Jane Hoffman: The Merry Piper


Jane Hoffman: The Merry Piper


Date: January 11, 2012
by: Heidi Kurpiela | A&E Editor



When Jane Hoffman was tooting “Mary had a Little Lamb” on a wooden recorder in elementary school, she had no idea the instrument would lead to a long career as a flautist.

Even when she was a flute major at College of the Redwoods, in Eureka, Calif., Hoffman never imagined she’d be at it for this long.

“It’s perseverance,” Hoffman says of the two decades she has spent teaching and playing the instrument she calls “an extension of herself.” “I stuck with it, somehow. There have been bumps for sure, but the little successes along the way have fed my inspiration.”

She’s attached to the slim pipe with the silver keys. In her lifetime, she’s only owned a few.

“There have been four major flutes,” she says. “When you get one, it becomes one-of-a-kind. It becomes part of you.”

She brings a small mug of coffee to her face and takes a long, hot sip. Preoccupied by a cat that keeps scratching to come in the back door, Hoffman, a Southgate resident, trails off in thought as she rises to her pet’s rescue.

“Each instrument has its own intonation,” she adds. “Each one is really personal.”

Listening to her talk about her old flutes is a little like listening to a woman talk about past loves, a comparison the mild-mannered musician isn’t apt to make herself.

A native of Seattle, Hoffman moved in 1997 to Sarasota. Since then she’s become a ubiquitous flautist-for-hire, playing weddings, concert halls, private dinners and big conventions.

“I teach and I gig,” she says plainly. A former faculty member at Humboldt State University in California, Hoffman currently teaches at Booker Middle School, Riverview High School, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and Chabad of Sarasota’s preschool.

For eight years she ran the Hecht School of Music out of the Flanzer Jewish Community Center until the center closed its doors in 2007.

She’s performed with the Sarasota Opera, the Sarasota Concert Band and the Craig Turley Orchestras, an Orlando-based show orchestra that provides classical musicians for popular contemporary music concerts.

Hoffman’s affiliation with Craig Turley has led to gigs playing for Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray and Brian Wilson.

“It doesn’t matter to me what I’m playing,” she says. “I like it all. Of course, to say I’ve played for a Beach Boy is exciting, because I grew up listening to their music.”

She also grew up listening to Lawrence Welk, whose image is framed like a family photo above the couch in her living room.

“My sister drew that picture in college,” she says, dismissing the notion that she was a fan of the corky television bandleader. “We watched a lot of Lawrence Welk, or maybe it was that our parents watched a lot of Lawrence Welk. I think we more or less made fun of it.”

It makes sense, then, that Hoffman didn’t gravitate toward the clarinet, a staple instrument on Welk’s variety show.

For five years she’s performed with Trio Voilà, a musical group comprised of guitarist Thomas Koch and Sarasota Orchestra violist Laura Jensen-Jennings.

The group, which will perform Jan 18, in a Munchtime Musicales concert presented by the Sarasota Concert Association, engages in community outreach programs, in addition to performing local concerts.

Paging through a stack of sheet music, Hoffman unearths a three-movement composition called “Transition Man” by composer Günter Moll.

“We love this piece,” she says. “It’s wild.”

She offers no explanation for its wildness, except to say that it’s challenging and, therefore, a thrill to play. At a time when many musicians might settle into a comfort zone, Hoffman refuses to stop learning.

“She spreads herself out musically,” says guitarist Rick Peterson, with whom Hoffman has played for more than 10 years. “I think we all strive to be musical chameleons, but Jane does it really well. She’s a wonderful classical flautist and jazz flautist. You don’t often find those two qualities in one person. In that regard, she’s a rarity.”

No one realizes this more than Hoffman. Her resume is a lesson in stick-to-itiveness.

For a flautist who has never sat with the Sarasota Orchestra, Hoffman has stayed remarkably busy.

“You have to be entrepreneurial,” she says. “Music is very competitive. But life is competitive, right?”

In addition to a master’s degree from California State University, Northridge, Hoffman holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stony Brook University in New York.

“You spend 12 years in med school and you’re pretty well guaranteed a secure life,” she says. “You pick the arts and, well … there’s no guarantee. You have to have a lot of patience.”

She rises to retrieve an album she recorded 10 years ago with a former Sarasota harpist.

A 12-track collection of Spanish, Americana, jazz, Native American and Israeli numbers, the album, “A Journey,” features a photograph of Hoffman wading through a river in Zion National Park in Utah.

“I need to record another one,” she says wistfully.

And what will this one be called?

“I don’t know,” she says. “Determination?”

The Sarasota Concert Association will present Trio Voilà in a Munchtime Musicales performance at noon Jan. 18, at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, call 351-7467 or visit sarasotaconcertassociation.org. For more on Jane Hoffman, visit janehoffman.org.

The National Flute Association is the largest organization for flautists in the world. Each year the NFA meets in a different city. This summer the organization, which has more than 6,000 members, is meeting in Las Vegas at Cesar’s Palace. The convention’s program book has more than 300 pages!


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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • You forgot to mention Jane is a great lady as well. We enjoy her playing and her friendship. This area's flute students are fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated teacher!
  • Deborah Markaverich
    Wed 11th Jan 2012
    at 6:36pm
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