Cody Sheldon's Saratoga Elementary School students came back from the weekend to a special treat Monday, Dec. 12. A few weeks prior, Sheldon, the school's music teacher had done some extra credit work on behalf of his kids, recruiting a premier-level flautist to come perform for the students.
Tamara Deichert–the flautist–and Sheldon go way back. The two both attended the University of Wyoming as undergraduates where they played in the marching band together, with Deichert on flute and Sheldon blowing the baritone horn.
These days, Sheldon and Deichert still find themselves in the classroom, but on opposite sides of the lectern–and the country. Sheldon found a teaching job here in the Valley, whereas Deichert is chasing her musical ambitions and a Masters in Music from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Their friendship has continued despite the distance, though, and when Sheldon asked if Deichert would be able to come play for his students she agreed without hesitation.
Deichert was back in the Rocky Mountain West visiting the Boulder area where she grew up, and was happy to make a side trip to the Good Times Valley. At Sheldon's request, she had made the same trip a few years earlier, and she remembered her prior visit and performance at the school warmly.
"It's great practice for me because I like playing for people and I like playing for audiences, and it's good for (the students) because they learn to listen critically," Deichert said in an interview. She said her exercise had been one designed to engage the kids' creativity.
"I'll play the excerpt for them and then they draw a picture of what they think the story is that I'm trying to tell musically," Deichert explained the day's lesson. Giddy laughter and starstruck stares from the students spoke to Deichert's popularity among the youngsters. "It's a lot of fun to look at (their) pictures," she said with a laugh of her own.
Deichert has played the flute for about a decade, which she considers a long time because, for the first time in her life, she's started to lose track of how many years she's been at it.
Her roots to the music world go back much farther though: Between the ages of 4 and 16, Deichert took singing lessons. She only began playing an instrument in middle school when she picked clarinet, which Deichert abandoned in favor of the flute a few years later in high school.
"For some reason I was too 'not-focused' as a kid. And so it felt like at the beginning of my (music) career that was kind of a disability because I started later than everyone else," Deichert recalled. She said she even had thoughts of switching instruments again at the end of high school, but was dissuaded by her mom.
Eventually, she came to view her late-arrival in a more positive light: "I'm kind of glad that it was like that because I feel like I got a more varied experience with music."
A Powerful Pipe
Deichert has come a long way from the humble $100 flute she started out on. Her newest instrument, acquired in November, is made of pure silver (to better transmit sound), and costs more than her car. The headplate, which a player blows into, is inlaid with gold for an even greater degree of acoustic fidelity. Deichert has played in front of tens of thousands at Division I football games and hundreds in concert venues.
Tamara Deichert plays an excerpt of music Monday, Dec. 12. Students were instructed to draw a picture to accompany the tunes.
The road to this level of accomplishment has not been entirely free of tribulation. "Sometimes it's kind of hard because of school. I aim for between three and six (hours of practice per day)," Deichert said of her time commitment to fluting. She said she has to stop herself from practicing too much and wearing down her body.
"I tire really easily in the back of my neck and shoulders," Deichert said of playing's physical toll. "I feel it in my right arm–my forearm, as well," she added. To help deal with the body stress, "I try to take nice breaks. I try to stretch a lot to make sure that I don't carry tension, because sometimes, especially after concerts, I do feel it the next day, and it's not fun," Deichert said.
Though Deichert is clearly happy to play a laid-back set for enthusiastic youngsters, she has kept a hold on her loftiest goals. "The sky is the limit. If I could make it to the New York Phil (Philharmonic Orchestra), I'd settle there. But I'm not going to settle till I get there," she said with laughter and determination.
First Saratoga Elementary... then, the world.