(WBIR-Townsend) Through the end of the weekend you can experience beautiful music inspired by Native Americans. Renaissance of the North American Flute Foundation (RNAFF) is holding its second annual flute festival to celebrate the Native American Flute. It's at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend Thursday through Sunday 10 am to 10 pm.
One of the performers is a teen prodigy with an amazing talent whose musical journey started at age four.
"Fell in love with music and started playing drums then piano and violin and just recently I found the instrument that really speaks to my heart the most which is the Native American Flute," Gareth Laffely said.
Three years ago Gareth Laffely started playing the Native American Flute and now he owns dozens of the beautiful instruments, has composed original music, and released a CD called "The Journey."
"The Native American Flute just really spoke to my heart and spoke to my soul," he said.
The 16 year old taught himself to play and that frees him from conventional music constraints.
"I play by the heart and also play by ear," he said. "I can hear melodies and kind of copy the melodies and really dare to try new things."
He identifies with the instrument and the culture that produced it. Gareth has traced his heritage to the Mi'kmaq / Cree Native American tribes.
"I really just want to give a big thank you to all the folks in the Native community for really reaching out and helping me and it's just been an incredible experience," he said.
He shares his incredible talent as a hospice volunteer. He brings a cedar flute with him to visit terminally ill patients.
"When I play the flute not only does a sound come out but vibrations travel across the room and also the smell of cedar just fills the air so it's more an experience rather than just an instrument," he said.
Gareth discovered that calling a couple of years ago when he visited his great uncle who did not have long to live.
"So I went in and played some flute for him and my dad accompanied me on the guitar and I found out later that the last thing he heard while he was alive was Amazing Grace on the Native American Flute," he recalled.
He is young but he is wise.
"It only takes one person to make a difference so go out and be the change," he said.