As a young boy, Joseph FireCrow heard the flute played by elders from his Cheyenne reservation in Montana where he was raised. Currently, Joseph resides in Winsted, Connecticut and he mentions that he has been attracted to the beauty of the sound of the flute his whole life. Joseph is now a Grammy nominated and NAMA award winning musician. A very soft spoken man with a beautiful singing voice and tremendous talent for playing the flute, his journey has been interesting, educational and inspirational.
Question and Answer with Joseph FireCrow
Q: What were some of your early inspirations?
A: “John Rainer of New Mexico has played some of the most beautiful flute I ever heard. Other people that have been a tremendous inspiration to me are the flute men of my tribe who would come up with their own traditional melodies.”
Q: How is the flute utilized in your culture?
A: “The tradition is kept alive in my tribe. The flute is played in the evening time to symbolize the sun going down. Young men would carry the flute and play songs of love. The flute was used to help heal the sick, which was ahead of their time with music therapy. It was also there for naming your children.”
Q: What is the process in creating a flute?
A: “You ask permission to use the tree in a good way from your heart. We still continue the tradition of making our flutes by hand. Growing up where I lived in Montana, you would take a juniper, or pine tree, split it in two pieces, carve it out like a canoe, carve out a chamber, and one side will have finger holes for melody. The process is long, but worth it in the end. It takes a lot of years just to master making a good flute consistently.”
Q: When did you take your talent more serious?
A: “In my 30s, I began making flutes, and in my late 30s, I started playing the flute more seriously. The musician with in me erupted and melodies poured out of me. I began the path of making it my life. And ever since then, it’s been an amazing journey. I have been mixing traditional Native American music with modern music.”
Q: Do you feel music is a good expression of oneself?
A: “Yes, I feel that music helps express feelings. You learn about yourself through the music from the sounds you produce. There are certain songs that can make you happy. Certain low keys can give a certain melancholy or a haunting beauty.”
Q: Would you say you are living your dream?
A: “I would say I am living my dream. My main concern though with native culture is that there is a lot of misinformation out there. And with permission of my elders, I wanted to share and present our stories in a traditional way. I want to teach people about the importance of the flute. I enjoy teaching the children and seeing thousands of kids’ minds opening up. I like to answer any questions they have. The other thing is I am walking with my wife during this process. To me, that is priceless. The last thing is, the music is available and getting to the world. Finally people get to hear this type of music.”