News

October 8, 2021
Artist Profile: Paul Chiyokten Wagner
Performer Paul Chiyokten Wagner holding his handmade flute.
BS&F is excited to welcome a new performer to help kick off our Ninth Season opening concert.

In addition to duo Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman, we are featuring Paul Chiyokten Wagner in the upcoming concert, Joy and Sorrow Across the Waters, which premieres on our YouTube channel at 7:00 PM Pacific on Sunday, October 17, 2021. This vibrant program juxtaposes a selection of early 17th-century European Baroque music with music and storytelling from the Coast Salish tradition.

Chiyokten is a member of the Wsaanich (Saanich) Tribe of southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and an award-winning Native American flute player and storyteller. He is passionate about sharing his music, stories and traditional cultural beliefs  in order to help others “better understand and realize the ancient Coast Salish belief that all of us are a part of the Nature which Spirit placed on the lands and waters.”

You may be asking, “What exactly is a Native American flute?”

Generally, this name can encompass a wide variety of flutes and other wind instruments that have been used for millennia across North America. More often, this term is used to describe a flute that is held in front of the player, has open finger holes, and has two chambers: one for collecting the breath of the player and one which is designed to resonate and create sound. The earliest known example of today’s contemporary Native American flutes was collected in 1823 by Italian explorer Giacomo Beltrami in present-day Minnesota.

The most common contemporary tuning for Native American flutes was not inspired by Indigneous traditions, but actually comes from a non-Native musician named Michael Graham Allen who began making these instruments in the 1980s. Michael was an experienced player of the shakuhachi, a Japanese rim-blown flute that traditionally used the Pentatonic Minor scale as its primary scale. His earliest instruments were five-hole flutes that echoed the style and pentatonic progression of the shakuhachi. Manufactured under the name Coyote Oldman flutes, these became popular and influenced many other makers who started to craft flutes using the same tuning.

There is a wide range of designs, sizes, and variations of Native American flute in use currently, much more so than most other classes of woodwinds. The Native American flute is often considered to be popular because of its simplicity, which gives even novice players the ability to play expressively. These instruments are now played by people from various cultures across the globe.

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