Thursday, December 21, 2006

Felix Skowronek, 1935-2006

The flute community is saddened by the death of Felix Skowronek, on the evening of April 17, 2006. Felix was a dear friend and colleague to so many of us. We will miss his vitality, his story-telling and his generosity as friend and teacher.

Felix was Founding President of the Seattle Flute Society, and later served as a board member and as Vice-President. He was also National Flute Association president, chairman of the board, and program chairman of the 10th anniversary convention.

The Seattle Times ran a very nice obituary on Wednesday the 19th. The Times will also run a tribute to Felix in this coming Sunday edition. The Seattle P-I offered an article as well.

Immediate public memorial plans have not been announced, but the Wood Flute Convention will be held in mid-June at the UW, as Felix envisioned. A memorial concert will be announced for immediately before or after the conference. Check the conference website over the next few weeks for more information: (pdf download)

We offer our heartfelt sympathies to his friends and family. Felix will be greatly missed.

Originally posted on April 20, 2006. Date changed to keep this post at the top of the blog.

Updated: Memorial plans have now been announced.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pictures of Felix Skowronek

Photos of Felix Skowronek (In chronological order. Date format: yyyy-mm-dd). Thanks to Stephen Morris for sending the pictures.

Felix trying headjoints at Lanny Pollet's home, Victoria, 2003-06-15.

Four wood flutes with their owners, at Lanny Pollet's home, Victoria, 2003-06-15. Left to right: Lanny Pollet, Felix Skowronek, Paul Pearson, Stephen Morris.

Felix and Paul Pearson, at Paul's home, Victoria, 2004-09-24.

Lanny Pollet, and Felix, seen in mirror: 2005-02-05 at Felix' residence, Seattle.

Felix trying out a new flute: Seattle, 2005-02-05.

Felix at his lathe: Seattle, 2005-02-05

Felix and Lanny Pollet, at Paul Pearson's home, Victoria, 2005-05-23.

Monday, May 01, 2006

From Erich Graf

I have known Felix’s name for a long time but became personally acquainted with him only recently. He came to Salt Lake City in 2004 to judge a competition and called me. Our schedules that year only permitted a short meeting for coffee, but after a few minutes, we felt like old friends. He returned again in the summer of 2005 for the same reason, and we had more time together. He stayed at my home for a few days and also attended a chamber concert on which I soloed. He was certainly a “flute iconoclast” due to his preoccupation with wooden instruments. We spent time discussing wood vs. metal, reminiscing about our experiences with Julius Baker, and had some great meals together.

I knew of Felix’s health problems because we discussed them. I was amazed by his ability to assimilate these challenges into his life as a “given” and continued to pursue his passions with great fortitude and enthusiasm.

Felix maintained an extremely rigid diet. Celery was an acceptable vegetable because it was low in potassium. I will never forget the look on his face when he bit into a celery stick in my kitchen and said, “Ahh, this is SO refreshing.” This was a great moment for me because it emphasized how the small pleasures in life can be ultimately satisfying!!

Even though Felix no longer has a physical presence, he will always represent what the “creative spark” is to me.

Erich Graf

Principal flutist, Utah Symphony
President, Local 104, American Federation of Musicians, Salt Lake City

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Concert - dedicated to Felix

SansSouci Ensemble
Jeffrey Cohan, flute
Ronald Patterson, violin
George Shangrow, harpsichord/conductor
Roxanna Patterson, viola
Jennifer Caine, violin
Julie Reed, cello

Saturday, April 29, 2006 at 8 PM
Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland
Tickets, directions, info: (425) 893-9900

~ dedicated to the memory of Felix Skowronek ~
Antonio Vivaldi - Flute Concerto III "Il Gardellino"
Frederick "The Great" of Prussia - Flute Concerto in G Major
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Flute Concerto in D Minor
Johann Joachim Quantz - Flute Concerto in G Major
Johann Sebastian Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5

From Greg Dziekonski

Dear Felix,

Each member of the Franklin High School class of 1952 was asked to list his/her ambition and pet peeve. While most people listed a career as their ambition, your ambition was "to live happily for 100 years." Whether this was your euphemism for devoting one's life to the flute or whether it reflected a precocious wisdom that life often winds up being what we didn't plan is anyone's guess. After all, you once told me that your first flute teacher, Fred Wing, started you on a wooden flute, because your "real" instrument hadn't been delivered yet. Who would have known that once upon a time when the Soni Ventorum was touring in Hawaii you preferred to hunt for trees at sea level rather than going up Mauna Kea to see the view.

I've never played the flute, but you taught me something else. You were always there when I needed information on the history of the Seattle music scene, in which you played such a substantial role. As soon as I dreamed up some obscure question to which I thought you might know the answer, you always responded with an elaborate explanation. Although I can never match Megan Lyden's herculean effort to preserve a record of yourcontribution to music, I've stashed away everything you wrote to me for posterity. In light of the enthusiasm with which you always responded to my queries, I think that would make you happy.

We sat together at clarinetist Ron Phillips's funeral two summers ago and we never seemed to stop chatting. As we sauntered through the museum-type displays illustrating Ron's life, you had an extra story to tell about every old photograph. I had never learned so much at a wake before.

Your high school annual states that your pet peeve was "growing out of a crewcut." Whether you were joking or whether this was a genuine outburst of teenage anxiety is something I'll never know, because I am now forced to painfully recognize that I can never ask you anything anymore. Your instruction went beyond chamber music groups and aspiring flutists. I wonder if you ever knew that. At least your friends now do. Thank you, Felix.


Greg Dziekonski

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wood Flute Conference

The following information has been copied from the Wood Flute Conference flyer.

JUNE 16-18, 2006

This conference will examine the extent to which “modern” wooden Boehm-system flutes — and metal flutes with wooden headjoints — are being played in the United States and Canada, and will allow participants to discuss their common experiences and problems as members of a distinct but growing minority in the flute world. Flutists and flute makers will participate in performances, lectures, and meetings to explore the current state of interest in the wooden flute and to establish a network and means of communication to help coalesce an effort that is still somewhat scattered and unorganized. All are welcome, even if you don't presently play a wooden flute or headjoint. Registration forms, accommodation and fee information may be found at Please contact Jeffrey Cohan at woodflutefest "at" aol "dot" com or (206) 525-2216 with any questions.

The wooden Boehm-system (“modern”) flute was prevalent in the United States a century ago, but was superseded by the silver flute. By the 1920s, manufacture of the wooden flute in the U.S. ceased and the instrument disappeared from the musical life of the nation for nearly fifty years. In the 1960s, a few American flutists began to rediscover the instrument and its unique qualities, and play upon it professionally. In Seattle, the manufacture of wooden headjoints began in the mid-1970s, the first such systematic effort in the U.S. in more than five decades.

Much of the early – and continuing – research was led by University of Washington flute professor Felix Skowronek, who changed to the wooden flute in the early 1960s and has played it exclusively ever since. A number of his students changed to wood as well, and are a presence in the local flute scene. Today two major American flute makers, as well as a handful of smaller workshops, have begun to manufacture wooden flutes, joined by two prominent makers in Japan. There are now nearly twenty makers of wooden headjoints in the United States, when thirty years ago there was just one, in Seattle. A wooden flute culture has built up in Seattle and also in nearby Victoria, B.C., and wooden flutes have notable representation in the jazz, Latin, baroque, and avant-garde arenas.

  • Prof. Tim Lane (Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)

  • Prof. Lanny Pollet (University of Victoria, Canada)

  • Adrianne Greenbaum (Assoc. Prof., Mt. Holyoke College, klezmer flute)

  • Duozona (flute/guitar duo)

  • Bradley Leighton (jazz flutist based in San Diego)

  • Clifford Dunn (avant-garde performer and composer)

  • Jim O’Halloran (flutist with Seattle’s charanga “Yerba Buena”)

  • Others to be announced

  • Danilo Mezzadri (Assistant Professor, University of Southern Mississippi, Brazilian music)

    University of Washington Residence Halls

    Accommodations include residence hall housing for all three nights of the conference (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), as well as catered breakfasts and lunches on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are available for either single or double occupancy rooms. Extra nights of stay on June 14, 15, 19, 20 may be available. These stays do not include meals. Housing reservations are required; there will be no walk-in housing registration available. Area hotels and motels – information available at
    Meals available on campus or in nearby University District (

    Conference registration (access to all performances, meetings, etc.)
    Full conference: $100, students $50
    Single day: $65, students $25
    Nightly concerts are open to the public for a $20 charge ($10 for students).
    Tickets will be available for purchase by non-conference guests at the front entrance to the performance.

    Jeffrey Cohan
    (866) 808-6708 (toll free)


    June 16 to 18, Music Building, University of Washington
    Tentative program as of April 24 • all details subject to change • please see

    Friday June 16
    3:30 pm Registration, Social Hour
    5 Audio Video Presentation: Felix Skowronek, Pioneer of the Wooden Flute, presented by William McColl and members of the Soni Ventorum
    5:30-7:30 Dinner
    8-10 General Session – Setting the Agenda – flute ensemble presentation
    10-12 Cabaret: Well-known jazz flutist Bradley Leighton (San Diego), a former student of Felix’s, will perform with rhythm section, playing a wide array of jazz and jazz fusion. "Jamming" and impromptu sit-ins by conference participants will be encouraged. (at a nearby off-campus location to be announced)

    Saturday June 17
    8 Continental Breakfast & Registration
    9 Discussion Session: Biophilia: Nature, Instinct and the Wood Flute
    10 Discussion Session: topic and speaker to be announced
    11 Morning Concert: Lanny Pollet (Victoria) performing the Cambini Wind Quintet No.1 and Villa Lobos’s Jet Whistle, followed by Duozona with Chuck and Theresa Hulihan, performing selections for flute and guitar
    12 Exhibits, Lunch
    2 Performer’s Symposium I: The use of the wooden flute in Avant-garde and Brazilian music, flute and guitar repertoire, etc.
    3 Afternoon Concert : Brasilidade (contemporary Brazilian music) with Danilo Mezzadri, followed by The Avant-Garde Wooden Flute with Clifford Dunn (flutist/composer)
    4:30 Discussion Session: Flute Woods and Aspects of Wooden Flute Construction with Alexander Eppler
    5:30 Dinner
    7:30/8:30 Evening Double Concert: Wisconsin Woodwind Quintet, followed by Klezmer Flute with Adrianne Greenbaum and ensemble at 8:30
    10 Cabaret: Jim O’Halloran and Seattle’s charanga Yerba Buena (at a nearby off-campus location to be announced)

    Sunday June 18
    8:30 Continental Breakfast
    9 Discussion Session: Historical development & Orchestral Use of Wood Boehm-System Flutes with Shelley Collins
    10 Lecture-demonstration: Early to Modern: a Wood Flute Retrospective with Janet See and others: selections performed on wooden flutes from the renaissance through the present
    11 Discussion Session: Wooden Flute & Headjoint Maker Symposium
    12 Exhibits, Lunch
    2 Performer’s Symposium II: Niche Uses for Wood: Klezmer, jazz, Modern Baroque, etc.
    3 Concert: Tim Lane (Wisconsin) performing Baker, Lunde etc. with pianist Namji Kim
    4 Discussion Session: topic and speaker to be announced
    5 Rehearsal for UW and Wood Flute Conference Choir Memorial Concert performance
    5:30 Dinner
    7:30 Felix Skowronek Memorial Concert: Featured performers to include Arthur Grossman, Tim Lane, Duozona, Clifford Dunn, Danilo Mezzadri, Lanny Pollet, Adrianne Greenbaum and a special selection to be performed by all conference participants and the UW Flute Choir; a reception will follow. Free admission.

    Felix's comments about the SFS in 2004

    In 2004, the SFS celebrated our 25th anniversary, including a recital of past SFS presidents. Each president was invited to comment on his or her memories of the organization. This is what Felix wrote:
    It was a pleasure to serve as Founding President of the SFS for its first three years. It was particularly gratifying to experience the enthusiasm displayed throughout the flute spectrum of professionals, amateurs, jazz musicians, students, and others. It’s even more gratifying to see that through the years the SFS has become one of the most successful local flute societies in the nation.

    We couldn't have done it without your support, Felix.

    From Powell Flutes

    Powell Flutes wishes to express our heart felt sadness at the passing of Felix.

    Felix was a kind man who marched to his own drummer. When the rest of the flute world was playing precious metal flutes, Felix was advocating wooden flutes. He put his many skills behind this effort, and experimented with various woods and headjoint cuts in order to improve his instrument of choice. In 1995, when Powell decided to produce a wooden flute, we turned to Felix. He generously and enthusiastically agreed to help, and arrived in Boston with a suitcase full of wooden flutes. His assistance helped us to better understand the issues surrounding wooden flutes, and ultimately resulted in a superior Powell model. We can all be grateful that the results of Felix’s life work live on in the flute world.

    Thank you Felix.

    From Ashley Carter

    I studied flute with Felix from 1993-1997 while I was an undergraduate at the UW. I learned so much from him during those 4 years. I took away much knowledge and appreciation for different types of music. Felix was such a fair and honest teacher -- he didn't play favorites, didn't gossip, and made sure that all of his students got ample opportunity to play in ensembles and smaller groups. I enjoyed Felix's sense of humor - we found a lot of the same things funny.

    One of my fondest memories involves going to his house to watch "Rosemary's Baby" - a really random choice, but very entertaining. I must admit that I felt special sitting in his den watching a movie with him, Megan and her husband.

    Felix will be missed by many people -- not only for his flute playing and pedagogical skills, but for his friendship and humanity.

    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Felix's bio from Megan Lyden's dissertation

    The following article was sent by Megan Lyden and was part of her DMA dissertation on the history of the Soni Ventorum Quintet, of which Felix was a member. Felix was Megan's advisor for this project. This bio was written in 2000.

    Felix Skowronek, Flute
    Flutist Felix Skowronek is one of the founding members of the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet. A native of Seattle, Skowronek studied flute with Frank Horsfall until his high school graduation in 1952; subsequently, he studied flute at the Curtis Institute of Music with William Kincaid. Upon graduation from Curtis with a B.M. degree in flute performance, Skowronek returned to Seattle to serve as principal flutist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for the 1956-57 season. Drafted into the U.S. Army, Skowronek left Seattle and played principal flute with the U.S. Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Germany for two seasons (1957-59). During his years with the Seventh Army Symphony, Skowronek was a founding member of the Seventh Army Symphony Wind Quintet. After completing military service, Skowronek again returned to the Seattle Symphony as principal flutist for the 1959-60 season.

    In 1960 Skowronek accepted a position as the first instructor of flute at the newly founded Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. During the six years he was in Puerto Rico, Skowronek served as principal flute with the Puerto Rico Symphony, performed as a member of the Casals Festival Orchestra and, with his fellow faculty members, formed the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet.

    In 1966 Skowronek left Puerto Rico to serve as principal flutist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for two years. In 1968 he rejoined the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet when the ensemble became the quintet-in-residence at the University of Washington School of Music. He is currently professor of flute at the University of Washington. In addition to teaching flute at the University of Washington, Skowronek has held several posts at the School of Music, including chairman of the School of Music concerts committee and head of the orchestral instruments division. In July 1994 Skowronek was appointed as the School of Music’s associate director for performance and public affairs, a post he occupied for two years.

    In addition to his work at the University of Washington, Skowronek has been an instructor and ensemble coach for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada in Toronto and Vancouver, Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta and Marrowstone Music Festival in Washington State. For many years he has been a sectional coach for the Seattle Youth Symphony Organization. He also serves as music director for Belle Arte Concerts, a professional chamber music series in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue.

    Active in the National Flute Association, Skowronek has been a member of its board of directors. In 1982 he was program chairman for the NFA’s tenth anniversary convention, which was held in Seattle and from 1985 through 1986 he served as the organization’s president. On the local level, Skowronek was founding president of the Seattle Flute Society (1979-82) and has held numerous board positions with that organization as well.
    An active musician, Skowronek has appeared numerous times as a lecturer, panelist and performer at annual conventions of the National Flute Association. He has released a solo recording (with harpsichordist Martha Goldstein) of the Methodical Sonatas 1-6 of Georg Philipp Telemann, and for several years fronted his own combo, the FS Jazz Trio in the Seattle area. In addition, he served as principal flutist for three summer seasons of the Seattle Opera’s monumental productions of Wagner’s Ring cycle.

    Skowronek has been recognized as a leading force in the revival of the wooden Boehm-system flute in the United States. His thirty years of recorded concerts at the University of Washington as well as some two dozen commercial recordings with the Soni Ventorum constitute an unparalleled archive of modern wooden-flute performance. Through his research, he has become an authority on the use of new foreign and domestic timbers, particularly Australian hardwoods, for the manufacture of musical instruments. Working in association with the Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management, Skowronek has collected samples of over fifty species of eucalypts, acacias, casuarinas and other exotic hardwoods, most of them indigenous to the area. His experimental head joints made from these are being tested in such countries as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cuba, Great Britain, Russia and the United States and are prevalent in the Seattle area where they can be heard regularly in public performances by Skowronek and selected students. Skowronek has presented his findings in conferences in the United States and Australia and his collaboration with piccolo maker Eldred Spell and flutemakers Alexander Eppler, Robert Bigio and the Verne Q. Powell Company has led to commercial applications of his researched timbers.

    Saturday, April 22, 2006

    A tribute to Felix and a great picture!

    For a delightful picture of Felix and a thoughtful tribute, please visit Alexander Eppler's website.

    From Paul Taub

    I have many fond memories of Felix. I was so appreciative of him when, within the first year that I had moved to Seattle in 1979, he invited me to play in a performance of the Harvey Sollberger Quartet with two of his graduate students. It was a great way to get to know him, I enjoyed the way he took to the challenge of the piece and how he worked with me, a young professional, and his advanced students, as colleagues. When I became President of the Seattle Flute Society, Felix was VERY supportive and helpful, again, in the most collegial way one could imagine.

    In the early 1990s, I was asked to do an oral history of Felix for the National Flute Association. Felix and I spent a couple of hours in a pub with everything recorded on my old Sony "professional" cassette recorder that I hadn't used for years. Or so I thought! I got home to discover that in fact the machine didn't work at all, and nothing from our conversation had been documented (although we had had a great time!) Felix graciously re-scheduled and we got the interview done another time.

    The last time I saw Felix was at Cornish in January, when he attended the ZAWA concert that was part of the Horsfall weekend. He was as friendly, curious and appreciative as ever. That's how I will remember him.

    Paul Taub is Professor of Flute at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

    The University of Washington's article about Felix

    Felix Skowronek, Professor of Flute, 1935-2006

    Felix Skowronek, professor of flute at the University of Washington School of Music since 1968, a founding member of the Soni Ventorum Woodwind Quintet, and the leading promoter of the revival of the wooden Boehm-system concert flute in the United States, died Monday evening, April 17, 2006 in Seattle.

    Born August 21, 1935, Seattle native Felix Skowronek received a BM degree in Flute Performance from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied flute with William Kincaid and chamber music with Marcel Tabuteau. He returned to Seattle, where he was principal flute with the Seattle Symphony for two seasons, interspersed with military service with the U.S. Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Germany.

    In 1960, Skowronek was invited to be instructor of flute at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico, newly founded by Pablo Casals, and with fellow faculty members he formed the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet in 1962. During his six years in Puerto Rico, he also served as principal flute with the Orquestra Sinfonica de Puerto Rico and performed as a member of the Casals Festival Orchestra.

    From 1966-68, he was principal flute with the St. Louis Symphony before rejoining Soni Ventorum at the University of Washington, where the ensemble was engaged as the woodwind instrument faculty of the School of Music. Skowronek toured extensively with Soni Ventorum in South America and Europe under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, and throughout the United States, before the ensemble disbanded in 2001. He was an instructor and ensemble coach with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Marrowstone Music Festival, as well as serving as a regular sectional coach for the Seattle Youth Symphony. In 2001, he was invited to be an adjudicator for the Ville d’Avray International Flute Competition held in Paris, France. In 2002, Skowronek performed and presented master classes at the XVII Seminarios Internacionais de Música in Salvador, Brazil.

    In 1979, he was named Founding President of the Seattle Flute Society, and retained this position for three years. He also served as a board member and as Vice-President. In addition, he was National Flute Association president, chairman of the board, board member, and program chairman of the 10th anniversary convention.

    From 1982-91, and again from 1999 to the present, he was Music Director of Belle Arte Concerts, a professional chamber music series in Bellevue with performers drawn from the ranks of local, regional, national, and international artists.

    At the UW School of Music, Skowronek served for many years as chairman of the Concerts Committee and was head of the Orchestral Instruments Division. He was Associate Director for Performance and Public Affairs from 1994-96. He served as a member of the School of Music Visiting Committee, as well as teaching undergraduate and graduate flute performance majors and music majors, and coaching flute and chamber ensembles.

    Skowronek has been the leading promoter of the revival of the wooden Boehm-system concert flute in the United States. Through his research, particularly in Australia, he became an authority on the use of new foreign and domestic hardwood species for flute and woodwind instrument manufacture. His experimental flute headjoints, made from a variety of these species, have been heard in Seattle and elsewhere in the United States. Most recently, he was a consultant with the noted Boston flutemakers Verne Q. Powell, Inc., in their project to reintroduce the wooden flute on a substantial basis by an American manufacturer. Skowronek gave a series of lecture-recitals in the United States, Germany, and Puerto Rico, illustrating the specialized applications of several of his headjoints made from researched Australian species.

    Source:, accessed April 21, 2006.

    The Seattle Times' article about Felix

    Professor revived use of wooden flutes

    By Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times music critic

    Flute innovator, professor and performer: Felix Skowronek made a large impact on not only the Pacific Northwest music community, but also on worldwide audiences where he toured and taught. Professor Skowronek, the University of Washington's flute professor since 1968, died Monday evening in a Seattle hospital of stomach cancer. He was 70.

    A founding member of the Soni Ventorum Woodwind Quintet, which disbanded in 2001, Professor Skowronek is perhaps best known for his almost single-handed revival of the wooden Boehm-system flute in this country, at a time when the field was dominated by flutes made of silver, gold and platinum.

    He was tireless in his enthusiasm for this instrument, even chopping down trees here in the Northwest to make his flutes, and he could hold forth for hours on preferred hardwoods and flute-making methods from around the world. His experience was sought by one of America's leading flute makers, Verne Powell of Boston, and Professor Skowronek also toured several countries with lecture/recitals illustrating the properties of flute headjoints (the mouthpiece section of the flute) he had made from his preferred Australian woods.

    A Seattle native, Professor Skowronek began his career at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute, where he studied flute and chamber music with two legends: William Kincaid and Marcel Tabuteau. It was there that he met bassoonist Arthur Grossman, and the two started a student version of the Soni Ventorum quintet with Robert Bonnevie (later principal horn of the Seattle Symphony) back in 1952.

    Professor Skowronek moved back to Seattle to be principal flute of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra; he later performed with the U.S. Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Germany during his years of military service.

    In 1960, Professor Skowronek was invited, along with Grossman and the other members of the Soni Ventorum, to join the faculty at the new Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico, founded by the great cellist Pablo Casals.

    "Casals was so persuasive," remembered Grossman, "that the governor of Puerto Rico decided to start his conservatory immediately, in an unfinished building that was supposed to become a brassiere factory. We always used to joke that when the latex trucks arrived, we'd know we were finished."

    Far from finished, the quintet taught there until 1968, when a Rockefeller grant brought the Soni — and the Philadelphia String Quartet — to the University of Washington. After a brief hiatus (when he was principal flute of the St. Louis Symphony), Professor Skowronek joined the Soni when it arrived at the UW in September of 1968, becoming part of the faculty.

    He launched a regular program of U.S. State Department-sponsored international tours whose stopping points were often chosen according to the quality of adjacent archaeological sites and museums.

    Professor Skowronek, Grossman recalled, was "a real history buff who would always read books beforehand about the places we were to visit. He was meticulous, dedicated and interested in everything.

    "Felix always felt strongly that we should play composers who should be heard, no matter how hard the music was — for us and for the audiences."

    Grossman was at Professor Skowronek's bedside when he died.

    "He was a wonderful colleague," Grossman said, "and he will be greatly missed."

    Professor Skowronek was devoted to education, not only here but at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Marrowstone Music Festival, as well as judging numerous flute competitions as far afield as Paris, and presenting master classes in Brazil.

    He became founding president of the Seattle Flute Society in 1979, and served as president and board chairman of the National Flute Association.

    He is survived by two children, son Neil of Seattle and daughter Andrea of Kansas City, Mo. Memorial plans have not been announced.

    Melinda Bargreen:

    2002938973_felixobit19.html?syndication=rss, accessed April 21, 2006.

    Seattle P-I's article about Felix

    Felix Skowronek, 1935-2006: UW professor was a wooden-flute authority


    Felix Skowronek, a professor of flute at the University of Washington since 1968 and a founding member of the Soni Ventorum Woodwind Quintet, died Monday night of throat cancer. He was 70.

    "He was the person responsible for the revival of the wooden flute in the United States," said bassoonist Arthur Grossman, a colleague of Skowronek's at the UW and the Soni Ventorum. "As a musician, Felix believed the most important thing was to program what needed to be heard whether or not it was popular with audiences."

    A native of Seattle, Skowronek received a bachelor's degree from the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied with such eminent flutists as William Kincaid and Marcel Tabuteau. He returned to Seattle, where he was principal flute of the Seattle Symphony before becoming a member of the U.S. 7th Army Symphony in Germany.

    On his return to the United States, he joined the faculty of the Puerto Rico Conservatory, newly founded by cellist Pablo Casals. There, with fellow faculty members, the Soni Ventorum was founded in 1962. Skowronek left Puerto Rico four years later to become principal flute of the St. Louis Symphony, where he stayed for two years before rejoining the wind quintet at the UW, where it was in residence.

    Under the auspices of the State Department, he and the Soni Ventorum toured South America and Europe until it disbanded five years ago.

    In addition to his UW students, Skowronek coached musicians at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the Banff Center for the Arts, the Marrowstone Music Festival and the Seattle Youth Orchestra. He also acted as judge at flute competitions and presented master classes, both in the United States and abroad.

    He was the founding president of the Seattle Flute Society and was president of the National Flute Association. For more than 15 years, he was music director of Belle Arte Concerts, a chamber music series in Bellevue. Skowronek was active on the UW campus, both in the School of Music and as associate director for performance and public affairs.

    Skowronek was an authority on wooden flutes, which fell into disuse in the 19th century. He was an expert in the use of various hardwoods for flute manufacturing and did his own experiments with flute headjoints. Recently he was a consultant with the noted Boston firm Verne Q. Powell Flutes Inc. in its attempt to reintroduce the wooden flute to the United States on a major scale.

    Funeral services are pending.

    Survivors include a son, Neil Skowronek of Seattle; a daughter, Andrea Skowronek of Kansas City, Mo.; a sister, Theodosia Nassar of Seattle; two grandchildren, both of Kansas City.

    P-I music critic R.M. Campbell can be reached at 206-448-8396 or

    267291_skowrenekobit20.html, accessed on April 21, 2006

    Memorial Service for Felix

    The memorial will be on June 18, at 8:00 p.m. in Brechemin Auditorium in the School of Music on the UW campus. There will be a reception following. There is no charge for parking on campus on Sundays. Click here for a map of the UW campus.

    From Jerry Pritchard

    I was very saddened to learn of the passing of Felix Skrowronek.

    I studied with him during the last year of my DMA study at the University of Washington which was his first year there in 1968. By the time he arrived I had already completed my course work, passed my exams, and done my required recitals so I regreted not having more time to work with him. Felix was very supportive and helpful as a teacher and a mentor. (I think he was rather bemused by the whole concept of doctorates in music performance, which were not very common at that time--he only had a bachelor's degree himself and clearly didn't need any more degrees or certificates to establish himself as a mature professional.) He continued on as Professor of Flute at UW for over 37 years and left a great tradition of flute playing and flute teaching.

    He was a superb flute player and a very interesting person, with lots of enthusiasm, curiosity, and personality. His love of the wooden Boehm system flute and to carrying on that long tradition of playing wooden flutes was a precursor of recent developments in our field. He had impeccable intonation, an even and dazzling technique, and a big, open sound that projected in any type of music or ensemble. His performances and recordings with the resident Soni Ventorum Woodwind Quintet were remarkable in both musicality and spectacular ensemble playing.

    I particularly remember one of his performances at the Seatle convention of the National Flute Association, where he the was program chair and then later president of the NFA. He and Jeff Cohen (one of his most outstanding early UW students and another devotee of both the one-keyed baroque flutes and modern wooden flutes) played a spectacular concert of virtuoso works entitled:

    "Wooden Flutes and Iron Men."

    That really summed him up for me.

    Jerry Pritchard, Professor of Music (emeritus)
    California State University, San Bernardino

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    From Megan Lyden

    One of the reasons I came to Seattle was to study flute with Felix. Before I entered the UW, I studied privately with him; we exchanged house-cleaning for flute lessons! The years at the UW, as a member of his flute studio, were great. He loved to socialize with his students; little parties at his house where he would provide these fantastic spreads, meeting us at the College Inn for lunch, going out after a concert; he loved doing these things. Some of my best memories of Felix were when I was working on my dissertation, which was about the Soni Ventorum. I would interview the other members, type everything up, and meet with Felix at By-George. He got the biggest kick reading the reminiscences of the other members and he loved to talk about the Soni’s concerts and tours. He was interested in everything. He served as a “substitute dad” for many of us, helping us through life’s bumpy patches. And his flute playing was amazing. Hard to say goodbye.

    Wooden Flute Festival will go on

    From: woodflutefest@aol dot com
    Subject: Wood Flute Conference June 16-18 and Felix Skowronek
    Date: April 19, 2006 3:22:32 PM PDT

    It is with great sadness that we learn that our dear colleague, mentor and friend Felix Skowronek passed away quietly on Monday night. His son and a best friend were by his side, and he had received a stream of well wishes and visits from so many others during the past days.

    The Wood Flute Conference 2006 has been a special dream of Felix's, one that he discussed with us through Monday, and one that we are excited to be bringing to fruition, partly now as a tribute to Felix and the incredible energy which he devoted to so many important aspects of the flutist's expressive palette and "resonance", meant both broadly and with regard to the flute's material. There may never have been a more ardent spokesman for wood and everything it means for the flute, as he demonstrated both inside the concert hall and out - through his scientific studies and work in the School of Forestry, his many wood-gathering expeditions in mountainous wilderness in this country and in Australia, his involvement with flute making, and his information-gathering excursions among the wood flute players of Europe. Felix was a pioneer through and through. It is gratifying that the wood flute scene has developed so in the last years, with his inspiration having played a central role.

    Come join us in Seattle from June 16 to 18 even if you don't happen to have a wooden flute or headjoint, for all or part of the conference, and we'll endeavor to explore all aspects of the wooden Boehm-system flute in a way that cycles us through a broad range of music. The concert and discussion offerings will be diverse, and the tone celebratory.

    Please register for the Wood Flute Conference 2006 at (or go to the School of Music home page at and click on "2006 Wooden Flute Conference Information" on the right side under "Quick Links" ). I'll be writing again with further details. Do feel free to contact me directly by email with any questions or suggestions.

    Hope to see you in June!

    With best wishes,

    Jeffrey Cohan

    Updated: Click here for the conference registration/payment site.

    Felix's original plans for the Wood Flute Fest

    From: Felix Skowronek
    Subject: Wood Flute Conference
    Date: January 23, 2006 6:05:47 PM PST

    Hello and a Belated Happy New Year to All:

    The re-emergence in the USA of the modern wooden Boehm-system (MWBS) flute in the last two decades has been a remarkable development considering that the instrument went into complete decline and utter oblivion in the early 1920s. When I switched to wood in the early 1960s, there was only a bare handfull of us in the country playing the instrument, either part or full time, and we more or less knew of each other. Today, we now have domestic manufacturers again making and selling MWBS flutes, and no doubt there is increased performance presence on them -- but where is it and who's doing it? Before matters get completely out of hand, it's time to find out what's going on and to become more aware of nationwide and Canadian MWBS flute activity.

    Over the years, a wooden-flute culture has built up in the Seattle area and also in nearby Victoria BC in Canada. We keep in regular contact, and it occurred to us that a meeting such as I describe would be something to bring about somehow. Whenever I use the word "we", I'm referring to this core group, as we have discussed this venture among ourselves for some time.

    As a result, we're pleased to announce that arrangements are being made with the University of Washington here in Seattle to hold a Wood Flute Conference the long weekend of June 16-18, 2006. This would be something along NFA lines, but much smaller, with maybe up to 200 attendees and exhibitors. This would give ample opportunity for a reasonable presentation of performances, panel discussions, lectures, exhibits, etc. without the usual hectic pace of the NFA Conventions. This is not envisioned as a kind of "splinter group" (so to speak!) within or apart from the NFA but rather an investigation of the current interest in the MWBS flute in North America and where it might lead. I have spoken to the NFA about this, suggesting that a report of the WFC be made to the NFA Board at the Pittsburgh Convention in August, and that time be set aside in the program for a report to the interested general membership. After that, who knows? In the meantime, we'll know more than we do at present.

    For those of you interested in on-campus housing, UW dorm facilities will be available near the School of Music: single and double rooms, some private, at ca. $45 and $30 per night respectively. Inexpensive meal service will be available in the dorm cafeterias.

    At this time, a budget is being put together, and it's our aim to keep costs down as much as possible. There will be a Registration Fee to cover our expenses: space, accompanists, etc., and this is being worked out. Unfortunately, as with the NFA, we can't offer honoraria to performers and lecturers. At this point, we'd like to get an idea of interest in attendance, and once we start receiving responses, the UW facilities people will get their website going and we can begin a pre-registration process.

    An area of considerable interest to us is the fast-growing phenomenon of those playing wooden headjoints on metal flutes -- for whatever purposes -- and we hope to examine this through panel discussions as well as performances. At one time in the mid-1970s, there were only one or two wood headjoint makers in the country. Today there must be at least 2 dozen in the USA alone, and even I make them on an experimental basis! There's something going on, with notable representation already in the jazz, Latin, baroque, and avant-garde arenas for starters.

    There is only a certain amount of space in the program for performances, but we would like to have meaningful local representation. What about an all-wood flute choir, or some small ensembles?

    We would appreciate it if you would please pass the word along to others you think might be interested. We would welcome your comments and expressions of interest, and if you wish to be kept on our mailing list, PLEASE SEND ME YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS to receive further updates and information.

    For a possible glimpse into the future, may I suggest that you visit Alexander Eppler's website and click on the photo link to view a three-person all-wood orchestral flute section at a recent concert. You don't see many of these NOW, but just wait!

    Felix Skowronek
    Professor of Flute
    School of Music
    Box 353450
    University of Washington
    Seattle, WA 98195 USA