It’s amazing the little worlds we discover throughout the course of this life. I’d never thought that the flute could stand so tall as a solo instrument, instead of a part of an orchestra or a marching band. But its soaring, cascading voice held a truth deeper than I had thought was possible.
The flute is far more nuanced than it seems in a sweaty middle school gym while performing with the school band. Far from being the out-of-tune, squeaky instrument students and their parents grew to hate, Jordan Smith’s recital was moving. He pushed past the limits of the sound barrier like it was nothing, pulling out sweet music from only the air.
But the performance was not your standard recital; though it began with Mozart (whose brilliance at age eight makes me incredibly jealous), it dove into the contemporary, first paired with the standard piano, then percussion (drum, clapping, sticks), then a wondrous video of life emerging from a fallen tree. Smith brings life and youth to what is more commonly the property of old folks ancient enough to have known Mozart personally.
If I had to say anything negative about his performance, it would be the occasional loudness of his breaths in between long musical phrases. This is understandable given the air required to play these passages, though I must admit the sound did distract from the melody quite significantly.
There were a few things out of his control that were less than desirable. The first was a technical difficulty that mangled the audio of the video that was projected behind Smith as he played (though his show-must-go-on attitude and beautiful timing still allowed the video to play a part in the performance). Secondly, all of the selections that incorporated percussion repeated the same tune of a few beats over and over. A livelier, more varied beat could have worked well with the flute’s melody.
I assume Jordan Smith started playing quite young, by middle school at least. Seeing him perform at the level he does now, it is almost impossible to imagine his own off-key first foray into the band geek world, torturing his parents with hours of painfully bad practicing in his bedroom, obligating them to attend all of the soul-crushing school performances.
For most of us, the end of the flute road comes with middle or high school graduation–most of us don’t have the dedication it takes to develop talent like Smith has. For most of us, quitting the instrument was the highlight of our musical careers. Thank god Jordan Smith is not like most of us.