Teenagers may pick up the guitar, but love of the flute is usually born in childhood. Just ask Laura Weatherington, a founder of the Baltimore Flute Choir.
"According to my grandfather, I started at age 3. But I don't know if that's true. He told a lot of stories," the Parkville resident said.
She does know that flute was her chosen instrument by the third grade. Its appeal to her is the instrument's versatility.
"The flute has a lot of different tonal qualities — dark, rich, bright, sassy," said Weatherington, whose day job is director of religious education at St. Ursula Roman Catholic Church in Parkville.
Weatherington was taking time out during the flute choir's weekly Sunday evening rehearsal at St. John's Lutheran Church, across the street from St. Ursula. After a stint rehearsing at Towson University, the 9-year-old ensemble has found a home at St. John's.
The ensemble plays about seven concerts a year and is preparing for its last two of 2013 — at the Loch Raven Festival of the Arts, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30, at Loch Raven United Methodist Church, and at the Kenilworth Mall in Towson, 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 1.
The flute is regarded as the earliest musical instrument, dating back at least 35,000 years in Europe, where hollow animal bones fashioned into flutes have been found.
More recently, the Baltimore Flute Choir came together in 2004 after Crystal Niedzwiadek and Weatherington attended a concert by Nestor Torres, the renowned jazz flutist.
They saw an opportunity to launch a Baltimore ensemble. Word of mouth spread the news, largely through Holden McAleer's musical instrument repair shop in Lauraville.
McAleer's is where Martha Seay, a budget analyst for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, heard about the choir and signed up. She is currently the ensemble's president.
The Hamilton resident said she was in third grade when her school's band director put on a demonstration of different instruments. The boy who played flute caught her eye.
"I had a real crush," she said.
Her devotion to the alto flute is an affair of the heart, not the purse, even though she said flutists can earn some cash playing at weddings, funerals and other gatherings.
"But that's not why we do this. When I'm here [at rehearsal], I'm so glad I'm here," she said.
Fellow member Amanda Stevens, also of Hamilton, is an oncology nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center who comes from a musical family. She started the flute in fourth grade and now plays the C flute and the piccolo.
"I love being able to express myself," she said.
She is a veteran of marching bands, including bands at Bel Air High School and Towson University. She also played in the Baltimore Ravens Marching Band in 2005 and 2006.
She heard about the Baltimore Flute Choir from a friend and decided to join. She enjoys that flute players can sometimes be front and center.
"In a marching band, we're in the back of the field," she said.
Erin Mellott, who works in arts management for a ballet scholarship competition, said members of her family play the clarinet, organ and flute. She learned to play the flute from her mother in fifth grade, when her family was living in Beltsville.
"She switched to the bassoon, but I stayed with the flute," she said.
Mellott played through her years at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, where she belonged to the Mid-Atlantic Flute Association, and later at Towson University.
It was while a student at Towson that she fell in love with Baltimore and decided to leave Prince George's County. She currently lives in Ednor Gardens Lakeside near Lake Montebello.
She enjoys the versatility of the reedless wind instrument.
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"You can play by yourself or with an orchestra. You can play melody or harmony. It's a well-rounded instrument," she said.