First things first: playing flute is not just for girls.
It might be more popular with female musicians, flute faculty Tom Meany says, but many of his teachers were male and, he points out, men comprise the entire flute section of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Flute, in short, is for everyone, and Meany has taught it to all ages and all levels – boys and girls, men and women – for many years.
At Settlement, his daily teaching might take the form of helping beginning students develop their form and embouchure, preparing intermediate and advanced students for auditions, or playing duets with adult students.
He also teaches using the Suzuki method, which applies the principles of repetition and parental involvement, among other elements, to instruct very young students in learning flute. Meany explains that these students require an instrument with a curved, shortened body – he calls it a “candy-cane” flute – that’s easier for those with smaller hands and shorter arms to play, compared to a standard flute.
Meany does a lot of playing outside of Settlement – with the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s orchestra and the newly-founded Philadelphia Flute Quartet, among other ensembles – so when he tells a student, “play it for me as if it’s a performance,” it really carries some weight.
This performance experience carries over to his work at Settlement, too: he coaches the chamber music camp each summer at the Willow Grove Branch, and he has organized flute choirs at Willow Grove and Wynnefield. Many of his students play in their school band or orchestra, but in the ensemble settings at Settlement, he says, “there’s less pressure, and more camaraderie.”
Whatever the subject material, Meany’s reason for teaching stays the same: “I love music, and I’ve always wanted to share that with others.”