The Texas Toot

This year, instead of attending the Whitewater Early Music Festival, my wife Laurie and I attended the Texas Toot ( We shared a family vacation with my father (83 and still playing) and a lot of friendly mostly Texans. It was a good time!

The Toot is a week long workshop that takes place in Austin, Texas. On the campus of Concordia University, which appears to be fairly recently built. It is a nice size campus for walking, quite a bit smaller than Whitewater. The Toot has been going on for years, they have a good clue what they’re doing. There were about 75 people there with groups focusing on recorder, viola da gamba, and harp. There were also a number of classes with singing, and a track of percussion classes.

The class schedule was Monday to Friday, with group activities on Sunday evening, and a student recital Saturday morning. Having the Saturday before and Sunday after as travel prep or recovery days was very nice.  There were four class sessions every day (two morning and two afternoon) that repeated every day. Part of the registration process is selecting those classes, and the expectation is that you’ll go every day. There was a third session in the afternoon with one-time special classes. Evening activities included madrigal singing, two faculty concerts, and an evening dedicated to krummhorn playing.

My class schedule started with a daily class with Peter Maund (Hesperion XX, Ensemble Alcatraz) with a focus on percussion and the estampie dance form. Then a class on the English Fantasia with Allison Melville (Toronto Consort, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra) where a highlight was the number of low instruments available, allowing us to play at 8 foot pitch. The level of playing is pretty good when 18 people can play 5 part music and be well in tune!

The afternoon started with a one time class that varied by day. I took classes in Medieval dances (Al Cofrin), diminution (Saskia Coolen), a drum circle (Peter Maund) and music from the Eton Choir Book (Allison Melville). I regretted missing sessions on beginning harp, Scottish music, and mixed consort, but I couldn’t figure out how to be in more than one place at a time.

My daily afternoon classes were a mixed gamba and recorder class on the music of Landini, and a class on modern recorder music with Saskia Coolen that was an amazing amount of fun. If you ever get a chance to study with her, take it! She’s a very good teacher, without being too serious.

Laurie and my father each took quite different sets of classes, although we overlapped in the diminution class and drum circle. They report being quite satisfied with the classes they took, and the student recital showed they apparently learned something too.

The food and dorm accommodations were about what you’d expect on a college campus. Quite acceptable, not exceptional. The one thing that struck me as a little different was that each dorm room had its own outside entrance, like a motel. The weather is a lot different in an Austin winter, I guess! Also, all the buildings were thoroughly air conditioned, a good thing in Texas in the summer!

Overall, I enjoyed myself, and I’d be happy to go again. If you have a week available for a music vacation, this is a good low-stress workshop to consider.