Poster Lizzo performing in New York
Lizzo performs Sept. 21, 2019, at Bustle's 2019 Rule Breakers Festival in New York.
Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Bustle

Lizzo's path to stardom blazed by her flute playing

Lizzo, the singer-songwriter-rapper who has made enormous waves in the music industry, started her love for music in a place many other young people do — in the band room. Her flute remains a key part of her performances. It even has its own Instagram account.

During an interview with CBS News, she elaborated on how her experience playing flute as a kid shaped her career into the superstar performer she is today.

Lizzo, known then as Melissa Vivianne Jefferson, started playing flute in intermediate school, when band was considered "cool" by her peers. As she moved into middle and high school, she became one of the only students sticking with the instrument, practicing hours a day.

"I remember in the fifth grade, I just wanted to be really good," she told CBS News. "I was, like, 'I want to be really good at the flute. Everybody else is so bad.' And it was so hard to be good at it. It's a very difficult instrument. I became, like, obsessed with being good."

She went on to attend band camps and dreamed of attending the Paris Conservatory after completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Houston so that she could play professionally.

College was a different experience than she was expecting, though. Being a small fish in a large pond was an adjustment for Lizzo, and she missed the camaraderie of her high school experience.

That camaraderie is what encouraged her to make girl groups and other collaborative ensembles while living in Minneapolis.

"That's marching band. That's being in an ensemble. That's leaning on somebody and needing that support," she told CBS. "I believe in the one sound. Everybody comin' together to make that one sound."

She decided to leave college and quit flute after personal and family struggles, which is when she decided she wanted to become a singer. This was when she adopted the Lizzo persona and started recording professionally, forming groups like GRRRL PRTY and others.

Flute didn't stay away for long, though. She started integrating solos and samples into her contemporary music, with the first piece being dedicated to her father.

"He wanted me to play the flute so bad," she told CBS. "And so there was this breakdown in the song. And I would pull the flute out. And I'd go [makes noise]. And I went crazy. Oh, my God, I played the flute in honor and tribute to him. And people went crazy. People went wild. And it made me feel close to him."

Now, Lizzo's flute is a mainstay in her music, being featured on many of her popular tunes. Her flute, named Sasha Flute after Beyoncé's album I Am... Sasha Fierce, even has its own Instagram account, boasting more than 200 thousand followers.

It seems as though Lizzo's rise to super stardom is guided by her experience in band.

"The flute is the way," she told CBS about her success. "When you hide who you are, it makes it harder for people to get to know you and to love you. But as soon as you are unashamed of who you are — I was so nervous that people would call me a nerd or think I wasn't cool. But as soon as I showed the world all of me, that's when they started to fall in love with me."

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