The Seattle Flute Society Remembers...
Paul Taub (1952-2021)
Paul Taub, a longtime champion of contemporary music who held several leading roles within the NFA, died March 13, 2021 after suffering a heart attack at his home in Seattle, Washington. He was 68 years old.
An indefatigable NFA volunteer, he was most recently named as the organization’s inaugural Commissions Coordinator. In that post he worked closely with Lisa Bost-Sandberg, who reflected that Taub was “the perfect person for this role. He had decades of involvement in commissioning new works and collaborating with composers, an extensive knowledge of and genuine enthusiasm for composers of diverse aesthetics, was detailed and thoughtful in his work, and had the most wonderful collaborative approach when working with people.”
This sentiment was echoed by Taub’s longtime friend (and former NFA President) Leonard Garrison, who described him as “a true mensch” who “dedicated his life to serving others in his many positions with the NFA and other music organizations,” and noted that “Paul probably was responsible for more commissions of new works than any other living flutist.”
Paul Taub was born on May 28, 1952, in Valley Stream, New York (just east of JFK airport), the oldest child of Leon and Rena (Richter) Taub. He was named after bass-baritone Paul Robeson, an apt choice: Robeson’s twinned commitments to art and social justice served as a model for Taub’s own. The Taub family (a brother, Fred, was born two years later) placed a high value on art. Leon was an engineer and college professor who attended the Manhattan School of Music, played violin, composed, and edited Sing Out magazine; Rena was a noted psychotherapist and visual artist. (Her pen-and-ink sketch of Paul as Syrinx graced the wall of his home studio for many years.)
Taub spent his undergraduate years at Rutgers University studying flute with James Scott before earning an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where his teacher was David Shostac. Another musical mentor was Marcel Moyse; the French influence could clearly be heard in what one reviewer called Taub’s “ample, silvery tone.” His other teachers included Samuel Baron, Karl Kraber, and Michel Debost.
In 1979, Taub moved to Seattle to take a position as professor of music at Cornish College of the Arts. It proved to be a good fit—as his wife Susan told the Seattle Times, “Paul loved that people here were so open to exploring contemporary classical music.” Over his nearly 40 years on faculty at Cornish, he became an integral part of the community, organizing concert series, promoting the works of student composers, serving as the music department coordinator, and leading the Cornish Federation of Teachers. In an online tribute, the college described him as a “tireless” supporter of faculty rights and “an astute and humane mentor and mediator.”
For his students, that mentorship extended beyond the world of music—as former student Thomas Reyna recalled, “He taught me how to play the flute very well, but he also taught me how to enjoy life. He told me, ‘Yes, you must practice and be good at flute playing to make your musical career, but you need to take at least one day every week to enjoy nature and get out of your practice room.’” Taub’s prescription was one he himself followed: He had a keen appreciation for the landscape of Pacific Northwest, from the Palouse to the San Juan Islands. Closer to home, there was his garden—he was especially proud of his garlic crop—and a wine shop, European Vine Selections, of which he was co-owner for many years.
In 1989, Taub co-founded the Seattle Chamber Players alongside three Seattle Symphony musicians: clarinetist Laura DeLuca, violinist Mikhail Shmidt and cellist David Sabee. The ensemble commissioned over 100 works and performed on four continents; its biennial festival of new music, “Icebreaker,” brought composers from around the world to the Pacific Northwest. In 2004, the ensemble won the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming.
When it came to contemporary music, Taub’s taste was catholic (as Garrison put it, he liked anything “as long as it was well written and presented fresh ideas”), but he had a special fondness for “the Two Roberts”: flutist-composers Robert Dick and Robert Aitken. Taub was instrumental in bringing Robert Dick to Seattle for a series of summer masterclasses, an experience he described as having “a profound influence.” His relationship with Robert Aitken was perhaps even deeper; he served as Aitken’s assistant at the Shawnigan Summer School of Arts and became a close friend of the Aitken family. As Aitken’s daughter Dianne reflected, he was “a huge support for (and supporter of) my Dad—Paul basically became…kind of like our American cousin!” When Aitken—then aged 64—received the NFA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, Taub organized a flute quartet performance of the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” as a tribute.
Taub had a long and fruitful involvement with the NFA, which began in May 1989 with a sponsored trip to the Soviet Union. (Eastern Europe always held a special fascination, as the homeland of his forebears.) Over the next three decades, Taub’s relationship with the NFA encompassed a wide variety of roles: He served twice on the board of directors (most recently as board secretary), chaired the New Music Advisory Committee, participated as a member of the Archives and Oral History Committee, wrote semi-regularly for The Flutist Quarterly (and sat on its Editorial Advisory Board), and performed at numerous NFA conventions—most recently, his performance of Lou Harrison’s Air was featured in 2020’s Concert of Healing and Remembrance.
Zart Dombourian-Eby, whose term as NFA President overlapped with Taub’s time on the Executive Board, reflected that “Paul was a mentor and an inspiration to so many, and a friend to all. He was constantly enriching and replenishing our universe with new and exciting projects, seeing them faithfully through from start to finish.” Though Taub contributed to musical life on a national scale, some of his greatest impacts were at the local level: He served two terms (1989-92 and 2017-19) as President of the Seattle Flute Society. In his most recent tenure, he led the organization through what they described as “A period of significant re-imagining and renewal—the current success of the organization is an embodiment of his vision.” Its annual Young Artist Competition is to be renamed in his honor.
Although he retired from Cornish in 2018 (he was honored with emeritus status), the pace of his life did not appreciably slow. As Garrison put it, “his favorite word was ‘project.’” He continued to commission and premiere new works, but shifted some of his focus to political activism; with the voting rights organization Common Power, he traveled to Michigan and Virginia to support voter registration efforts.
In early 2020, Taub contracted one of the earliest diagnosed cases of Covid-19; he made an apparently full recovery. Typically, the experience inspired yet another project: A series of popular “Covid concerts” he performed live from his porch for neighbors and passers-by. In addition to his wife and brother, Taub is survived by a niece, Dana. The Seattle Chamber Players hosted an online memorial concert in May 2021; the Seattle Flute Society is planning for an in-person tribute event in the season ahead.
This article was written by Evan Pengra Sult and originally appeared (in slightly altered form) in The Flutist Quarterly, the membership magazine of the National Flute Association. It is used here with permission. nfaonline.org
Courtney Westcott (1953-2019)
From an early age Courtney loved the flute so much that it became her path in life. About the same time, in the fourth grade or so, she showed a precocious interest in repair technique when, thinking her flute was a little dusty, she washed it under the tap in the kitchen sink!
She was a kind and generous friend who did not give up easily when dealing with one’s complexity or eccentricity. Friends were of great value to her and many, even some from grade school, were still a comfort to her in her last days. She passed away after a year long struggle with cancer on November 12, 2019.
Courtney fell in love with the baroque flute at Oberlin Conservatory and after receiving a degree there, studied from 1976 to ‘80 at the Royal conservatory of The Hague, receiving a soloist diploma in the heady days when baroque flute music on the instrument for which it was written was being so fruitfully explored.
She was a soloist for Tafelmusik (Toronto) and NYS Baroque (Ithaca). Based in Seattle since 2000, she appeared with several West Coast groups including the Los Angeles Baroque Society, Musica Angelica, Pacific Baroque and Seattle Baroque. She recorded for Focus, Loft, Wildboar and ATMA. Favorite recordings were her CD “J.C. Bach Sonatas” on Loft Recordings and her group Zephyrus’ CD “Mozart in Manheim” on Focus.
In Toronto she and I operated Westcott Noy Woodwinds for 12 years. After relocating in Seattle in 2000 we opened Fluteworks. Over the years, with hard work, meticulous attention to detail, guidance from great masters, and immense patience, she became a master flute technician.
She respected her customers and valued them as musicians and friends. She really enjoyed matching a player with an instrument saying: “there’s a lid for every pot.” She loved to help people who had a love for music but who did not have so much money.
I fell in love with her playing and I fell in love with her. Courtney was the light of my life and I will miss her always.
This article was written by Peter Noy, with assistance from Rose Johnson.
Alexander Illitch Eppler (1955-2019)
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. nfaonline.org
Isabel Gallagher (1940-2011)
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)
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)
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.