A lifelong stutterer, flutist Roldon Brown speaks eloquently through his music.
By Emily Henagan Photo By Robin May
When Roldon Brown ordered two mini chocolate chunk cookies at CC’s Coffeehouse, he labored to articulate the request because of his severe stuttering. When he plays the flute, he releases the most beautiful, eloquent notes with the simplest of ease, his voice in his music.
“If you want to see who can set a record for taking the longest time ordering a double cheeseburger and fries, it’s me,” jokes Brown, 25. But he hasn’t let his stuttering or his financial straits derail his career.
“Everywhere I go, I’m playing on the cheapest flute,” Brown admits. “You just really have to work for it and want it. It’s not going to be easy, but you can’t let things stop you.”
When he was 19, the gifted musician earned a position in the Rapides Symphony and won second place in its competition. At age 22, he performed regularly with the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra as a substitute flutist. Currently, Brown is a flute teacher at the Acadiana Symphony Conservatory.
Brown says having a stutter makes him see how patient others are, as well as himself.
“It certainly makes life a little more complicated than it has to be sometimes,” admits the UL Lafayette alumnus. “You get used to it though. It teaches you how to read people quickly; it shows the core of that person super fast. And you learn to be more patient with yourself — that’s the biggest test.”
A hometown prodigy, Brown tested his and his family’s dedication to his musical prowess.
“When I was in high school, our hot water heater broke and my mom had enough money to either repair the hot water heater or continue my flute lessons,” he recalls. “She decided to keep me enrolled in my flute lessons. Whenever my sister, mom or I needed hot water for washing clothes or bathing, we boiled it. We boiled water for years just so I could have my lessons.”
Raised in a house near the Lafayette Utilities System’s plant, Brown had a meager upbringing. His parents divorced when he was 6 years old, and although his father helped out, he says his family was still poor.
“I grew up thinking we were rich, but we obviously weren’t,” he says. “My mom made it seem like we were, though. She did lots of tiny things that made life fun; it felt like we had the world.”
Those “tiny things” included water gun fights within their home and driving the family through nice neighborhoods to show her children tangible things to aspire to.
“If I could have half of her discipline and strong mind, I’d be completely set,” says Brown.
Brown is also set on the tennis courts, competing in tournaments and playing competitively. He won at the Lafayette 3.5 Flex League twice and the 4.0 Flex League once.
“Playing tennis and playing the flute gets you in the mindset to keep practicing,” says Brown, three-time winner of the UL concerto competition.
Brown is throwing a benefit concert for himself on Saturday, Oct. 1, at UL’s Angelle Hall so he can practice and hone his craft with one of his idols, Mathieu Dufour, in Chicago. Dufour holds the first flute position within the Chicago Symphony.
“He’s just a super great person,” Brown says of Dufour. “Lots of people at that level are disconnected from the students, but what struck me the most about him is that he is so down to earth.”
Brown says he hopes to follow in Dufour’s footsteps one day.
Andrea Loewy, Brown’s flute instructor for six years, believes he has what it takes to get there. “There is an intensity and passion in his musical approach,” says Loewy, a UL music professor. “He has a beautiful, warm sound that is technically fluent and flowing. Also, he shows an extremely high sense of motivation, drive and talent for his craft.”
“Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer or pilot,” says Brown. “With the flute, though, it just clicked. There was never any moment that I said, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ It just clicked that this is what I want. Being competitive with myself made me want to do it on a high level. The flute is just special. It’s just amazing — the overall feel and sound of it. I’m calm when I play the flute.”
ROLDON BROWN BENEFIT CONCERT
Saturday, Oct. 1
Angelle Hall, UL
Admission: $5 for adults;
$3 for children
You can also help Roldon Brown raise funds to continue his flute studies by making a tax-deductible donation on his behalf to the Allen J. Celestine Foundation, a Lafayette-based 501C(3) that raises funds to help underprivileged youths further their educations. Donations can be mailed to 638 Carmel Drive, Lafayette, LA, 70501.
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
Oh, the irony... or something like that.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
St. Patty's Day crafts
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.