I have Frances Blaisdell to thank.
It seems a little bizarre to me to think that the flute was ever off-limits to women, because today it's such a female-dominated instrument, but that's how it was. Women weren't really allowed anywhere in orchestral music when she was young, but she managed to play her way in and open a lot of doors.
I started playing the flute when I was 9 and continued all the way through college. I haven't really played since I graduated, but it was a really significant part of my life for a long time. Being in band gave me an automatic social group in school. It was especially beneficial in college, because I went to the 30,000-student-plus University of Georgia. Had I not made that spur-of-the-moment decision to try out for the Redcoat Marching Band, I would never have met any of my close friends. I also would never have gotten to spend two weeks in China.
And without Frances Blaisdell (and other trailblazing female musicians), I would never have even been able to audition.
Blaisdell passed away on March 11 at the age of 97. Millions of young girls who pick up a flute for the first time are doing that because of her, and many may never hear her name. I hope there are music teachers out there who will talk about her now, because she's an important figure in music and in women's history.
And to think, she only got her Julliard audition because someone misspelled her name ''Francis.''
(photo via The New York Times)