed instrument before playing the oboe.”
In the autumn, she hopes to take her preparatory oboe exam, the prelude to the Grade 1 exam.
She said that will be a busy time for her.
In November, the Sea Cadets take part in several parades including the Remembrance Day Parade and the Jervis Bay Parade.
And in December, many of her interests converge at the annual Bermuda National Trust Christmas Walkabout in St George’s.
At that event, she usually hands out flyers with the Bermuda Sea Cadets, plays the flute, and also performs with the Bermuda Highland Dancers at the end of the evening. Laura enters M3 at Somersfield Academy in September and hopes to become a marine biologist.
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