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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frances Blaisdell

I checked the Times on line this morning and found an obituary for Frances Blaisdell, termed "Girl Flutist," who died a couple of weeks ago at 97.

I started playing the flute comparatively late, at 14. My first instructor was the man who taught woodwinds in the Teaneck Public School at that time; I remember what he looked like and sounded like, but not his name. (This might swim up in my memory, or might not.) I switched to private lessons within a year. I believe that my parents asked around about good teachers and were told "Paige Brook, Julius Baker, Frances Blaisdell." Brook wasn't accepting new students, and I doubt they tried to get in touch with Baker, who was then the principle flutist of the NY Philharmonic and an instructor at Juilliard.

They called Miss Blaisdell, who also did not have openings, but she directed my parents to her student Judy Liederman, who taught at her parents' in Teaneck, where I lived. This lasted a year, until Judy moved away. (I believe she both married and got a job out of town. We met again when I was a student at Stony Brook, where she was the music librarian.)

My second teacher was BeverlyRadin, who gave me the best advice I ever got. Beverly had studied with Miss Blaisdell at the Manhattan School of Music. By the time I applied to college, Miss Blaisdell had moved west to teach at Stanford, and my parents wouldn't let me go to school that far from home.

I cannot for the life of me remember if I ever met Miss Blaisdell; if I did, it was briefly and in passing. I think she may have been involved with my search for a better instrument after my first flute, a Gemeinhardt, fell apart, because my parents were able to find a used Haynes with amazing speed.

In any event, the Times obituary told me a great deal about Miss Blaisdell's career, about which it seems I knew almost nothing: being taught by her father, her pioneering career in the New York area, starting in the 1930s, her studies with Barrerre, Moyse, and Kincaid, and so on.

Farewell, Miss Blaisdell, and thank you, for your whole marvelous career and for two excellent teachers.

13 comments:

anzu said...

Wow. You are from Teaneck? Small world. My back yard was practically in Teaneck. I used to live in Bergenfield, though I don't know if at the same time.

Paul H. Muller said...

I grew up in River Edge, and took up the trumpet at about the same age. Went looking for a teacher and had better luck: I studied with Ed Treutel for 3 years. He was from Leonia, played in the NY City Center Opera orchestra and taught at Julliard. He died in 1997 at age 84.

I was just some kid he taught after hours, but it is amazing how influential people like Frances Blaisdell and Ed Treutel have been.

My biggest regret is that I never asked him about Miles Davis....

Lisa Hirsch said...

anzu, yes. Moved there as a child in 1965, graduated from Teaneck High, lived there intermittently during college and grad school. My mom only left in 2006, when she moved to a retirement place near me in Oakland, CA.

Paul, yep. Although in my time, at least, the flute seemed stuck in early 20th c. French style playing. I read part of an interview with Robert Dick about how he got out of that particular trap. I have been out of flute playing for so long that I don't have a clear idea of whether flute playing has changed much.

Andrew Pau said...

I accompanied many of Frances's students when I went to Stanford in the late 1980's. I also played with her once (Gluck's "Dance of the Blessed Spirits") when she presented an evening of music, reminiscences, and anecdotes. She invited a group of us to dinner at her house once. Her husband was principal clarinet in the NY Phil and regaled us with stories of playing under Toscanini, etc. It was a fantastic evening.

Frances was an inspirational teacher and human being, and I was greatly saddened to hear of her passing. I regret not keeping in touch with her after graduation, but that's life.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, Andrew! What was her playing like?

Andrew Pau said...

It was so long ago and I'm not an expert on flute playing, so I think I'll pass on trying to describe it. But it was a wonderful experience for me.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Fair enough!

Joanne said...

I had the privilege of studying flute with Francis for 6 yrs when I was a medical student at Stanford from 1977-1983. While I chose my undergraduate school based in part on the flute teacher (Tom Nyfenger and Sam Baron), that wasn't a consideration when I went to medical school. Having the opportunity to study with Francis was an unexpected and absolutely wonderful experience. She was truly an amazing teacher and remains an inspiration to me even 30 years later. ps, I also studied briefly with Beverly Radin when I first got to Stanford!

Lisa Hirsch said...

Joanne, thank you so much for that remembrance! From what I've read Tom Nyfenger was a remarkable teacher. That is neat that you also studied with Beverly!! (Whom I haven't seen or heard from in decades...)

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I have written a young reader's blog for Frances Blaisdell at Remembering A Name@ blogspot.com.
I am always amazed at the individuals who have done so much for use; yet unknown to so many. You may be interested in it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks!

Mary said...

Frances Blaisdell Williams was my teacher for a year when I was at Red Bank HS. My band director, John Luckenbill, had an arrangement with her which allowed him to choose one student each year to send to Ms. Williams for instruction. I remember a lovely studio, a lamp made from an old wooden flute, and a very kind teacher who made me the best I could be. My high school graduation (not from RBHS) was more than 40 years ago but I still play flute in a community band and in the Boston University Alumni Concert Band.
What an amazing woman she was! Another article I saw mentioned that she taught a week before she died - from her wheelchair and nearly blind. The heavens will welcome her!

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, Mary; I love hearing about Miss Blaisdell's career and teaching. Teaching up until the week before she died - wow.