12 Famous Flute Players

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These 12 famous flute players are known for their command of the instrument and efforts to improve the repertoire. Who are they? You will find out in our list.

1. Sir James Galway (1939-)

A picture of famous fulte player James Galway holding his flute

At the young age of 16, Galway attended the Royal College of Music on a scholarship. He continued his studies at the Guildhall and the Paris Conservatoire, whose instructors included famous flute players Jean-Pierre Rampal and Marcel Moyse.

In 1969, he landed the coveted position of principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1977, he left the orchestra to pursue a career as a soloist. Sales of over 30 million recordings support this decision, and he’s considered the best flute player in the world.

He’s earned just about every award known over his fifty-year career. In 2014, he was awarded the Gramophone Lifetime Achievement Award.

2. Georges Barrère (1876-1944)

A photo of Georges Barrère holding his flute

Barrère’s interest in music prompted his family to enroll him in music lessons. At 14 years old, he was accepted at the Paris Conservatoire, wherein he flourished under the tutelage of Paul Taffanel.

His flute career included playing with the Société Nationale de Musique. The music organisation premiered Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.” He also joined the New York Symphony Orchestra and remained after it merged with the New York Philharmonic.

3. Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000)

A grayscale photo of famous flute player, Jean Pierre Rampal

A virtuoso by every definition, Rampal grew up in Marseille, France, and studied under his flutist father. He’s a master of the French style of flute performance, which demands focused, refined tones through each register and a natural vibrato.

In 1969, he became a flute professor at the Paris Conservatoire. His expertise and enthusiasm inspired many students and famous flutists. Standing out in his overwhelming discography is “Bolling: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano,” which combined jazz piano and Baroque flute elements.

4. Matt Molloy (1947-)

Matt Molloy is one of the most famous flute players in the world

Molloy plays a Pratten Perfected Boosey Irish flute and is known as a member of the Chieftains. He is highly respected for his fingering techniques that are derived from uilleann piping. His notable performances include The Bucks Of Oranmore (Reel) and The Mason’s Apron.

5. Bobbi Humphrey (1950-)

Barbara Ann “Bobbi” Humphrey was born in Marlin, Texas.

Her musical studies included participation in classical and jazz ensembles in high school. She continued her studies at Texas Southern University and Southern Methodist University.

After she played in a concert, Dizzy Gillespie, a famous American jazz trumpeter, advised her to continue her career in New York City. So, she headed to New York and became the first woman instrumentalist to sign with Blue Note. However, she was not happy with the compensation.

In response, she took control of her business by incorporating Innovative Artist Management. By 1994, she started her label called Paradise Sounds Records.

Humphrey has performed at all the major venues, including the Montreux Jazz Festival, Apollo Theatre, and Carnegie Hall. She also released notable music, including the “Flute In” and “Fancy Dancer.”

Bobbi won numerous awards, including Record World Magazine’s “Female Jazz Performer of the Year.”

6. Jeanne Baxtresser (1947-)

A picture of Jeanne Baxtresser

At the age of 10, Baxtresser started taking flute lessons from a family friend. Then, Baxtresser studied at the Juilliard School of Music and successfully auditioned for a position in the Montreal Symphony. By 1981, she was the principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic.

She would remain in the chair for over 15 years, securing her place as one of the most famous flute players of all time.

7. Robert Dick (1950-)

A picture of famous flute player Robert Dick

Growing up in New York City, Robert Dick attended the High School of Music and Art, where he was the first chair flutist in the Senior Orchestra. He had several influential instructors, including Julius Baker.

Robert is known for experimenting in various genres and inventing the “glissando headjoint,” which involves bending the pitch of a note by sliding it into a different position.

Dick’s most famous composition is “Afterlight,” for which he received an award. He also published “Circular Breathing for the Flutist” and “Tone Development through Extended Techniques.”

8. Emmanuel Pahud (1970-)

A picture of Emmanuel Pahud, a famous flutist

Emmanuel Pahud studied at the Conservatoire de Paris. By 1992, he landed a position with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He holds the first chair until today.

Although he’s comfortable playing in various genres, he also enjoys revisiting traditional repertoire by commissioning new pieces and exploring other genres such as jazz.

In 1992, Pahud became the only flutist in the world to have a solo contract when he signed a contract with EMI Classics. Pahud has received many awards over twenty years, including Paris’ Victoires de la Musique’s “Instrumentalist of the Year 1997.”

9. Greg Pattillo (1977-)

Pattillo received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

After moving to San Francisco, he co-founded the Collaborative Arts Insurgency. He’s recognized as a composer and arranger for PROJECT Trio, where he explores jazz and hip hop ideas in flute music.

His beatbox technique for flute has been recognized as a showcase for the genre.

10. Hubert Laws (1939-)

A picture of Hubert Laws playing the flute

Hubert Laws, one of the most famous flute players in contemporary music, attended the Juilliard School of Music. He was an early member of the Jazz Crusaders, a band popular for “The Laws of Jazz,” “Flute By-Laws,” and “Laws Cause.”

He has played and recorded with musical giants, including Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald, and Stevie Wonder. In 2010, he received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the National Endowment for the Arts.

11. Marcel Moyse (1889-1984)

A picture of famous flutist Marcel Moyse

Marcel Moyse studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Paul Taffanel and Philippe Gaubert. After graduating, he held teaching positions at the conservatory in Geneva and Paris.

After the war, he was recruited by Adolph Busch and Rudolf Serkin as a co-founder of the Marlboro School of Music, one of the leading venues for collaboration and study.

Moyse is known for his adherence to the French style of flute performance that emphasizes focused, refined tones and a natural vibrato. One of his famous works is the “Moyse Etudes,” which is a collection of etudes.

His contributions to music led to being named a “Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.”

12. Ian Anderson (1947-)

A photo of famous flute player, Ian Anderson

Anderson is a Scottish multi-instrumentalist who brought the flute to heavy rock.

He felt his electric guitar playing would never match the expertise of Eric Clapton. So, he decided to pick up the flute. After observing his daughter’s flute lessons, he had to re-learn the instrument and realized his fingerings were incorrect.

Anderson is mainly known for his performances with Jethro Tull.


The flute is one of the most versatile instruments in music. It sings over the orchestra, creates excitement in an action film, and whispers like a friend in ambient compositions. And, these top 12 flutists are simply the best in the field!


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