CHICAGO - Woodwind makers and performers will gather at the Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue this week from August 7 - 10 for the 42nd annual National Flute Convention.

More than 80 exhibitors are registered to showcase flutes and piccolos crafted from various materials. Many exhibitors are letting the woodwinds live up to their namesake by crafting flutes and headjoints from wood materials using both traditional and modern manufacturing techniques.

A reedless woodwind instrument, the flute produces sound as the player's breath crosses the mouthpiece and stirs up the air in its resonant cavity. Archaeologists have discovered flutes crafted from bamboo by musicians in China's Zhou dynasty (433 BCE), and flutes crafted from bear bones approximately 43,000 years ago by paleolithic hunters in what is now Slovenia.

Exhibitors at this year's convention include the Abell Flute Company, which crafts flutes and headjoints from African Blackwood and sterling silver. "The pungent, reedy tone produced with a wooden flute is unequaled in any other material," the company says. "While the brilliance of tone produced in the metal flutes is exquisite, there is a quality of sound, a dark rich fullness in the wooden instruments, which the metal flutes can only approach."

Dean-Yang Flutes will showcase its "Bubble Head" piccolo crafted from Grenadilla wood with plated mechanisms and a hand-cut headjoint, and Drelinger will showcase its patented grain-oriented air reed, crafted from headjoint crafted from African blackwood and cocus wood. Unlike traditional wood flute and piccolo headjoints which have a blow edge parallel with the direction of the wood grain, the Drelinger head joint orients the blow edge grain parallel to the oncoming air stream, much like other instruments such as a clarinet or oboe.

German craftsman Tobias Mancke will showcase wooden head joints crafted from grenadilla and mopane wood with 14K gold, and Nova Scotian flutemakers Forbes and Yola Christie of Windward Flutes will showcase wooden flutes crafted from African olive, grenadilla, mopane, kingwood, pink ivory wood, tulipwood and verawood.

"Our flutes are made of dense tropical woods, selected for their tone quality, integrity and beauty. We do not use endangered species of wood," Windward says. "We store the wood in a controlled environment for three or more years, to season and stabilize the billets, before they are gun-drilled and cut into flute blanks. Then, to prepare it for the real world, each blank lives through a year in ambient conditions while it is made into a flute."

Brent Haines of Woodsounds Flutes will showcase flutes crafted from cedar, walnut, cherry, grenadillo, and myrtle burl with hand-carved and polished embellishments.

Side Blown Technologies will also appear at the convention with headjoints for boehm and alto flutes crafted from boxwood, mahogany, york gum and silver, grenadilla, cocuswood and tulipwood.

In addition to the product showcase, the convention will feature performances, competitions, panel discussions and evening receptions.

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