Last month, noseflute.org published a video shot at the Damon Runyon Repertory theater in Pueblo (CO), featuring Susy Bogguss and her band, plus a nice fellow nose flutist: Mr. Brent Ritter (please check this post).
Brent Ritter is a serious nose flute player, and a funny fellow. I wanted to know more about him and his playing, and with the help of people from the Pueblo Municipal Band and the Damon Runyon Repertory theater, I was able to reach Brent (he has no internet access). Thanks to the anonymous people who helped us getting in touch.
Brent sent me a long hand written letter (PDF:) with pictures, and answered all my questions.
- Please could you tell us who you are, what is your musical background?
« I am primarily a vocalist, but I derive great pleasure from playing my "vintage metal Humanatone". I was trained as an operatic baritone at the University of Texas at Dallas, in 1978 thru 1979, in Richardson, Texas. In 1979, I was accepted to study in Graz, Austria under the auspices of the American Institute of Musical Studies, based in Dallas. Having been unsuccessful in my quest to secure a position in a German or Austrian opera house, I returned to America, settling in Pueblo, Colorado.
- How and when did you discover the nose flute existence? When did you begin to play it? What is your instrument ? (on the video I guess it is a vintage metal Humanatone, but cannot see well...)
« I was shopping at a local antique store in late 1985, when I spied my Humanatone. I am afraid I took advantage of the proprietor and paid just over $5.00, as he had no idea what it was. I, however knew exactly what it was, having had a plastic one I bought at a music store.
- What do you especially appreciate in nosefluting?
« The main thing I appreciate about nose fluting is the fact that any tune one can whistle, one can play on the flute. Your repertoire is limited only by your knowledge of music. It is also easy to improvise if you have a knowledge of Jazz or Dixieland styles.
- Could you tell more about the Pueblo Municipal Band?
« I have performed on my flute with the Pueblo Municipal Band in my capacity as their vocalist. The band is enjoying its 100th year of existence this year. We perform an 8-week season each summer of free concerts at a local community college. Attendance at these concerts is very good. If you should find yourself in Pueblo on a Sunday evening during June, please come and hear us.
- Do you perform regularly ?
« I perform plays and musicals with the Damon Runyon Repertory Theater. I also am Music Director at the Wesley United Methodist Church; and I am called upon frequently to sing funeral services for local mortuaries.
- Could you tell us some anecdote that happened to you with your nose flute?
« When I first purchased my flute, the coating was worn off and I was getting a rash from the bare tin, so I took it to a music store in Denver that features instrument repair and had it re-plated with silver. Next door was an antique shop. That is where I found another vintage metal flute. I have opted to keep it in its original worn condition, but rest assured, it plays just as sweetly as its mate.
- Do you have some recordings and/or videos of your nose fluting?
« Unfortunately, I have no recordings to speak of, but would try to make one for you if you wish.
- Any fact, remark, story, or archive element you would add to this little interview would be welcome.
« I was a member of the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1974, working first as a baritone horn player with the Lackland AFB Band in San Antonio, TX, then 2 years as an aircraft mechanic at McChord AFB, Tacoma, Washington. WHile at McChrod, I entered the 1971 Air force Annual Talent Contest as a pop vocalist, winning the base-level, command-level, and worldwide contests. I repeated my worldwide win in 1972 and finished my Air Force career as the vocalist with the 539th AF Band at McChord. While at the 1971 contest at Norton AFB in San Bernardino, California, I was chosen to represent the Air Force on The Merv Griffin show in Los Angeles, singing the tune I won with: "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life".
« My favorite roles are as "Tevye" in "Fiddler on the Roof", "Tony Esposito" in "The Most Happy Fella", and Charlie Anderson" in "Shenandoah".
« Thank you again for your interest in my story. I am extremely flattered and very surprised that someone from so far away is aware of the joys of nosefluting. I had no idea that anyone else in the world knew about this very obscure instrument. »
Thanks a lot to you, Brent! And be sure you're not alone in the world, enjoying nosefluting...