By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
The flute may be small, but it's big when it comes to local high school students.
The light, easy-to-assemble instrument remains one of the more popular instruments to school children these days.
Several Mahoning Valley music experts talked about favorite instruments among teen-agers.
Flutes, along with clarinets, are hot rental items at Daybreak Music in Cortland, said Dave Lemasters, a guitar technician.
"Flutes are easier to carry; younger kids don't have to stretch their fingers as far," he said.
Woodwinds also are popular among girls who visit Etude Music in New Middletown, said Richard Tisone, owner and president.
"Flutes are compact, have a pretty sound and are easier to handle," he said.
Tisone said boys tend to favor the alto saxophone, in part because it's smaller and cheaper than a tenor saxophone. Former President Bill Clinton was also a deciding factor for many students.
"Kids saw him on TV and that had an influence," Tisone said.
Many girls in Niles McKinley High School's band play the clarinet or flute, Director Carla Dean said.
"The problem with [a disproportionate number of] flutes and clarinets is that you don't hear much on the marching field," Dean explained. "You need a balance."
Getting a mix: Dean "works from the bottom up," encouraging lower brass and reeds. Woodwinds should make up the smallest number of instruments, she added.
Many younger students are receptive to playing something else. But maintaining a balance between higher- and lower-pitched sounds is always challenging.
"It never will be perfect," Dean said.
Many of the 65 band members at The Rayen School love the alto saxophone, according to director Ed Arrington. It's often featured in jazz clubs, and high school kids are exposed to widely heard musicians like Kenny G.
"It's the idea that so many professional players make it sound easy," Arrington said, adding kids often hear the finished product without realizing the work that went into it.
Thumping bass: Many band members also like the booming bass featured in much of today's music, Arrington said.
At Chirchiglia's House of Music, though, electric guitars draw the most interest -- and highest sales -- according to its owner, Rocky Chirchiglia. Amplifiers and bass guitars also do well, he added.
"The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark 5 brought electric guitars to light," Chirchiglia said. "These guitars are a top-seller in the country."
Every instrument, however, is equally important to the sound of a good band, Dean said.
"We appreciate all the kids, no matter what they play," she said. "We always let them do what's in their heart."