Music, Pop Culture

This Lizzo Flute Performance Made History – So Why Are People Pissed?!

by Brianna Allison


Photo Courtesy of Shawn Miller of the Library of Congress

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Brianna Allison. Find her on Instagram at @ballison7. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

Lizzo is easily one of the most talented performers of our generation. Whether she’s rapping a verse, singing harmony or twerking her ass, Lizzo can always captivate an audience. And the last few weeks have been no different, except it wasn’t just her dance moves and iconic songs that have captured our attention. Lizzo had all eyes on her on September 26, 2022, as she performed with President James Madison’s 200-year-old crystal flute.

Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, invited the “Flute Queen” to visit the Library of Congress’s largest flute collection in the world via Twitter. Hayden even shared that Lizzo could play some of the 1,800 instruments if she made the trip to DC.

Lizzo responded by saying “IM COMING CARLA! AND IM PLAYIN THAT CRYSTAL FLUTE!!!!!”

Lizzo’s Love For Flutes

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Although we know Lizzo can sing like nobody’s business, she shares in a CBS interview that the flute is what truly inspired her to get into music. She started playing when she was in fifth or sixth grade, when she says being in band was considered “cool.” Throughout the years, she became even more passionate about playing the flute. She stuck with it, even when it became “less cool” in her high school years. But Lizzo never stopped practicing. She practiced all the time on her own and in private lessons. And most of the time she was playing by ear first and then reading the sheet music.

Lizzo continued to excel at the flute and went on to play in the University of Houston marching band. Her love for flute playing never diminished, but she was forced to decide if she wanted to pursue her dream of playing in a symphony or if she wanted to follow a different path. While in college, some family troubles caused Lizzo to leave school and take some time for herself. During her time away from college, she had a self-discovery: she wanted to be a singer. Although she had never considered herself a singer before, this is when Lizzo’s singing career started.

Even though Lizzo became famous for her powerful voice, she never stopped playing the flute. Her talent flourished, and the world began to notice that Lizzo is much more than just a vocalist. During the pandemic, she performed online with the New York Philharmonic orchestra and now has played one of the most famous flutes in history.

The Beautiful 200-Year-Old Crystal Flute

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When Lizzo responded to the Library of Congress’s invitation, she specifically requested the crystal flute that belong to James Madison, who was the 4th President of the United States. The flute was given to him by French flute designer, Claude Laurent to celebrate his second inauguration in 1813.

The flute was one of the few valuables that were saved by Dolley Madison from the White House, as the British troops set fire to Washington D.C. in 1814. Since then, the flute has been a part of the largest flute collection in the world protected in the Library of Congress.

Lizzo’s Historic Moment

The crystal flute was secured and brought to the Capital One Arena on September 27. Handlers brought the historic artifact on stage for Lizzo to play. She stood in her shimmering body suit explaining the significance of the instrument to her audience and telling them that “it’s like playing out of a wine glass, so be patient.”

The trained flutist carefully lined up her fingers and started playing beautiful trills. As she continued to play, she started to twerk to the beat as the audience cheered her on. She returned the instrument back to the handlers before returning to the mic and yelling “Bitch, I just twerked and played James Madison’s crystal flute from the 1800s. We just made history tonight!”

Not only did Lizzo have the opportunity to perform with Madison’s flute onstage, but the Library of Congress gave her a tour of the whole flute collection the night prior. During her private tour, she was given permission to play various historic flutes. After making sure the pop star could break the “quiet rule,” Lizzo performed in both the Main Reading Room as well as the Library’s Great Hall.

After her time in the Library of Congress and her historic moment on stage, she made sure to thank the library for “preserving our history and making history freaking cool.”

The Controversy Of Lizzo’s Performance

Although a lot of people saw the incredible Lizzo flute performance as monumental, others saw it as degrading. Some Twitter users voiced their disapproval after the video of Lizzo twerking while playing the crystal flute went viral. One of these Twitter users was Jenna Ellis, a former campaign lawyer for Donald Trump, who tweeted that her performance was a “desecration, purposefully, of America’s history.” Other users were angry because they felt Lizzo was being targeted by hate messages for her size and skin color.

Many are asking those who are critical of Lizzo playing the historic flute if they were even aware of its existence before her viral performance. I’m going to guess, not many people. So why is it an issue for a classically trained and talented performer to play it?

Sunny Hostin, one of the hosts of The View, said that this was an iconic moment in U.S. history. She reminds viewers that James Madison owned 100s of slaves and that being a slave owner was “a degradation of history.” But Lizzo playing a 200-year-old flute and twerking “a full-circle moment for American history… This is the promise of America: You have a slave’s ancestor playing the 200-year-old flute.”

Even after all the controversy with Lizzo’s iconic performance, she has been presented with the opportunity to perform at Montpelier, James Madison’s home. The Virginian home is a memorial and museum for the former president. They extended an invitation to the pop star after watching her performance go viral. So this might not be the last time that we see Lizzo performing with a historic instrument!

And if you’re interested in listening to Lizzo play the flute on a regular basis, make sure to follow her flute’s Instagram account! Yes, you read that right! Lizzo’s personal flute, Sasha Flute, has an Instagram, and it has 327K followers. So give her a follow and keep an eye out for the next iconic Lizzo flute performance!

Share with us down below what you thought of the historic 200-year-old crystal Lizzo flute performance!

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