Expressions Magazine Jan 2006
Fluting Around the World
From Las Vegas to Russia, Kat Epple c
rosses cultural divides with her magic flute.
by Cathy Chestnut
Everyone knows who Kat Epple is. The lithe, blonde flutist is a fixture
on the sidewalk, steps or stage at just about any major cultural event
that happens in this area.
With 15 albums to her name, Epple has produced from her North
Fort Myers studio music and soundtracks for television programs and networks, including National Geographic, NOVA, CNN, Turner Broadcasting, Guiding Light and Another World.
The recipient of eight Emmy Awards, 10 Addy Awards and a Grammy nomination, Epple’s musicality includes composing ambient electronic music. Her muse has taken her around the world – from the hinterlands of the Amazon in search of indigenous flutes to a concert tour through Russia to major art exhibit openings by modern artist Robert Rauschenberg, with whom she is close friends.
A Lee County resident since 1990, Epple is a self-described “travel junkie” who has been to China, Africa, Europe, Peru, Mexico, Japan, Costa Rica and the Caribbean to learn about different cultures and their musical traditions – and to share her music with them.
What drew you to the flute? I’ve always loved the sound of the flute, even as a child, before I knew what it was. I guess it’s just the sound. Also the mythology and fables around flutes and flute-players, from The Pied Piper to Pan.
Tell me about your flute collection. I have around 200. I’ve been to Africa, China…I love to meet flute makers and flute players and play music with them.
What is the most fascinating thing you learned about music or anthropology in collecting flutes? Almost every culture has its own version of flutes. You can travel down the Amazon and see a flute in one village, and a few miles away, the next village has a different flute, different dance tradition, different language.
How did you meet Robert Rauschenberg? At the home of Dr. John and Mrs. Fran Fenning [in Fort Myers]. I was blowing on empty wine bottles and he was playing with chopsticks, playing on the plates and the wine bottles, and we were making music together.
You’ve traveled with him all over the world for art openings, from New York City to Spain, to France. What is it like traveling with him? He is such an inspiration to me. He’s opened up a lot of the world to me, with art, travel, etcetera. He and I sometimes talk about how art and music are so similar. When I approach visual art, I approach it as music. That’s the way I see it.
He did your last album cover for Azure Pieces of Life? Yes. I was really honored. [The piece is titled Catfish Tails.]
As a friend and a colleague, what is it like being close to someone so world renowned? I always feel like I’m in the company of greatness. Traveling with him is like traveling with a rock star.
You play at a lot of interesting gigs, from New York to Los Angeles to Las Vegas. How does that happen? I’m really good at staying in touch with people and in my travels, I meet a lot of people. That’s just the web we weave of people we get to know.