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She plays the world's largest flute

She plays the world's largest flute

Missions and Outreach

PALM COAST—Musician Paige Long has just returned from a quick trip to Milan and is preparing for another. Her husband is retiring after a long career at American Airlines, and she’s accompanying him on his last two flights.

Paige Long with the 2017 contra section of the Metropolitan Flute Orchestra in New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall.

Long, co-director of music ministries at Palm Coast United Methodist Church, where she plays organ, piano, harpsichord and flute, as well as directs ensembles—both choral and instrumental—is herself far from retiring. Her career is as wide-ranging and substantial as the flutes she plays. She also directs the Metropolitan Flute Orchestra in summer residence at New England Conservatory, the Daytona State College Community Flute Choir and the Florida Flute Orchestra. She typically performs one or two international concert tours per year. She’ll be touring in Portugal this spring, then Iceland in the summer.

A world-renowned flutist, Long is one of only a handful of people who can play the three largest flutes: the contrabass, the subcontrabass and the double contrabass. The latter weighs 30 pounds, stands over 8 feet tall and has 22 feet of tubing. It has a lower scale than any instrument, even a string bass. It’s a whole different playing technique requiring a lot more air and support.

“I feel like I’ve run a 10k when I’m done with a concert,” Long said.

Long first saw a contrabass flute at a convention in the 1980s, created by a Japanese flute maker. She says she was the first person in the U.S. to get one.

“Flutes can cover the entire range of a piano keyboard,” she said. “Most people don’t realize that. I only knew of the little piccolo—at the top range—until I went to college. Now, flute makers just keep making bigger flutes. It’s a beautiful sound.”

All-flute ensembles are becoming popular, Long said, because “they give flutists so many more opportunities. All this wonderful music is written just for us, now.”

Long grew up in Dupo, a small town in southern Illinois and fell in love with music while singing hymns in church. “My grandmother had a beautiful voice, and I loved sitting next to her on Sunday mornings,” she said.

Paige Long with her contrabass flute in C, sub contrabass flute in G and double contrabass flute in C.

While at Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, Long auditioned for a job as music director at a small church near campus. “I’ve been a church music director since I was 18,” she said.

Today, she leads master classes at universities and music conservatories throughout the country. While Long said she enjoys every aspect of music—performing, teaching, directing, composing and arranging—“what I enjoy most is being with and working with people, creating music together,” she said. “Music is a special way you can reach out to other people. I always tell my church choir, you’re singing the sermon, and people take home the sermon in their hearts.”

Long’s two sons inherited her love of music. Her youngest son, an engineer in Boston, plays baritone horn and trombone. Her oldest son, Sean, was a professional trombonist who performed in the northeast and taught band and chorus at a school in Connecticut.

Sean died in 2010. In his memory, Long composed a flute piece, “Eventide Soliloquy.” It won the National Flute Association’s Newly Published Music Competition in 2012.

“It’s his life in song,” Long said. “When I go on tour, I play that song, and I feel like I’m taking him with me.” She recalled performing it at St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, where her son had performed many years before as part of a college ensemble. “The basilica ceiling is lovely, full of angels. It was so special. Music connects us in a way the spoken word can’t.”

When Long embarks on her tours in a few months, her husband will join her. “He still loves to travel, and we both enjoy other cultures,” she said. “When you perform music in other countries, you get the chance to become immersed in their cultures; you learn a lot and grow a lot. It’s really wonderful.”

Read more about Paige Long, and hear her music, at

--Eileen Spiegler is a freelance writer based in Ft. Lauderdale.

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