Erik the Flutemaker

Davie man's flute-making skills benefit children in Nicaragua

Davie man's flute-making skills benefit children in Nicaragua

November 3, 2013|By Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel


There is a lush bamboo jungle within the cowboy town of Davie belonging to a flutemaker whose wind instruments have blown harmony to children in another part of the world.

For years, Erik Sampson, who goes by the name of Erik The Flutemaker, has been harvesting his impressive collection of bamboo shoots he grows from his one-acre ranch home in Davie.

Sampson, 61, has made a living by handcrafting the shoots into a wide collection of wind instruments, including Andean pan pipes, two-penny whistles, Oriental flutes, meditation flutes and even a unique bamboo sax.

And now, the Davie-produced flutes are playing a role in the cultivation of a special home in Somoto, Nicaragua, which houses 25 poverty-stricken children and a nearby farm.

"It was God's mercy that put us together with Erik and how his flutes have helped build this home," said Pastor Carlos Baez, who took up the care for the children and now oversees the home and farm.

"Something as simple as a flute has changed the lives of so many of the children here," he added.

Flutemaker Ministries, a non-profit group created by Sampson, teamed up with other charity groups to build the two-story home that now houses the children in Nicaragua.

The 24-acre farm in the nearby town of Jalapa now produces corn, beans, yucca and peppers. The food helps fund the farm and lowers the monthly food budget at the children's home, Sampson said.


"When I got to these kids, my heart was just gripped, and I could not just walk away from them," Sampson said inside his wooden studio in Davie, situated inside his bamboo fields.

It was during a missionary trip to Cascabel, Nicaragua, in 2006 that the flutemaker began devoting his craft toward helping the Kids of Cascabel, a group of children who used to spend their days sifting through a dump site for recyclable materials and other things to peddle, Baez said in a telephone interview from Nicaragua. The children lived in one-room houses, some without beds or water, and never went to school, he said.

Sampson said he met the children while doing a puppet show as part of his ministry travels across Latin America. Soon after his trip, Sampson started the Flutemaker Ministries, which in addition to private donations, raises funds by selling flutes that the master flutemaker deems not up to his high standards.

"If the flute happens to have a little bit of a bend or too wide, or maybe rubbed too hard by another bamboo, if there was some type of blemish on it, we knew that would move cheaper and I was happy todonate that as the Cascabel flutes," he said.

Private donations, as well as the proceeds from faulty flutes being sold at a discount, went toward the construction of the two-story home, which took two and a half years to build, Sampson said.

Inside his workshop tucked in the middle of his bamboo forest (temperature is kept at 72 degrees for ideal flute tuning), two large bins are filled with "Cascabel flutes" ready to be sold.

While Sampson's charity in Nicaragua has been his passion in recent years, his use of flutes to spread bamboo music and help others date back more than four decades, he said.

Sampson picked up flute playing sometime after joining an anti-Vietnam War theater group in 1969 at the age of 17, he said. Sampson began incorporating his flute playing as part of a street-theater act that involved mime work and storytelling, he said.

Sampson said he spent the next few years as the perennial hippie, living in communes and traveling the world. That included a walking stint through South America and adopting the name Santo Banano (Saint Banana).

The flute player eventually became the flutemaker in 1971 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, when he came upon a street beggar. Sampson said he gave the beggar his best flute thinking the man would make more friends and make more money than just holding out his hat and waiting for a coin to fall in.

Hours later, with a sudden desire to make his own flute, Sampson began searching for bamboo. Through trial and error, Sampson taught himself to whittle out a flute. He made his first sale in Guatemala, selling a flute along with an elaborate drawing on the streets for a buck.

Sampson became "born again"in 1974 and eventually settled in Florida, lured largely by the great flute-making bamboo called "Bambusa Multiplex." Such bamboo originated in southern China and appeared in Japan before finding its way to Florida.

It wasn't until Sampson began working for the children in Nicaragua that he realized that his flute-making was something more meaningful than crafting a bamboo instrument, he said.

"Flute-making is what I was good at, and I could make them available for support," he said. "I had walked away from many opportunities that I regretted that I did not stop to help.



Posted by MaryAnne Palumbo on December 01, 2014

I have known Erik for over 30 years. He conscientiously perfects his craft and has a unique heart for people to know their Maker. Erik shares a comparison of how he crafts the bamboo and how God designs our lives when we surrender to His Master Craftsmanship. Erik is a man of passion and commitment. If he says he will do something, you can count on it. Out of a heart for worshiping God together with his wife and other musicians, Erik discovered a way to make the flutes in tune with other instruments. This is called concert pitch. My degree is in music education. I play mostly, a traditional silver flute. Once Erik began making concert pitch flutes we played together in worship at church in South Florida. For years, I enjoyed what Erik’s bamboo flute playing added to worship at church. I moved away, but still listen to his CD’s. I play them for clients during session in my newer career as a massage therapist, I have seen Erik’s generous heart for helping the poor in Guatemala, Mexico, and Cuba. When you buy a bamboo flute from Erik, it his hand crafted, not mass produced machine made.

Posted by Stu from Georgia on September 29, 2014

Erik…you’re AWESOME DUDE! Found you on, love your music and humor and wish I could afford a flute right now, but will offer you up prayers today instead, for you and your ministry to the children in Nicaragua. May Jesus richly Bless you and your work, and thanks for lifting my spirit today with hope and the promise that we can make this world a better place, simply by being creative, funny, and willing to help!

Posted by Sergiu on August 25, 2014

It is amazing what can take place when we give ourselves to GOD and just as the staff Moses used to do GOD’s miracles, a “simple flute” brings about a major change in the life of these children. Once I do better on my tin whistle, I will move on and purchase one or two penny whistles. GOD bless you and use you greatly.

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Erik the Flutemaker
14701 SW 18th Court
Davie, FL 33325
Phone: +1/954.424.6502

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