Musician’s Stories from the Trenches – Art Whitfield

Editor’s note:  This is the first in our recurring stories of Musican’s stories.  Some are biographies, others are of specific events in a musician’s life.  We hope you will enjoy reading these original stories, as told by the musicians themselves.

Art Wind Synth Playing

Art Whitfield’s musical story:

Fast forward to my adult years in Rochester, NY.  I picked up my alto sax again and enjoyed playing in a blues band.  While in the blues band, I also started playing harmonica and flute, and some attempts at clarinet.  But clarinet was the stumbling block.  I struggled to play it because it’s fingered in 12ths instead of octaves, yet all my musical life I had played octave based instruments.  Yikes.  What to do?!?!  I always loved synthesizers, but was not a keyboard player (another musical failure alongside clarinet).  After reading about a Yamaha wind synthesizer controller, I had to have one.  It solved the clarinet register problem and opened up my ability to play piano, cello, and most any other instrument.  My first wind synth was a Yamaha WX11 with a WT11 FM synth module.  Good fun, but poor “voices” (emulations).  So I mostly stuck with acoustic flute, harmonica, and alto sax with the band.

Shortly after getting my first wind synth, I left the blues band.  After talking with a new friend at a musican’s party, we were both “between bands” and agreed to get together to play some acoustic flute for a time or two.  Hmmm, what to play?  Baroque recorder music is not difficult, has simpler key signatures, and sounds beautiful.  Good fun again!  Now it’s been nearly 20 years since my friend Mardou and I started playing baroque flute duets!

Bard’s Baroque

During a recurring gig at a local restaurant, I started supplementing the baroque flute duets with some wind synth to add cello or strings.  Wow, that really enhanced the baroque music.  After a while, my partner also started playing wind synth.  Now we both play baroque duets using wind synthesizers.  Lately we’ve started learning jazz standards, but still gig playing the baroque duets.  Great fun!

For my instruments, I graduated from my original WX11 to a WX 7, a bunch of Yamaha synths, and finally settled on the WX7 controller connected to a VL1m synth module.  While the VL1m is physically large, it’s emulations are high quality (when programmed well), and it will also play two tones at once allowing for playing over drones, loops, and double stops.  I also own and have played the Yamaha WX5 (not to my liking), Akai EWI 3020, USB-EWI, and designed a number of interfaces for both Yamaha and Akai with my friends Bob, Lance, and Mardou.  WindWorks Design

Ok, you’ve read this far.  Where did it all begin musically?  My musical ambitions started as a preschooler, playing very plastic instrument my parents would buy me.  Then it was the alto sax in 5th grade and a very typical small town band education.  Band in Jr. High, band in Sr. High, and band in College.  Oh yea, stage band in high school too.   I was fortunate to learn wooden recorder and enjoyed playing in the Circleville Recorder Society.  As the only teen playing in a recorder group, it was unique and fun.  And that’s where I learned my love for baroque music!

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