If 2019 has proven anything it’s that we—as a society, as a culture, as a group of sad humans starved for joy—love Lizzo. And Lizzo? Well, she loves her flute.
The singer/songwriter/rapper/icon actually loves her flute so much that she often plays it onstage while twerking. One of her instruments, named Sasha Flute (the other is named Blew Ivy), has its own verified Instagram page, @sashabefluting, with almost 300,000 followers. Lizzo loves flute because Lizzo is a certified band geek, once telling CBS News, “I don’t think you’re a band geek if you’re just in band. I was a band geek, because I took band to the next level.”
So when Lizzo saw that other marching bands across the country were playing her songs, the emotions hit. Back in September, she took to Twitter to share a video of Tennessee State University’s flute section playing her single “Truth Hurts,” and then went onto Instagram to explain why it meant so much to her. While crying, she said, “Not only to see marching bands, black marching bands, playing my music, but to see the flute sections going off… It makes me feel like not only am I not only in the right place right now, but everything that I did and every emotion that I felt, all of that sorrow or pain or feeling lost or confused or like I didn’t fit in and I wasn’t black enough, I wasn’t cool enough, it makes me feel like all of those emotions and all of that time was worth it.”
It’s probably the first time a pop star has taken to Instagram to cry about how much marching band means to them, but thanks to Lizzo, it likely won’t be the last. Below, four band players sound off on just how much Lizzo’s passion means to them—and how she’s changing band culture for the better.
Nicole Conte, 22, Ohio State Marching Band
“Lizzo was on the radio and a bunch of friends were talking about her, and someone said she plays flute. I was like, ‘OK, everyone plays flute, but does she actually play the flute?’ Then I did some digging, and I found [her] Instagram page for her flute. I don’t know a single person that’s not that attached to their instruments; I love mine more than anything.
As soon as I started hearing about her flute, I fell into this rabbit hole of videos and interviews. The more that I found, the more excited I got because the more I felt like I could connect with her. I live in an entire house of marching band people, and we have a playlist for when we’re getting ready in the morning, and she’s always on there.
Growing up, I always wanted to be in this band, even though I’m from New York. Now being a part of it, I totally understand when she says, ‘This shaped me.’ We get to live that every day. I think it’s a great message for her to be conveying. She’s making marching band, and band in general, a little bit more normal and accepted. She’s bridging that gap between classical and hip hop and making it a little bit more accessible for today’s kids.
Our beginning band kids are talking about Lizzo and her flute. They’re realizing someone they look up to and they idolize so much is saying, ‘Hey, I’m a band geek too. Let’s do this together.'”
Conte is a flute major and plays mellophone in marching band.
Jessica Martinez, 23, University of Texas Longhorn Band
“I heard Lizzo on the radio, and I loved her immediately. I saw some videos of her having her flute on stage with her during her performances and thought it was really cool. Later I found out she actually went to University of Houston and played flute there, and I thought that was even cooler.
Pop stars usually don’t really know what band is, and band in Texas is so much bigger than any other state [with] the quality and the involvement. To know that Lizzo was from Texas and she was in band is so cool because I feel like it’s my entire life.
I teach band now, and I teach beginner flute class. As I walk into class, I’ll hear my students trilling on the flute, which is what Lizzo does when she’s twerking. I didn’t teach them how to trill. They’re just doing it because that’s what Lizzo does.”
Martinez was the drum major of the Longhorn band. She graduated in 2019 and is now the band director.
Kelsy Wilhite, 19, Texas Southern University
“I discovered Lizzo from Netflix after watching a movie called Someone Great. She is so truthful, positive, and energetic. I played flute in sixth grade; it was one of the first instruments I learned to play. It’s amazing to see her support different bands and every school that plays her music, especially HBCUs. This world need more celebrities supporting band, and it feels wonderful to see. Now, we’re just patiently waiting for her to come to Texas Southern University.”
Wilhite plays alto saxophone in marching band.
Gina Murphy, 22, Ohio University Marching 110 Band
“I was aware that she’s classically trained in flute, and I love watching videos of her performing flute onstage. I think it’s sparked people’s interest, seeing how instruments can be used in pop music and hip hop.
It makes me really hopeful that music’s headed in this great direction where we don’t have to box everything into these strict genres and kids don’t have to associate musical instruments with just playing classical music, if that’s not their thing. There are these other options out there.
I also love the message behind her songs, that you should not be afraid to put yourself out there, even if you aren’t 100 percent sure of yourself. That’s the kind of motto we try to strive for in the 110 band every day, to show up and put your best forward. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make a mistake because that’s how you really grow and learn.
It’s just so cool to see how she still keeps those connections in the music community and gives back to the programs that made her the great artist that she is today. It gives me more pride as a woman who plays flute. Sometimes I think that people think flute is boring or it can’t be exciting, but it can be used in this really unique, fun way. I love seeing her go up on stage and go off like she does.”
Murphy is a flute music major and plays trumpet in band.
These interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.