My earliest memories are of listening to my father play and teach flute, and I knew from very early on that there was nothing more I wanted to do than to be a flutist. I felt like it was my destiny. Even my given name, 笛，means flute.
My father was a flutist in the army band, and travelled often for performances. A week before my 7th birthday, he left for a trip and promised to bring me back a toy. I told him I wanted a flute, and he said that he would try. When he came back, he did bring me a “flute”, a homely little thing, basically a wooden pipe with a few holes cut out. Still, I remember being devastated when it split in half after two days of blowing into it. When I told my father I wanted a real flute like his, he just sighed. When I was older, he said, and the family could afford it. I understand it now of course; we were a dirt poor family with four children, struggling in the midst of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, I remember promising myself that my children would be able to play music as they wished. Despite the inauspicious start, I did fulfill my dream of becoming a flutist. I was part of that first wave of college students accepted into the Wuhan Conservatory when it reopened, and after I graduated, I became the principal flutist of the National Ensemble Orchestra of China.
When I first came to America in 1990, I was looking for my version of the American Dream, that intoxicating belief that anyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, can find success in a land that rewards sacrifice, risk taking, and hard work. While studying for my master’s degree in music at the University of Indiana, I took on several part time jobs and discovered a new passion for instrument repair work. I spent a lot of time working on student instruments, especially flutes, and being surprised. Sure, they were better than my first flute, but not by nearly as much as I would have thought.
Over the last thirty years, I’ve worked at or with almost all of the world’s premier professional flute making companies, whether it be Powell, Haynes, Burkart, and more. Starting from the very beginning, I learned everything there was about handmade flute-making, from padding to stringing to headjoint cutting, and even helped develop new student flute factories for some of the abovementioned companies. But still, looking at the flutes around me, I thought that there was something missing.
I kept thinking back to that promise I made myself when I was a little boy. I knew firsthand the level of care, precision, and detail that went into making handmade flutes, and found it odd that there was nothing remotely similar for student instruments. Why should this level of quality only be available to professionals? To me, a child just staring their journey in flute needs it just as much. What student will want to continue playing if their instrument can barely make a sound, or falls apart in their hands? They need a great instrument that can show them just how wonderful their sound can be, and how high their potentials truly are. So when I started my own flute factory, I made this my goal, and developed the first “handmade” student flute. It became the path towards realizing my American dream: to create a company that would produce the world’s finest flutes at prices that any student could afford.
Last year I welcomed my first grandson into the world. When I see his little hands curiously playing with keys of my flute, I remember how I felt as a young boy just discovering the joys of music and I am again reminded that my path and goals are just beginning. I want my flutes to help spread that joy to all children around the world. So when you, a student, picks up one of my flutes for the first time, I hope that it helps you experience what I’ve learned over my many years as a flutist. Your journey is just beginning, and I hope that our flutes will help push and inspire you to take the future of flute playing to new heights.