Paul Lustig Dunkel: A Flutist’s Journey

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I first met Paul when I was an undergraduate at Queens College, CUNY. I was a saxophone/clarinet player who had recently become interested in learning the flute and had been impressed by the performances of Paul as well as his students. I had about one year’s worth of experience playing the flute when he agreed to accept me. It changed my life. He introduced me to the Maquarre Studies, Telemann Methodical Sonatas, Anderson etudes, etc. as well as making me aware of Rampal, Baker, Galway, Kincaid, Larrieu, Nicolet, etc. He spent a Saturday morning at a Manhattan music store picking out a new flute for me and wouldn’t accept any payment for his time. He treated me with the same respect and expectations of his advanced flute students. That’s a teacher! Over the years, he became a supportive friend and colleague. Having heard him toss off countless solos of the most difficult nature with the greatest ease and wonderful artistry as a member of the NYC Ballet Orchestra, I realized how lucky I was to have had him as an early mentor. Always outspoken and well informed, Paul has never been afraid to share his opinions, musical and otherwise. That sense of individuality has infused his music making. His lifelong affinity for contemporary music has inspired many through his performances as a flutist and in his programming as a conductor. His recording of Melinda Wagner’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion (which he commissioned) with the Westchester Philharmonic received the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and is a must buy for any flute lover. His most recent solo recordings–Live in Recital & Alive in the Studio–can be purchased from his website: These recordings include Paul’s own flute quartet as well as his transcriptions for flute and piano of cello sonatas by Debussy & Shostakovitch. A union person from day one, Paul always made sure that the musicians in his orchestras were paid union scale and on time—not something we find as often as it should be. But doing things the right way is what Paul has been about. A great storyteller, I hope you’ll enjoy this interview.
* It is with great sadness that I have to report of Paul’s passing on January 14, 2018. He was an enlightened individual who accomplished so much in his life. I hope this interview, which took place roughly four months before his death, will serve as a reminder of the unique gifts with which he inspired us. RIP my friend.

About the Artist: Paul Lustig Dunkel’s career accomplishments represent what an extremely talented person who seeks the maximum pleasure from music can achieve. One of the renowned flutists on the New York music scene for the past 50 years, his playing represents the great 20th Century tradition of American flute playing. He studied with Bob Di Domenica, William Kincaid and Sam Baron and talks about them quite fondly during this interview. In addition to being a first-call flutist during the heyday of the NY freelance scene in the 1960s—1980s, he has served as principal flute of the American Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. His chamber music affiliations have included Speculum Musicae, Musica Aeterna, Ars Nova, and the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. In the 1970s, he began to turn his attention to conducting and subsequently conducted the American Composers Orchestra, the Westchester Philharmonic, (where he was music director for 25 years), and the Denver Chamber Orchestra. He has taught at New England Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, Queens College, Vassar College, the University of Connecticut, and Purchase College.


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