When Gary Stroutsos performs at the Washington State History Museum this weekend, he’ll bring a lot more than just 15 unique hand-made Native American flutes. He’ll also bring the wealth of stories, culture and tradition that are the result of his years of studying and living with the tribes that have used those flutes for thousands of years.
“I share the work I’ve done studying with Indians; I bring multimedia, stories, music,” says Stroutsos. “The graciousness of the Indian people has opened up their world.”
Originally from Vermont, the Seattle-based flutist began his musical career in the jazz and Afro-Cuban worlds, where he made numerous recordings and played internationally. But for many years now Stroutsos – who is Greek/Italian/Lebanese by heredity – has immersed himself in Native American musical culture, studying ancient flutes in museums, having reproductions made and learning their original tunes from masters.
“I go to the source, to people who are part of that culture,” he says. “I take the time, and people will share with you if you have that interest.”
And now Stroutos’ mission is to share culture that with others, especially young people. Among the music and stories he’ll be sharing at the family-friendly concert at the WSHM are those from the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Lewis and Clark: Journey of the Corps of Discovery,” for which Stroutos played a lot of the music, plus new work from the Zuni Pueblo people. Among the instruments he’ll bring are 2,000-year-old Southwest desert rim flute designs only recently discovered, clay bird calls and wind whistles. He’ll be accompanied by world percussionist David Revelli, who’ll play earth-material percussion like clay pots, wood rattles and gourds, as well as African udu drums, frame drums and shakers.
Through it all, Stroutsos, who performs regularly in Tacoma at other venues, will interweave the audience with his stories.
“I’m like the Mr. Rogers of the flute,” he jokes.
Stroutsos will be selling his CDs Sunday in the museum store.
2 p.m. April 27. Free with admission: $9.50 adults/$7 seniors, military, students/$6 ages 6-17/free for under-6. Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 888-BE-THERE, washingtonhistory.org, garystroutsos.com