Best flutists

10 Famous flute players you should know

It was easy(or not?) to decide who should belong to the top 10 of the best flutists in the world. But, the discussion begins with the ordering of the rankings due to the subjectivity involved. That’s why Mordents won’t rank them so any of them could take the first place, it’s up to you. We don’t want to hurt fans, because when fans get hurt, it’s a riot. 

We considered their levels of creativity, techniques, skills, and contributions to keep this instrument alive in the minds of the public.

The 10 best flutists in the world

Matt M0lloy

Matt Molloy has had a long and successful career, and it started when he was very young. Molloy was born in Ireland into a community that was home to some of the most gifted flutists in history. When he was nineteen years old, he won the All-Ireland Flute Championship, making him one of the most talented Irish flutists in history.

He founded Planxty, the Irish folk band known for making Irish folk music popular. Malloy has worked with some of the best musicians, including the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

Trivia: Aside from being a talented flute player, Maloy also dabbled in acting for a while throughout his career. He can be seen in Irish movies: “An Eviction Notice” , “Celtic Tides” and “An Irish Evening: Live and the Grand Opera House”. He also owns a pub in Westport on Bridge Street that offers live Irish music.

Julius Baker

Baker started playing flute as a very young boy. In fact, he was only nine when his Russian immigrant father started helping him in getting to know the instrument. He studied with August Caputo and Robert Morris before attending the Eastman School of Music under the wing of Leonardo de Lorenzo.

After finishing school, he went to the position of principal flute in the New York Philharmonic.

Baker was one of the musicians who helped to found the Bach Aria Group. He had an outstanding teaching career at Julliard, the Curtis Institute of Music, and Carnegie Mellon. Baker was also the author of several flute albums, and his music was considered by many to be the most beautiful they had ever heard.

Trivia: Julius Baker participated in the composition of important films such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Lovesick.” He also loved electronics and considered himself a radio amateur, and he also enjoyed building audio equipment and recording solo recordings of himself early in his career.

Robert Dick

Robert Dick was a noted composer, teacher, flutist, and author. He came up with “glissando headjoint”, which is a custom-style flute head that gives flutes the ability to mimic the sounds of a vibrating bar similar to an electric guitar.

Robert decided to play flute in fourth grade and studied with many great musicians, such as Julius Baker. He decided to move to Buffalo after graduation and joined Creative Associates. This turned out to be a great decision, as he became a top-tier songwriter. He mostly enjoyed classical music, contemporary jazz, jazz, and “free improvisation”, which explains the glissando headjoint melodies.

Over the years, he continued to improve himself as a solo artist and a songwriter. He usually divides his time between New York and Kassel, Germany, performing his own music and spending time with his family.

Trivia: He won the National Flute Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. His achievements were recognized by a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Composer Fellowship, and a Koussevitzky Foundation commission. He has produced over twenty albums and has appeared on many other guest recordings.

Emmanuel Pahud

Emmanuel Pahud is a French-Swiss flutist. He is best known for his classical and baroque style flute. He does not come from a family of musicians and he found his love for flute while living in Italy. Pahud studied the flute from the age of four until he was twenty-two with prominent musicians such as Carlos Bruneel and Aurele Nicolet.

He is known as the youngest ever flutist to join the Berlin Philharmonic. A self-proclaimed musical chameleon, he often boasted that he does not represent a particular style: rather, he chooses to adapt to whatever style is given to him. Today, together with Mathieu Dufour, he shares the Principal Flute position at the Berlin Philharmonic.

His versatility, commitment, and talent have made him one of the rare few young modern flutists on this list.

Trivia: The first flute Pahud played was a silver Yamaha. He spent much of his childhood traveling around the world, exploring the magical dimensions of flute, and the music itself, helping him become one of the greatest.

Bobbi Humphrey

Bobbi Humphrey, whose birth name is Barbara Ann, is a well-known American jazz singer and flutist. She is most known for playing soul-jazz, jazz-fusion, and funk. Following her graduation from high school, she studied at Texas Southern University and at the Southern Methodist.

She recorded with many notable artists throughout her music career, which helped her grow her audience and reputation. One of her most notable albums was Blacks and Blues.

Still, Humphrey’s Blue Note albums did not bring her much financial success. In 1977 she switched to the business side of the music industry. She founded Bobbi Humphrey Music Company and even signed a deal with Warner Bros.

Trivia: She was the first female flutist signed by Blue Note. During Bobbi’s student years, Dizzy Gilepse advised her to move to New York and pursue a musical career there. Ultimately, that’s what she did and the rest is history.

Marcel Moyse

Marcel Moyse was a well-known French flutist. He moved to Pairs to live with his uncle, Joseph Moyse, where he learned what it was like to be a professional musician.

Joseph Moyse bought Marcel a flute and signed him up for daily sessions of extensive practice. Marcel met Adolphe Hennebains and became his student, who launched his career.

After a year of training, Marcel obtained the achievement of interpreting a piece by Phillipe Gaubert at the Paris Conservatory. By 1936, Moyse had a very successful career. He traveled the world and performed in major cities, including appearances in London.

Trivia: He was one of the only flutists in history to qualify for a first prize after a year of training at the Conservatory. He was also the founder of the Marlboro Music School, where he used to teach.

Jeanne Baxtresser

Jeanne Baxtresser is an American flutist and teacher. Her mother was one of the best concert pianists, so she grew up surrounded by music. She was ten years old when she started playing flute and immediately liked it.

She studied with Emil Opava of the Minnesota Orchestra. She also studied with Gary Sigurdson at the Interlochen National Music Camp and Academy.

At age fourteen, she made her first appearance with the Minnesota Orchestra. Later on, she went to Julliard, where she studied with Julius Baker and many other prominent flutists. She became the New York Philharmonic’s first female principal flute and appeared in over fifty solos.

Trivia: Before playing the flute, Jeanne tried playing the piano, but she noted that it was a complete disaster, so she decided on another instrument. One of her most important recognitions was the Nation Flute Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She also received the distinguished position of “University Professor” at Carnegie Mellon.

Jean-Pierre Rampal

Jean-Pierre Rampal was a French flutist known for bringing the flute back to the spotlights. His father was a flute teacher, but his family initially wanted him to be a doctor, so they sent him to medical school.

He began studying flute at the Paris Conservatory and won the competition for it. He began his career after the war at the Vichy Opera and became the first flute at the Paris Opera. Rampal not only founded the French wind quintet but also edited and taught baroque music.

His influence is strongest in his authentic approach to 18th-century music through his mastery of tonal nuances and articulate pitch. When it comes to raw skill, Rampal is one of the best pipers out there, no doubt about it.

Trivia: He published an autobiography titled ”Music, My Love”, in 1989. Top musicians such as Andre Jolivet and Francis Poulenc worked together with him. Sheryl Cohen even founded a Rampal school dedicated to this flutist.

Georges Barrere

Georges Barrere was the son of a cabinetmaker and the daughter of a farmer. He did not come from a family of musicians. He started taking music lessons after following the Ecole Drouet band through the city streets playing his whistle. The band encouraged him and pressured Georges to take music lessons in Paris.

He was initially rejected by the Paris Conservatory, but after studying with Henry Atlas for some time, he was accepted at age fourteen.

 When he was seventeen years old, Georges started playing in the Folies Bergere orchestra. Once he finished his studies, Barerre created the Modern Society of Wind Instruments and started teaching promising young musicians.

Trivia: He founded the Barrere Ensemble in 1910 and expanded it into the Barrere Little Symphony in 1914. This made the flute better known as an important solo instrument.

James Galway

James Galway is an Irish flute player known for his ability to blend classical, folk, and other musical traditions.

He started playing the flute at a young age and got most of his training from his father and grandfather playing with local bands. He won all three solos at the Irish National Flute Championships at age ten. He studied with Jean-Pierre Rampal and Gaston Crunelle at the Paris Conservatory, along with private training from Marcel Moyse.

Galway has an outstanding technique, range, and depth as a solo artist. He is also the chairman of the Flutewise charity, which is a foundation that supports young flute players around the world.

Trivia: Galway has received many awards for his contributions to music. He was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001. He won the Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

We can’t miss these ones!

It’s extremely hard to pick just the top 10 when there are so many other flutists who deserve recognition for their creativity and contribution. In case you had other musicians in mind as your top 10, here are 4 more so no one gets left out.

Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson is known as a rock music flutist and vocalist for Jethro Tull. Anderson does not come from a family of musicians, so after completing regular school, he opted for studying fine arts before trying his luck in a musical career.

Ian Anderson is best known as the man who introduced the flute to the world of rock music. Anderson also plays ethnic flutes and instrumental snippets along with acoustic sounds.

In recent years, Anderson has parted ways with the band and is focusing more on a solo career as he appears in orchestras, acoustic shows, and other string quartets.

Trivia: Anderson has never taken a driving test and does not own a car. His hobby is biking and he owns a few bikes. He is very passionate about protecting feral cats that have been rescued from captivity.

Greg Patillo

Greg Pattillo is known for his beatboxing flute music. In all honesty, the sound isn’t easy to replicate, which means Pattillo pretty much runs the field on him.

Most of his musical career has been focused on acting as a freelance flutist and soloist. He had a chance to compose flute music for movies such as LEGO Ninjago, with a handful of his songs featured on the official soundtrack.

Trivia: Pattillo appeared in an episode of iCarly on Nickelodeon as Sam Puckett’s cousin. He also has recordings on iCarly.com. Pattillo also appeared in Lily Allen and Friends on BBC Three.

Jasmine Choi

Jasmine Choi is originally from Korea and is a chamber musician, orchestral musician, and solo flutist. She is famous for blending rich tones, charisma, technicality, and perfect musicianship. She was awarded the title of Associate Principal Flute of the Cincinnati Symphony at the age of 22 and she is the first Korean performer to hold a major orchestral position in the United States.

Choi was nominated as one of America’s Rising Artists many times throughout her career. She started her musical career playing the violin and piano, but she switched to the flute at age nine. She started her solo career at the age of fourteen in Korea and is a national sensation.

Choi came to the United States at the age of sixteen and studied with Baker and Khaner.  Choi was the last student Baker taught before he died. Later, she moved to Austria, though her most memorable moment in the spotlight was arguably her placement with the Cincinnati Symphony.

Trivia: As a music student, Choi won the senior division of the Albert M. Greenfield Student Competition conducted by the Philadelphia Orchestra. She was listed as one of Symphony magazine’s emerging flutists in 2006.

Herbie Mann

Not only did Mann popularize flute as a jazz instrument, but he also enriched American jazz with influences from different cultures. Before committing to the flute, he used to play clarinet and saxophone. He began to focus on the flute in the 1950s and became one of the first musicians to introduce the flute to the world of jazz.

In the 1960s, Mann began incorporating Brazilian music into his jazz works by recording music with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sergio Mendes. Later, he also began incorporating African, Middle Eastern, and Japanese elements into his jazz music.

He loved teaching and helping young musicians, and one of them was Chick Corea who turned out to be one of the finest keyboard players globally. In one of his last albums, he worked together with saxophonist Phil Woods.

Trivia: He had a smash hit single titled “Hijack” that was a number one song in the 70s.  He was a founder of Embryo Records. Initially, he was not everyone’s cup of tea, and many refused to acknowledge him as an artist until he began to gain popularity.

This article could go on for weeks, so we’ll wrap up here, hoping everyone worth mentioning was included. If not – sorry, we’ll make it up with more great content. Having in mind personal taste and other criteria, all of the top 10 could rotate or at least rearrange their order.

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