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16-Year-Old NAMA Winner Gareth Laffely: Helping and Healing With Flute Music

The young, talented musician who wowed NAMA voters is working on his second album and using flute music to comfort those who suffer.

At an age when most musicians are starting to get serious about forming a band, 16 year old Gareth Laffely is preparing his second album. His debut, The Journey, released in 2014, won him the Rising Star award from the Native American Music Awards. He was also nominated for the Best Rock Recording NAMA, and 4 Indian Summer Music Awards.

Using just his first name for his professional moniker, Gareth is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer, who is classically trained in violin and piano, but he has devoted much of his time to the Native flute. His music is a rich tapestry of classic rock influences and meditative pieces, due to a mixture of influences from his producer Robert White Johnson, who has worked with Celine Dion, Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, and many others, and his Mi'kmaq & Cree heritage.

At the age of 13, with a single already under his belt, Gareth’s family took him on a trip to the west where he ended up playing flute at Mesa Verde National Park.

“I was walking through the streets of Santa Fe and there was this little $45 Odell Borg pocket flute for sale,” Gareth said. “I hadn’t really played the Native flute much; I had a toy one I picked up at a pow wow when I was little. As soon as I picked up this flute and blew into it something came alive inside of me and I knew that was what I wanted to do from now on. We went to the cliff dwellings later that week in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and I asked the tour guide if it would be alright if I played a little flute down on the mesa so I could hear what it sounded like off the cliffs. Just as I was getting off the tour bus the guy announces that there’s going to be a Native American flute concert. I was scared to death, so I basically played the scale on it. That’s what started it all.”

Gareth is also heavily involved with doing volunteer work with his music. That first single (actually released when he was 12), “Move On,” was a tribute to a family friend who died from cancer, and his song “This Time” contains an anti-bullying message which he takes into schools. “A lot of what I do is with my music,” Gareth said. “I am a hospice volunteer with the flute, I played for people in hospitals and nursing homes, and I encourage everyone to find a cause they are passionate about and try to make a difference in the world.”

Gareth is preparing to go to college, but he has not decided on a course of study. “Music is something I will always do, it’s a part of me and I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to," he says. "I was thinking about going into engineering or business marketing, that way it would be something I could use for my music career and I could establish myself in that line as well. I’m still exploring all the possibilities.”

Gareth’s next album, with the working title “Dare to Dream,” is available for pre-order though his website, it will be released this spring. You can stream The Journey for free now on Spotify. For more information visit