The Hawaii Flute Society was founded in memory of Jean Harling (1923-2016). Throughout her decades in Hawaii, Mrs. Harling made it her mission to unite and educate the Hawaii flute community. A founding member of the National Flute Association, she was a flutist in the Honolulu Symphony for nearly 40 years while teaching at her home studio and at the University of Hawaii.
During her tenure at the UH, she hosted legendary flutists such as Jean-Pierre Rampal, Marcel Moyse, Julius Baker and Doriot Anthony Dwyer. The Hawaii Flute Society hopes to continue the legacy of Jean Harling through our musical and educational activities.
Born in Detroit on July 27, 1923, young Jean McKay took to the flute early, starting on a wooden instrument. One of her fondest childhood memories was her elementary school band's trip to the local penitentiary where they played a concert followed by a treat of exotic blue-frosted cupcakes. The children had never seen blue frosting before and were delighted.
As she developed as a flutist, Jean sometimes traveled to New York City during her summer break, where she would work the returns counter at Macy's Herald Square and take lessons from John Wummer, the principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic. In 1946, she was awarded her first orchestral job as the piccolo player in the Buffalo Philharmonic under maestro William Steinberg. At the time, she was one of a handful of women in a highly male-dominated profession.
After playing in Buffalo for twelve years, she moved with husband, Tom Harling, to O'ahu and joined the Honolulu Symphony as Principal Flute. She held this position from 1958-1990, when she moved over to become Associate Principal/2nd Flute for another six years. In 1996, she retired from the orchestra she loved so dearly after 38 years of service.
Jean Harling passed away on January 14, 2016 at Aegis Living in Redmond, WA, where she had resided for a short time. Her life and career were remembered in a Hawaii Flute Society concert on June 20, 2016 in Orvis Auditorium at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Former students and HSO colleagues performed in her honor.