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Woodland flute maker follows his calling

By Staff | Apr 7, 2015

Photo by CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Reade Holtzbaur (center) shares stories about his homemade flutes to other woodwind instrumentalists. Former clarinetists Deb Stine (left) of Montgomery, and Nancy Coughlin of Picture Rocks, during the program of the Christian Women's Group, meet twice a month at Tivoli UM Church.

TIVOLI – “Father use me,” was the prayer uttered by Reade Holtzbaur a few years ago when settling into retirement after working 40 years as an overseer in the mechanical maintenance department at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.

With knowledge gained from his occupation, Holtzbaur said he wondered how hard could it be to take a piece of wood and put holes in it? “Looking back now, what lay ahead seems pre-ordained, as already I had many of the necessary tools to create flutes.”

A woodworking table made as a school project by his son had not been discarded as the son had suggested, but remained stored in a crawl space above the garage. The bench proved to be the correct size for a lathe. Other items the flute maker needed came to him in ominous ways.

During intervals in the program, Holtzbaur played various flutes saying the sounds should be recognizable as they’re used as background music in many television commercials.

The speaker indicated that the loss of much of the history and talents of the Native Americans are due to the government’s intent to achieve cultural assimilation by establishing places to educate them in the white man’s ways, an example being the Carlisle Indian School.

Holtzbaur said that in the early 1900’s, there had been a resurgence in flute making; but again it nearly vanished until the Smithsonian Museum received the collection of Dr. Richard Payne, deemed the largest collection of Native American flutes.

One of many Native American traditions shared included the council sessions. “A flute decorated with feathers was passed, and only when holding the flute was one allowed to speak. This method kept the meetings in control so all could have a say. This method is similar to our use of a gavel or a microphone,” Holtzbaur said.

Incorporating drums into his remarks, Holtzbaur said, “Drumming simulates the heart beat of mother earth, they, and the flute, are sacred to Native Americans.”

A proponent of the Biblical scripture from the Book of James, Chapter 5: Holtzbaur anoints his flutes with an oil and when he feels compelled, he distributes flutes to people he feels needs it. It could help with physical and emotional challenges according to Holtzbaur who resides in Hughesville. Word of positive results have been returned to the flute maker who said, “When I asked the Father to use me, I had no idea what direction I’d be taken.”