Kathleen Kraft is a Baroque flutist that lives in Occidental.

Occidental flute player Kathleen Kraft co-directs Early Music Society event at SSU

While growing up in Berkeley in the 1950s and early 1960s, Kathleen Kraft played flute in the Berkeley High Orchestra but never really ?bonded? with her pure silver, modern instrument.

Instead, she fell in love with the deep resonance of the baroque flute and ended up studying at the Royal Conservatory in Holland with Frans Bruggen, an expert in 18th-century music performance.

Kraft didn?t realize it at the time, but she was on the leading edge of the Early Music movement, a revival that would change the face of the Bay Area music scene during ensuing decades.

?I came back from Europe in 1970, and there were about four people playing baroque music in the Bay Area,? Kraft said.

?It has consistently grown since then to include several orchestras ? the American Bach Soloists, Philharmonia Baroque, and Magnificat ? plus a steady stream of pick-up orchestras.?

Although she hadn?t planned on playing music for a living, Kraft discovered that her simple, wooden flute was in constant demand. By 1973, she was fully engaged with teaching and playing baroque chamber music.

For the past 30 years, Kraft has also taught at a baroque workshop put on by the San Francisco Early Music Society each summer.

The workshop, which started at the Cazadero Music Camp and moved to Dominican College in San Rafael, settled three years ago at the Sonoma State University campus in Rohnert Park.

This year, Kraft is one of the co-directors of the weeklong workshop, which starts Sunday and continues with several faculty and student concerts open to the public.

This year?s repertoire concentrates on Italian music from the 17th and 18th centuries, including composers both obscure and famous, from Frescobaldi and Locatelli to Handel and Corelli.

Co-directing the workshop is harpsichordist Phebe Craig of Knights Valley, who teaches in Berkeley and at UC Davis, along with recorder player Frances Blaker of the East Bay.

?We have fantastic faculty from all over the world,? Kraft said. Among the more renowned artists are viola da gamba player Mary Springfels, who led the Newberry Consort of Chicago and retired to New Mexico; harpsichordist Peter Sykes of Boston; recorder player Clea Glahano of Minnesota; Bay Area soprano Chris Brandes, who sings all over the world; and cellist Tanya Tomkins, who plays with the Philharmonia Baroque in the Bay Area.

?We are open to everyone and try to accommodate all levels,? Kraft said. ?You can come for the whole workshop, or just audit a master class in the morning.?

Joan Lounsbery of Santa Rosa, who has brought her viola da gamba to the workshop for the past six years, enjoys playing with students and faculty from all over the country.

?As a practicing amateur gamba player, I find the daily curriculum so rich,? she said.

?It gives me the chance to thoroughly immerse myself in baroque performance practice, with 10 of the best early music artists in the world.?

The SFEMS workshop is one of only a handful of such workshops that take place across the country, and it is a rare opportunity for baroque fans to hear 18th-century music in Sonoma County.

?I have a gut feeling that the time is right for the local audiences,? Kraft said. ?Baroque music has gotten bigger, and this is part of its local flowering.?

The 65-year-old Kraft moved to Sonoma County in 1975 and has always lived in the west county, where she divided her time between raising goats and chickens and driving to gigs in the Bay Area.

She now lives at the far reaches of Coleman Valley Road, close to the coast.

Over the years, Kraft has adopted several environmental causes, from watershed restoration for Coho salmon to native coastal prairie conservation projects.

?I noticed there were lots of native grasses in the west county, but that only 5 percent are left,? she said. ?So I started to ask, what do you do to foster them??

Kraft has even found a connection between her desire to save the grasslands and her impulse to bring back the gestalt of 18th-century music.

?Music is a mirror of people?s emotions and relationships, while the grasslands are a little eco-system from the 18th century,? she said. ?Both are complex entities that teach something that is otherwise inexpressible.?

Currently, Kraft is putting together a program for the Redwood Arts Council?s Chamber Music Series upcoming season, for which she will also perform.

?It?s a concert for flute, violin and cello for January 2010, featuring music by Mozart, Haydn and Devienne,? she said. ?My goal is more playing, less driving.?

Along with the baroque workshop, Kraft teaches baroque and modern flute to private students.

She owns two baroque flutes, both copies of originals made by Roderick Cameron of Mendocino.

?The early flute from 1710 is really rich and wonderful and great for French music,? she said. ?The flute from 1730 is a four-piece flute.?

In the second half of the 17th century, the one-piece flute of the Renaissance evolved into a more ornate flute, with multiple pieces, a tapered bore and the addition of a key for the little finger.

The conical bore of the baroque flute increased the instrument?s volume in the lower register, making it better suited for soloists.

?The thing I love about it is that it feels like part of my body,? Kraft said of her baroque flute.

?It?s very malleable and can go from soft to loud. The flute has taught me how to play the baroque music, with its swells ... I feel like I?m singing.?

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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