The idea for the Ball State Flute Extravaganza came about in August 2017. I was attending the National Flute Association convention along Ball State’s flute professor, Dr. Mihoko Watanabe, another doctoral flute student, Hilary Janysek, and several undergraduate flute students from Ball State. Following a performance by Dr. Watanabe, a woman named Judy Herring introduced herself Dr. Watanabe, Hilary, and myself. It turned out that she was a Ball State alum and was one of the first flutists to pursue a doctorate at Ball State University. She had just learned that the flute professor from her time at Ball State, Paul Boyer, had recently passed away, and she was moved to tears describing his profound impact on her life. Paul Boyer was a longtime flute professor at Ball State from the 1960s until the early 1990s, and taught generations of flutists, but virtually nothing was known about him to the current flute studio.
After the meeting with Judy Herring, the idea of having a tribute concert for Paul Boyer began to form. It would be a valuable way for current flute students to learn about our history, and a way of memorializing the decades of work done by Professor Boyer. Over the course of a few months following the NFA convention, Dr. Watanabe, Hilary, and I met several times and expanded the idea of the Paul Boyer tribute concert into a “Flute Extravaganza,” which would be a full day event bringing together alumni of the Ball State flute studio with current students. We felt that there was a disconnect between current students and alumni, and we needed an opportunity to connect with past students and learn about our shared experiences. We also felt that alumni would benefit from reconnecting with friends and colleagues and would feel welcomed back to the Ball State community with this event.
Once we got the okay to go ahead with the Flute Extravaganza, Hilary and I worked on researching flute alumni from Professor Boyer’s tenure. It turned out that the best way to find the names of flutists from those years was to go through School of Music recital programs archived in Bracken Library’s Digital Media repository. We came up with a list of over 100 names which we sent to the Alumni Office to get contact information.
The Flute Extravaganza took place on Saturday, March 24. We had approximately 20 attendees including alumni and current students. Most of the alumni who came still live in Indiana, although one alum, Dr. Adah Toland Jones, is the flute professor at Texas State University. We kicked off the day with a flute choir rehearsal for all the attendees. Making music together was a great way to connect with alumni right from the start. Following the rehearsal, everyone was free to go to lunch, and several undergraduate flute students took alumni on a tour of the School of Music facilities. Many of the alumni were making their first visit to Ball State since they graduated, and they had never seen the Music Instruction Building’s facilities such as Sursa Hall, Hahn Hall, and the recording studios.
In the afternoon, current flute studio members welcomed alumni with two special presentations. First, I gave a joint presentation with Hilary called “Our Flute Family Tree.” In this presentation we traced our “family tree” of flute teachers all the way back to the 1700s, and found common links between Dr. Watanabe’s former teachers and Professor Boyer’s former teachers, thus showing a shared history of pedagogy and flute teaching. This also allowed us to present a biography of Paul Boyer thanks to the memories shared ahead of time by several of the alumni. Following this, various current flute students performed a showcase recital of solos, duos, trios, and quartets.
Later in the afternoon, we hosted a story-sharing session where alumni could share their reminiscences of their time at Ball State and particularly share fond memories of their flute professor, Paul Boyer. Nearly a dozen alumni who were not able to be there in person sent us memories which we shared for them. All of the alumni recollections showed what a dedicated and caring teacher Paul Boyer was. All the Flute Extravaganza attendees were then treated to a catered dinner, and then the Extravaganza ended with the tribute concert to Paul Boyer. The program of the concert consisted of the flute choir pieces rehearsed that morning. It was a moving tribute to professor Boyer’s legacy and a beautiful way to connect generations of Ball State flutists.
The current plan is to make the Ball State Extravaganza a biannual event. We felt that this inaugural Extravaganza was a huge success and we look forward to bringing even more flute alumni back to campus in 2020. The attendees this year were already talking with excitement about coming back. We hope that making the Flute Extravaganza a tradition will continue to build the network and community of Ball State students and alumni.
James Thompson is a Doctor of Arts candidate in flute performance.