Until recently, Lindsay Lovering was the WA State Manager for Musica Viva and is now involved in a range of activities, which includes representing Flutes & Flutists in Western Australia. During his time at Musica Viva, he established an instrument donation program that resulted in over $200k of musical instruments being distributed to schools, free of charge around WA. In November 2010, he received the National Leadership in Arts and Health Award and in 2009 was a finalist in the Citizen of the Year Awards for his outstanding contribution to the development of the State’s Arts, Culture and Entertainment activities.
Lindsay’s objective now is to support the development and growth of young flute players in Western Australia.
David Leviston: When did you start playing the flute?
Lindsay Lovering: I started playing the flute when I was 19 years of age and was conscripted into National Service. At the time, I was playing the drums in one of Perth’s reasonably successful rock bands. I remember taking my drum kit to a well-known music store and swapped them for a flute and never looked back as they say. I immediately started playing with an uncle who played the flute (in fact a Guardsmen flute with just a couple of keys) and his wife played the piano and we would play together and making music seemed liked such a natural thing to do. They had such an influence on me. In fact, my Aunt, who is in amazingly good health, turns 100 in a couple of weeks and I had great pleasure in arranging “the telegram” for her.
DL: What do you love about the flute?
LL: I am constantly amazed at the way sound is produced on the flute, the various sounds that it can make and the position it takes, either as a solo instrument or in an ensemble. Wasn’t it Mozart who said that the only thing worse than one flute was……two! What would he know? I am currently a member of a Baroque ensemble and a Flute, Guitar and Cello trio that performs in Perth’s hospitality industry. The role the flute plays in each one is very different and requires different approaches and skills, but I like the many challenges between a performance of a Bach Sonata to a Jazz or Classical evergreen.
DL: Is there anything you dislike about the flute?
LL: Like fire – the flute is a wonderful servant but a terrible master and there’s also the old saying “if you don’t practise for one week, you know it, and if you don’t practise for two, the whole world knows it”! The flute requires ongoing commitment but the satisfaction of crafting that elusively pure and resonate sound and perfectly shaping a melody is a constant challenge. I read a biography of a pianist who said that once, for ten seconds, he played perfect music. I know what he means and I wish I could say that!
DL: Did you choose the flute or did the flute choose you?
LL: A very good question, maybe the flute chose me. When the Bolshoi Ballet and their orchestra visited Australia at this time, they were featured on TV and the flautist played Flight of the Bumble Bee – from that time onwards I was well and truly stung!
DL: Do you play any other instruments?
LL: I don’t play any other instrument although I once built a harpsichord as I wanted to start a baroque ensemble. I have the utmost admiration for anyone who can play multiple instruments. One of my heroes, violinist Stephen Grappelli, only took up the piano because they needed a pianist in his group (he’s someone I rate as a giant in the history of music).
DL: Have you had formal training on the flute i.e. Conservatorium or University?
LL: I suppose my training was rather unusual. Despite my pleas, my parents were reluctant to invest in music lessons for me as my sisters both learnt the piano but didn’t pursue it. When I did take up the flute at the age of 19, I paid for my own lessons. Upon being conscripted for National Service, thanks to Owen Fisenden being my teacher in Perth, I was offered a position as a flute player in an Army Band where I played for four years. Although I had lessons from Vernon Hill, at the time Principal Flute in the MSO, my formal studies began at the Canberra School of Music. However, many paths lead to Rome – but it requires determination, sacrifice and perseverance – and…Oh look, there’s Rome!
One of my favourite sayings is that “success is 5% talent and 95% hard work – with some famous and rare exceptions!
DL: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
LL: Until recently, I was Musica Viva’s WA Manager, a full-time position but now that I have more free time, I am able to be much more in control and flexible. I am conscious of the relationship between physical and mental health and start each day with a session at the gym. Apart from being the WA representative for Flutes & Flutists (and that’s like putting a rabbit in charge of the vegetable patch!), my interests include photography and gardening. However, as my wife is still employed full-time, I also enjoy cooking and the kitchen is my workplace from 4.00pm onwards. People say they never know how they found time to work once they retire (I don’t like that word) but it’s true. I confess that I am seriously thinking of some post graduate studies next year that would include the flute in some way.
DL: How important is the type of flute you play on? Silver, gold, wood, system?
LL: I haven’t played on that many flutes, but I remember Galway once saying that he could play any flute in the room and it would still sound like him. I purchased a solid silver Haynes, my first quality flute, from Vernon Hill during my time in Melbourne – that was a beautiful instrument. To purchase it, I took on three jobs – an Army Bandsman during the day, working in a Bottle Shop in Hawthorn at night and, during my dinner breaks, riding my Lambretts to the Princess Theatre to walk across the stage in the onstage band for La Boheme (that took me all of 15 minutes). I was back in the bottle shop for the last shift and nobody even knew I was gone!
I sold the Haynes to purchase the Gold Armstrong from David Cubbin’s family and was deeply honoured that his family were pleased that I, as a former student, would have ownership. It was a magnificent instrument that produced a wonderfully warm, resonant sound but the more modern flutes are more in tune, so I now play a Powell and enjoy it very much. With the assistance and advice of David Leviston, I donated David’s Armstrong to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
DL: How important have teachers been for you in your own learning?
LL: I have been fortunate to have had some quite amazing teachers over my career starting with Owen Fisenden in Perth, Vernon Hill in Melbourne, Margaret Crawford and David Cubbin during my time at the Canberra School of Music and Michel Debost in Paris. I am constantly remembering advice that they and many others along the way have given to me over the years – not only about “how to play the flute” but how to approach the music industry and how to “be a professional”. I think one of the most important things was how to respect and support colleagues and in particular, young people and newcomers to the industry. Careers take different paths and as an arts administrator, I was very conscious that decisions I made had the potential to affect people’s careers and I made every effort to create an environment where creative endeavour could flourish. I was proud some years ago to receive the National Leadership Award for Arts and Health and to be a finalist in the States Citizenship of the Year Award for my contribution to the Arts and Entertainment in WA.
DL: How important are people skills when playing music in groups?
LL: I remember when I was a student in Paris and students from around the world studying with different teachers would get together to socialise and to play in various ensembles. It always amazed me when, even though we didn’t speak the same language, after an evening of chamber music people bonded and became life-long friends. This happened so frequently and made me appreciate the way music transcends language, politics and religion. Playing in these ensembles was a humbling experience for me – from one moment to the next, you could be a leader to a secondary role. To take the lead and make decisions on tempo or volume and then to support, blend in or to be led with the hierarchy constantly changing.
DL: What advice do you have for someone wanting to pursue a career in music performance?
LL: Hard work on the instrument aside, the advice I would give to someone starting out is – learn to be patient, trust yourself, never believe your own publicity and respect and support those around you regardless of age, skills or personal background. You are all valuable components of an industry that gives this country (and in fact humanity) its soul. Remember the saying, “United we stand – divided we fall”.