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Satine began fife lessons at the start of this term with an itinerant music teacher through school.  It was intended to be a group lesson for children aged seven upwards interested in learning the fife.  However, out of the three students who indicated their interest, Satine was the only one who actually proceeded to sign up. 

As a result, Mary (the music teacher) paired her up with a slightly younger girl from year 2 who was interested in learning the recorded.  This made sense in theory - as the instruments are very similar and the fife is generally taught using recorder teaching materials.  Unfortunately, despite being close in age, the two girls were miles apart in maturity level, ability to concentrate and commitment.  Not that one could blame her for the latter - the poor child was already learning to play the violin AND the piano and simply didn't have time to practice a third instrument.  However, the way she was mucking around, wasting time, causing distractions and dominating the lesson time was irritating to both myself and Satine.

Whilst we tried really hard not to let our frustrations show - having decided to see the term out - it was impossible to ignore the growing tension. By the third lesson, Mary looked at me and exclaimed: 'This isn't working, is it?'

As a result, the girls were offered individual tuition in their respected instruments - effective immediately.  This made for a rather akward situation as the other child's mother now had to come to school to faciliate the lessons (previously, we had arranged for me to collect the girls, take them to their lesson, sit in on their lessons and then return them to their respective classrooms).  She was clearly irritated by having lost the free babysitting service and having to endure the disruption to her day in having to come to school.  But the pay-off for us was well worth it. 

Satine had taken to the fife like a duck to water.  In fact, from her first-ever lesson, Mary was telling us that she is a natural and would make a great flute player.  Now that she was having private lessons, we were able to explore the possibility further...

The biggest issue with starting to play the flute (aside from being able to control one's breath) is being physically capable of holding the instrument.  Satine's arms are simply not long enough to reach the keys of a full-sized flute.  But even if she could reach, the sheer weight of the flute would make it impossible for her to hold it comfortably for any period of time - not to mention the damage it could cause to her growing body.  In order to over-come these issues, most children begin learning on a student flute with a curved head joint.  These flutes are missing some of the keys from the end of the flute - making them lighter than a full-sized flute - and the curved head joint shortens the distance from the mouth piece to the keys.

However, Mary expressed concerns that Satine's ability would out-grow the limitations of these particular student flutes long before she physically grew enought to progress on to a full-sized flute - causing great frustration to all and sundry.

The good news is that there is a newly designed alternative in the form of a student flute reduced in size  and weight by the removal of a trill key and just one key from the end of the flute.  This too has a curved head joint and being 30% lighter than a full-sized flute, is perfect for younger children like Satine.

The not so good news is that they cost around $1000 and aren't available in NZ.



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