Members of the Joplin Native American Flute Circle will hold their fifth annual winter flute gathering on Saturday and Sunday to bring together vendors, musicians and local listeners for a weekend of fellowship and growth.

Flute Circle coordinator Gordon Keyler calls world flutes one of the most ancient musical instruments, and points to their universal ability to bring people together. More than 300 attendees visited last year's gathering, which Keyler said has become the largest of its kind in the Four-State Area.

"It's such a beautiful instrument, and it's easy to play," Keyler said. "There's no formal training, so you play from the heart. Nearly every ancient culture on earth had one (style of flute), and studies have shown that music of this type is emotionally and physically healing."

While emphasis of both the circle and gathering is on the Native American style of flute, world flutes of all kinds will be welcome and exhibited at the event, he said. Keyler said that regular circle attendees often bring Japanese, South American and Celtic-style flutes.

"We like to make it as easy and accessible for people as we can, because it's a chance to meet people from all different walks of life," Keyler said.

The event is slated from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Unity of Joplin, 204 N. Jackson Ave., for vendors, food, raffles, a silent auction and a potluck dinner. The dinner begins at 5 p.m., followed by an open mic concert.

The event will continue from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday with more vendor booths, plus auction and raffle winner announcements. An open flute circle will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. for an expanded taste of the group's monthly meetings.

Attendees should bring two canned items that will serve as an entry fee; those will be donated to Unity's Little Free Pantry for neighborhood families in need. The canned goods will also earn each attendee one raffle ticket to be entered into a contest for a custom-made Native American-style flute.

The Flute Circle meets monthly at the church for music, tips and friendship. Keyler offered an open invitation for anyone interested in joining the circle or attending the gathering.

"We all just come here for the love of the instrument," he said. "Some members come to listen and don't play at all. Some are recording their own albums. We have amateur dabblers like myself, flute-makers, children. ... There's not any limit as to who can come."

For more information, call 417-680-6262.

Sarah Coyne is a family and parenting columnist for The Joplin Globe. She can be reached at scoyne@joplinglobe.com.

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