Albert Tipton, Flutist

Professional Positions

[This information I have pieced together from various web pages and from correspondence with Alexander Lesueur. It should not be regarded as authoritative.]

Biographical Sketch

A brief sketch of his career is contained in the National Flute Association's Cyber-museum.

Since I originally wrote this web page, a much more authoritative document has appeared. While Heather Small was a D.M.A candidate at FSU, she wrote The Life and Teaching of Flutist Albert Tipton: 1917-1997 for her dissertation. It is an excellent resource.

Discography

This is a list of recordings I have that feature Albert Tipton.

Personal Recollections

I went to Florida State University in 1968 as a freshman on a flute scholarship. Through sheer luck for me, Albert Tipton had just left the Detroit Symphony to become Professor of Flute at FSU. I was fortunate enough to study with him for seven years until he left for a corresponding position at Rice University.

The first lessons I had with him consisted mainly of playing scales very slowly so that I could learn about tone and intonation. As I write this in 2005, I'm not sure how much my memory may have been influenced by other reports I have read in the intervening decades, but my recollection is that he was not at all interested in working on repertoire with me until I could play in tune correctly.

While in high school, I had developed an intense interest in musical acoustics and the physics of music, so I thought I was in heaven when Albert Tipton started teaching me to listen for difference tones when the two of us played together and also to listen for the momentary difference tone that occurs just after the transition from one note to the next - the echo of the previous note interacts with the current note for the length of the echo to produce the difference tone.

After I reached a certain level of competance in my intonation and tone, we worked more on literature. However, intonation work was at least a small part of nearly every lesson.

I don't think I fully appreciated how great Tipton played the flute until I heard his first faculty recital during his first year at FSU. Words fail me in describing what an impression his playing made on me. I looked forward to his annual recital with an anticipation that I can only compare with the excitement I had for the approaching of Christmas when I was very young.

I remember attending an interdisciplinary seminar on musical acoustics with Tipton. The seminar was organized by Michael Kasha in the Institue of Molecular Biophysics across the campus from the music building. I don't remember how Tipton and I got involved, but he and I attended the seminar together for a quarter or two. Although Tipton was the only non-scientist in the group, he was remarkably perceptive about what was going on even during the technical discussions. I remember spending a lot of time outside of the seminar explaining the technical details to Tipton, and I was impressed at his intuitive grasp of the issues.

Once when I was giving a presentation to the seminar on the mathematics of scale temperament, I looked out and saw one of attendees struggling to stay awake. He happened to be a preiminant scientist, and in fact was a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. Then I looked over at Tipton, and he was just sitting there alert as ever soaking up every word.

Tipton was generous enough to spend an afternoon allowing me to tape record his playing along with several of his students as a part of a research project I was doing on intonation. Gunther Schwartz, Professor of Physics, had loaned me some space and equipment in his laboratory to use in the data collection.

Albert Tipton had enormous musical talent that put him head and shoulders above most other musicians I have known. Nevertheless, he was able to be very positive about his colleagues and students. He possessed an outward modesty and humility that belied his rare talent and accomplishments.

As I look back at my experiences in college, I view the time I spent with Albert Tipton (mostly in lessons) to be among the most positive and valuable experiences I had. It is difficult to quantify how he impacted me. But even as I write this almost 30 years after last seeing him, I still think of him, his music, and my lessons with him almost every day. I suspect that my optimistic outlook on life is partly a result of my exposure to him.