HOW TO START A FLUTE CIRCLE
(And once you have, how to keep it going)

By Stephanie Baldridge

Every Flute Circle starts with an idea and a person who wants to be in community with other people who love the Native American Flute.  Our Flute Circle has been in existence since 1999, and we have been asked many times:  “How does one start a Flute Circle?”  Here are some ideas toward that end, and, once formed, some tips for keeping it healthy, growing, and thriving.  By way of example, I have set forth what works best for us as a group.  This by no means dictates that you have to adopt anything that we have chosen to do.  Rather, pick and choose from the wealth of ideas presented here what will work best for you and your group.  You may use any, all, or none of these suggestions, depending on your wants, needs, goals, and circumstances—be creative!  The purpose of this Article is to bring up issues you may or may not have thought about; give you a full range of possibilities, ranging from the simple to the complex; and, if you do opt for a more complex structure, how to protect the entity you create.  For ease of reference, I will use the term “Facilitator” throughout; please feel free to substitute whatever term works best for you and your group.  That being said, when it all comes down to it, we just want to think good thoughts, say good things, do good deeds, take care of the Earth and all that resides on it, and play beautiful flute music!

OVERVIEW

For ease in moving forward in manageable steps, I have used three sections:  Section I is all about getting started:  Choosing a name; meeting dates, times and places; meeting activities; addressing the issue of alcohol at Flute Circles; visitors/potential members; facilitation; ongoing contact with members; flute circle etiquette; and safety.  Section II talks about things you may or may not want to consider down the road, after your Flute Circle has established itself.  This section contains information about developing a focus/mission statement; choosing a structure that suits your group; dues; and websites and website alternatives.  Lastly, Section III gives you some additional options, such as using live sound and effects at Flute Circles; workshops; group outings; developing a logo; fundraising ideas, and deciding whether or not to affiliate as a group with other organizations.

PART I
GETTING STARTED

Here are some things you may want to consider before you get started.

1.    Choose a Name

Depending on your preference, you can either choose a working name before you get started, or decide on a name later as a group.  Choose a name that either represents your location or something that you like.  Make sure that it is not already in use by another group.  If you wish to legally protect your name, it is a good idea to file a DBA (“Doing Business As”) with your State (cost is usually around $50 for two years; check with your State).  Most groups do not need to be a nonprofit corporation, unless you are planning on putting on major Flute Festivals.  If you do plan on putting on major Flute Festivals, it is suggested that you consult with a group that is an established nonprofit corporation and has experience in this area.

2.    Meeting Dates, Times, and Places

Decide how often you will meet.  Usually, groups meet monthly; however, there is no set frequency.  Meet when your members wish to meet in order to best serve your goals as a group.  Next, decide what time and day you want to meet (e.g., do you always want to meet on the 2nd Saturday of each month at 2:00 p.m.?).  Later, you can poll the members of your group to find what days and times best fit with your membership, and adjust accordingly.  This will vary from group to group.  When scheduling your meetings from month to month, it’s always a good idea to check for other events, festivals, etc., that you may be conflicting with.  We have a National Calendar of Annual Flute Events/Festivals, which is the link at the top of our Calendar page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.  In order to avoid scheduling conflicts for your members and visitors, check for Annual Flute Festivals, major national holidays, and other important dates, and navigate around them when you plan your upcoming meetings.

Next, decide where you are going to meet.  Will you always in the same place?  Will you be meeting in someone’s home or other meeting place?  If you decide to meet regularly in someone’s home, make sure that their space is large enough to accommodate not only the number of people you have, but also their flutes and equipment.  Check out Fire Stations, Libraries, Churches, or other community organizations; they are usually free of charge if you are hosting a “community event.”  Some stores, coffee shops, and restaurants are also happy to lend their space to Flute Circles once a month.  Remember that the success or failure of your Flute Circle lies in part on the ease of accessibility of your location.  Most of our members live in the Portland Metro area of Oregon, so we try to choose locations that are close and convenient to our members for meetings.

After you decide on the dates, time, and place(s) you will meet, all you have to do is to let people know.  Some people mail letters, use the telephone, the internet, post fliers around their general locale, and/or use general website listings, such as FaceBook, myspace, a Yahoo or Google focus group, Craig’s List, or other websites of general interest to Native Flute players.  Some people like to have a lot of people at meetings, while others are interested in just a few.  Again, it all depends on what your vision is for your Flute Circle.

3.    Flute Circle Meeting Activities

You will also want to consider what activities you want to include in your meetings (e.g., potlucks, flute playing, business meetings, general announcements, event planning, workshops, guest speakers, instruction, picnics, group outings, projects, campouts, stargazing, nature walks, themed parties, Flute Circle games, etc.).  Again, this will depend on the nature, interests, and complexity of your Flute Circle.

Our group likes to meet around 3:00 p.m. on a Sunday, once a month.  We begin by playing Flutes, and then break for a community potluck around 5:00 p.m.  During the dinner hour, we have announcements, community news, and general socializing.  After the potluck, we continue playing together until we are done.  People leave whenever they have to, or stay as long as they want to, as their schedules permit.  You may decide to designate a specific length of time for your meetings, or go as long as people want to.  This will depend greatly on your venue and your host/ess.  Your group may also want to meet on a different day, or even an evening during the week, and dispose of having a community meal altogether.  I know of several Flute Circles that simply rely on what anyone wants to bring at any given time to any given meeting; and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, another that has monthly rotating Facilitators, with a packet that contains a checklist for the host/ess of any given monthly meeting of things to do to facilitate the meeting.  Find out what works best for your group.

Decide with your group what amenities, if any, the Flute Circle would like for these meetings (e.g., coffee, tea, sugar, cream, soft drinks, silverware, napkins, paper plates, cups, etc.).   Any or all of these items can be provided in any number of ways:  By Flute Circle funds, using a basket or “kitty” for donations to cover the costs of these items, or the actual items being donated by members as needed.

People need to eat at different times during the day, and have different medical needs.  Try to address their needs.  Will you have general “open” potlucks where everyone brings what they want?  Planned menu item potlucks?  Dessert potlucks?  Snack Foods?  Food provided by Flute Circle funds?  Will you decide on a specified time for having the potluck meal, or just have general snacking throughout the Flute Circle?  (We do not recommend chips or dip at Flute Circles, as it tends to get in the flutes).  Perhaps you want to dispense with food altogether at Flute Circle meetings, and just have beverages available.  If you decide to have potlucks, in whatever form you plan to have them, be sure and advise people to have their dish already prepared prior to their arrival at the Flute Circle.  This cuts down on a lot of chaos in the kitchen, where there is often limited space.  Be sure to let members know whether or not an oven and/or a microwave will be available for use during Flute Circles.  Also, make sure that there is adequate help in the kitchen.  As the Facilitator, you should not be hanging out in the kitchen.  You may want to ask for volunteers to keep an eye on the kitchen and make sure there is enough help for the host/ess.

If you choose to have potlucks, you have several options with respect to eating utensils.  Some Flute Circles who have opted for potlucks use plastic silverware and either wash it every time after Flute Circles or throw it away.  We chose to purchase an inexpensive set of silverware (under $10) that we use at Flute Circle meetings.  That way, it is easy to wash and set aside in a special Flute Circle container.  No ongoing costs for plastic silverware, and it is more sanitary and environmentally friendly.  The same could be done for plates and cups.  Our Flute Circle also purchased an inexpensive coffee pot under $10, together with a set of coffee mugs, so that these items would be available for Flute Circle meetings.

Another issue to decide upon is whether or not musicians who play other instruments besides the Native Flute (guitars, keyboards, etc.) will be invited and welcome.  Will “World Flutes” be a part of your Flute Circle?  Will percussion be a part of your Flute Circle?  I know of some Flute Circles who have very specific ideas about what instruments are and are not included in their idea of a “Flute Circle.”  We welcome any and all instruments, and are frequently blessed with a variety of World Flutes and other instruments.  We also have a Percussion Box filled with world percussion instruments, a selection of different drums, and a Moyo Drum available at each Flute Circle.  Members are also encouraged to bring whatever instruments and percussion they feel like bringing.

Another issue that requires careful thought and consideration is the general format of the Flute Circle and how the group wants to address and meet each individual’s personal wants and needs.  Many people seek out Flute Circles to learn more about playing techniques.  Others want to focus on performance issues.  Still others want to focus on duets or honing their solo or compositional skills.  Do you have people available who are able to answer these types of questions?  Some people are particularly interested in trying out many different flutes made by a variety of different flutemakers.  Suffice it to say that there is a wide variety of people with a wide variety of wants and needs present at any given Flute Circle.  Above all, remember that everyone is ultimately there to play music.  Some Flute Circles like to use a “popcorn” approach, and leave the mic open to whoever wants to play at any given time.  This approach also works well, unless there are a few people who dominate the mic, or others who are too shy to approach the mic.  One of the ways we have found to resolve this complex issue is to go around the Circle, with each person being able to name what they would like to hear or do when it is their turn.  There is no “passing;” however, shy people or people who do not play flutes do not have to play when it comes to their turn.  They can use their turn to request that they would like to hear another person play, or two other people do a duet, etc., and all are free to say whether or not they wish percussion or other instruments as accompaniment.  Frequently, people use their turn to recite poetry and play flute, or sing a drum song.  Still others request to learn a new embellishment technique, have a mini rhythm lesson, or ask another question.  We have many Flute Circle “games” we have developed over time that are frequently requested during someone’s turn.  (See our Article on “Flute Circle Games” in the Articles section at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org).  The possibilities and variety are endless.  By utilizing this format, we ensure that each person is responsible for getting their own wants and needs met, and all members benefit from the sharing of playing techniques and knowledge.  This makes each Flute Circle fresh, varied, interesting, and exciting.

Because we believe in the inherent healing power of the Native American Flute, and music in general, we invite anyone who knows of someone who is in ill health, is suffering, or has experienced an unfortunate event, etc., to ask for Flute Prayers.  Often people will have issues with the word “prayer.”  Another way of explaining it is that it is a “wish” for health and healing.   If there are multiple requests, we sometimes go around the circle and each person briefly speaks their healing wish, and then plays something short for the person in need.  We also have a page on our website for Flute Prayer requests which are open to anyone by request (see, the link at the top of the Announcements page at  www.cascadiaflutecircle.org).

If there is sufficient interest and availability, you may choose to have a time during which visiting or resident flutemakers may sell their flutes.  Another possibility is having a table where Flute Circle members may sell or trade those flutes that they no longer wish to have in their collection with other members or guests.

4.    Alcohol and Native American Flute Circles

You will need to address as a group the controversial issue of whether or not you wish to allow alcoholic beverages at your Flute Circles.  There are many factors to consider, not the least of which are cultural, with the presence of alcohol at Flute Circle meetings.  Many Native people will not attend events where alcohol is served.  Since we have a lot of Native members, in deference to our brothers’ and sisters’ cultural traditions, our Flute Circle has chosen to be drug and alcohol free.  If you have a website or other way to notify people, it is suggested that you state your policy there clearly so that there are no misunderstandings.

5.    Visitors/Potential Members

It is a good idea to pre-screen potential visitors/members either on the telephone or in person.  E-mail is not sufficient.  When you chat with them on the phone (or in person), give them some general information about what they can expect when they visit your Flute Circle meetings; let them know whether or not they need to bring a potluck item; and if they can bring other instruments in addition to their Native American Flutes, etc.  Find out a little bit about their Native Flute background and interests, so that you will have a rough idea of their Native Flute journey and whether or not your Flute Circle is what they are looking for.  Also, inquire whether or not they have any special dietary needs or medical issues, and, if so, encourage them to take care of any special requirements by bringing whatever they will need with them and/or to the potluck.  Often, visitors will be unsure what to bring to a potluck.  We have a special page of Flute Circle Recipes (see, the link at the top of the Member Services page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org), which contains a wealth of healthy, inexpensive, and tasty dishes, ranging from simple to complex in preparation.  Be sure to answer any questions that the visitor may have about your group.  After you are satisfied that this person will be in harmony with your group, be sure to give them the location, address, and time of the next Flute Circle meeting.  We do not recommend publishing the addresses of Flute Circle meetings on your website or other public forum if they are held at people’s personal residences.  This has the dual function of protecting their privacy, and encouraging people to contact the Facilitator for further information, thus allowing you to screen potential visitors.  In addition, this also helps to ascertain a rough head count in terms of meeting food, seating, and general space requirements.

6.    Facilitation

As the Facilitator, you will want to establish a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, providing an informal way for people to get to know each other.  Your goal is to create a safe, nurturing and supportive environment for everyone, no matter what their playing ability.  Nothing is more infectious than a positive attitude and your passion for the Native American Flute.  Remember that people are there to collectively share their ideas and music, and this is not a place for you to impose your own agenda.  Be diligent in responding to people’s requests and concerns as quickly and as completely as possible.  You will also want to ensure that the meetings run smoothly and comfortably.  If there are a lot of new visitors, it might be helpful to go around the Circle and have everyone introduce themselves and say a little about themselves, so that visitors and members alike have an opportunity to introduce themselves to each other.  Be sensitive to shyness.  Many people involved with the Native American Flute are extremely introverted, and it is a supreme effort and somewhat challenging to visit a Flute Circle for the first time or even regularly.  Our Flute Circle members consider themselves ambassadors to the Flute Circle at all times, and make an effort to greet and talk to new people and visitors, rather than ignoring them.  While we love to socialize with each other, we try to do our visiting, share new Flutes, and make our announcements during the potluck/dinner hour, so that we can maximize our playing time.

As with any group or community, over time, you are likely to run into interpersonal issues along the way.  Be sure, as the Facilitator, to be available to, and keep in contact with, the Flute Circle members, and address issues sooner, rather than later.  Should a situation arise, DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR THIRD-HAND.  Encourage people to resolve their differences, rather than just having them leave in a huff.  If people are not able to resolve their differences, as the Facilitator, you may wish to act as a mediator.  At all times, try to avoid triangulation and speak to the person directly.  If interpersonal problems arise, address them immediately; do not let them fester.  It is suggested that you have an “open door” policy when it comes to any issues your members wish to discuss surrounding the Flute Circle.   We also have a Flute Circle “Suggestion Box.”  That way, people who are shy about either e-mailing or telephoning about an issue or suggestion, may anonymously place it in the Suggestion Box.  Remember to keep as many channels of communication open with members are you can.

Often, as a Flute Circle grows, the needs of some of the members will change.  Have an agreed-upon plan in place for an orderly split of the group.  For example, another group might split off and form, choose a new name, and become either a Clan of the original Flute Circle, or become a separate Flute Circle entirely.  Try to make these events as peaceful and orderly as possible.

For a wonderful and inspiring short article on Flute Circles, see the article entitled “Flute Circles” by John De Boer on our Articles page, at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.

7.    Ongoing Contact With Members

In order to get in touch with members, notify them of upcoming meetings, concerts, events, and/or workshops, you may want to keep some kind of Roster, such as an .xls spreadsheet (or other type of spreadsheet or system) of Flute Circle members’ personal contact info, such as address, home and mobile telephone numbers, and e-mail address.  Our Flute Circle has gone “green” and no longer uses the U.S. Mail to send out copies of quarterly calendars, etc.  We have opted to send out this information via the internet.  This eliminates a lot of printing, copying, collating, folding, stapling, and stamping time and expense, not to mention saving trees!  If you do opt to utilize the internet, you will want to find an alternate way to notify those people who do not have internet access, such as the telephone.  It is recommended that you do NOT hand this roster out to people.  If someone is trying to get in touch with another member, it is a simple thing for you to check with that member and put them in touch with whoever is looking for them.  Of course, people are always free to share their contact information freely themselves with whomever they wish. 

If you are utilizing the internet, compose a “group” e-mail list of Flute Circle members.  ALWAYS send out your Flute Circle group e-mails with YOUR NAME/ADDRESS in the “TO” field; and the Group in the “BCC” (Blind Carbon Copy) field.  This prevents people from lifting your entire e-list, takes up less bandwidth, and prevents SPAMMERs from accessing your e-list.  Be sure to let your members (and others) know that you value their privacy and that you do not share their e-mail addresses with anyone, without their prior consent.  Keep a separate e-list for non-members (for notification of upcoming events, concerts, workshops, etc.).  Again, be sure to let the people on this list know that you do not share their e-mail addresses with anyone, without their prior consent.

8.    Network with other Flute Circles and their Leaders

For some people, meeting once a month is not enough.  We encourage people to visit as many other Flute Circles as possible.  As a Facilitator, try to build a support network of other Flute Circle Facilitators.  This can help you to generate new ideas for activities for your group, avoid future pitfalls down the road, and learn from other Facilitators what works and does not work.  Talking with other Facilitators can also give you a wealth of new ideas to keep your Flute Circle from getting stale and predictable.  Get involved and support other Flute Circles and their events.  You are not an island unto yourself, and there is a very broad network of Native American Flute Circles across the country.  Consider having a “Flute Circle Exchange” with another Flute Circle.  This is where another group visits yours, and your group visits theirs, alternately.  It is a wonderful way to meet new people, learn new things, and connect with other Flute Circles.  There is also a Forum at The Flute Portal for Flute Circle Facilitators (see, www.fluteportal.com, the “Circle of Circles” Forum).

9.    Flute Circle Etiquette

As with all groups, do not assume that everyone shares the same ideas around appropriate behaviour.  Educate your members, visitors, and potential members about appropriate Flute Circle Etiquette.  We have developed a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) for our new members, which is e-mailed out to them after they join our Flute Circle.  Some of the topics you may wish to consider addressing that are covered in our FAQ include:

    a.    We do not engage in back chat or flute playing when people are on deck playing;

    b.    We refrain from touching other people’s flutes or other personal instruments without permission;

    c.    We refrain from touching other people’s jewelry, clothing, etc., without permission;

    d.    We respect the hosting member’s household and pets, avoid dropping food on rugs, use coasters instead of placing glasses on furniture, avoid damaging furniture, show kindness to animals, and respect the pet feeding and handling policies of the host/ess, etc.;

    e.    Cleanup after Flute Circle:  Our motto is that you should leave a place cleaner than you found it;

    f.    We do not engage in idle gossip;

g.    We do not allow drugs or alcohol at our Flute Circles; nor do we permit intoxicated individuals to attend (smoking is permitted outside); and

    h.    There should be no religion bashing or proselytizing

10.    Safety

Every Flute Circle is different, and we take great pains to keep ours a safe place, both physically and emotionally, and in terms of exploring our musical creativity.  Many people have been wounded in their youth by the Western European Musical Tradition.  Make sure that your Flute Circle is a SAFE PLACE for people in all meanings of the word.  We have a few, simple guidelines for members and visitors to accomplish this:

    a.    While we laugh and fall out frequently, we honour each person’s musical expression, and there is no jeering or judging of other people’s playing.  Remember, you can’t judge “heart music;”

    b.    We also try to avoid the topics of religion and politics, and focus on the Native Flute;

    c.    We encourage learning new things and asking questions, so we feel that there is no such thing as a “stupid question;”

    d.    We support creativity and experimentation in our Flute Circles, without censure;

    e.    Our Flute Circle format encourages each person to be responsible for getting their own wants and needs met during their turn, while still being very organic and open in nature;

    f.    We ask that, if someone is ill or has been exposed to a cold or the flu, they let people know, and do not share their flutes or play flutes belonging to others;

    g.    We at all times respect each other’s person and property;

    h.    We do not share other people’s private information and/or photos without prior consent;

    i.    If you are unhappy with something, let the Facilitator know your concerns immediately (i.e., don’t wait 6 months to bring up an issue); and

j.    Although it goes without saying, we state it anyway:  No hitting or other inappropriate physical contact.

PART II
THINGS TO CONSIDER DOWN THE ROAD

After you have had a few meetings, you may or may not want to start thinking about some long-term goals for your Flute Circle.  Here are some optional areas of exploration for your group:

1.    Develop a Focus/Mission Statement

Some groups have a particular focus (e.g., festival planning, benefit work, community outreach, learning new techniques, teaching, performing, etc.).  Have everyone discuss and decide on what, if any, focus your group will have.  This can always be revisited periodically.  Once you have decided on your initial focus, develop a “Mission Statement” or “Motto” or other short statement that describes the goals/aim of your Flute Circle.  This exercise will help you and your group be clear about the focus of the group.  It is also helpful to refer to when visitors want to know more about your group.  It is up to you whether or not you make it public.  We have a “Flute Circle Prayer” that describes what we are all about:
Flute Circle Prayer
Let this Circle be a healthy community we create when we gather to share the universal language of music enjoyed by all people from all walks of life.  Let this Circle share of its time, talent and treasure, and promote the healing properties of music and the Native American Flute.  Let this Circle engender the spirit of kindness and cooperation in our thoughts, deeds and actions, always working for the greater good of all.  Let this Circle honour all our relations and treat all beings with love and respect.  Let this Circle be a safe haven to all who enter here, whoever you are, and wherever you may be on your Flute journey.  You are welcome.
 Ho!  Mitakuye Oyasin ("We Are All Related").

2.    Structure

Decide on the structure of the Flute Circle (e.g., no structure whatsoever, facilitator, committee, elected officers, etc.).  Some very effective groups have no formal structure at all, simply an e-list inviting people to attend monthly.  This is really all you might need or want.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, other groups have a very formal structure, with elected officers.  Our group has experimented with a couple of different formats, and has found the best success with a person acting as a “Facilitator.”  It has been our experience that people don’t usually like to take up valuable time with business meetings, elections, etc., when they could be playing the Native Flute!  Base your decision about how much, or how little, structure you wish to have depending on the goals of your Flute Circle and the wishes of your members.

Decide if you would like a formal voting process for internal issues.  Irrespective of whether you have a Facilitator or elected officers, decide on which kinds of issues you want handled via group consensus or, for expediency, which types of issues can be decided by the Facilitator without group consensus.  Remember that many heads are better than one.  If you are the Facilitator, hopefully, you are able to delegate well, and ask for help when you need it in order to avoid burnout.  Including group members in accomplishing tasks also has the added benefit of helping people know and feel that they are a contributing part of their group.  Remember to utilize the skills of the people in the group—undoubtedly there will be many people with many different talents and skills—get to know them.

3.    Dues   

Flute Circles need not have dues; in fact, many don’t find it necessary at all.  Some Flute Circles simply put out a basket as an informal “kitty” for voluntary donations to cover the cost of coffee, tea, sugar, creamer, etc.  Others rely on donations of these items from members.  However, depending on the size and mission or focus of the group, having dues may help to cover certain costs, such as bi-annual DBA filing fees, website hosting fees, webmaster fees, supplies, etc.  Depending on how you decide to host your meetings, even food and beverages can become quite costly over time.  You will want to decide whether or not you are going to have dues, and, if so, how much, and their frequency.  Be aware that having dues will complicate things by needing someone to take on the responsibility of collecting them.  Most groups who have dues decide to collect dues annually.  They should be reasonable.  Decide together what Flute Circle expenses you want dues to cover.  Also, decide together what Flute Circle benefits a member can expect in exchange for their dues.  Decide what month annually you will collect dues.  We have a form for dues that we send out annually, with a cutoff date for their receipt.   If you are charging dues annually, try to avoid having to “prorate” dues, which can quickly become a very time-consuming and confusing endeavor.  For example, our dues are due annually in the month of October.  We have new members joining all of the time, and, in order not to dun new members more than necessary in the same year, our cutoff date is June 1st.  If you joined and paid your dues prior to June 1st, then you would owe dues again in October.  The following year, then everyone’s dues would be due again in October.  If you joined in the month of June or later, you would not owe dues until the following year in October.  I’m quite sure that there are many alternative ways to address this issue—be creative!

Decide if only dues-paying members are allowed to attend Flute Circles and participate in workshops, or if you will be open to everyone, membership notwithstanding.  Decide if you want to limit how many times a person can visit before becoming a member (e.g., do you want to get to know this person before inviting them into your group?  Do you want to limit how many times a person can remain a “visitor” without becoming a member?).  We have chosen not to have any limitations or restrictions on participation in our Flute Circles.  In fact, we have people (both members and non-members) who attend that do not even play the Native Flute.  Our feeling is that, if you can shake a rattle and you love Native Flute music, you’re welcome to attend!  There will also be many times when, due to unforeseen circumstances, or income level, people will be unable to afford to pay dues.  Decide how you want to address financial hardship.   Keep in touch with your members and be sensitive when addressing changes in life circumstances.

If you are going to have dues, open a bank account in the Facilitator’s name, “dba [Flute Circle name].”  A “dba” (“doing business as”) account is how banks handle small community groups who are not formal associations or corporations.  You will need to decide whether or not you want a co-signer on the account, should something happen to the Facilitator.

I also would suggest an “open door” policy with respect to members wanting to review the financial records of the Flute Circle

4.    Website

Decide whether or not your group is going to invest in a website.  While a website is not a necessity for a Flute Circle, it can be a wonderful resource for your members and others who are interested in the Native American Flute.  As an alternative to a website, you could use “myspace” as a relatively easy way to post information, a FaceBook or Twitter page for the group, start up a Yahoo or Google group, or utilize some other public forum.  All of these alternatives to a formal website are free of charge. Please remember that not everyone wants or has access to FaceBook and/or Twitter.  On our website, we have an “About Us” page, which helps people decide if our group would be compatible with their needs and if they would be in harmony with our stated goals.  Our Calendar of Flute Circle meeting dates is also always posted and available for members and potential visitors to check.  Whether or not you decide to have a website or other public forum may also depend on your mission/focus and resources.  A website can be as simple as a one-page calendar, or contain many different pages and resources.  Take a look at as many other Flute Circle websites as you can (either on www.fluteportal.com, or www.INAFA.org) to see how their websites are structured.  You will find a lot of variance, which will give you a lot of inspiration in planning for your own group.  The Flute Portal (see, www.fluteportal.com), offers a free, one-page website for Flute Circles to get you started.  Research your options prior to deciding if a website is for you.  Do you have enough funds for the web hosting, domain name, and other associated fees?  Do you have someone (perhaps yourself) who is skilled in web design to act as your Webmaster?  You may want to explore one of the website alternatives listed above.  What types of information will you want to include on your site?  For example, since we are located in the Pacific Northwest, we also include a lot of cultural information on our website.  If you use other sources for information on your website, please always be sure to obtain their permission prior to posting articles and/or linking to their websites.  You will want to tailor your website for your geographical area, goals, and interests.  Because legal problems can arise, in order to protect your name and assets (unfortunately, we speak from experience here), we make the following recommendations:  If you decide on a formal website, the website and its domain name (e.g., your Flute Circle name) should be held in the personal name of the Facilitator, NOT the Flute Circle (the website itself can be called by the Flute Circle name).  No one besides the Facilitator and the Webmaster (if you have one) should have the password to the website.  Put a copyright notice on EACH PAGE of your website.  Do not link to people you don’t know and trust personally.  If you include photos on your website, have a statement as to whom the photos legally belong.  Put your Webmaster’s e-mail address only for contact purposes, not their personal telephone number.  Have general inquiries directed to the Facilitator.  If you have decided to invest in a website, secure the following domains:  .org, .net, .com, and .info.  Sometimes people get confused with whether you are a .net, .org, or .com, .info, etc.  These can all be easily linked to your website, so that no matter what suffix is entered, the person will be directed automatically to your Flute Circle website.  Often, your Internet Service Provider (ISP)/Website hosting company will have package deals where you can get everything you need with one ISP at a reduced price. It is, of course, easiest to have all of your services bundled with one provider; however, not absolutely necessary.  Depending on your level of expertise, it is highly recommended that you find an ISP with 24/7 customer support.  Check with several different providers for their fee structure.  As with the website and domain names, these suffixes should be held in the name of the Facilitator, NOT the Flute Circle itself.

PART III
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Lastly, the following section lists some additional topics for consideration by your Flute Circle down the road, once the group has established itself and is operating smoothly.

1.    Using Live Sound & Effects at Flute Circles

Flute Circles are a wonderful place to learn new techniques, see and try new flutes, meet new flutemakers, share information, meet new friends and socialize with people; and also for people to improve and gain more confidence in their playing skills.  It is recommended that you offer a mic and effects (such as delay and reverb) at your meetings, so that people will become more experienced with playing with a mic.  This can be accomplished very inexpensively.  There are many places (online, or at used music shops) where you can obtain a mic, boom stand, some cable, and a small, battery-powered amp with delay and reverb effects very inexpensively.  Having a mic and boom stand at meetings helps people to become more confident and practiced with working with equipment, helps people to overcome stage fright, and become more confident in playing in front of other people.

2.    Workshops

Another request that frequently comes up is the availability of Workshops.  How will you address the needs of members of the Flute Circle who wish to have Native Flute workshops?  Is there someone skilled enough in your Flute Circle to lead these Workshops?  Will you bring in an established teacher or performer to lead these kinds of Workshops?  We have done many different variations on this theme.  If there are enough members who wish to bring in someone from the outside who has expertise in a particular topic or with a particular instrument, we contact them and set up a Workshop.  We also have had many different workshops that are loosely connected to playing the Native American Flute.  Some examples are:  Drumming techniques; recording a CD; beading flute wraps; learning to play the Didgeridoo; drum-making; making rattles; traditional drumming and singing; etc.  Whatever the group decides it would like to do.  If there are available funds in the Flute Circle bank account, dues-paying members receive the workshop free; non-members pay a fee.  If there are not extra funds available, everyone, both members and non-members, pays a reasonable fee.  As the Facilitator, your job is to address the wants and needs of the Flute Circle membership and use your available resources and best efforts to make it happen.

3.    Group Outings

Often a group will decide that they want to schedule an activity in addition to or in place of their regular Flute Circle meeting.  For example, we have gone on short trips to visit other Flute Circles, gone to visit flutemakers and take a tour of their shops and purchase flutes, gone on field trips to locate items for making rattles, gone to a special place to play flutes, gone on picnics, etc.  We make every attempt to carpool and schedule events so that most people are able to attend.  Of course, not everyone will be interested in every activity.   Again, look to your members and their expressed interests and wishes.

4.    Logo

If you desire to have a logo for your group, be sure to develop a logo you can live with.  Be creative with your artwork.  Your logo design can be either be very simple or very complex.  With the advent of computer programs, a logo can be created easily and be used on websites, in e-mails, on labels, on patches, stickers, clothing, hats, T-shirts, flute cases,  gear bags, coffee cups, etc.  There are companies with catalogs who will put your logo on just about anything you desire.

5.    Fundraising

Depending on the goals of your Flute Circle, you may want to develop fundraising activities to bring funds into your Flute Circle for a specific purpose, such as funding an outing, a workshop, or the purchase of a special piece of equipment for the benefit of the group.  Some ideas for this are:  Flute raffles, soliciting donations, fund matching programs, benefit performances, etc.  One of our Flute Circle’s stated purposes is providing concert performances by members and/or other performers as fundraising events for charitable organizations, and we have raised funds for wheelchair accessibility, for many different Native organizations, orphans, etc.  The Native American Flute really can make a difference!  If you plan on giving performances by members, you will want to set aside adequate rehearsal and organizational time for participants outside of regular Flute Circle meetings.

6.    Group Membership with Organizations

Although it is not mandatory for a Flute Circle to be affiliated with any other group or organization, there are a couple of organizations to which it might behoove your group to belong.  For example, decide if your group will be a member of organizations such as The International Native American Flute Association (INAFA).  If so, for ease in communication and dealing with other pertinent issues, the Facilitator would usually be the person designated as the “INAFA Representative.”  Please be aware that INAFA charges annual membership dues.  See www.inafa.org for more information.  The Flute Portal is another wonderful organization of interest to Native American Flute players.  The Flute Portal does not charge membership dues.  See www.fluteportal.com for more information.  Each organization has its unique benefits, and both are great resources for Native Flute enthusiasts.

Lastly, remember not to take yourself too seriously, and HAVE FUN!  By taking the time to address your group’s wants and needs, your Flute Circle will develop into a wonderful community of people, rich with many different talents and gifts, who all come together peacefully and joyfully for the love of the Native American Flute.

These are only suggestions, and hopefully we have given you some ideas that you may not have originally thought of—you are only limited by your imagination!  If you have any additional questions, or need further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at alaria@syrynx.net.  Many thanks to all those Native Flute Circle leaders who took the time to impart their wisdom and give their constructive suggestions for this Article.  You know who you are!


                                                                    Copyright 2010, Stephanie Baldridge