Victoria Shoemaker first got interested in world flutes about four years ago at a Renaissance festival.

She was working at the festival and needed to build up a crowd to play the game she was running, so she grabbed a musician to help her attract attention. 

“He came and played my game and we made a big crowd because I was yelling at him and harassing him, saying, ‘You can’t play sports, you’re a musician, rah rah rah,’ ” Shoemaker said with a laugh. 

Later on, she apologized to the man, saying she was only teasing to rev up the crowd and was a musician herself — she’s played flute for more than a decade. He told her to “prove it” and invited her to a late-night jam session.

After hearing her play, the man invited her to help sell his bamboo flutes and teach people how to play them at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. 

Since then, the 23-year-old musician has studied with musician Peter Phippen and “fallen in love” with various world flutes. She recently had the opportunity to travel to Canada earlier this month to perform at the Indigenous Music Awards, which were held Sept. 9-13.

“I was overwhelmed by everything,” Shoemaker said about the festival. “There was so much going on and I was a little bit starstruck. The level of musicianship was so high by everyone.”

Shoemaker performed on a Mexican Kingwood Irish flute alongside Wisconsin-based musician Kelly Jackson, who was nominated for multiple awards at the festival, and Lindsay Everly. The trio played Jackson’s song “Waiting” with Jackson on guitar and lead vocals, Everly on keyboard and vocals and Shoemaker on flute and vocals.

“I’ve been traveling to their shows for a little over a year now and they’re phenomenal,” Shoemaker said. “... When Kelly called me and asked me to join her in Canada with Lindsay, I was speechless for a while. I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t of chosen better company to go with because they’re both amazing people as well as musicians.

Shoemaker said Phippen is also one of her biggest inspirations and supporters when it comes to playing world flutes. 

Phippen, a Grammy Award-nominee and four-time Native American Music Award nominee, couldn't say enough good about Shoemaker, noting skills in breath control, improvisation and listening.

“You could tell she had it,” he said. “What ‘it’ is, she has it in spades,” he said. 

The 2010 North High School graduate has been playing classical flute for about 14 years. Her family moved to Eau Claire from Chicago when she was 10, which is when she began lessons and “fell in love with it.” 

“I’ve been playing classical flute since then in concert band, orchestra, youth symphony — any venue I could find,” she said. 

Shoemaker said she’s “the luckiest girl in the world” when it comes to music, noting besides the music awards in Canada, she’s had opportunities to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and at Carnegie Hall. 

She recently graduated from the VanderCook College of Music in Chicago where she studied music education. She said she hopes to find a blend of both teaching and performing. 

Phippen said he’s excited to see where Shoemaker goes next. 

“I’ve seen a lot of talented young musicians and I don’t think I’ve seen one as good as her or someone as eager to learn and keep getting better as well,” he said. 

Currently, Shoemaker is playing around the Chippewa Valley area and beyond and working on an album with Promotion Music Records. 

 “When I was entering high school my grandmother asked me, ‘Are you really serious about this music thing, Victoria?’ and I said, ‘Grandma, I don’t think there’s anything else I want to do for the rest of my life.’ ” Shoemaker said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

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