Educational Initiatives and Community Connections

CAFE performing at the American Lutheran Church January 10, 2024

As CAFE Flutes approaches its remarkable 10th-anniversary milestone in 2024, it’s a fitting time to reflect on the ensemble’s journey and the transformative impact it has had on music education in central Arizona. The visionaries behind CAFE Flutes, led by Manager Leslie Etzel, recognized not only the need for a 7-person ensemble to showcase flute choir music but also the importance of sharing this musical experience with the community.

From its early days performing for senior communities to its current status as a prominent musical presence in the region, CAFE Flutes has continually evolved. The ensemble’s commitment to education and community engagement is evident in its diverse musical experiences. CAFE Flutes tailors its programs to suit various audiences, delivering a blend of genres and themed performances that captivate listeners.

In 2018, the introduction of the “Fascinating Flutes” demonstration added a new layer to CAFE Flutes’ educational initiatives. This 2-person showcase provided audiences with a global perspective on the flute, combining sound clips, videos, and live performances to offer an interactive exploration of flute culture. The ensemble’s dedication to collaboration has expanded its creative horizons, leading to presentations with singers, actors, discussion facilitators, festival organizers, and visual artists.

A landmark transition occurred in 2021 when CAFE Flutes became a 501c3 nonprofit charitable organization. This move facilitated access to grant funding, enabling the ensemble to perform 28 concerts and extend its reach to audiences that might not have access to traditional music venues. As CAFE Flutes continues its commitment to community outreach into 2024, the educational initiatives remain a cornerstone of the ensemble’s mission, enriching the lives of listeners and musicians alike.

Touching is learning

For the musicians of CAFE Flutes, the most rewarding aspect of being artists lies in the dynamic interaction with audiences. Performing actively and engaging with concert-goers during shows is a source of immense gratification. The joy evident in the musicians’ faces and voices as they provide background information about the music resonates with listeners, creating a unique connection that extends beyond the performance.

Remarkably, five of the seven original CAFE flutists still perform with the group, ten years after forming.  Playing one on a part, a distinctive feature of CAFE Flutes’ approach, is a musician’s dream. Unlike larger flute sections where many players balance the overall sound, each CAFE flutist is solely responsible for their musical contribution. This clear musical voice brings a sense of pride and appreciation for creative musicianship, challenging and rewarding each performer to be tuned in at all times.

Unlearning traditional performance formats, CAFE Flutes has embraced a mission to present “interactive concerts and educational programs.” Breaking away from behind-the-music-stand performances, the ensemble actively connects with audiences in various ways. From greeting listeners personally to introducing musical selections, encouraging participation, and hosting Q&A segments, CAFE Flutes has redefined the concert experience.  They always invite the listeners to come up to the stage after the last note has faded to see the instruments up close, chat, or take selfies.  Some want to witness the 10-foot contrabass flute being disassembled and stowed away in the two suitcase-sized cases.

Celebrating audience birthdays at Inspirations of Tempe Senior Community

A unique element introduced by CAFE Flutes is the hands-on flute experience, where the demonstration piccolo and flute circulate among the audience. Captivated by the intricate mechanisms and delicate pads, audience members get a firsthand encounter with the instruments. This multi-sensory approach transforms a CAFE concert into an immersive and unforgettable experience.

The ensemble’s dedication to community connection goes beyond the stage. Acknowledging birthdays, inviting post-concert chats, and personalized interactions with the audience showcase CAFE Flutes’ commitment to building meaningful connections. As the ensemble continues to evolve and engage with audiences, its impact on community connection remains at the forefront of its musical journey.