Creativity, the will to be Creative! a review of Robert Dick's Master Class by Greg Henry Waters

Well, I read an article from the New York Flute Club's News Letter about Robert Dick and decided to attend his master class on 10/10/1010.  And interesting date don't you think.  It was in a Lutheran Church on 57th and 9th Ave. It started about 2.15 and there were 8 performers that were there to study with him. Meg Browning, Tim Harrison, Amber Patrick, Mao Chia Ching, Lynette Ford, Sophia Sanders Jones, Jung yi Hsieh and Jinhee Jung.  Three young ladies all from Taiwan

Robert Dick says he is a 21st Century Flutist which somehow I think is a little self conceited which is what I found out about during the class.  He says he is a composer, performers and improviser, which of course is true, but there are limits to everything.  My final impression was that to be creative one must follow the Robert Dick way of being creative.  Which includes making the flute sound like an electric guitar, I say why not just hook up the flute to a computer with a microphone and all the guitar pedals and blast away.  But he is killing himself with all these multiphonics, two and three notes sounds coming from the flute which at times were not very pleasing to the ear. And asking all these young students to spend so much time and money on this process when they should be out playing with others.  I would hope Robert would tour with a rock band with his new concepts.


I studied the clarinet, saxophone and flute and one thing I learned was that tone was everything and a solid sound was important.  But this idea for Mr. Dicks is not true; he almost accepts any sound as a valid sound or musical idea, which I cannot accept.  And he even spent time cutting all the major flute teachers in New York, including Sam Baron, and Julius Baker and many more.  He said that they were not creative and only thought about the traditions of the past.  But he would of never learned the flute if that were the case.  He kept promoting how wonderful he is and that he was above all these other musicians teachers was my impression.  I am sure he will not accept this, but this was my impression

 The violin is the most perfect instrument it can do all this and has been for 500 years or more.  I just believe the flute is a single note instrument for the most part.  We heard a Robert Dick piece on the program and it was called, Lookout (for flute alone).  It was suppose to be a guitar solo or rock band feel for the flute.  Well, something was wrong because I could not get it.  Anyway, it was performed by Jinhee Jung, I only wish Robert was as sincere has Jinhee was.  This is where I really got lost in the event and was ready to go home. All the things happening with computer music is really revolutionary but he never spoke of this.


Meg Browning was the first performer on a Telemann peace. He suggested that she bring out the harmony and rhythmic patterns which were very good suggestions. Most solo pieces has to do with the harmony; does the performer understand the harmony with the rhythm?

Tim Harrison, from England, performed the piece, Sonata by Hindemith, Robert got into vibrato here and tried to help Tim over come his English way of playing and play more like a soloist rather than an ensemble player.  For me he was playing a solo piece like he would play it in a band or orchestra and not like a soloist. For playing in an ensemble one is not free to express oneself very much.


Amber Patrick was the next performer and she played Charles Griffes Poem. Robert always spoke of stage presentation with all the performers.  He wanted all of them to be more secure on stage.  He helped Amber with the flow of the line of the melody.  He spoke of positive and negative feel in the rhythm and how one should accent them.  For the most part he stayed with one point for each performer.  And then moved on to the next. Of course there was only so much time for each flutist.


Mao Chia Ching, played Density 21.5 by Edgard Varese. She did a great job and sounded great and so professional too. I was really impressed.  Robert could only tell her how to end the high notes just by stop sending air into the flute.  Congratulations Mao from me, Greg Henry Waters


Lynette Ford was the next performer, Sonata in A Minor by CPE Bach.  He got into periods of music for CPE Bach was a musician from the Baroque going into the classical.  So this piece had these two elements in it and he was trying to explain how to perform it that way.  He never spoke too much about breath control and going from one note to the other for smoothness.  He only spoke of breath during his talk on vibrato.

 Sophia Sanders-Jones was the next performer: She played Henri Dutilleux Sonatine for flute which is a lovely piece.  Robert is so full of his own opinions he should keep some of them to himself.  He just came out and said this piece was no good and he would never play it.  I thought this was so terrible for Sophia for I could tell this was no easy piece.  In fact I am listening to it right now and it is a lovely piece of music.  Anyway, he got into the cadenza some and stopped.  Again he only stay on one point with each performer which really is not enough.  Anyway, I was really upset for he did not want to go into this piece and Sophia worked so hard on it.  Such a waste for her. This is a great piece and very difficult too. You can hear it on


Jung-yi Hsieh Sonata in D Sergei Prokofiev. She did a fantastic job too. Her ability to play the flute was equal to Mao and Robert, of course except for Robert's multiphonics.  He just told everybody to listen to music and learn from that, put the flute in the case and listen to the music. His point was that Prokofiev wrote for the flute like he would write for violin.  What is wrong with that the violin is the greatest of all instrumental instruments.  All the great violin concertos, you know the reason I am so interested in the flute in my later years is because it covers the complete history of music where as the saxophone and clarinet are such new instruments.  Congratulations Jung on a great performance too.


Robert never said anything about how well they played he always tried to bring the attention on himself.  He told a lot of jokes and always laughed at them.  He kind of looks like Groucho Marx.


Jinhee Jung played Lookout by Robert Dick: Jinhee tried really hard but the multiphonics were just too difficult for her according to Robert and I guess they were.  I really just did not like the piece at all.  It is one thing to follow the tradition of flute music but another not to follow it at all. 


Musical art is a special thing and I thought Robert Dick took it beyond musical art.


I wanted to ask a question, he ignored me so since I paid money I thought I had a right to ask questions and not just sit there. I thought I was at an info commercial and not at a master class at the end of the event.


 He is a wonderful flute player that is for sure, his dept about it is very deep, but at a certain point it goes beyond what music is and just into the Robert Dick world.


At the end of the program Robert got out is slide head joint and played a few guitar licks.  I left.When I got home I had a big headache.


Sincerely. Greg Henry Waters