If you’re a flute player, you should attend the NFA Convention. You don’t have to go every year, but going at least once has a lot of benefits.
But there are also a lot of drawbacks, such as the cost. Consider why you may or may not want to attend a flute convention.
Costs of the NFA Convention
To help determine if attending the National Flute Association (NFA) Convention is worth it, it’s important to know the costs. You have to think about everything from registration to accommodations to actually getting there.
Here are some costs to consider as you sign up for the flute convention.
First, you need to pay to attend the event. You can pay for the whole four days, one day, or even one event or activity. The registration fee also depends on the type of membership you have, so you also have to pay for that.
If you’re in school, a student membership costs $55. You can also buy membership in bulk with at least 10 students to get a 50% discount. Then, the convention would cost $135 for the whole thing.
When you’re out of school, you’ll need to pay $95 for a membership. The cost to attend all four days of the convention is $260. However, if you’re low income (I believe that means $40,000 or less), you can pay $200.
Check out the NFA registration page for more prices for things like individual events, the exhibit hall, and ticketed meals.
Unless you live in the convention city (this year it’s Chicago), you’ll need to find somewhere to stay. If you book a room at the convention hotel, it will cost you between $195 and $235 per night.
You can lower the cost by getting roommates or by staying at another hotel. But after staying in the convention hotel a few years ago, I believe it’s worth the cost if you can afford it.
Of course, you also have to figure out how you’ll get to Chicago and/or the convention itself. Driving is usually the cheapest since you just have to pay for gas, and you can split the cost if you carpool.
But you may need to pay for car maintenance before your trip. Taking the train is a nice option. I looked into a train from Kansas City (where I live) to Chicago, and it starts at $60 one-way.
Flights are another option, but they start at $200 to $500 depending on the airline you select. And you have to consider if you’ll have to stop or change planes anywhere.
If you drive or rent a car, you have to pay for parking. Of course, car rentals also add into the cost. Or you might need to pay for taxis or Uber rides if you want to travel farther around the city.
Food and Drinks
You may also need to pay for food and drinks during your stay. Sometimes, there are vendors around the convention center. However, they can charge a lot for a simple snack or meal.
There are also restaurants around town that you can get food from. Those can be expensive.
Bringing at least some snacks is great, especially if you’re picky like me. But you’ll have to pay for those snacks and make sure you have room for them in your suitcase.
Flutes, Music, and Accessories
One of the best parts of the NFA Convention is the exhibit hall. You get to shop for flutes, music, and other accessories. And you can visit multiple shops in one convenient place.
If you’re looking to upgrade your flute or headjoint, you should make sure to budget for that. Some instruments cost thousands of dollars. Even music and accessories can add up if you buy a lot.
Consider setting a budget so that you don’t go overboard. Then, you’ll be able to pay for some cool things without paying more than you can afford.
Why the NFA Convention Is Worth It
Attending the flute convention can be expensive, but that money may very well be worth it. If you’re unsure if you should attend the event, here are a few things to think about that may change your mind.
One of the best things about the NFA convention is that you get to meet people you might not meet otherwise. Yes, you can “meet” other flute players online, but it’s nice to get to see people in person.
Also, if you’re interested in going to grad school, you can meet with potential professors. You won’t have to travel around the country, so you may actually save money while getting to have lessons with multiple teachers.
Even if you aren’t interested in a degree, you can meet new people. Maybe you know you’ll move somewhere soon, so you find a flute player or two from that area. Meeting people is super easy.
Learn New Things
The flute convention usually has a variety of events. Some of the events are performance, but a lot are workshops, panels, and other educational events. You can learn a lot in a few days.
I have quite a few handouts from when I went to the convention a few years ago. It was an amazing long weekend where I got to learn about flute, music, and even professional-related topics.
Even if you just go to performances, you may learn about new pieces. You can also find new music when browsing the exhibit hall.
Participate in Competitions
The deadline to enter most NFA competitions happens in February. So while you can’t enter a competition for this year, you can do so for the next year. There are many competitions for all different levels.
Another benefit of going to the NFA convention is that they usually announce the repertoire for the next round of competitions. That means you can find the sheet music at some of the flute vendors.
I believe one or two even have a special spot in their booth for competition music. So you can look over the pieces and determine if you want to learn them and enter a competition next year.
Shop for Instruments
If you’ve been meaning to upgrade your flute or piccolo, the convention is the perfect place to do that. I bought my professional flute at an NFA convention, and it was super convenient.
You get to try dozens of flutes, and you don’t have to wait for a store to mail the flutes to you for a trial. Plus, you don’t have to deal with shipping the instruments back.
While most instruments you’ll find at the convention are new, you may be able to find a used one. Some individuals will bring flutes that they’re looking to sell, so you can try them out in person.
Find Sheet Music
Shopping for sheet music online is great, but it can be difficult. You don’t get to view the entire piece, so you may not always know how hard the music will be or if you feel comfortable learning it.
But when you shop in person, that’s not a problem. You get to look at the music and at the layout. I’ve seen some pieces that have the worst layout. I’m talking two-page movements where the pages are back-to-back.
The different vendors will have their own selection of music. So be sure to visit all of the booths to get the widest variety of pieces to choose from.
Why the NFA Convention Isn’t Worth It
As much as I enjoyed my first NFA Convention and plan on going back, there are some drawbacks. It’s not the most perfect event, and it may not meet the needs of every flute player.
Keep the following in mind when attending the flute convention.
According to the schedule, events are happening from 8am until after midnight. That means if you want to go to a lot, you’ll have a few long days in a row.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get tired very easily. Since I have multiple chronic illnesses, I can’t go, go, go for 16 hours with minimal breaks. Now, you can take breaks as you choose, but it’s still going to be a long few days.
If you are participating in a competition, you may have to attend events at specific times. The same is true if you participate in one of the large convention ensembles.
The full convention is four days, plus some events the evening before. That can be a lot for some people. And you may not be able to take off from work for enough days to attend the whole thing.
When I went to my first convention, I had a day job. And I had to be back the morning after the convention ended. This year, I’ll be driving and will probably split that drive into two days.
So that means I’ll be out of commission for basically a week. You can go for a single day, but that’s not that worth it. If you’re going to go, you might as well make the most of it if you can.
I already broke down some of the fees you can expect to pay to attend the NFA Convention. Adding that up, as an adult member, the trip will probably cost me about $1,500 just to attend. If I chose to fly, that price would be at least $2k.
That doesn’t even include the cost of sheet music, accessories, or instruments. And it doesn’t cover the cost of food or anything else I want to purchase.
You can save money by having a roommate, and students don’t have to pay as much. However, it’s still a lot of money. For some people, that money may not be worth it.
Will You Attend the NFA Convention?
Attending the NFA Convention is something every flute player should do at least once. You can learn a lot and meet plenty of new people.
However, it is expensive and takes up a lot of time. Be sure to consider if it’s worth it for you to go. And if you’ll be there, let me know!