Distinctly Montana Magazine

Spring 2011

Distinctly Montana Magazine

Issue link: http://digital.distinctlymontana.com/i/27047

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Page 34 of 99

C M E SUBSCRIBE TO DISTINCTLY MONTANA MAGAZINE AT WWW.DISTINCTLYMONTANA.COM OR CALL (406) 600-7660 ONE YEAR $24 TWO YEARS $48 Robert Turgeon grew up in Helena, a descendent of the Metis tribe. Each grew up playing the flute in the context of Native ceremonies. From social courtship, to healing, to meditation, and hunting, both men remember the flute as a large part of the fabric of social life for indigenous people of North America. As boys, both played other instruments before picking up the Native flute, giving them a grasp of melody, rhythm, and harmony. Joseph FireCrow played ceremonial drums from an early age. Robert Turgeon played the trumpet, and then picked up a Fender guitar at the age of 14. And yet despite efforts to honor age-old conventions and culture, and to preserve elder heritage through music, their styles are as different as night and day. “There is a signature in each of us, and that signature riff follows you,” FireCrow explains. Breathing is a large part of that, he says, whether it’s powerful or constant or something else altogether. Other influences, such as how strong one’s bravado is, or whether they are conservative or assertive, he says, will also factor in. And, if Joseph FireCrow could make clear just one undeniable fact, it would be: you may be able to teach someone how to play the flute, but you can’t always teach them how to make it sing. Joseph FireCrow understands the painstaking craft of creating a Native flute. Now 52, he still sits at a work- bench for hours, sanding and shaping hardwoods into storytelling implements. He and his brother learned how to make six-hole dia- tonic flutes as teens. He plays his self-crafted instruments today, almost exclusively, and endorses just one other craftsman: Brent Haines of Woodsounds Flutes. FireCrow says you can tell immediately if someone is a good flute play- er. The flute will take on the intonation of both body and spirit. Stories passed through the instrument’s chambers must carry the indelible mark of the player himself. Robert Turgeon you may be able to teach someone how to play the flute, but you can’t always teach them how to make it sing. www.distinctlymontana.com 33 A E A M N N B R T O A

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