Growing up, I hated the color pink. I was a tomboy, and considered pink a Barbie color.

As I got older, I discovered that I actually look pretty decent in pink. I also developed a thing for men who wear pink (no one wears pink as well as Rufus Thomas.

Of course, it’s all about how one wears pink (or any article of clothing). Anyone who wears pink, especially a man, knows that a shirt could never compromise one’s sense of self – that really, not much can. Despite pink’s booming Hello Kitty popularity, I’ve come full circle and now have a healthy appreciation for it.

In the world of music, playing the flute is the new pink.

Back in grade school, I played alto saxophone in the band. The flute section always bored me – it was comprised of all girls, and stereotypically giggly and rather annoying ones at that. They only seemed interested in using the flute as a soprano instrument, and their high notes rang like dog whistles. Unless they had solos, the spastic drums, rampant tuba, and bleating saxophones drowned them out.

Until recently, I felt about the flute the way I used to feel about pink. Then, You Tube links of beat box/flautist Nathan Lee started making the rounds. Lee, lithe, shiny bald, and clad in sweatpants for his Google London gig, seems unassuming at first as he wheedles a few whistles from the flute. Then he starts beat boxing – while he’s playing the flute. This dichotomy, not unlike Lee’s own half-Scottish and half-Indian background, defies convention. Lee reinvents both beat boxing and flute playing, and tosses in a bit of Indian flavor, funk, jazz, and hip hop beats along the way.

Two aspects of Lee’s performance amaze me – the first is that he plays the flute and beat boxes at the same time. He beat boxes with enough force and precision to use those exhalations to power the flute. Anyone not watching him would assume that two people were playing. The second is the surprisingly wonderful musical dichotomy he creates. Not only does his performance fuse genre and sound, but it also produces a fusion in connotation and effect – suddenly, the flute is the least girlie instrument around, and beat boxing trills with finesse.

Perhaps Lee is an exception, a musical universe unto himself. I wondered if anyone else was using the flute in a new and interesting way.

Then I went to Ryles Jazz Club in Inman Square and saw the Lance Martin Band. They’re a pretty typical soft jazz/blues band that specializes in funky remakes of classic songs, particularly by the Beatles. What’s unique about this band is that the frontman, Lance Martin, leads with a flute. He’s a rather big fellow with a beret and a groove, and he almost consumes the silver. Rather than producing vocals, he sings with his flute. Martin’s flute is like a bumblebee you can’t catch, flitting around the stage, soaring and diving and buzzing and looping above and around the songs. Trying to follow it is dizzying, so you ground yourself in the familiar bass and the piano’s 7th chords and allow the flute to pull through the whole thing like a fine thread.

The flute’s mobility allows for some fun shenanigans, such as Lance Miller’s Letterman-esque foray onto Hampshire Street. In the middle of a song, Miller, still piping away, burst through the double doors into the kitchen, then out the back exit onto the street where he danced and played to passersby as though he were Inman Square’s own Pan. The audience watched through the window and listened via Martin’s wireless mike, appreciating how the flute’s size allows it to transcend what we previously considered to be its entertainment value.

The first flute, carved out of swan bone, was found in a cave in Northern France over 30,000 years ago. Since then, the flute, fife, and/or recorder have appeared in Greek mythology, ancient Egypt, and the Bible. From the Pied Piper to Leonardo da Vinci to Jean-Pierre Rampal to Nathan Lee, the flute has demonstrated its staying power, and not just because of its historical roots. Despite my initial doubts, the flute supports reinvention and the infinite possibilities of musical creativity. Like pink, the flute can be elevated above stereotype and expectation, so long as you keep your mind and ears open.