Month: April 2017

75 Inspirational Composer Quotes

Welcome to another Flute Friday! Happy Easter to those celebrating this upcoming Sunday. May your Easter baskets runeth over.

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I often discuss finding musical inspiration in my weekly posts, whether in relation to playing, writing, or teaching. In some instances, however, all we really need is a few words of wisdom. In today’s blog, I offer you 75 of my favorite inspirational quotes from composers so that you too may find creative insights from the geniuses of the past. Find one that speaks to you and carry it with you to your next rehearsal or performance.

75 Inspirational Composer Quotes

1.             Claude Debussy: “Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.”

2.             Georg Frideric Handel: “I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better.”

3.              Leonard Bernstein: “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

composers bernstein

4.              Giuseppe Verdi: “To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better.”

5.               Bela Bartok: “Competitions are for horses, not artists.”

6.            Aaron Copland: “So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it.”

7.            Franz Liszt: “Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist.”

8.            Jean Sibelius: “Music begins where the possibilities of language end.”

9.            Gustav Mahler: “I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way.”

10.          George Gershwin: “I frequently hear music in the heart of noise.”

11.          Igor Stravinsky: “Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.”

composers stravinsky

12.          Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”

13.          Edward Elgar: “I always said God was against art and I still believe it.”

14.          Gustav Holst: “Music, being identical with heaven, isn’t a thing of momentary thrills, or even hourly ones. It’s a condition of eternity.”

15.          Johannes Brahms: “Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.”

16.          Ludwig van Beethoven: Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets.”

17.          Joseph Haydn: “There was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original.”

18.          Arnold Schoenberg: “If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art.”

19.          George Bizet: “As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note.”

20.          Alexander Borodin: “Music is a pastime, a relaxation from more serious occupations.”

21.          J.S. Bach: “I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.”

22.          Giacchino Rossini: “Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity.”

23.          Erik Satie: “The musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest.”

24.          Frederic Chopin: “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

25.          Robert Schumann: “To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.”

composers schumann

26.          Frederick Delius: “There is only one real happiness in life and that is the happiness of creating.”

27.          Dmitri Shostakovich: “A creative artist works on his next composition because he was not satisfied with his previous one.”

28.          Robert Schumann: “In order to compose, all you need to do is remember a tune that nobody else has thought of.”

29.          Richard Strauss: “I may not be a first-rate composer, but I am a first-class second-rate composer.”

30.          Hector Berlioz: “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.”

31.          John Cage: “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

32.          Charles Ives: “Every great inspiration is but an experiment.”

33.          Karlheinz Stockhausen: “I’m an adventurer. I like invention, I like discovery.”

32.          Franz Schubert: “When I wished to sing of love, it turned to sorrow. And when I wished to sing of sorrow, it was transformed for me into love.”

33.          Benjamin Britten: “The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping.”

34.          Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: “It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me.”

35.          Giacomo Puccini: “Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man’s faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.”

36.          Ralph Vaughan Williams: “It never seems to occur to people that a man might just want to write a piece of music.”

37.          Malcolm Arnold: “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.”

38.          Sergei Prokofiev: “I detest imitation, I detest hackneyed devices.”

39.          Maurice Ravel: “The only love affair I have ever had was with music.”

40.          Alan Hovhaness: “There is nothing like practice.”

41.          Richard Wagner: “Imagination creates reality.”

42.          Alban Berg: “Music is at once the product of feeling and knowledge, for it requires from its disciples, composers and performers alike, not only talent and enthusiasm, but also that knowledge and perception which are the result of protracted study and reflection.”

43.          Alexander Scriabin: “In love’s godlike breathing, there’s the innermost aspect of the universe.”

44.          Franz Liszt: “Music embodies feeling without forcing it to contend and combine with thought, as it is forced in most arts and especially in the art of words.”

composers liszt

45.          Aaron Copland: “To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.”

46.          Luciano Berio: “In music, as I find myself forever saying, things don’t get better or worse: they evolve and transform themselves.”

47.          Igor Stravinsky; “I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.”

48.          Robert Schumann: “Nothing right can be accomplished in art without enthusiasm.”

49.          Franz Schubert: “I try to decorate my imagination as much as I can.”

50.          Igor Stravinsky: “Music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including and particularly, the coordination between man and time.”

51.          Ludwig van Beethoven: “Music is a high revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”

composers beethoven

52.          Leonard Bernstein: “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”

53.          Zoltan Kodaly: “Real art is one of the most powerful forces in the rise of mankind, and he who renders it accessible to as many people as possible is a benefactor of humanity.”

54.          Toru Takemitsu: “Music is a form of prayer.”

55.          Virgil Thomson: “I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.

56.          Edgard Varese: “Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.”

57.          Felix Mendelssohn: “The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.”

58.          Gustav Mahler: “Never let oneself be guided by the opinion of one’s contemporaries. Continue steadfastly on one’s way.”

59.          Johann Sebastian Bach: “It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.”

composers bach

60.          Carl Maria von Weber: “An artist’s sphere of influence is the world.”

61.          Carl Orff: “Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand.”

62.          Charles Ives: “Vagueness is at times an indication of nearness to a perfect truth.”

63.          Claudio Monteverdi: “The end of all good music is to affect the soul.”

64.          Elliott Carter: “Silences between movements are employed only in order to bring the opposing duo to the fore.”

65.          Ludwig van Beethoven: “Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.”

66.          Eric Whitacre: “A really good poem is full of music.”

67.          George Gershwin: “Life is a lot like jazz…it’s best when you improvise.”

68.          Giuseppe Verdi: “I adore art… when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.”

69.          John Corigliano: “Art is not only about angst.”

70.          Ludwig van Beethoven: “Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.”

 71.         Maurice Ravel: “Music, I feel, must be emotional first and intellectual second.”

composers ravel

72.          Modest Mussorgsky: “Art is not an end in itself, but a means of addressing humanity.”

73.          Leonard Bernstein: “The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just make sure that one note follows another…and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”

74.          Richard Wagner: “Everything lives and lasts by the inner necessity of its being, by its own nature’s need.”

75.          Hector Berlioz: “Love cannot express the idea of music, while music may give an idea of love.”


What is your favorite composer quote? Is there a quote that really speaks to you but is not included on the above list? Please comment below!


Happy fluting!




Practice Blueprints – Muczynski’s Sonata for Flute and Piano

Welcome to a new Flute Friday/Sunday/Weekend!

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We return this week to another installment in the Practice Blueprints series. The Muczynski Sonata for Flute and Piano is a bizarre, but not quite off the tracks, genre of work that appeals to the budding flutist wanting to do something a bit different from the norm. Before diving into the piece, however, you must be prepared to put your rhythmic skills to the test. Count, then count, then count some more and count differently from what you know to be “correct.” But don’t let me scare you! Once the counting is under control, there are moments of grace and vitality that make the piece introspective at times and exciting at others. I often joke with students and colleagues that the Muczynski Sonata for Flute and Piano must have been written for or about a person falling under the Scorpio astrological sign due to the juxtaposition of extremes and “stinging” surprises (and syncopation that, at times, recalls the creepy scurrying of an insect such as a scorpion or spider). This piece appeals to anyone who finds themselves wanting to express something different from the politeness of a Bach Sonata or the over-the-top virtuosity of the French favorites. If you march to a different drummer (one that switches from 6/8 to 4/4 to 3/8 and back to 3/4 with strange syncopations in between), the Muczynski Flute Sonata will speak directly to your unique, if not unconventional, personality.

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But where to start…? Looking at the score is a bit confusing as it is not quite clear what the composer is trying to achieve even within the first movement. Today’s blog will help point all of you working on this sonata in the right direction to iron out some of the work’s technical potholes. Elbow grease is required and patience is necessary. Once the foundation is set, however, the piece evolves into the flute’s equivalent of an 80s rock ballad. Can’t you just hear Slash playing some of the patterns from the final movement on his 12-string? I know I can!

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Practice this music with SmartMusic accompaniments. One of the trickiest elements of this piece is knowing your piano cues and figuring out just how your part interacts with the piano. There is a reason that the piece is titled Sonata for Flute AND Piano. The piano accompaniment does not simply play a supporting role in this scenario but acts as an equal partner that you will be communicating with in moments of rhythmic instability. When I was learning this piece in college, I literally locked myself in a practice room with a SmartMusic setup for hours at a time just trying to listen and understand how everything fits together, particularly in the 1st and 4th movements. It is one thing to read the score and see how the notes work themselves out but it is quite another to play what is written when the harmonic foundation is not so straight forward. The inner movements are a bit more stable rhythmically speaking so they will take less time to master than the outer two. SmartMusic will help you go over the tricky bits within the privacy of your practice room, saving precious rehearsal time with your accompanist trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

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Think bigger beats when time signatures create rhythmic confusion. Okay, I must preface this by saying that you will need to subdivide EVERYTHING, of course. But, if you get lost in the subdivisions, you will most likely get run over by the steam engine of notes in the piano part. Remember that element of grace that I was referring to in the beginning of this post? It is not just reserved for the tranquil 3rd movement but in the larger melodies that exist between notes in the complicated bits of the outer movements. For example, 6 measures before rehearsal 37 in the 4th movement is a bit strange because what you see on the page is a measure that should be written in 6/8 (based on how the note stems are grouped) followed by a couple of measures in 3/4 and a strange lyrical measure that seems to drift into a slower 3/8. WTF?? Muczynski, get a grip, dude! Why not count the entire phrase in larger downbeats? Doesn’t that make more sense to the larger musical picture? Uhm, yes! First step – work out your subdivisions. Second step – find the big beats. Third step – play the music.

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Breath kicks are your friends. I have discussed breath kicks in previous blogs, but for those new to my blog, a breath kick is simply an accent you place on the downbeat to establish where the beat actually is (helping both you and your pianist stay on the same page as the music flies by). You can do this by simply adding an air accent on the beat, elongating the downbeat slightly, or by placing a bit more vibrato on the most important, anchoring notes. Breath kicks will save your life in this work. Placing a breath kick on downbeats will help you establish where the beat is when the beat is constantly changing throughout complicated time changes. For example, opening measures of the 1st movement may not necessarily change according to time signature but do feature a variety of syncopations and changing rhythms. If you look closely, Muczynski gives us hints as to where to place these breath kicks with the indication of accent marks. Use these but also add a few of your own when switching from triplets to 16th note patterns. Another section to add a few breath kicks is at rehearsal 17 in the opening movement where the time signature changes almost every measure. Breath kicks here will ground the rhythmic figures and help you communicate the beat clearly with both your pianist and your audience.

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Conduct the (ever-changing) beat with the end of your flute. Yes – you can, in fact, conduct and play the flute at the same time (whaaaat???). Practice conducting simply 2,3, and 4 beat patterns with the end of your flute while you play. It will take a bit of practice to feel confident doing this while playing difficult repertoire but if you can master it, this is one of the best pieces to practice conducting and playing. The beat will change. The subdivisions will change. The notes to emphasize will change. BUT if you are conducting in small motions with the end of your flute while you play, you will not get lost. You may even understand why the measures are barred the way they are and why Mucyznski wrote a measure that appears to be in 6/8 over a 3/4 time signature.

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You still need to be in tune for the 3rd movement. Do not let the craziness of the opening movements make you disregard intonation. Sure – the music moves along mostly in “stinging” interjections and brief moments of moving melody, however the 3rd movement requires an altogether different approach. Practice the opening measures of this movement with a tuner and be prepared for that low D at measure 31. The piano joins you on the low D and if you are out of tune, everybody within a 20 mile radius will know it. Practice playing both piano and forte dynamics with your tuner in preparation for the 3rd movement because if you are out of tune, the piano will unintentionally expose you at rehearsal 33 and again at 34. You know how the dentist is always telling you not to neglect your gums? Well, along the same lines, do not neglect your intonation when performing this piece. The 3rd movement will expose your cavities if you are not careful.


Have you performed Muczynski’s Sonata for Flute and Piano? What rhythmic elements did you struggle with and what did you do to iron those parts out? Have you practiced this piece with SmartMusic? How did you start your own practice of this work? Please comment below.


Happy fluting!

Flute Swag – Flute Bags

Welcome to another (belated) Flute Friday! Let’s talk flute bags.

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Before I begin today’s blog, I just want let everyone know that I have not been sponsored by any of these companies for my opinions. I have watched numerous YouTube product “review” videos that are not true opinions at all but rather just nice things that someone has been paid to say in exchange for an enormous box of products. My thoughts on these bags are based on solely on my experience. I have owned some of these bags and have shopped nearly all of them. Some will work better for performers with schedules, habits, and musical priorities much different than my own. There is truly a bag for everybody and I hope today’s blog will help those of you searching for a new bag find the right one for your unique flutist lifestyle.

Bags Allora

Allora Flute Bag.   My husband purchased this flute bag for me as a Christmas present several years ago and I loved it so much that I developed tunnel vision for any other flute bags on the market. What I like most about this bag is that the padding on the inner most pocket is super thick and protects your instruments well from accidental bumps and bruises (you know, for those times that you set your flute case on the edge of a table and some brass player accidentally knocks it over…or those other times when you trip over a staircase because you are late to a rehearsal… Basically, if you are accident prone, this is the case for you!). The larger outer case is a perfect spot to hide your phone and wallet while the smallest outer pocket is a very convenient place to store extra pencils, a metronome, or a tuner. The straps are great if you like to bike to your gigs as they stay put and create a light and safe package easy to transport. Speaking of travel, this bag fits perfectly below the seat of an orchestra chair or the seat in front of you on most airplanes. The downside to this bag is that you cannot fit a music folder in the largest pocket but it is just big enough to fit in too much extra stuff. I am a bit of a pack-rat (a trait I inherited from my family) and often find myself packing too much stuff in the pocket reserved solely for my instruments. This is not the fault of the bag, obviously, but if you have hording tendencies, a smaller bag might suit you better. Less space, less stuff you will be able to cram into one bag.

Bags Altieri

Altieri C Flute and Piccolo Combo (Double Pocket Model).  I scrimped and saved earnings from a summer job during my early college years to purchase this bag. Everyone had this bag and for a good reason. This is the bag that can fit everything: flute, piccolo, wire music stand, any and all accessories, music in a variety of shapes and sizes, books, a wallet, your lunch, phone, change of clothes for the gym, etc. (#packrat). Sometimes you just want everything you could possibly want or need in one place and this bag accomplishes just that. The thing that I love the most about this bag is that the outside pockets are big enough to hold those ginormous folders assigned in bands and orchestras or weird, oversized scores that you would love to reduce on a copy machine but doing so renders the music impossible to read by human eyes. I also really like that there is a designated compartment for your piccolo that does not touch the designated space for the flute case. The shoulder strap can be adjusted to be worn as a cross-body bag and the handle is extremely sturdy. This is a great bag if you need to haul a lot of stuff to and from gigs or practice sessions. The cons of this bag are that the padding is not the best (nowhere near as sturdy as the Allora bag) and the nylon outer pockets are a bit thin and wear down at the bottom over time. Again, if you are a pack-rat, avoid this bag. You will be lugging around waaay too much stuff you know you do not need just because it will fit (you and I both know that you do not need ALL THE MUSIC with you at all times, amiright?).

Bags Cavallaro

Cavallero C Flute/Piccolo Backpack.  Most new, professional series flutes come with a Cavellero style outer case. The fluffy padding on the inside of Cavellero cases is magical. Very soft yet very durable – It is like a fluffy pillow protecting your flute from the outside world (It will be all right. You are safe in here with the magical fluff, my precious). With that design in mind, the C Flute/Piccolo Backpack offers the same lining in the largest pocket with designated compartments for both your flute and piccolo and ample room for smaller scores. The outer pocket is a bit bigger and can fit larger scores (although I am skeptical that a large orchestra folder will fit in this pocket….) and there is a handy compartment for a water bottle on the outermost pocket. Stay hydrated! This is a great bag for keeping everything locked, loaded, organized and limited to the necessities. If you want to streamline your practice by focusing strictly on the priorities or only want to take the essentials with you to rehearsal, this bag is for you. The top zipper is also good for those of us that may be accident prone and the backpack straps may be converted to a shoulder strap if you prefer to wear this bag cross-body style. Of course, the downside is that you will not be able to pack a ton of music and accessories into this model the way you can with the Altieri bag. This may actually be a good thing for us pack-rats but if you need to pack for a number of different types of rehearsals, a bigger bag that can accommodate more might suit you better.

Bags Olanthe

Olathe Flute and Piccolo Bag. This bag is very similar to the Altieri bag, however rather than keeping the instruments in the innermost pocket, they are given separate, fleece-lined pockets on the outside of the bag, reserving the single, thinner, inside pocket for music and accessories. The idea is a good one to keep organized by providing everything its own, designated space and limiting any tendency to cram more items than can fit in one area, however the accident-prone player might want to find a bag with a bit more protection. What I love about this bag is that it is very easy to access what you need quickly. For example, if you are player that switches frequently between flute and piccolo in rehearsal, having an easy compartment to access your piccolo (or quickly put your piccolo away when not in use) will save you a ton of time and annoyance from having to search for your cases in a larger bag. This is a great bag for the hyper-organized and super-efficient player who prefers to have everything easily accessible at all times.

Bags Patillo

Pattillo Fluterscooter Bag. This is an awesome bag for those of you who need to carry a ton of extra stuff all.of.the.time. The new Patillo Fluterscooter Bag reminds me of those old-school Adidas gym bags everybody used to have in the 90s (but, of course, tailored moreso for the busy flutist than the bodybuilder). You can literally fit everything! There is even more space than the Altieri bag (if I had had this in college, I would have saved $25/semester on an instrument locker). I think one of the best things about this bag is that your instruments can sit flat rather than upright (my repair guy warned me that storing your instruments flat prevents accidental damage that may occur during travel). This is the perfect bag for an avid flute choir performer who switches frequently between several instruments. If you are a pack-rat, you will be immediately attracted to this bag. I love love love love the outer pocket for smaller accessories because it is super sturdy and will hold all of your electronics, smaller instrument stands, pencils, pocket music dictionary (do we still use these?), ear plugs, and much more. The outer pockets on both Altieri and Olathe bags are not nearly as rugged as this one. And just imagine how much music you can fit into the largest pocket! #marathonpracticesessionanyone

Bags Fluterscooter

Fluterscooter Case Cover. For several years, I have salivated over these bags. I have walked by professionals at flute conventions carrying the beautiful silver models, sleek red and black patent leather styles, and even passed by Vivian Guzman herself carrying the very stylish ocean blue design (this color is even more gorgeous in person than it is online). Although they were very chic, I was always a bit concerned that they would not be big enough to hold both my flute and piccolo (which my Allora bag held nicely). I was happily surprised recently when I bit the bullet and finally ordered the Spring Lilac bag to find that these bags do, indeed, hold both instruments with room to spare. What makes these bags so unique is that they are the most stylish bags on the market. There is a color and style to fit just about any performer. Every musician backstage has a boring, industry approved, black nylon carrying case. Sturdy, does the job, but nothing to write home about. Fluterscooter bags add a splash a color to a bleak backstage while remaining supportive and functional. We are creative artists, aren’t we? Shouldn’t our cases express our individuality? Uhm, yes. What I love most about the bag, however, is the hefty nylon strap on the inside that wraps around your flute case, securing it directly to the bag. My Allora does not have that and the Altieri only has a flimsy drawstring on the inside of the bag for the same purpose. For an accident-prone person like myself, I am very confident that if something happens during travel, or simply because I am a klutz, my flute will not jimmy around in its outer case causing unexpected damage. Of course, the only downside is that you cannot carry your music in this bag (unless you fold it…eeek!!). As part of my anti pack-rat therapy, I am okay with this. My solution is to invest in a really sturdy orchestra-type black music folder with bungees on the outside that can hold all of my music in one place. Works brilliantly! (And prevents me from packing my entire house into a bulky bag for rehearsals.) Chic and streamline. Two thumbs up, Fluterscooter 😊. P.S. If you need a bag that can hold more but still want some style, be sure to check out Fluterscooter’s backpack and messenger bag styles.

Bags Final

There are many other bags on the market, but these remain the most popular bags on display at conventions and used in greenrooms around the country. All of these bags have pros and cons and appeal to different personalities and performer types. For example, the hyper-organized performer would do well with the Cavellero backpack or the Olathe bag while the super busy, multi-instrument performer would get the most bang for their buck with the Patillio or Altieri bags and, of course, the fashionista would dig a Fluterscooter bag with tons of personality.


What type of bag would fit your priorities and tastes? Do you own a bag not on this list that you love and how does it differ from the other bags? What do you look for in a flute case or gig bag? Please comment below!


Happy Fluting!