When did you start playing the flute, and how did you decide to start playing the flute?
I’ve always been fascinated by the timbre of the flute. I was introduced to these sounds at the age of 10 through Disney films and music. So, in 5th grade when my first music teacher, Mrs. Jamie Young, started a band program, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to join and demanded that I play the flute! She held the headjoint to my lips and asked me to blow across the lip plate. I did and “Wooo” came out, lol. We were sold and the rest is history.
What has been your greatest inspiration to pursue a career in music?
Representation. I grew up being inspired by several incredible flutists, however, I rarely saw any who looked like me. I always felt it was a void that needed to be filled in the flute community. Stepping into many orchestral, wind band, and other classical music settings would leave me feeling “othered” or like an outcast...like I didn’t belong. I vowed to make it my purpose to pursue flute and music whilst loving the skin I’m in, in hopes of inspiring little black boys and girls to do the same as they pursue their dreams of becoming professional and virtuosic flutists. I’m also inspired by many black flutists who’ve created opportunities and made monumental strides in the flute and classical music community, Demarre Mcgill, Valerie Coleman-Page, Hubert Laws, Flutronix, Kim Scott, Althea Rene, Lizzo, just to name a few! It’s so important that we see ourselves in the dreams we want to pursue. I aspire to continue the inspiration our young people need.
What is your favorite music to perform, and why?
Classical music has and will always be my first love. The intricacies and simplicities of countless melodies and themes have always excited me! I used to think the constraints of classical music would inhibit me from playing anything outside of its realm. I realized; however, it was the complete opposite. With ALL of the rules you learn in how music works and should be played, you also learn how to break said rules! I love fusing classical elements with R&B, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Funk, you name it! While it is necessary to learn the musical vocabulary of the genres aforementioned, classical music is the cornerstone of my own vocabulary played within them.
Tell us about your teaching career. Where do you teach? What is your biggest inspiration as a flute professor?
I’ve been teaching privately for 10 years and collegiately for 5. I’ve also been the director of the Nashville Philharmonic Flute Ensemble for 4 years. Before the pandemic, I would travel throughout the Metro Nashville Public School district and teach young flutists who wouldn’t normally have access to private lessons. I currently teach at my alma mater, Tennessee State University. My former flute prof, Belinda Laupp is my biggest inspiration as a professor. She was and will always be an advocate for her students’ growth and success in flute and music. It was an honor taking over TSU’s flute studio after her, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue her legacy of professionalism, musicality, and advocacy for each and every student who studies with me.
What is your most memorable moment from being a flute professor?
In 2017, I went viral after playing rap song, “Mask Off” in the famous #MaskOffChallenge. It was all over Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter...I mean
EVERYWHERE! It garnered millions of views and was completely random and unexpected! My students were so giddy about the whole thing and proud to call me their teacher at the same time. I was “twitter-less” at the time, so no one knew who I was and coined me “Flutebae.” Ever since, I’ve embodied that name in my playing, teaching, and overall social media persona. This moment was life-changing and the birth of my now trademarked brand, “Flutebae.”
How have you been spending your time during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
I’m an FTM of a beautiful 10-month-old baby girl. So, of course, most of my time has been dedicated to her. My private and collegiate flute lessons are all taught remotely, and I still find pockets of time for self-care, to create, and build my brand with the help of my beloved husband and family. When this whole thing began, I thought I would be my best busy self with all of this newfound free time, but busyness doesn’t always equal productiveness. Some days are hard...some are just fine...and that’s okay. This is something none of us have experienced in our lifetime, so it is important to take it easy on ourselves as we navigate through these uncertain times.
Do you think the pandemic will cause significant changes for your flute studio in the fall?
I’m sure it will. The pandemic has reshaped the way society operates right before our very eyes. Remote lessons will continue until it is absolutely safe to resume face to face teaching. This is a hard thing to grasp, but if it means the absolute safety of both me and my students, I’m willing to wait it out.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician?
Creativity. Being able to hear and see something then bring it to life, GIVES ME LIFE! There is so much power in creating...you get to make something out of nothing! When you receive a sheet of music, you just see notes inked on a page, but you have the power to lift those notes right off that page and bring the music to life! My gift of creativity and music allows me to be of service to myself and others. I love seeing and hearing people fill up with emotion as I play and perform. I love seeing my own students and choirs light up at the end of their performances after working so hard to achieve it. I get to wake up every day doing what I love, and I don’t take it for granted.
What musical projects do you have coming up?
Sharing and passing on knowledge is important within our community to keep traditions and creativity alive. Therefore, I’m curating online masterclasses and tutorials for flutists of all playing levels. These tutorials will be available via YouTube, IG, and my own website, www.ashleytheflutist.com. You can also stream Flutebae wherever you get your music! I’m excited to be releasing new original music very soon!
Born in Memphis, TN, Ashley Crawford began her flute journey at age 10. After studying at renowned HBCU, “Tennessee State University,” and the prestigious School of Music at “Belmont University,” she dedicated her life to sharing her gift and knowledge of flute to people of all ages. She became known as “Flutebae,” from her 2017 viral sensation video of the #MaskOffChallenge. Ever since, she has fused the sounds of classical flute with the latest Hip-Hop, Pop, and R&B music that has helped propel flute into mainstream music and media. She embodies the element of the flute through her sultry and robust playing. Her melodious tone sings effortlessly and is felt on a visceral level. There are no limits to her style and her playing transcends all genres.