A Brief History Of The Indiana Flute Circle

The Indiana Flute Circle has been around for over 20 years! It came to be after Kimball Howard from Louisville Kentucky and Steve Surette from Fischers Indiana attended a workshop in Montana put on by Ken Light (Amon Olorin Flutes) and R. Carlos Nakai in the summer of 1998. Steve and Kimble discovered that many Native American-style flute enthusiasts were starting flute circles in cities all over the United States and Canada. They decided to start a flute circle in Indianapolis Indiana and began meeting at the Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis in August of 1999. The circle has continued to meet on the third Sunday of every month since its inception.

In December of 2000 the great Cherokee Medicine Man and flute maker Hawk Littlejohn passed away in Old Fort, North Carolina and a few folks from the flute circle went down to attend the Hawk Littlejohn celebration of life event in Asheville. This was a weekend filled with opportunities to meet many other flute makers, players, and artists from all over the United States. Many life-long friendships were started in Asheville at that event.

In January 2001, a representative of the University of Indianapolis came to one of the flute circle gatherings and invited the circle to play for a national Ethnomusicology convention being held at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center on the campus of the University of Indianapolis. Three members attended and played for the event. It was that performance that inspired the creation of a Native American-style flute ensemble called Shilombish (a Choctaw word for "spirit" or "soul"). In May of 2001, Shilombish played its first official gig for the Earth Day celebration at Garfield Park on the near south side of Indianapolis. During the next several years Shilombish continued to play at various events in central Indiana. Shilombish and other members of the Indiana Flute Circle were invited to play in the mezzanine of the Hilbert Circle Theater in downtown Indianapolis for the world premiere of the Indiana Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by composers Louis Ballard and Brent Michael Davids
in January of 2009. After that, another ensemble sprang up from members of the circle calling themselves Branches Breath. In September of 2009 Branches Breath was invited to play at the Mystic Music Festival in Konya Turkey via a contact at the Eiteljorg Museum. Festival organizers paid all expenses for Branches Breath to travel to Turkey for the festival. The event consisted of 8 concerts and Branches Breath represented the indigenous music of the United States. Branches Breath has since changed its name to Heart Wind.

In 2004 Steve Surette decided to step down as facilitator of the flute circle and handed the reins to Gary Cope who had been a circle member since October of 1999. In June of 2005, the Eiteljorg Museum began a renovation which required the flute circle to find a new gathering place. Circle member, Carol Hatfield, who joined in 2002, was working at the University of Indianapolis in the music department and was able to arrange for the flute circle to meet on campus.

In August of 2018 Gary decided to step down as the circle's facilitator and handed the reins to Joel DeLashmit who had been a member since the winter of 2015.

Over the years the flute circle has been visited by some notable flute makers, collectors and players such as:
Leonard McGann, Dennis Sizemore, Jonny Lipford , Kerry Leung, and Jonah Littlesunday

As a group the flute circle has also had the opportunity to see many artists and Native composers performing in Indiana such as:
Robert Tree Cody, Robert Mirabal, Kevin Locke, and Bill Miller.

We are fortunate to have many long time members still with us who attend on a regular basis and offer a wealth of information and wisdom about the Native American-style Flute. We currently have 106 people on our email list, a little over 200 followers on our Facebook page and around 40 members on our Meetup page. Historically we have averaged around 12 people at our monthly flute circle gatherings. Our annual Christmas pitch-in that occurs on the third Sunday in December at the home of Warren and Betsy Lynn has become an Indiana Flute Circle tradition.

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