Nagel showcases Native American flute talent

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
01/25/2018 08:00 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Gaby Nagel is a 15-year-old Native American flutist who has only been playing for five years, yet her talent has led her to play at events and competitions. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians citizen Gaby Nagel holds three flutes she uses when performing. Each flute is in a different tune and is used for specific songs and styles of music she plays. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
FAYETTVILLE, Ark. – When 15-year-old Gaby Nagel isn’t listening to music she is playing it, particularly on the Native American flute. Her enjoyment and talent with the instrument has led her to playing numerous events and partaking in flute competitions.

Nagel, an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian citizen, has been playing the flute for five years. She was introduced to it while walking Fayetteville Square and coming across a man playing one. Listening to him play, she said she became mesmerized. Her mother bought her a flute and she began taking lessons from the same man, Jerry Doubting.

She said the flute just came “natural” to her.

“A lot of the tricks it took him years to learn, all came natural to me. He would be sitting there and telling me about a technique, and he would say ‘it’s OK, don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it on the first try.’ Well, I would get it on the first try,” she said.

Nagel has competed in eight flute competitions of all sizes. However, she said the biggest competition she’s won was the Musical Echo’s in Florida. “I was the first female and youngest competitor to ever win. I got a blue ribbon from them and a check. It was really cool.”

In addition to competitions, she’s played at festivals and events such as Indigenous Peoples Day in Fayetteville and the annual Trail of Tears Association Conference this past October in Pocola, Oklahoma. She’s also been invited to play for senior citizens and children at schools to interact with them and share Native culture.

She said her most memorable performance was getting playing for a young girl who was battling cancer. “I played for a girl who had cancer in Chattanooga (Tennessee). She was a friend of a flute maker of mine, and we raised money for her to receive treatment. It was such an honor, especially because they invited me.”

To be able to travel different places, she said she is thankful for having supportive family and friends, especially her mother. “My mom is my number one. She has driven me around so many miles I can’t even count. She is my number one, and she has always got my back.”

Nagel said she is proud to be Cherokee and shares her heritage through the flute. She said her plans for 2018 are to travel more playing the flute and visit more elderly and hospice patients. She said she’s also been learning to play the piano and guitar.

“Playing the flute, I feel like I am honoring my ancestors and what they had to go through so we don’t get hated on for being Native American as much anymore,” she said.

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