Ohio Ex-Cop Performs Native American Flute
“I was in law enforcement in Dayton for 14 years. We had a police rock band, a kickin’ band, with anti-drug and self-esteem themes. It got so popular the chief let us travel,” said Douglas Blue Feather. Today, however, he is retired from the force and instead he plays the flute, picking up national music awards.
This self-taught, nationally-acclaimed, Native-American flautist appeared last Saturday, Nov. 3, in Warner Concert Hall. His venue was an intimate one, deliberately cut close to the audience by wooden screens and Blue Feather’s own informal preface to each piece.
During intermission, he came even closer, mingling by a rack of recordings and flutes, introducing their make to the crowd and issuing tips on embouchure and embellishments as children and their parents took turns tooting through hygienic straws.
His first performance set consisted largely of haunting, wraithlike flute solos, with the second of the contemporary pieces backed by pre-recorded instrumentals. Blue Feather, also his own soundman, handled reverb and song selection through an onstage console linked to an iPod. Notable among the second set were “When the Waves Came,” a vigil light amidst simulacra of storm for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and “Beauty is Restored,” which collaborates with a female voice artist telling of heaven on earth.
The performance was preceded by an afternoon workshop on basic flute technique. Conservatory senior Danielle Koplinka-Loehr, who had attended his class, was invited mid-concert to improvise alongside the artist.
Blue Feather is of Cherokee lineage, traceable to the eastern band of North Carolina. Music, specifically Beatlemania, infected him at the age of 14 as he took to drums and rock n’ roll. Not quite breaking through the music scene on the percussion ticket, he eventually settled into a career as a police officer that he remarked proved satisfying nevertheless.
“I enjoyed helping people [through law enforcement]. If it weren’t for my eye injury, I’d still be doing it,” Blue Feather said.
He referred indirectly to the incident as a turning point of personal spiritual import, one that guided him home to his heritage to “help in a different way.”
“Onstage, I have made people cry, I have cried myself — music touches people. It is healing and energetic. Breath is the extension of creation, and that is why this flute is called a heart instrument.”
Blue Feather, a songwriter, recording artist and performer, is recognized by Native Peoples Magazine as an ace musician of the Native American culture. He has released nine CDs in ten years and is the recipient of four Native American Music Awards (Nammys), including the sixth annual award for “Flautist of the Year.” His next recording, conceptualized as flexuous and ambient, will be titled Sacred Space.