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Flutopia 5K Race Benefits Charity, Aims to Inspire Musicians

by on July 26, 2014 9:12 PM

Penn State flute instructor Naomi Seidman may have been leading five other flute players in a rendition of “Flight of the Bumblebee,” but it was the runners gathered on the grass of Tom Tudek Memorial Park that took flight when she began to play. 

Saturday morning was the second annual Flutopia 5K race, a charity event to benefit the local nonprofit Centre Volunteers in Medicine and international charity Doctors Without Borders. At intervals along the path through the park, groups of musicians played jazz, swing, percussive tribal beats and everything in between.

State College resident Cyndy Kochakian says “Flutopia is easily one of the more fun races in town.” A frequent participant in various races, she’s used to steady burn that comes with running – but she says that the music at Saturday’s race helped her persevere as she grew tired.

“It gives you something to look forward to as you make each in turn in the race,” Kochakian says. “It really keeps you going.”

Event organizer and professional flautist Cathy Herrera says she started the Flutopia Intiative – which aims to “inspire musicians to change the world, one concert at a time” – last year after hearing her friends tell stories about medical missions trips they’d been on around the world. She conceived of the charity event as a way to use her skills as a musician to support bringing medical care to the uninsured both in Centre County and across the globe. 

As a member of eight various ensembles and orchestras in the area, Herrera says all she had to do was ask the musicians she knew to play. When hearing of her goal to raise money for charity, she says not a single musician turned her down.

Seidman says she doesn’t often have the chance to contribute to a good cause and play her instrument at the same time. “That’s what makes the opportunity to play today so special, because it’s so rare,” she says.

Herrera says she hopes that Saturday’s event can inspire other musicians to use their talents to give back to the world around them. Though the Flutopia intiative is still young, it’s growing. Over 200 people came out for the race, which is roughly twice the turnout from last year.

For Herrera, the race is also a way of honoring her family. Having grown up in a household with a father that coached track and cross country and a musician mother, the Flutopia 5K is a “a wonderful opportunity to combine those elements that I grew up with.”

For Orbisonia, PA native and former marathon runner Jim Daniel, the combination of athletics and music helped provide “a great bonding experience” with his family on Saturday morning.

“My daughter has been wanting to start cross country running, and my wife really loves music – so today is perfect for us,” Daniel says.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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