The calming melodies of flutist and Oakhurst resident Stephen DeRuby & Friends will kick off the Fifth Annual Yosemite Flute and Art Festival Friday night at 7 p.m. at Sierra Sky Ranch. Also on stage that night performing are flutists Rona Yellow Robe of Montana and Joe Young.
The three day festival brings musicians and artists from all over -- including two time Grammy winner Mary Youngblood, Randy Granger, and Al Hollinger.
Music became a big part of DeRuby's life at age 13, when his father bought him his first guitar. Coming from a broken home, DeRuby says music was his refuge and it helped him both emotionally and spiritually.
As an adult, he was a folk musician, playing his guitar and singing in Canada and Santa Fe, New Mexico until he was forced to stop because of some complications with his throat. He began studying holistic healing and began learning about healing through music. He heard a friend play the flute and was immediately intrigued. He began to play and his throat began to heal.
He bought his first flute from Tom WhiteEagle and then went into the Muir Woods for a couple weeks, making music all day long. A craftsman all his life, he went back to his shop and began making flutes.
It's been 23 years since the first day he picked up a flute, and he says it's been a very rewarding journey to see so many people appreciative for the flutes he creates out of wood and what it means in their lives. DeRuby says it's such a simple flute that anyone can make music without having to take lessons.
"The flute is so natural it's helped people reconnect with themselves and realize music isn't such a difficult thing," DeRuby said.
DeRuby says the impact flutes can have on individuals is his motivating factor and what keeps him inspired.
"To bring happiness into people's lives makes me happy," he said. "It's an uplifing instrument, something that has heart and meaning."
DeRuby says the flute speaks to the heart in a way that words fail and that people use it as a form of relaxation and meditation.
He is out in his workshop every day, working on a variety of different flutes.
"People now days want something handmade with heart and passion and soul in it," he said. "It's not just another man-made thing, so it has special meaning for people."
DeRuby has no idea how many he makes a year or the time it takes to complete a flute. He says work comes from a "heartfelt, intuitive place."
"They (flutes) really do speak to the heart. It's the breath of life," DeRuby said.
DeRuby's fifth CD will be out this winter and Mountain Area residents can hear him perform two more times besides Friday. He will perform on the second Sunday of October and November at the Positive Living Center.
Linda Dunlap, event co-organizer, said she's excited about this weekend's performances and the variety of vendors and workshops available.
"We've got vendors from literally all over the country coming, especially flute makers, great music all day long, and great food from Sierra Sky Ranch," Dunlap said. "It's a really fun, friendly experience, very family oriented and a great learning experience."
Some of the workshops that will be offered include Native Flute for Beginners, Finding Your Rhythm, Making Moyo Magic, and Drumming on the New Family of Pan Instruments.
Flutist Joe Young of Boise, Ida. will be teaching three workshops: World Flute, Connecting Your Spiritual Inspiration, and Stage Craft. This will be Young's fourth year at the festival, where he has also taught all three workshops before.
At World Flute,Young teaches an introductory class about flutes from 12 countries around the world. For the inspiration workshop, Young gives advice on getting back into creative mode after being stuck.
"There's a set of tools you can use to try something else to get the creativity going so people don't get frustrated and quit," Young said.
In stage craft, Young will help flutists learn how to communicate with their audience while on stage, as well as the technical side of stage performance.
"I've been a musician since I was 12 and pretty much grew up performing and I'm comfortable performing on stage," Young said. "It's not something I think about, it's something I do, but a lot of people that come to these festivals aren't used to it and want to learn. Music is my passion so if I can help somebody else out, it's a win win for everybody."
Besides Native American and world music on stage all day and a variety of workshops, there will also be vendors and food.
The three day festival will be held Friday through Sunday at Sierra Sky Ranch, 50552 Road 632 in Oakhurst.
Festival hours are:
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Three day festival passes cost $5.
Concert tickets cost $20 per person or $35 for both nights.
Proceeds benefit the Positive Living Center's building fund.
For tickets call (559) 641-5908.