In a remarkable tale of lifelong passions and a fulfilling late-life career change, Chris Raven, now approaching 80, is making waves in the world of music by crafting exquisite baroque flutes. Despite a career spanning several decades in the IT industry, Raven’s innate love for woodworking and music resurfaced later in life, leading him to embark on a new journey as a specialist flute maker.
Hailing from the UK, Chris Raven’s path to flute making is a testament to the enduring impact of childhood interests. As a young boy in Chelmsford, Essex, he was surrounded by music, with his father playing the organ and his mother singing in the church choir. Raven himself took up the flute until his teenage years, after which his musical pursuits took a backseat. However, a chance encounter in his 40s, where he won music lessons at his daughter’s school fundraiser, rekindled his love for the instrument.
Two decades ago, Raven went on to establish a flute choir in Dorking, Surrey, where he resides. Yet, his love for woodworking, instilled during his childhood, had all but faded away in adulthood, with the occasional repair being the extent of his craftsmanship. It was only after the passing of his mother that he stumbled upon his old school reports, revealing his consistently strong performances in music and woodwork. This revelation struck a chord with Raven, who had initially pursued science and mathematics at university, followed by a career in IT.
Reflecting on this rediscovery, Raven remarked, “That was the biggest surprise. Although once I’d noticed it, it really wasn’t that surprising because I made stuff as a child. I had a little bench with a vice. I found I was good at it.” The nostalgia prompted him to acknowledge his latent talents.
Raven’s career journey had previously taken him from teaching to IT, a decision made in the early days of the profession when it held a unique allure. Despite the detour, he never lost sight of his passion for music and woodworking. Around the age of 70, he seized the opportunity to attend workshops on Irish flute-making and baroque flute-making. Subsequently, he crafted bamboo fifes for the flute camp he organized with his choir.
Determined to fully immerse himself in this newfound passion, Raven converted his garage into a workshop equipped with lathes, bandsaws, milling machines, benches, and tools. With meticulous precision, he embarked on the intricate process of crafting baroque flutes, a craft that demanded an acute attention to detail and expertise in wood turning, silverwork, leatherwork, and French polishing. Along the way, he found camaraderie and collaboration within a supportive community of fellow makers.
Describing his love for the craft, Raven spoke of the sensory experience, noting the unique scents of different woods and the tactile pleasure of working with them. He emphasized that flute making, although not his primary source of income, is more than just a job; it’s a lifelong passion realized.
As he approaches his 80th birthday, Raven’s enthusiasm remains undiminished. He anticipates each day with a sense of purpose, fueled by the creative process and the fulfillment of crafting exquisite instruments. His next endeavor is to create boxes for metal flutes made in England, a testament to his continuous exploration and growth within his chosen craft.
In Raven’s own words, his journey as a flute maker has been “enormously satisfying,” reflecting the profound sense of accomplishment and contentment that can come from pursuing one’s true calling, regardless of age.