The Seattle Flute Society Remembers...

Alexander Illitch Eppler (1955-2019)
Renowned Flutemaker

Alexander Eppler, the Seattle-based wooden flutemaker and repairman, composer, and virtuoso performer on numerous instruments, died at home on June 6, 2019 from heart and other health issues. In a Facebook tribute, his godson remembered him as “a person from a different age, a different world […] I have never known someone so multifaceted […] Who could know the details of his life as a instrumentalist, choral arranger and conductor, maker and repairer of multiple types of instrument, jeweler, wine maker, farmer...”


Eppler (Alex or Sasha to his many friends) spent his early years in Russia (then the USSR) and Bulgaria, moving to the latter following the death of his father. While there, he trained at the Bulgarian State Conservatory; he always set great store by the rigorous traditional music education he received there, and could still, years later, break into rapid-fire, perfect solmization. He first came to the United States as a touring musician, performing as an acclaimed soloist on the balalaika and the kaval (a Bulgarian end-blown flute). His other instruments included the gaida and the cymbalom, and he remained an active performer until the end of his life.

Always interested in building instruments as well as playing them, he first worked as a maker of violins and violas, and once even experimented with crafting a double bass. In the mid-1970s, he met flutist Felix Skowronek, then professor at the University of Washington, who was playing on a British-made wooden flute. At the time, wooden flutes were comparatively rare in the United States, but Eppler was convinced of their superiority and, with Skowronek’s encouragement and partnership, moved into the realm of flutemaking. Skowronek, who died in 2006, described Eppler as “a genius, a wizard with wood” for a 2005 profile in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Over time, he became a specialist in restoring and making wooden flutes, piccolos, and head joints, working in Cocus and Grenadilla woods, Snakewood, and African Blackwood. He also occasionally worked with metal, crafting fine jewelry and making flutes in both silver and 14-karat gold.


Eppler was an active member of the Orthodox Church, devoting significant energy to composing and arranging music for services. He was especially proud of his diploma from the Summer School of Liturgical Music in Jordanville, New York, and recordings of many of his compositions can be found online. Friends and visitors to his workshop knew him as a brilliant and wide-ranging conversationalist, always eager to dive into a discussion of American or global politics, the art of flutemaking, music and music education, food and wine, and Bulgarian cultural history, among countless other topics. No visit was complete without a game of fetch with Bongo, Eppler’s much-loved dachshund.


He was preceded in death by his parents Ilya (1971) and Nina (1992) Eppler and his wife Ariadna (1993). He is survived by his brother George Illitch Eppler and his sister-in-law, Susan. A panikhida (Eastern Orthodox memorial) service was held on June 12 at the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Seattle, and he was buried next to his wife in Lakeview Cemetery, under a headstone he himself had carved many years earlier.

This article was originally written by Evan Pengra Sult for The Flutist Quarterly, the membership magazine of the National Flute Association, and is used here with permission.

Isabel Gallagher (1940-2011)
Flutist, Teacher, and Former President

It is with great sadness that the Seattle Flute Society acknowledges the passing of former Seattle Flute Society president Isabel Gallagher. Isabel died in a car accident in Ontario, Canada, after visiting one of her former flute students. Isabel was an outstanding flutist who performed as a soloist, an orchestra member, and as a chamber musician on both flute and piano. Isabel will be remembered by her many friends, students and colleagues as a dedicated musician, an esteemed teacher and as a kind and generous friend.

Born in Puerto Rico in 1940, Isabel grew up mainly in Brooklyn, New York. Isabel began piano lessons when she was a young child; around the age of ten she also began studying the flute; her teachers included the legendary flutists Frederick Wilkins, Samuel Baron, John Wummer and Paige Brook. At the age of 14, Isabel successfully auditioned for the New York All City Orchestra; with them she performed as soloist in the Bach Suite in B minor in Carnegie Hall.

Isabel attended the Manhattan School of Music, where she received a scholarship to study flute with Frances Blaisdell. Isabel remained good friends with Blaisdell until the latter's passing in 2009. In addition to receiving her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Manhattan School, Isabel was also awarded the prestigious Harold Bauer Award (1959), which is given to promising pianists. She also became certified to teach music in New York State.

In 1962, Isabel came to Seattle with her former husband, Bernard Shapiro, when he became principal oboist of the Seattle Symphony. In addition to raising a family, Isabel became a highly regarded member of Seattle's musical life: she taught flute at Cornish College for the Performing Arts, Western Washington University, Seattle Community College and Seattle University. She was a member of the Cornish Woodwind Quintet, the Seattle Opera Orchestra (1967-71) and piccoloist with the Seattle Symphony (1969-71). Eventually, she relocated to Montreal, Canada, and then to Ithaca, New York. During those years she taught flute at Concordia University and Vanier College in Montreal, as well as at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

In the early 1990s, Isabel returned to Seattle with her partner, the late William Gallagher, when he began working for Boeing. She lived on Mercer Island; for more than thirty years she taught flute to hundreds of students who came to the island to study privately with her. Additionally, Isabel adjudicated music competitions, had several articles published in music journals and was president of the Seattle Flute Society (1994-97). In 1997, Isabel was invited by composer/conductor Dorothy Klotzman (her friend since high school from the New York All City Orchestra) to be Ensemble Director for the Academy of Music Northwest. In 2001, Isabel "retired" from the Academy to enjoy an enriched personal life and to do more traveling.

In addition to music, Isabel had a flair for languages. She knew both French and Spanish, and even traveled to Guatemala as part of a Spanish language immersion program. She loved to cook and entertain; she was a delightful hostess.

Isabel continued to be very involved in chamber music to the end of her life, often performing with her long-time partner, composer/violinist and retired physician, Dr. Bernard Gondos, whom she met at a chamber music workshop in Spain. Bernie was from Santa Barbara, which became a second home to Isabel; she and Bernie frequently performed for the Santa Barbara Musical Club. When in Seattle, Isabel continued to perform at Seattle Flute Society events. She was also a member of SONOS Chamber Music; many of the programs she played with SONOS were fund-raisers for Seattle churches providing outreach for those in need. She and Bernie traveled extensively and had a wide circle of friends in both Seattle and in Santa Barbara.

The Seattle Flute Society extends its condolences to Isabel's family: her daughter Stephanie Shapiro, her son-in-law Travis Crone, Travis' son, Mathew Crone, Isabel's grandchildren, Daniel and Sarah Crone, her son Alan Shapiro and daughter-in-law Sandy Shapiro, her partner Bernard Gondos, as well as to her many friends, students and colleagues. 


This article was written by Megan Lyden. The author would like to thank Stephanie Shapiro, Dee Wells, Roberta Goldman, and Germaine Morgan for their help.

Devin Ossman (1962-2008)
Flutist and Friend

Devin was a member of South Whidbey Chamber Players and an alumnus of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He was born September 28, 1962, and died March 19, 2008.

We are proud to have shared his good humor and excellent musicianship during the all too short time he played with the Seattle Flute Society Flute Choir.

Felix Skowronek (1935-2006)
Professor of Flute and Our First President

It is with deep regret and sadness that we share the news of the passing of Felix Skowronek. As the founding president of the Seattle Flute Society, Felix touched the lives of many flutists in this area – and beyond. We offer our heartfelt sympathies to his friends and family. Felix will be greatly missed.

Since his death, the Seattle Flute Society has honored Felix at our yearly Felix Skowronek Memorial Event, which features a masterclass and recital for the community. Usually, the featured guest artist is either a local flutist or a wooden flute specialist.

A Memorial Blog has been created to allow family and friends to share memories and experiences of how Felix Skowronek touched our lives.

The Seattle Flute Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations to the SFS are tax deductible. With your support, the SFS can continue to bring wonderful flute-related opportunities to the Seattle area. 

Donors are acknowledged in concert programs.


Seattle Flute Society, 4244 University Way NE, PO Box 45597, Seattle, WA 98105

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