Known professionally as Coyote Oldman, Allen has published several music albums in addition to crafting wooden flutes like the one pictured at right.
Where do you live and how old are you? I live in Alabama and I am 62.
How did you get into flute making? Growing up I spent much of my time around the great rivers and beautiful forests of Alabama, always accompanied by a wonderful diversity of birds, reptiles and insects, plants, artifacts and fossils. A plant that I felt a strong friendship with was the native bamboo. I made my blowguns, bows and arrows and my first flutes from bamboo about 45 years ago.
You also make flute music. How do you split your time? Over the years I drift deeper into music and then back into flute making, one powers me toward the other and each gives me a retreat.
What does it take to be a great flute maker? You need to love the sound of your instrument and always find fresh comfort and inspiration in the voice and art of your flutes. Know and respect your materials, lean toward their infinite potential. Care about the people you are making flutes & music for. Don’t take yourself too seriously and always be a student.
Are you self-employed and do you have any employees? Yes, I am totally self-employed and tolerate no one else in my workshop. Fortunately my wife Mary Jane works with me keeping taxes, keeping bills and check books under control, managing orders and shipping, customs forms, insurance and the many other things. My wife also helps me mix paints and music & we have great coffee breaks.
About how many flutes do you sell each year? Perhaps 200, I am certainly making fewer than I used to, taking more time with each instrument.
What’s the best part of your job? Inventing. I constantly design and build my own tools and processes & I invent new flutes with new scales that play new music.
What’s the worst part of your job? I don’t really like performing (I have stage fright), but over the years I’m getting more comfortable. I pretend that I’m playing for frogs.
Would you recommend this line of work to anyone else? Well, if you are a slightly obsessive-compulsive person with control issues and a need to actively avoid depression and channel nagging dysfunctionality into creativity, then I would certainly recommend this line of work. Know yourself, put your limitations to work, be generous and grow.