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Meet the Flutists of CAFE!

This month's featured newsletter article is an interview with CAFE (Central Arizona Flute Ensemble) performer and former AFS Board Member, Susan Norton-Scott!

Can you tell us about the history of this ensemble?

The first generation of CAFE in 2007, brought together flutists whose focus was on performing challenging, cutting edge pieces written for 7 flutes. We played at recitals and a National Flute Association convention, but the ensemble lasted only 3 years. After a hiatus, Leslie Etzel and Sue Norton-Scott re-formed the group in 2014, and now we play more accessible music (mostly arrangements) for audiences of all types.

We originally specialized in concerts for retirement communities, but now have expanded to playing for libraries, churches, community events, and music series. Occasionally we play background music for a special occasion, such as an art opening, luncheon, or church holiday celebration. We have performed at over 24 senior communities and 6 libraries, plus the Desert Botanical Gardens, Tempe History Museum, and Miami/Globe Concert Series.

What is CAFE's mission?

Our mission is to deliver superb performances of music from the flute choir repertoire; tailor programs for each of our audiences; and engage, educate, and entertain our listeners.

Because we know AFS members will want to know, what kind of flutes do CAFE members play?

We have the instrumentation to cover whatever combination of flutes an arrangement calls for: piccolo, C flute, alto, bass, and contrabass. Between us, we have up to 15 flutes on stage at any one performance.

Where can we hear you perform?

Most of our performances are private because we are hired by a retirement community so their residents can enjoy a concert. Our public performances are typically at libraries, city events (such as Scottsdale’s Canal Convergence), or as part of a music series (such as Tempe’s King of Glory Church Concert Series).

We are performing at the White Tank Library from 1:00-2:00 pm on Saturday, January 18, 2020; and Fairway Branch Library from on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, from 6:00-7:00. Come check us out! A link on our webpage and our Facebook page provides additional information about upcoming public performances:

What can audience members look forward to at your concerts?

Most people have never seen or heard a contrabass flute, so we are memorable and unique because of Leslie Etzel’s contrabass (nicknamed Connie). In fact, our logo features the distinctive shape of a contrabass flute. We always play a “CAFE Scale” to introduce audiences to the names and range of the flutes. The scale starts with Connie, then features the bass, alto, C, and piccolo up to the top note, then descends back down through the various flutes and resolves in a major chord. Believe it or not, we get enthusiastic applause just for that!

We mindfully disregard the classical concert tradition of keeping the audience at a distance. Instead, we actively engage with them. For example, rather than a printed program, we take turns standing up to introduce our music with interesting tidbits and a bit of humor. People see our faces, hear our voices, and connect with us during a Q&A session. During our holiday programs, we hang stockings from our music stands, decorate Connie with lights and a Santa hat, and invite audience members play sleigh bells and shakers during “Feliz Navidad.” We consistently receive standing ovations because everyone is relaxed and having fun. (And because the music is relatable, diverse in style, and well-rehearsed).

What is CAFE’s favorite kind of music to perform?

We enjoy performing diverse styles and focus on pleasing a wide variety of musical tastes. Programs include seasonal favorites, folk songs, patriotic anthems, golden oldies, whimsical pieces, jazz standards, show tunes, and familiar classical melodies. You can hear samples of our musical styles by selecting the “listen” tab at

Is there a "crowd favorite" piece that your audiences love?

A couple of pieces garner exceptional audience responses. One is when Liza Ballard stands up and plays (by memory) the piccolo solo for Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Another is when Sue Norton-Scott dons a man’s jacket, fedora, and tie, then wanders around the audience playing bass flute in the call-and-response piece J. Fucik called “Old Grumbler.” She portrays a grumpy old man (bass flute) dialoging with children (the rest of CAFE). Finally, we always get the audience singing with us when we play our 10-minute medley of songs from “The Sound of Music.”

Please tell us about your newest commissioned piece!

We noticed that the flute choir repertoire was lacking arrangements of big band pieces from the 1940’s, which some of our retirement audiences were requesting. So we commissioned Glendale arranger David Duarte to fill the gap. “Big Band Medley” includes: In the Mood, String of Pearls, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Moonlight Serenade, and Take the A Train. It is a challenging piece to play because of the tricky transitions and demand for stylistic accuracy, which is also why we love it.

Are there any fun facts you’d like to share about CAFE's members?

CAFE members are:

Leslie Etzel, manager, contrabass, bass, and alto flutes

Sue Norton-Scott, bass flute

Tim Solarz, alto and C flutes, piccolo

Nora Welsh, alto and C flutes, piccolo

Susan Borgers, C flute

Liza Ballard, C flute

Rhonda Bowen, alto and C flutes

We are connected by our love for small ensemble flute playing, and by our desire to share our music with audiences in an active, joyful manner. Many of us met through the AFS activities. Leslie was President for 12 years. Sue and Leslie are lifetime members, while Tim, Nora, Sue and Rhonda all participated in Alla Breve at one time or another. We play in many other groups, including Desert Echoes Flute Project, Scottsdale Concert Band, North Valley Symphony, various pit orchestras for musicals, and PVCC Flute Choir. When audience members ask what we do outside of playing flute, we boast 2 active and 1 retired music teachers, 1 ASU administrator, 1 retired corporate executive, 1 manager, and 1 pharmacist.

So what's new and next on the horizon for CAFE?

“Fascinating Flutes” is an interactive, educational demonstration about the flute family and flute culture presented by Leslie Etzel and Sue Norton-Scott. Participants see and hear all five members of the silver flute family, plus flutes constructed from clay, plastic, bamboo, and a carrot! An interactive slideshow covers flute history, myths from around the world, and local stories. If packaged with a CAFE concert, we also provide a sneak preview of pieces that will be played.

How can we book a CAFE concert?

The best way to schedule a concert or a “Fascinating Flutes” lecture/demonstration is to contact CAFE manager Leslie Etzel either through our email or website: or If you know of a venue that would enjoy having us come play, please reach out!

Be sure to check out CAFE's website at and see them live on January 18 and 21, 2020!

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