As unlikely as it seems, Todd first came across Native American Flutes when he was in South Korea. Newly graduated from University, he decided to head off overseas to teach English as a second language. The early days of his life in South Korea had many challenges, with very few friends to talk to, a new language to grapple with, and a sketchy job as an English language teacher, he felt lost and often isolated.
One day a new friend of Todd’s, Tim Sorenson, introduced him to the album The Indian Road: The Best of Native American Flute Music. He was instantly entranced. With the soft haunting tones and melodies, his emotional woes were quelled for a time. As he roamed the Seoul Subway he’d listen to the sounds of Mary Youngblood and Laurence Laughing. Todd found refuge in this new music.
When he returned back home to New Zealand he found my first Native American Flute over the internet. The package arrived and he went straight to the echoes of his bathroom to play. He didn’t stop playing that flute, it traveled with him through Japan and India, and its music instilled in him a new way of being.
In time Todd began to wonder how he could make his own flute. He wanted to learn the craft of the Flute Maker. Todd needed a teacher, so he searched for Native American Flute Makers…
Apprenticeship with Matt Shooting Star
At the time Todd was pondering how to learn the craft of Native American Flute-making, he found out Matt Shooting Star was traveling to New Zealand. Todd invited him to come to stay with his family in Christchurch and he accepted. Todd told him his desire to become a flute maker someday, and to his surprise, Matt said he was looking for an apprentice and that he would be pleased to consider Todd as a candidate.
Todd let Matt’s offer sink in.
A few months later Todd was living in his spare room and spending his days in his workshop in Northern New South Wales, Australia. Matt welcomed Todd with complete respect, love and openness. He was willing to work with a guy who had never used a power tool before!
Over the months Matt continued to work alongside Todd, sharing all he could of his skills with tools and wood and helping Todd to create his own style in flute craftsmanship.
Matt’s generosity and enthusiasm allowed Todd to realize that becoming a Flute Maker wasn’t some far-off dream. Matt set Todd on the ever-unfolding road the flute-maker, the path of artisans, musicians and instrument makers.
Matt urged Todd to go further and put me in touch with Guillermo Martinez, one of the master craftspeople in Native American Flute-making.
Apprenticeship with Guillermo Martinez
Todd phoned Guillermo and asked if he was interested in taking on an apprentice; “Come by and stay for a week” he said “we’ll see how it goes.” He travelled to California to meet Guillermo. That week raced by and Todd stayed on with Guillermo for another half a year, working every single day of that time.
Guillermo is of the Tarascan people, of Michoacan state in central Mexico and has dedicated more than 20 years to the craft of woodwork and musical instruments. He studied under the true masters of flute craft, learning both traditional clay flute forms and modern Native American Style Flute craft, of which he has been an important innovator.
Todd is forever grateful for Guillermo, he opened his life, home, family, community, and expertise in the flute craft to him. While Todd has further developed his own style, the hallmark of my flutes are based on the fundamentals of Guillermo’s tutelage.
During Todd’s stay in the USA, he was lucky enough to meet two inspirational musicians that he had heard of that first album The Indian Road many years before.
On his way to meet Guillermo, Todd attended the Georgetown Nature Festival, as Mary Youngblood was in the performers’ line up.
The day after her concert, Todd scheduled a time to meet her, and they shared stories, played together, and she even helped him find my lost car keys (they were locked in the boot)! Mary Youngblood is a seminal figure in the Native American Style Flute community, it was an honor and inspiration to meet with her along Todd’s flute journey.
The Georgetown vortex of synchronicities grew, and shortly after, Todd connected with Lawrence Laughing. In a bizarre turn of events, he and Todd ended up playing on the radio together and Lawrence even sang Todd’s favourite song for him, “Eagle come pray for me”.
For the rest of Todd’s time in the USA, he maintained his connections with Georgetown, and still has strong ties to that small country town. Todd’s time in the USA brought him close to people and places that inspired him on a spiritual and practical level.
The Business Southern Cross Flutes
Having finished his Native American Flute making apprenticeship, Todd returned home to New Zealand. It was now time to craft these instruments on his own and sell them.
At the beginning of 2012, Todd officially opened his first Native American flute making workshop in the centrally located suburb of Brooklyn, just 5 minutes from Wellington’s city centre. The workshop opened directly onto the busy main street and Todd would often be asked to play the flute to neighbours and passerbyers. He sold my flutes at artisan markets and hippy style festivals.
Todd soon outgrew his Brooklyn workshop, and went to buy his first house – with workshop space – in Raumati South, a little beach side community on the Kapiti Coast, just north of Wellington.
Todd continued selling flutes at Flute Circles, Markets, Festivals and a small but growing web presence to New Zealand customers.
The Southern Cross Flutes Brand
As website sales grew and started to surpass market and festival sales, Todd undertook to create a rocking website. But first, he needed a visual identity to convey Southern Cross Flutes values and ethos.
In 2014 we worked closely with Foundry Creative – a Wellington design company – to convey the heart and spirit of Southern Cross Flutes visually and is the visual identity we continue to use today.
The logo is made up of the Tui, with its wings spread wide, nestled between the Southern Cross constellation (as visible from the Southern Hemisphere).
The Tui, a versatile and remarkable song bird in New Zealand, is depicted with its wings spread wide symbolizing the flight and soaring spirit of flute song, and the open, nurturing Native American Style Flute community we are so proud to be a part of evolving here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The stars of the Southern Cross are beautifully integrated into the design, conveying a sense of place, and honouring the guiding inspiration, wonder and comfort evoked by this constellation.
The logo of Southern Cross Flutes embodies our craft, cultivating creativity and inspiration, beauty and contemplation.
The next flute maker
As the birth of Todd’s first child was approaching and the business was likewise expanding internationally, Todd knew he needed to get an help on board to fulfill demand. But who would fit? Todd needed someone with musical aptitude and adept at woodwork. Would he find someone in his little beachside community? Or even in New Zealand?
Well yes, as it turned out. One afternoon Todd sat down at our local cafe at an empty seat next to Bruce – a regular. We got talking. Bruce, turns out, had already come across Native American Flute when he was working at Weta Workshops on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Not only that, he had been playing concert flute and percussion for many years, and had studied acoustics at University with a mind to make musical instruments.
Wow! Thanks Universe! A short while later, Bruce joined Todd part-time in the Southern Cross Flutes workshop. That fateful day in 2015, created the seed for growth and flute development at Southern Cross Flutes…
“It was awesome to meet Todd and find another like minded soul with a love of fine woodworking and flute making”.
Southern Cross Flutes Today
At the start of 2021, Todd handed over the directorship of Southern Cross Flutes to Bruce McNaught. After five years of devoted work to Southern Cross Flutes, Bruce has taken the helm, and supported by Roger, Anton, Ahly, and Todd, will steer the craft and culture of Southern Cross Flutes into the future.
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