Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In honor of Stephen DeRuby

It is with a sad heart that I reach out to all of you and share the news of the passing of a great flutemaker and friend Stephen DeRuby. Stephen passed away on February 22, 2016 after 2 years of dealing with B cell lymphoma cancer. I first met Stephen at the De Anza Pow Wow in Cupertino California, back in 1998. Stephen was one of the first flutemakers to start selling his creations on the Pow Wow circuit in Northern California, back in the late 90’s. At that time, his flutes were inexpensive and well crafted. It’s no surprise that my flute collection today contains more of Stephen’s flutes than any other maker. Stephen was one of the early innovators in this market and took the historical Native design and evolved it into an easy-to-manufacture and finish product. All of his flutes were consistent in sound quality and manufacturing. As a engineer, I appreciated his craftsmanship.

Stephen and Mike at the INAFA Convention in San Mateo, CA 2006.

As a leader of the Northern California flute circle and a flute teacher, I soon developed a business relationship with Stephen to resell his flutes to the students in my beginning flute classes. His flutes were the right combination of quality and cost; and they were easy to play, especially for many of the older students in classes with small hands. Stephen was also one of the first modern flutemakers to market his flutes as “Native American Style” flutes rather than “Native American Flutes”, given that he wasn’t of Native American heritage. Stephen was deeply spiritual and had deep respect for the origins of this instrument. He also experimented with the introduction of different scales and styles of flutes to expand the market. I still cherish my “middle eastern” and “Easy Anasazi” scale flutes from Stephen. I also have spent countless hours jamming along with Stephen’s “Rhythms to accompany the Native American Flute CD”, and this is an activity that we frequently pursued at flute circle events.

Stephen, displays his flutes at Mary Youngbloods birthday party.

I was honored to help Rick & Linda Dunlop and Stephen promote and run the Yosemite Flute Festival during the years that it ran. Rick, Linda, Stephen and Kim are some of my favorite people, and it was a joy to support their venture in bringing folks to Oakhurst for this annual event. I was honored to join them on stage for the evening performance at one of the first events. I’ll always remember that.

Rick Dunlop and Stephen jamming in Stephen’s booth at the Yosemite Flute Festival.

While I will miss Stephen dearly, I am happy that I have a piece of him with me in the form of the many flutes that I acquired from him over the years. There’s is still time for you to keep a piece of Stephen’s legacy as well. Several flutes were left in his estate which are for sale, and his partner Kim is selling them now. Check out his website for more details and the latest on the inventory available. Stephen Deruby

Stephen: I considered you a brother. Thanks for all of the joy that you’ve brought into my life over the last 20 years. You made the world a better place with your presence and now the universe is sings with your spirit.