The Best Flute Player Musicians of All Time

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Written By Tanya

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It was easy to determine who belongs on the list of the top 10 most talented flute players worldwide. Most of us will be happy with the choices. But the real discussion begins with the order of the rankings. This is because there is subjectivity.

The problem is that the flutist must be one of the best, period. We also considered their creativity, their techniques and their contribution to keeping the instrument alive in the public’s mind, just like we did with our Top Harmonica Players of All Time.

It was difficult to choose only 10 top picks. We added many runners up and a list with honorable mentions as well. Let’s jump in to the list for the top ten flute players worldwide…

#10 – Matt Malloy


Matt Malloy’s career has been long and distinguished, beginning when he was just a child. Malloy is an Irish flutist who was raised in a family that has produced some of the most talented flutists around the globe. He won the All-Ireland Flute Championship at nineteen, making him one of the most gifted Irish flute players.

He joined the Bothy Band in the 1970s and was named the successor. This opportunity allowed him to re-found Planxty which is an Irish folk band that made Irish folk music very popular. Malloy worked with many top musicians throughout his career, including the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

Trivia Facts Malloy is a skilled flutist who also did a little acting throughout his career. You can see him in “An Eviction Notice,” “Celtic Tides,” and “An Irish Evening” in Ireland. He also owns a pub in Westport, Bridge Street that plays live Irish music.

#9 – Julius Baker


Julius Baker, a Russian immigrant father, has been playing flute since the age of nine. Before studying under Robert Morris and August Caputo, he attended the Eastman School of Music where he was mentored by Leonardo De Lorenzo.

After graduating from high school, he was appointed second flute in Cleveland Orchestra. This is one of the best orchestras in the world. He then went on to become principal flute at the New York Philharmonic.

Baker was a big fan of chamber music, and helped to found the Bach Aria Group. Baker was a distinguished professor at Juilliard, Curtis Institute of Music and Carnegie Mellon. Baker produced several flute albums and was considered the best in his field.

Trivia Facts – Julius Baker was a part of major film scoring projects such as “The Little Mermaid,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” He loved electronics and considered himself an amateur ham radio operator. Early in his career, he enjoyed making audio equipment and recording his solo recordings.

#8 – Robert Dick


Robert Dick was a well-known flutist, teacher and author. He is best known for inventing the “glissando” headjoint, a custom-made flute head that allows flutes to imitate the sounds of an electric guitar.

Robert started playing the flute when he was in fourth grade. He studied with many famous musicians including Julius Baker. Dick graduated from high school and moved to Buffalo, New York to join Creative Associates. He also wrote a second book during that time and became a highly-regarded composer. His genres include jazz, classical, contemporary jazz and “free improvisation”, which is why he has glissando tunes.

He has been a composer, soloist, and developer over the years. He splits his time between New York City and Kassel, Germany to perform his own music and spend time with his family.

Trivia Facts In 2014, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Flute Association. His contributions have been honored by a Guggenheim Fellowship and NEA Composers Fellowships. He also received a Koussevitzky Foundation Commission. He has contributed to more than 20 albums, and he is a frequent guest on many other recordings.

#7 – Emmanuel Pahud


Franco-Swiss flute musician Emmanuel Pahud. His flute playing is both classical and baroque. He was the only child of a musical family. His love for flute music came from Italy, where he grew up. From age four to 22, Pahud learned the flute under renowned musicians like Carlos Bruneel or Aurele Niccolet.

He joined the Berlin Philharmonic in 1992 as the youngest flutist ever. He describes himself as a musical chameleon, and claims that he doesn’t represent any particular style. Instead, he adapts to whatever style is presented to him. He shares the position of principal flute on the Berlin Philharmonic today with Mathieu dufour.

His creativity, flexibility, and talent, as well as his dedication, have made him one the most sought-after young players in flute.

Trivia Facts The silver-plated Yamaha was the first flute Pahud played. He spent most of his childhood traveling the globe, which allowed him to discover the many sounds and opens up a world of musical wonder.

#6 – Bobbi Humphrey


Bobbi Humphrey, born Barbara Ann, is an American jazz singer and flutist. Her most well-known musical styles include jazz fusion, soul-jazz and funk. Humphrey attended Texas Southern University and Southern Methodist University after high school.

She moved to New York after college and started her career there almost immediately. She signed with George Butler, Blue Note. She recorded with many famous artists during her musical career. This helped her reputation and increase her audience. One of her most memorable recordings was Blacks and Blues with the Mizell Brothers.

Bobbi didn’t see financial success with her Blue Note albums so she switched her focus to business in 1977. She created the Bobbi Hummingbird Music Company, and signed an agreement to Warner Bros.

Trivia Facts She was the very first female flutist to sign with Blue Note. Dizzy Gillespie approached her at Southern Methodist and advised her to make the move to New York as a musician. Humphrey played with Duke Ellington, George Benson and other musicians throughout her career.

#5 – Marcel Moyse


Marcel Moyce, a French flutist of his time, was well-known. He moved to Paris in the early 1900s to live with Joseph Moyce, his uncle. There he learned about the life of a professional musician.

Joseph Moyce purchased Marcel a flute, and enrolled him in daily practice sessions. Marcel Moyce met Adolphe Hennains, and became his pupil. This was the beginning of his career.

Marcel received a Phillipe Gaubert piece with the Paris Conservatoire after a year of training. Moyce was a highly successful artist by 1936. Moyce traveled the globe and made many appearances in major cities including London.

Trivia Facts He is the only flutist to have won a first prize in history after completing one year of training at The Conservatoire. He also founded the Marlboro Music School, which taught flute students how to play the flute, and not how to make it.

#4 – Jeanne Baxtresser


Jeanne Baxtresser, an American teacher and flutist, is Jeanne. She grew up in a family of top concert pianists. She began playing the flute at ten years of age and fell in love with it immediately.

Emil Opava, the Minnesota Orchestra’s conductor, was her teacher. She also studied with Gary Sigurdson at Interlochen National Music Camp & Academy.

She made her debut in the Minnesota Orchestra at fourteen. She went on to Julliard, where she studied with Julius Baker and other well-known flutists. She was the first female principal flute in the New York Philharmonic, and she performed more than 50 solos.

Trivia Facts Jeanne first tried the flute before she discovered that it was not for her. For her contribution to flute music, she was awarded the Nation Flute Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also awarded Carnegie Mellon’s distinguished position of “University Professor”.

#3 – Jean-Pierre Rampal


Jean-Pierre Rampal, a French flute player, was known for bringing the flute back to its original status as a solo instrument of classical music. Although he was born to a flute teacher, his parents wanted him to be a doctor so he went to medical school.

He started studying flute at the Paris Conservatory, and won the competition. After the war, he began his career in Vichy Opera as a flute player. He was the first flute to be employed in Paris Opera. Rampal not only founded the French Wind Quintet but also edited Baroque music, and taught.

His authentic approach to 18th-century music is what makes him most beloved. This is due to his ability to articulate tone and tonal nuance. Rampal is a great flute player, in terms of raw skill.

Trivia Facts In 1989, he published an autobiography called Music and My Love. He also had musical works composed by Francis Poulenc and Andre Jolviet, two of the most prominent musicians in France. Sheryl Cohen founded the Rampal School in order to learn his methods and influence.

#2 – Georges Barrerere


Georges Barrerere was the son of a cabinetmaker’s and a farmer’s daughter. He didn’t come from a musical background. After following the band from Ecole Drouet through the streets, he began to take music lessons. Georges was encouraged by the band and forced to learn music in Paris.

He was initially rejected by Paris Conservatory. However, after spending some time studying under Henry Atles, he was eventually accepted at the age of fourteen.

Georges started playing in the Folies Bergere orchestra when he was 17 years old. After completing his studies, Barerre founded the Modern Society for Wind Instruments to teach young musicians.

Trivia Facts In 1910, he founded the Barrere Ensemble and made it the Barrere Little Symphony in 2014. The flute became more popular as a solo instrument.

#1 – Sir James Galway


James Galway, an Irish flutist, is known for his ability blend folk and classical music. His showmanship and large stage presence are also what make him a popular performer.

He started playing the flute when he was a child and most of his instruction came from his grandfather and father who were musicians in local bands. At ten years of age, he won all three solos at the National Flute Championships in Ireland. He received private training from Marcel Moyce and Jean-Pierre Rampal at Paris Conservatory.

Galway’s technique, extraordinary range and emotional depth as solo artist are all praised. Galway also enjoyed traditional Irish music, and collaborated with The Chieftains of Ireland and the Celtic Minstrel. James Galway is also president of Flutewise, a charity that supports young flutists around the world.

Trivia Facts Galway won many awards for his music contributions. He was awarded the title Officer of the British Empire, and in 2001 Queen Elizabeth II knighted him. He was awarded the Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Runners up: Who is almost one of the greatest flute players of all time?

When there are so many flutists who deserve recognition for their contributions and creativity, it’s difficult to pick just a top 10. We also know that you might have selected other players for your top 10, so we’ve added 4 runners up as well as a few honorable mentions to ensure that nobody is left behind.

Ian Anderson


Ian Anderson is a singer and guitarist behind Jethro Tull. Anderson wasn’t born to music but he studied fine arts after completing traditional schooling.

Ian Anderson is best known for introducing the flute to the world of rock music. Anderson was the pioneer of rock flute playing. Anderson can also play ethnic flutes and other instrumental parts in addition to acoustic sounds.

Anderson split from the band in recent years and now focuses on his solo career, while still appearing in orchestras and acoustic shows.

Trivia Facts – Anderson has not taken a driver’s test and doesn’t own a car. Anderson has some motorcycles that he can use for off-road racing. He is also passionate about protecting wild cats who have been freed from captivity.

Greg Pattillo


Greg Pattillo, an American musician hailing from Seattle, is well-known for his beatboxing flute music. His music is considered the best in the entire world. Pattillo is a true master of his unique sound, and it’s not easy to duplicate.

Pattillo studied with Joshua Smith, the principal flutist of The Cleveland Orchestra. Pattillo is also an accomplished composer, combining elements of jazz and hip hop into his flute music.

His musical career has been dominated by solo and freelance flute playing. He is also the flutist for PROJECT Trio which is a New York-based chamber music group. Pattillo’s projects include flute music for films such as LEGO Ninjago. A few of his tunes are also part of the official soundtrack.

Trivia Facts Pattillo was Sam Puckett’s cousin on an episode of ICarly Nickelodeon. You can also find recordings of him on Pattillo was also featured on Lily Allen and Friends, both on BBC Three.

Jasmine Choi


Jasmine Choi, a Korean native, is a chamber musician and orchestral musician. She is also a solo flutist. Her unique ability to blend rich tones, charisma and technicality with perfect musicianship is what makes her stand out. At 22 years old, she was awarded the title of Associate Principal Flute of Cincinnati Symphony. She is also the first Korean musician to hold a major orchestral position in the United States.

Choi has been nominated many times as America’s Emerging Artists throughout her career. Choi began her musical career on the piano and violin, but she switched to flute when she was nine years old. She is now a national sensation and began her solo career in Korea at the age of 14.

Choi arrived in America as a sixteen-year-old and studied under Julius Baker, Jeffrey Khaner and others. Choi was Baker’s last student before his death. Choi later moved to Austria. However, her most memorable moment in the spotlight was undoubtedly her position in the Cincinnati Symphony.

Trivia Facts Choi was a musical student and won the senior division in the Albert M. Greenfield Student Competition, run by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Symphony Magazine listed Choi as one of the emerging flutists in 2006.

Herbie Mann


Herbie Mann is a legend as the man who popularized the flute as a jazz instrument and brought many cultures’ music to American jazz. At nine years of age, he began to play the clarinet and then began his career playing the tenor-saxophone. He began to focus on the flute in 1950s and was one of the first Jazz musicians to introduce it.

Mann began to incorporate Brazilian music into his Jazz music in the 1960s by recording music with Sergio Mendes and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Later, Mann began to incorporate Middle Eastern, African, and Japanese elements in his Jazz music.

Mann was also well-known for his work with young musicians during his career, who went on to become stars like Chick Corea (one the greatest keyboard players in the world ), and Roy Ayers. His last album was a collaboration between Phil Woods, saxophone player.

Trivia Facts His hit single “Hijack” was a Billboard #1 Dance Song in 1975. He founded Embryo Records in 1969. He was not immediately loved by all and many people didn’t recognize him until he became more popular over the course of his career.

Honorable Mentions to the World’s Best Flute Players

It’s not that the flute is a rare instrument. It is difficult to keep track of just the top 10, and even a few runners up. Although your favorite flautist might not be mentioned, they certainly deserve recognition. These are just a few more that have a chance to climb up the ranks over time.

  • Gareth Davies (London Symphony Orchestra).
  • Andrea Griminelli (English Chamber Orchestra)
  • Katherine Bryan (Royal Scottish National Orchestra).
  • Claire Chase (Professor at Harvard of the Practice)
  • Karl Heinz Schutz (Wiener Philharmoniker)
  • Jean Ferrandis (Professor Flute at l’Ecole Normale).
  • Trevor Wye (Professor, Royal Northern College of Music).
  • Ray Thomas (Moody Blues)
  • Kevin Crawford (Lunasa)
  • Nestor Torres (Guest artist at Florida International University).

Or we’ll continue to talk about it forever. This is what makes this an interesting conversation. Depending on the measurement of flutists or who you ask, the top 10 might be rotated out or rearranged.

The harmonica is an extremely vocal instrument. We thought you might also enjoy the challenge of discovering the greatest singers of all times. To master these instruments, it takes a lot of the exact same skillset. We appreciate you sticking with us through this list of the top flute players around the globe!

The Top 10 Most Outstanding Flute Players in the world

This table lists the top 10 most skilled flute players worldwide. It includes their names as well as the associated acts.

RankFlute playerAssociated Act
1Sir James GalwayLondon Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
2Georges BarrerereModern Society For Wind Instruments, New York Symphony Orchestra
3Jean-Pierre RampalParis Opera, Ensemble Baroque De Paris
4Jeanne BaxtresserNew York Philharmonic
5Marcel MoyseOrchestre De La Societe Des Concerts Du Conservatoire
6Bobbi HumphreyBlue Note Records
7Emmanuel PahudBerlin Philharmonic Orchestra
8Robert DickCreative Associates, New York Philharmonic Orchestra
9Julius BakerChicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra
10Matt MalloyThe Chieftains, Irish Chamber Orchestra and The Bothy Band

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