“Music is for certain among us, more than a pleasure; it is a necessity.”
Songwriter, Recording Artist, Producer, Photographer
Flutes, flowers, photography and philosophy! These are what I am about, what I spend time with at this stage of my life. I started playing Native American Style flutes in 2011, after I purchased my first red cedar flute from Jonny Lipford. I became involved with photography when digital cameras became popular. I started out with landscapes, but found my home with flower art photography, macro, and abstracts, mostly of nature. My flower garden feeds both the music and the photography, and they in turn lead me to grow more garden every year. The philosophy is the study of eco-spirituality in the Teilhard De Chardin and Thomas Berry tradition, with some Contemplative (ala Thomas Merton) and Celtic Christianity (ala John O’Donohue) thrown in. They are all interwoven to create music, art and relationships with others, including our creature and plant kin. My purpose is to create beauty.
DIANE WHEELER DUNN
Released in the Summer of 2021, Diane Wheeler Dunn’s acclaimed debut Native American style flute album Quiet Beauty is the culmination of her decade long passion and fascination for the beauty, style, spirituality and multitude of instruments she has discovered. Created as a “big pandemic project” and creative outlet during those isolating and emotionally challenging times, the 13 track collection reflects her great development as a composer and musical storyteller, her dedication to learning about harmonies, and her immersion in the sonic possibilities available via the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) she bought in January of that year to help her produce the tracks and fulfill her vision.
Though Diane is appreciative of the recognition she has received from the new age industry – including her 2021 One World Music Radio Best Flute Album and Best Flute Single wins, a category including her mentor Jonny Lipford – her true heart lies in the way her music connects with others. A recent inspiring message she received reminded her of the deep and profound reason she makes music. In a hospice experience, a friend’s loved one took her last breaths when the song “Soaring Hawk” came on, providing the perfect metaphorical soundtrack to her transition.
“This is the most rewarding aspect of creating music on the Native American flute,” she says. “You don’t know when you’re birthing a song where it’s going to go and who it may heal, uplift or transform. Every piece is an opportunity to express some sort of emotion that helps me, and hopefully those who listen, process love, grief, and gratitude.”
The beautiful and seamless combination of Diane’s love for the music and the spirituality that’s at the heart of her playing and composing is the theme that drives her recent single “Mystery in the Mist,” in which she backs her trademark flute energies with a hypnotic, haunting atmosphere and intoxicating percussion elements. ”It’s about that powerful yet invisible component that’s there in the mist around us and that we sometimes forget to pay attention to,” she says. “I call it the mysterious ‘thing between things’ because language is sometimes an inadequate tool to express what we are able to through artistic expression.”
Though her first choice of instrument in school in her hometown of Cedar Rapids, IA (where she still lives) was the tuba, her parents wisely steered Diane towards the silver flute, which she played until her freshman year in college. Presciently and ironically considering the music that would spark her interest later in life, she first connected with the poetry, wisdom, philosophies and spirituality of Native American culture participating in a Native American studies program at Moorhead State College (now University of Minnesota Moorhead).
While working for many years as a transportation broker, Diane often listened to new age and spa music to relieve stress. After retiring, she began revisiting cherished memories from earlier in her life and picked up the silver flute for the first time in several decades. This rekindled in playing what she calls “heart songs,” and she quickly discovered the music of Native American flute artists like R. Carlos Nakai, as well as Japanese shakuhachi music. Entering a music store at the local mall after noticing a wooden flute on display in the window, she met Native American flute musician, recording artist and teacher Jonny Lipford – and bought her first Native American flute from him, a High Spirits F Sharp.
“I instantly fell in love with its simplicity, earthiness, the feeling of the wood and the gentle peaceful and relaxing feeling of each breath I took while playing it,” says Diane. “I had an immediate soul response, and knew that I was born to do this.”
Fueled by her excitement over learning everything she could about Native American flutes, she quickly built a collection of instruments and became part of a thriving and ever growing Facebook community of players and hobbyists from all over the world. She also began attending the Sweetgrass Flute & Nature Festival, an annual performance and educational workshops centered event started by Lipford where thousands gather to celebrate the soothing sounds of the Native American flute. By the time she started more serious coaching with Lipford in January 2021, she had written numerous songs and he suggested that she record an album, enhancing her lead flute with different MIDI sounds and percussion effects she could create on the DAW.
“The joy of creating and sharing music keeps me going, and I am excited to see how everything develops from here,” says Diane. “Rather than set concrete goals like some new artists do, I align more with the philosophy that the journey is more important than the destination. I’ve carried the gift of music throughout my life and want it to be the vehicle for helping create a more beautiful world, which I believe is the responsibility of all artists. We have to bring positive energy to counteract all the negative. And I’m having a great time in the process.”