A flautist is someone who plays the flute, and the term flutist is also used. Either term may be used to discuss professional flute players who play the flute for a living or it may apply to those who’ve acquire a certain amount of skill and play locally in various musical groups, including regional symphonies, orchestras, or jazz and even the occasional rock band. There are many paths to become a flautist but they start by acquiring instrumental skill, usually no later than in high school.
Many people have the opportunity to learn how to play the flute in elementary school, and if not they might join a band program at the junior or high school level. It’s not enough to simply want to play the flute. Instrument mastery takes both time and talent, and some people have one of these and not the other. With the exception of a few genius level players, people can expect to put in many practice hours to hone their skills as a flautist.
Middle school and high school music programs can help with learning how to play the flute and by giving opportunities to perform. Many flautists find these programs of great use but need to go beyond them for advanced training. A flautist might benefit from private lessons, participation in youth symphonies, and by playing for orchestras that back local theater endeavors. The ambitious flute player may also form his or her own bands.
After high school, there can be choices as to what to do next. The most talented flute players may simply join orchestras or bands and begin making a living. The flautist that needs more time and work might consider college where he or she can continue to play. Some flute players go specifically to musical schools or train in conservatories.
When a flautist feels that training is complete, he or she will participate in the musical ensembles that best fit his or her style. There are many potential places to play the flute professionally. Ian Anderson of the British rock band Jethro Tull, helped to make that band famous by his soaring flute accompaniments. Hubert Laws is a modern artist celebrated for his jazz flute work.
Even with exceptional talent, the flautist may not rise to these heights, and might have to work in a number of different venues to make a passable living. Some potential places to look for work would be in backing orchestras for musicals, at studios in a session musician role, with a variety of bands or other groups that are paid to perform, and in local, regional, or national symphonies. The flautist could further augment income by giving private lessons, or those with credentials could teach in public or private schools. Music remains a highly competitive business, and as discouraging as it might be, not all flautists can successfully pursue a musical career without having a sideline that provides financial support.