Famous Flute Players: Instrumental Inspirations!

This week I am going to head in a different direction and take a look at some famous flute players. The flute is an absolutely beautiful instrument that can create a feeling of relaxation for the listener and performer, regardless of the genre of music being played. The flute is highly recognized as a orchestral and ensemble instrument, but is often forgotten as a solo instrument.

In my experience most young girls want to play the flute. I was one of those girls, although I was convinced to play the trumpet instead. I still love the flute and will play it whenever I can.

In many situations the flute is played by a female, however many men have and continue to become extraordinary flute players. The men highlighted in todays post are fantastic inspirations for any boy who has found himself playing the flute.


Todays instrumentalists have confirmed my love for the flute. Every single one of them displays the beauty of the instrument and demonstrates the emotions that can evoked when it is played as a solo instrument. They make it clear that the flute is much more then an ensemble instrument.  The instrumentalists that will be featured in todays post are:

  • Marcel Moyse
  • James Galway
  • Herbie Mann
  • Julius Baker
  • Jasmine Choi

Introducing 5 Famous Flute Players

Marcel Moyse

Marcel Moyse, born on May 17th, 1889 in St. Armour, France, was a french flautist. He studied the flute at the Paris Conservatory where he later became a teacher. During his studies he studied under flute virtuosos  Philippe Gaubert, Adolphe Hennebains, and Paul Taffadnel. Moyse has been a major influence for many professional and amateur flute players all over the world.

Moyse had a very busy and successful career as a teacher and instrumentalist. As a teacher he taught at  Conservatoire de musique de Québec à Montréal and was the founder of the Marlboro Music School and festival. Many of Moyse’s students continued on to have successful careers including  James Galaway (The next flautist to be discussed). He also wrote many flute studies (meant to help flautists improve various techniques and skills) including Tone Development Through Interpretation and  20 Exercises et études sur les Grandes Liaisons. Many of his studies and exercises can still be heard in practice rooms today.

As an instrumentalist Moyse was extremely successful at representing the french style of playing the flute which was characterized by a bright, fast vibrato. During his career as a instrumentalist he toured all over Europe and the United States.  He performed as a soloist in many concerts and can be heard on many early recordings of  standard flute repertoire. He also played in orchestras under the direction of many notable conductors including  Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Strauss.

Marcel Moyse passed away on November 1st, 1984 as the age of of 94. His death marked the end of an era in flute playing. There were many memorials and tributes to honour Moyse including the creation of the Marcel Moyse Society in the United States.

Please take the time to listen to Marcel Moyse playing The Swan from The Carnival of The Animals by Saint-Saens.


James Galway

James Galway, Famous flute player

James Galway performing with his wife Jeanne

James Galway, born on December 8th, 1939, is an Irish flute player from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Known as “The Man With The Golden Flute,” he is one of the first flute players to obtain an international career as a soloist.

Galway was born into a very musical family. After experimenting with several instrument he settled with the flute at the age of nine. Initially he was taught the flute by his uncle but continued his musical training at the Royal College of music, Guildhall School of Music and the Paris Conservatiore.

Prior to embarking on a solo career Galway performed in orchestras for 15 years. During that time he performed with the Sadler’s Wells Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and finally the Berlin Philharmonic as the principal solo flautist.

After leaving the Berlin Philharmonic, Galway became a solo flautist. He has performed both classical and contemporary  repertoire. He has also been open to performing a variety of music genres including pop, country and show tunes.

During his career he has also performed with many notable musicians including Ray Charles, Elton John and Andrea Bocelli. He has even contributed to the soundtrack for the The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King.

Of course we would’t finish discussing such a fine musician without providing a video. Here is James Galway performing Danny Boy. Absolutely beautiful!

Click here to learn more about James Galway.

Herbie Mann

Herbie Mann Famous Flute players

“Herbie Mann” by Tom Marcello Webster, New York, USA – Herbie Mann (w/ Will Lee). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Herbie_Mann.jpg#/media/File:Herbie_Mann.jpg

Herbie Mann, born on April 16th,  1930 in Brooklyn, New York, was an American jazz flautist and early practitioner of world music. Early in his career Mann also played the clarinet and tenor saxophone. Mann was very skilled at fusing jazz with world music. He was an extraordinary improviser.

During his career Herbie Mann was known for playing jazz and dance favourites. He also composed many original works. . He performed as a guest player with many other artists through out his career.  Many recording that Mann was involved in, either as a solo artist or guest player, found their way to various billboard charts. His recording of Hijack  written by Spanish musician Fernando Arbex actually hit #1 on the Billboard’s dance charts in 1975.

Mann passed away on July 1,2003 at the age of 73 after a long battle with prostate cancer. His last performance was on May 3rd, 2003 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival.

Check out the video below to hear Herbie Mann play Sunny.

Want to hear more music by Herbie Mann? click here.

Julius Baker

Julius Baker, born on September 23rd, 1915 in Cleveland, Ohio, was an American orchestral flute player, teacher and soloist.

As a teacher Baker  served as a faculty member at the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, and Carnegie Mellon University.  As a performer he played with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic. He played second flute in the Cleveland Orchestra but held the principal Flute position in the Chicago Symphony orchestra and New York Philharmonic.

Baker also made many recordings. Including recordings with conductors such as Bruno Walters and Leonard Bernstein while playing with the orchestras they conducted. He also recorded many solo recording during his career. In addition to recordings, Baker also performed on film scores including The Little Mermaid  and Beauty and the Beast.

Julius Baker was  very active as a teacher through out his entire career right until his death on August 6th, 2003 at the age of 87.

please enjoy Julius Baker performing Chopin’s F Sharp Major Nocturne

Jasmine Choi

Jasmine Choi, born in 1983, is a Korean Flautist. Choi studied at the Curtis Institute of music where she was taught by teachers such as Julius Baker and Jeffrey Khaner. She later studied at the Juilliard School in 2006.

Choi is still a young and emerging artist who still has a lot to offer and a long career ahead of her. Thus far she has served as the associate principal flute for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Principal flute of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. She was actually the first Korean-born member of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

She has also made several recordings including her performances of Mozart’s Concerto For Flute and Harp K. 299 and Concerto for Flute K. 314. She has commercially recorded works by Claud Boiling and  the 12 Fantasies for Solo Flute by Georg Philipp Telemann.

Please check out the video below of Jasmine Choi playing Monti Czardas arranged for flute and piano.

Click here to Jasmine Choi’s official webpage.

Who’s ready to break out the flute! 

So many fantastic inspirations to inspire even the most stubborn flute player. There is no wonder that the flute is associated with such eloquence. These are only 5 famous flute players that have contributed to the development of the flute as a solo instrument. There are so many more that can be highlighted in future posts. I hope you have enjoyed my selection of instrumentalists for this weeks instrumental Inspirations. It was a tough choice.

Do you have a favourite that has inspired you? It doesn’t have to be a flute player. Perhaps you know someone you would like see highlighted as an instrumental inspiration. Please leave a comment sharing your questions and experiences below. I would like to leave you today with a video of a flute ensemble playing selections from The Sounds of Music.

Previous Instrumental Inspirations

Famous Jazz Trumpet Players of the Past

5 Famous Jazz Piano Players

Best Rock Guitarists of All Time


14 thoughts on “Famous Flute Players: Instrumental Inspirations!

  1. Melody,

    Thank you for this wonderful peek into the world of this wonderfully charming and seductive instrument the flute.

    Being an American Baby Boomer I will admit that aside from elementary school my 1st introduction into the flute as a mainstream instrument actually came at the hands of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame.

    As I read through I realized just how sheltered I’ve been with regard to these wonderful musicians you profiled. I realized I recognized a lot of their work especially James Galway and Herbie Mann.

    You have offered me a wonderful place to broaden my horizons, thanks so much for that.
    My best,


    1. Well thank you for reading! I thoroughly enjoyed researching for this article. So many fine musicians to choose from. My Father is a huge fan of Jethro Tull and raves about the use of instruments and the orchestra in their music. The reason for not including Ian Anderson is because I feel he could actually be the focus of an entire post. Working on that for the future.

      I am glad that I have broaden your horizons! There is so much music out there that we don’t even realize how much we have yet to discover. Thanks Gary for stopping by. Your comment is greatly appreciated.

  2. Love your post and love music, well who doesn’t? 😉 The truth is that I have always said that the sound of piano, violin and flute are the most charming to me. I don’t know why but every time I I listen to a musical piece in which these instruments are the protagonists, I am transported to remote, beautiful and peaceful places… I have specially enjoyed the 2nd and 5th videos. I’m inexperienced in the field, but I thank you for this post since it provides me with a very good start 😉


    1. Glad you enjoyed the videos. I think finding the videos for this weekly blog is my favourite part. I often get lost in the music and forget about the task at hand.

      You are very right about the soothing characteristics of the piano, flute, and violin. There is just something in the sound that provides a feeling of peace and solitude. I will be exploring violin players at part of instrumental inspirational too so stay tuned. In the meantime you can read about and listen to some great jazz pianist in my post about famous jazz players. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Phenomenal article of 5 truly amazing and unique individuals. I was aware of James Galway, and Herbie Mann, but not the other three. The depth and detail with which you write about them is wonderful. So thankful that you’ve been able to pull out such wonderful videos to highlight such amazing talents.

    Growing up in a musical family, my sister had played the flute for many years. She was very skilled and had received accolades and awards for her talents. So I’d grown up for many years hearing the influence of the instrument in my household. That said, I’ve only tinkered with it myself and have also dabbled in related instruments such as the Shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo flute).

    Obviously Ian Anderson is another one to add to this list as has been mentioned. But what about Jean-Pierre Rampal???

    1. Hello Eric and thanks for stopping by. It is wonderful to get suggestion from readers. I realize I missed some great flautist’s but had to same some for later.:) I could only highlight in the post so I had the draw line somewhere. As readers like you make suggestions I have noted them for further blogs. I can assure you Jean-Pierre Rampal and Ian Anderson will be discussed at a later date. Thank for reading, enjoying and suggesting. Greatly appreciated.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. The only one of these flutists I had heard of was Julius Baker, but I guess that’s probably because he plays what I would consider more traditional flute music.

    One of my all time favorites, though, is Ian Anderson, who proved that a flute can be a wonderful accompaniment to any style of music, even Rock ‘N Roll. It is a much more diverse instrument than we give it credit to be.

    1. Thanks for reading Christian! I have heard a lot about this Ian Anderson and I will assure you that he is not forgotten, just a part of bigger plan in the works. The Flute is indeed a diverse instrument that is often underestimated.’m glad that I could introduce you to some new musicians.

  5. Hi,
    That’s a nice post and one that is quite informative and thus very helpful to us readers seeking information about historic flute players who became famous for their superb talent. Thanks also for educating us on the flute being a solo instrument.
    Thanks again for your informative post and all the best in your online endeavors for 2016.

    1. Thanks for the great comment. The flute is a beautiful instrument. In fact it was the instrument I wanted to play but was given the trumpet instead. I love my trumpet but still like playing around with the flute. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  6. Thanks for an excellent post. I love most types of music from classical to pop. I find the flute a most relaxing instrument to listen to.

    I was interested in your comment about Marcel Moyse and his representation of the French style of rapid vibrato. One of my all time favourite Jazz players was Sidney Bechet who used a similar style of Saxophone and Clarinet playing.

    The videos you included in your post are wonderful and I will be adding them to my musical favourites.


    1. Hey Colin!

      Glad you enjoyed the post and found some new music to listen to. Its amazing how many different styles and interpretations there are when it comes to playing all the instruments.

      Enjoy your new tunes!

  7. Hey there :) I know someone who plays the flute so I’ll definitely recommend her this post.
    I learned a lot of things thanks to your article, I didn’t really know about these 5 flute players. I really love that you also added some videos of each :)
    What’s your favorite of all these 5? If you can make a choice 😀

    1. Thanks for stopping by Ashley! It is amazing how many talented musicians go unnoticed. I couldn’t possibly choose my favourite. I love them all. that’s why I choose them.

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