Last Look

Magic flutes

Tonettes at the Collection of Musical Instruments.

Mark Morosse

Mark Morosse

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Susan E. Thompson ’79MusM, curator of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, is a proud defender of the tonette, a humble plastic flute that encouraged many a budding musical career. The tonette's heyday was in the 1940s and ’50s, when schools used it to determine whether young students would be able to master a "real" instrument.

The tonettes pictured here are from the collection's long-running exhibit of the instruments, which features specimens Thompson found on eBay. They offer a dramatic contrast with the collection's better-known harpsichords, violins, pianos, and oboes. Which is precisely the point: Thompson says she created the exhibit "because we had nothing on display for children, and nothing made of plastic. It lends an air of modernity."

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