Robert Willoughby (1921-2018)


Robert WilloughbyRobert Willoughby, recipient of the National Flute Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, was for many years he professor of flute at the Oberlin Conservatory, where he was the first Wheeler chair in performance, and later a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and at the Longy School of Music. He served as principal flutist of the Cincinnati Symphony and assistant first flute of the Cleveland Orchestra. As a founding member of the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble and Oberlin Woodwind Quintet, he toured extensively in Europe and Asia. He commissioned and premiered compositions by Easley Blackwood and Thea Musgrave, among others. For many years a member of the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin and the Smithsonian Chamber Players, he gave concerts and masterclasses on modern and baroque flute. Mr. Willoughby recorded for the Gasparo, Vox, CRI, Coronet, and Smithsonian labels. He received a BM from the Eastman School and an MM from the New England Conservatory, and his teachers were Joseph Mariano, Georges Laurent, and William Kincaid.He made many recordings on LP as a soloist and with the Oberlin Baroque ensemble and other chamber ensembles. Most of these LP’s are no longer available, but the following recordings have been re-released on CD:

  • National Flute Association, Inc.: Historic Recording Series, Vol. 3: Robert Willoughby
  • Pierné (Sonata da Camera for flute, cello, and piano and Canzonetta for flute and piano), Reger (Serenade for flute, violin, and viola and Suite for flute and piano) and Roussel (Trio for flute, viola, and cello), Boston Records BR1054.
  • “Revelations,” music by Carter, Fine, Gerhard, Honegger, Messiaen, Musgrave, and Wuorinen, Boston Records BR1071.
  • “Mostly French,” music by Debussy, Fauré, Honegger, Ibert, Martinu, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Roussel, Boston Records BR1070.

Articles by Robert Willoughby

  • “Telemann’s Fantasia #2 in A Minor: A Performance Guide, Flute Talk (November 2003): 10-11.
  • “Sonata in E Minor by J.S. Bach, First and Second Movements: Performance Guide by Robert Willoughby,” Flute Talk (April 1987): 16-19.
  • “Sonata in B Minor by J.S. Bach, First Movement: Performance Guide by Robert Willoughby,” Flute Talk (March 1985): 8-11.
  • “The Flute: Practice Techniques.” Elkhart, IN: W.T. Armstrong Co., Inc., n.d.
  • “Flute Tone and Intonation,” Flute Talk (December 1994): 11; originally in The Instrumentalist (October 1950).
  • “Flute Vibrato,” Flute Talk (January 1992): 24-25; originally in The Instrumentalist (February 1957).

Interviews with and Articles about Robert Willoughby

  • Robert Bigio, “Robert Willoughby: American Grandmaster of the Flute,” Flute (2010) (web version at
  • Aralee Dorough, “Robert Willoughby: The Next Decade, The Flutist Quarterly XXXVII, no. 4 (Summer 2012): 30-33.
  • Jictoria Jicha, “Robert Willoughby Combines the Wisdom of Three Masters,” Flute Talk (November 2003): 4-11.
  • Leonard L. Garrison, “90th Birthday Celebration for Robert Willoughby,” Flute Talk 31, no. 4 (December 2011): 12-13
  • Leonard L. Garrison, “Happy Birthday, Bob: A Tribute to Robert Willoughby,” The Flutist Quarterly XXVI/2 (Winter 2001): 57-61
  • “A Conversation with Robert Willoughby,” (interview with Patricia George), Flute Talk 31, no. 4 (December 2011): 14-17
  • “From Mariano and Kincaid to Decades of Fine Teaching,” (interview with Vanessa Mulvey and Vanessa Holroyd) Flute Talk (February 2001): 18-20
  • “Robert Willoughby: Combining the Best of Schools,” (interview with Kerry Walker) Flute Talk (December 1994): 8-10.
  • “Robert Willoughby—Seeking Variety,” (interview with William Montgomery) Flute Talk (October 1984): 2-6.