The flute community is mourning two huge losses this week with the passing of Emerson DeFord and William “Wibb” Bennett. DeFord passed away at his home on Monday, May 9th and Bennett passed Wednesday evening after a brief battle with motor neuron disease. Both of these men left an indelible mark on the flute world, and they will be greatly missed.

After serving with the U.S. Army during the Korean War, DeFord began his flutemaking career at the W.T. Armstrong Flute Company in Elkhart, Indiana, and quickly rose to the position of vice president of production in 1962. A few years later, he started the Heritage Division, where he mentored many flutemakers including Bickford Brannen, Jack Moore, Tom Green, John Yeater, and Larry Earnhart. DeFord and Mark Thomas worked together to improve the quality and design of student flutes and to develop the complete flute family (including bass, alto, E-flat soprano, C, treble G, and B-flat flutes) and, later, a wood piccolo and professional C flute. His name is now synonymous with the modern student flute. One of DeFord’s most important contributions to the flute world is his work with flutists who have been injured or have developed physical conditions preventing them from playing their beloved instruments. He created specially tailored headjoint and key adaptations, modifying the angles so that the flutists could continue to play comfortably.

A name on nearly every pro flute players mind, William Bennett was truly a driving force–and a personality to go with it–in the flute world. At the age of 22, he started working in his first principal flute position in the BBC Northern orchestra (now the BBC Philharmonic). He has played with most of the major British orchestras, including the BBC Northern (Philharmonic), Sadlers Wells Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He most recently taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His dissatisfaction with the intonation of his flute led him to start altering the position of the tone holes of his flute when he was 18 years old, and he has been working to improve the scale of the flute ever since with his patented William Bennett scale. We were so fortunate to have Wibb at the Indy Flute Shop in 2018 and sponsor his masterclass at Butler University.