El Chuco Inspirations: Local woodworker creates ‘healing flutes’

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Born in Mexico City, Pedro “Peter” Zenker moved to El Paso in the 80’s and went into the medical equipment business; more specifically sleep studies.

However, his longtime woodworking craft had put him in touch with creating something magical in between then.

Photo by photojournalist Johnny Munoz

During his time studying and teaching the implementation of mechanical ventilators and sleep labs, Zenker said he started making Native American flutes instead of using sleep apnea machines, which personally helped him sleep better after he would play.

He explained the calmness of the Native American flute heals many which is why it’s widely used in hospitals, yoga and meditation, “I feel a lot better when I play the flute then when I don’t play. That’s how I started making the flutes.”

The woodworker said he does not necessarily consider himself a musician, but knows the basics of creating soothing sounds from his custom-made flutes. His mother was a private music teacher and his brother became a Master violin maker.

“As long as you play those six notes, doesn’t matter how you play them. It always sounds good,” said Zenker as he proceeded to play the flute. “Sounds beautiful. I have no idea what I did. It’s just those six notes, I play them randomly and it sounds beautiful.”

He’s been working with wood since he was seven or eight years old. As for the flutes, Zenker said he’s made nearly 400 total. But, that’s not all he creates, “I do all my stuff. You can see all my toys, all my pens, my drums, my flutes obviously.”

El Pasoans can find his work at the Downtown Art and Farmers Market on Saturdays.

“The market itself has been really good to me,” Zenker shared. “A lot of people buy the flute because they understand that they might be able to feel better if they play the flute. And, a lot of people have come back and said ‘You know what, since I played the flute it has been the best sleep I’ve ever had.’ Some of them come back and say ‘You know what, it didn’t help but I like the flute and keep on playing it.”

When looking at his flutes, you immediately notice unique features in designs, sizes and wood. Zenker shared he uses different types of wood that he buys, and added that it has an effect on the sounds of the flute.

When said and done, we asked his favorite part about the process: “Basically when I’m done making them. When it’s finished and it’s ready to be played.”

Zenker said he’s open to teaching others that may be interested in woodworking or making hand-crafted flutes.

“If anybody would like to learn how to make flutes, I’m more than welcome to have them come over here and help me make flutes. That way they can learn how to make them.”

For more information, you can visit Zenker’s Southwest Flues Facebook page. There is also a Woodworkers Club of El Paso you can join if interested.

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