Getting the attention of preteens is never easy, but about 20 boys in the craft lodge at The Society of St. Vincent De Paul’s Circle V Ranch Camp are fixated on John Zeretzke.


He isn’t talking about the finer points of this year’s latest video game system or newest TV show; instead, he is teaching the boys how to craft flutes from PVC pipe and they are mesmerized.


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During the hour-long workshop, not only will the boys create a flute for themselves, but they will also finish a second one for another child in need. It is a symbol of hope and peace to someone in a distant land, someone they will probably never meet. A message of helping others is at the center of the Circle V experience.

Once the class finishes their second flute, they are delivered by Zeretzke around the globe. Previous destinations have included the Philippines, Nepal and even some European destinations. A new home for these flutes is still being worked out, but Zeretzke said he hoped to send them to Haiti.

His first flute delivery was to dangerous areas in the Philippines. His group was escorted by elite military forces and he said they were impressed by the locals’ reaction to the musical gifts. “You can’t solve all problems with just force,” he said to the students. He captivated the campers with stories of Nepal and the children who had received the instruments through Flutes Across the World, his humanitarian/education program. He told them about one boy from a poor family who slept in a barn loft and his only toy, prior to the flute, was a wooden block tied to string. He said one Nepalese child had a crippled hand and couldn’t play the flute like other children, but found joy in running the crippled hand up and down the instrument to create a flutter of sound.

“This is the perfect teaching tool,” said Zeretzke. Telling the students they will be making something for someone else engages them on a level that might be hard to reach otherwise. “I’ve even had kids cry 10 minutes into my program,” he said. After Zeretzke gives a brief talk on his organization and demonstrates a few different flutes, he invites students up to grab a pair of PVC flutes from a bin. The students take one that is nearly finished and another that requires a little more assembly. They sand mouthpieces down, file finger holes and draw designs with markers. Zeretzke leads the campers through a “Hot Cross Buns” tutorial. Afterward, he takes a poll, “who has never played the flute before?” More than half the class raises their hands.

“I’m very excited,” said 11 year-old Bryant Diaz, who was playing the flute for the first time. He said part of that excitement was the prospect of his flute being sent to someone in need. “Flutes can give hope.” Fellow camper, 10-year-old Daniel Rodriguez, said he also thought sending the flutes was a good idea and added that making them was “a lot of fun.”

Distributing flutes abroad is part of a broader Circle V message of giving back regardless of social status. Many of the children at the camp are themselves considered at-risk and are on “camperships,” which cut the cost of a week at camp from $350 to $60. The remaining $290 is paid for by donations.

Circle V camp director Ray Lopez said this was the first week that Flutes Across the World had come to the camp and he hoped to continue their partnership with Zeretzke. “Many kids here may have never been part of a music program. It might change their life forever, and at the same time it will change someone else’s life, too.”

He said the Society of St. Vincent De Paul’s ability to give out camperships and host programs like Flutes Across the World was largely based on donations. He hoped the community would rally behind the program, which not only helps children but teaches them to help others. To find out more about the camp, visit www.svdpla.org. For more information about John Zeretzke, visit www.zworldmusic.com.

brookshire@syvjournal.com