Ann Licater is a flutist who is originally from Minnesota and now resides in California. As a young girl, Ann's teachers noticed that she had a gift with the flute by the beautiful tone she was producing. She studied the instrument through grade school and wound up receiving a well balanced education by earning a B.A. Degree at the University of St. Thomas. Through this time, Ann was playing the flute at various events and with community orchestras. While working on her Masters at Naropa University, she discovered the Native American flute at a local pow wow. Once again she was able to produce a wonderful tone on the wooden flute. After receiving numerous requests for her music at performances, Ann went into the studio to make a CD to showcase her talent as a composer and flutist. Ann is now an award winning artist, composer, and producer, who has performed at Carnegie Hall and other fine venues. She now holds workshops and master classes in silver and Native American flute. Ann has just released a brand new CD titled "Beyond the Waves". I recently talked with Ann about her new release and her blossoming career.
R.V.B. - Hello Ann. How are you?
A.L. - Good. How are you doing?
R.V.B. - I'm good. What's going on over there on the west side?
A.L. - It's a beautiful day. How about you?
R.V.B. - We had a beautiful morning but it's deteriorating. From what I understand, we're going to get some rain as a cold front is coming through.
A.L. - I like all weather actually. I don't look at the weather reports. I just look outside and say "Oh...it's raining!"
R.V.B. - I admire your attitude and I admire your song titles. Everything is always so positive and beautiful sounding.
A.L. - Thank you. I think that's really how I am.
R.V.B. - Did you start the flute at a young age?
A.L - I did. I started the silver flute at 9 years-old. It was a natural instrument for me. I was always noted for my sound. I was playing a silver - open holed - Artley - student model - flute. Everyone had the same type of flute but for some reason I was always recognized for my tone.
R.V.B. - Where did you grow up?
A.L. - Minneapolis Minnesota.
R.V.B. - What was it like there for you as a young girl?
A.L. - I loved it. I felt at the time there were so many opportunities for music and arts in the schools. I went to both public and private schools and I always had a great education in regard to music. I studied at the MacPhail Center for Music and played in their youth orchestra that merged into the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. I had a lot of great exposure to classical music and playing in acoustically beautiful venues.
R.V.B. - Did you ever toy with any other instruments?
A.L. - We had a guitar in the house and I learned a few chords. I know a little bit on the piano but that's it. I've always liked the flute.
R.V.B. - You pursued the classical route of training... were you aware of the pop scene?
A.L. - Only from listening to the radio. My dad was a collector of jazz albums and I listened to a lot of jazz music as I was growing up. He took us to lots of love music performances, too. Whenever my dad would hear a jazz flutist, he would be sure to make a point of me hearing it. I was exposed to Paul Horn, Tim Weisberg, Ian Anderson... I guess Ian Anderson would be in the pop rock genre.
R.V.B. - You played through the grade school years and you received a B.A. degree at St. Thomas. Did you explore other choices or did you have your heart set there?
A.L. - I had other choices but the school had just opened up to women. It was really exciting for me to be in the first class of women at St. Thomas... so I took that route. I played my flute in community orchestra and in the orchestra pit for local musical productions but music wasn't my major. I was interested in marketing and promotions. I was writing for the comedy newspaper. I was involved in playing my flute for the liturgical ministries. I was on the student counsel for social events. I really had a chance to be all of myself... I still am. I had well rounded extra-curricular activities. It was a liberal arts education. I loved it.
R.V.B. - That sounds like a well rounded education to explore the world with. You're also involved in the spiritual side of things and you use it in your music a lot. Were you spiritual throughout your upbringing?
A.L. - I was raised Catholic but we would go to a progressive Catholic church. We went to the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota. There were guitar masses and such... it was great because there was a lot of music and spirituality combined - in that experience. It was years later, when I decided to get a Masters degree in Creation Spirituality through Naropa University. That's where I discovered the Native American flute... when we visited a pow-wow. I saw this Native American flute and I picked it up and I played it. The maker of the flute said "You have a real gift with this instrument." I thought he wanted me to buy some flutes. (Haha) I did buy some flutes and he was right... I loved playing it. It's really combining the traditional, technical, silver flute playing with the understanding that we're all connected and the breath can relax us. It's a combination of eastern and western cultures. I was able to take my love of the silver flute and bring it to the Native American flute. My music is kind of a hybrid.
R.V.B. - I see that you studied Native American flute with R. Carlos Nakai.
A.L. - I really enjoyed how he presented the Native American flute. I went to a workshop called "The Renaissance for the North American flute". It was held in Montana, and you had to take several small airplanes to get there. It was a long trip. It was in the middle of this beautiful country and you were among other people learning from him. There were daily classes on technique and the mechanical aspect of it. The other part of it was very spiritual. It was really about "The more you know who you are, the better you will become as a flute player"... and it's true. I think the clearer and more centered you are about who you are in the world... that's going to come through your breath... and it's going to be this essence that you express.
R.V.B. - At this point, were you already creating your own music?
A.L. - Yes. I was playing and performing Native American- style flutes in spiritual centers. People started asking me if I had a CD to take home with them. I went to study with R. Carlos Nakai to learn what I could, so that I could put out my first CD which was a collection of the music I had been creating since the first day I picked up a flute at the powwow.
A.L. - Yes... you could say that. Each Native American flute is made of a different piece of wood and there are different flute makers, different keys and they are generally made in minor pentatonic scales. I believe they each have different songs within them. There are certain flutes I can pick up, that are just not natural for me to play songs that I have written... that I have created on another flute. That's why I think each flute has its own songs in it and I help bring them forth.
R.V.B. - Do you play in the different styles of a variety of native American people?
A.L. - No. I have my own hybrid. I'm really using the instrument to express myself. I don't just play Native American or Native American-style flutes. I play silver flutes... I play bamboo flutes from other cultures... I play Bansuri flutes... I play Chinese Xiao flutes.
R.V.B. - It must be real satisfying when you achieve the desired sound for the music your playing.
A.L. - It is. It's one of the reasons why I love the recording process. There's experimentation that can happen there.
A.L. - I choose titles after I've created most of the music. I felt like the music was real out there in a sense, that it was sending you off to another time and place. You can create a check box next to each piece. "Does this give you a sense that you're not here and you're somewhere else??? Check! " Are you at peace in that place?" Check! That's where Beyond the Waves came from.
R.V.B. - I noticed the first song was titled "Rhythm of the Stars." Is there a rhythm between the stars as well as a rhythm with the human race?
A.L. - After the song was completed I thought "Wow, this may be described as the rhythm of the stars. It's multi-faceted and complex, yet in perfect order". If you were traveling in space... would this be what it feels like? Would this be the rhythm of your connection when you're traveling weightless in space? That's how I named that song.
R.V.B. - Do you have any particular routine that you use to write songs or do ideas come to you through daily life activities?
A.L. - I just start playing. I pick up a flute and I play. I am channeling something and I say "Oh... that's really interesting". Then I'll repeat the motif over and over. Then it becomes a muscle memory. That will be 2 measures, 4 measures, 8 measures, maybe 16 - and that will become section A of the song. Then I will be open to "Where can this go? Where is the next place this song can go?" I do a lot of experimenting with the flute in my hand... a lot of memorizing of passages. Then I string it together. That would be the basic pattern on how I create. And, I also just play. Just channel the piece.
R.V.B. - As you make more albums and your songwriting is maturing, you are bringing other musicians on board to help out. What is the process of getting the other musicians to work on your song ideas.
A.L. - I look for musicians that I really want to work with. I imagine that I want piano and guitar for example and say, "I like playing with that person, he's fun." or "I think I want bass on this. Let's see if Peter Phippen, who also plays the flute, wants to be on this track." Once we are in the studio, we discuss options. "I think vocals would be really nice on this." I would say, "I know two people who I would love to have on the album. Let's see what their schedule looks like ?" It kind of happens once we get started.
R.V.B. - Are there west coast musicians that are readily available?
A.L. Yes they are, but I do most of my recordings in the middle of the country. I travel back to Minneapolis and I stay with family there. The next day I get up and drive to the studio which is in Eau Claire Wisconsin. It's a beautiful, gorgeous, facility run by Ivar Lunde called Skyline Studio. I work with Peter Phippen there... who also lives in Eau Claire. I met them both when I was attending the International Native American and World Flute Association Conference. I will fly out a couple of players but we'll also record some things in LA, and we'll send the files over. We do the recording, the mixing, and the mastering, in Eau Claire. When I'm in California, I'll listen and make my notes but I like being in the studio for every part of the process.
R.V.B. - What are some of your favorite live performance moments in your career up to this point?
R.V.B. - That had to be a really exciting time for you.
A.L. - We started rehearsing in March and the concert was in September. I played bass flute as part of a flute choir. I also played native American flute. That was more about what I thought would be the best piece to play in that space. It's a small hall that holds about 180 people and it's absolutely beautiful. I was prepping in both classical and Native American flute. In a way "Right brain, left brain." Another favorite performance was set on the Pacific Crest Trail in Lake Tahoe.
It was part of a curated art hike called Trails and Vistas... and I've done it twice. Groups of people sign up and go on this three-mile hike. Every 15 minutes they get to stop on the trail to see and experience some kind of art. Be it: performance art, musicians, poetry, or paintings. I played solo Native American flute near these rocks in the middle of the forest. I did it Saturday and Sunday morning, and it was just so lovely. I had 10 shows on Saturday and 12 shows on Sunday. It was awesome. I hiked in about 3/4 of a mile to get to my spot. It was absolutely heavenly.
R.V.B. - Do you enjoy the outdoors in general and being with nature?
A.L - I do. I love being at the ocean - I love the forest - I love looking up at the stars at night. It's part of who we are. I like being connected to all of creations.
R.V.B. - What are you most proud of about your musical career up to this point.
A.L. - I think the connections I have made and how far my music has spread via broadcast and the internet. For example... last week my music aired on the island of Maui... It aired in New York City... It aired in the UK... and it aired on an airline. For me to know that just following my intuition, and following my natural talents with diligent work, and being open to connections... this is the result. That just brings me so much joy and satisfaction.
R.V.B. - That sounds like a wide distribution. What station in New York?
A.L. - It was WFIT radio. There is heavy rotation in these mediums now.
I launched in April and I did a nice concert up in the San Francisco Bay area. There were several people on my album with me including Scarlet Rivera, who was Bob Dylan's violinist on his "Desire" album and "The Rolling Thunder Revue". We've become really good friends and we're neighbors. I play at Agape International Spiritual Center every month for meditation. It's headed by Rev. Michael Bernhard Beckwith and they have thousands of members. They live-stream their service so there's a global presence. Each service begins with a meditation portion and that's where I play my flute.
R.V.B. - How many different flutes do you have?
A.L. - Somewhere around 35.
R.V.B. - Do you have any favorites that you use more than others.
A.L. - Yes I do. I love playing in B flat minor. That's one of my favorites. I love E minor, too.
R.V.B. - The sad keys.
A.L. - No, because I'll also play the related major. The backing arrangements are often in the major related key so that it doesn't sound too sad. I play a lot in E minor so for example "Halcyon Morning". I also play the E minor flute on the title track "Beyond the Waves". "Dreaming in Time" I actually play in E flat minor. Basically I love the Native American flute, the silver flute... I just love them all.
R.V.B. - Do you believe that flute music has a healing process for ailments?
A.L. - Yes. I play Native American flute for a local HMO with my friends David DiLullo, a drummer and Kathleen Farrell who plays crystal bowls. We would actually play in the hospital to help calm the nurses and the doctors.
R.V.B. - Wow! It wasn't even for the patients!
A.L. - That's right. Patients heard the music because they were nearby but it was specifically part of an employee wellness program. I do think that the flutes themselves have special qualities. As I said earlier, they have a story that comes through with the music. I've noticed that people are drawn to certain songs depending what they are discovering about themselves. That inspires me to put on " Flutes for the Soul" workshops. I'll play the flutes for 5 to 10 minutes and then people will journal after that. I'll raise a question like "What has been calling you lately?". "What creative inspiration do you want to follow?". My 1st album "Following the Call" was really about me following my own inspiration of playing the Native American flute. Getting on a plane and sitting with this master... playing at spiritual centers... and then putting out a CD. I was following this natural urge. I think that the flute can help with that, with other people too for personal discovery... for healing... for relaxation... just having an inner connection with yourself. Just escaping for a half an hour... sitting down and listening to this music... breath, relax, and get in touch with yourself.
R.V.B. - It certainly seems to be working because the product that you're producing is fantastic. The new CD is very soothing and relaxing and it put me in a good mood.
A.L. - I call it a traveling meditation. Because you're going somewhere internally in a meditational state. I love that it puts you in a good mood. My job is done... another box, checked off.
R.V.B. - You must have a big wall of checked boxes because I'm sure I'm not the only one. (Hahaha) Congratulations on your new CD. Thank you for taking this time with me.
A.L. - Thank you so much.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
This interview may not be reproduced in any part or form without permission from this site.
For more information on Ann Licater visit her website www.fluteforthesoul.com
Photo credits include: D'Arcy Alison- Teasley, Steve Voldseth, Sandra Zislis, Peter Phippen, Greg Crowder.
Thanks to Beth Ann Hilton
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