Month: September 2018

Flute Meme Friday: Animals and Flutes

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday.

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I don’t know about all of you, but with the beginning of the new school year well underway, and both Mars and Mercury going forward, my World has become a bit bonkers. I thought we would take things a little easy this week and simply enjoy a few pictures of animals playing the flute! Have fun and relax this weekend. Leave the cram practicing until Monday.

Enjoy! 🙂

Animals and Flutes

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Abstract Thinking (and Writing)

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday!

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As I was going through my email this week, I discovered a number of calls for paper/presentation abstracts for upcoming 2019 conferences. Writing an abstract may sometimes be intimidating for performers – How do we put into words what we intend to communicate without words? “You will love this piece,” will sadly not earn you a spot on the conference agenda. In today’s blog, I will be discussing some of the basic guidelines for constructing a convincing abstract. I hope this topic will be useful to those currently trying to boil down completely brilliant ideas about the flute into 300 words or less.

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First thing’s first – Brainstorm Ideas. The most challenging part about constructing an abstract is coming up with a great idea that you would either like to speak about or music that you would like to perform for an audience. A good place to start is by simply asking yourself what interests you about the flute. Are you curious about flute history? Are you attracted to new, exciting pieces of music utilizing extended techniques? From there, you can narrow down your topic by focusing on certain composers, compositional eras, techniques, and so forth. You may even start looking at particular pieces in your collection and, through the magic of compositional analysis, begin to make connections between the notes on the page and the affect those notes produce when performed on the flute.

Too many ideas? Narrow down by selecting ideas that fit into the theme of the conference. Many conferences have a title or theme that changes from year to year. Check out the conference website – what type of music are they showcasing at the upcoming convention? What composers or performers are they highlighting? Can you tailor one of your ideas to include these themes or musicians? For example, if the conference is emphasizing world music, you could discuss pieces that include non-traditional techniques taken from around the globe (hello, Takemitsu). Perhaps an easier way to connect your topic to the conference is by researching the location of the conference and discussing or performing works by composers or styles connected to that particular area. A good example of this would be to propose a recital of Jazz inspired works for a conference taking place in New Orleans or performing variations on a movie theme song for a conference taking place in Los Angeles. Tying your project to the conference is not necessarily a requirement, but if you are having trouble coming up with a good idea, this is another great place to start.

Too few ideas? Crack open a flute magazine and research current trends in the flute world. Performance anxiety is always a hot topic, but the way we discuss coping techniques has changed over the years. You might find a topic that interests you – How can you take it to the next level? What other topics can you connect to those published in these periodicals?

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Organize your ideas into a clear format. What do you intend to perform or discuss? What pieces and/or composers are involved? Why is it important to you? What would you like your audience to take away from your presentation? Before putting paper to pen (or fingertips to keyboard), create a bullet-point list of these items, identifying clearly the who, what, where, and why of your topic. From here, writing your abstract will be a piece of cake!

Writing the abstract. The key to writing an abstract is to be clear and concise, yet powerful. Begin with a wonderfully inspiring sentence or question that addresses why your topic is interesting and important. Why should your reader care? How does your idea relate to the flute community at large? This should be limited roughly to one or two sentences. You may throw in a quote from a composer or performer if it seems relevant and/or powerful to your message. The middle of your abstract should outline exactly what you plan to present to support your idea and in what order. Which pieces will you discuss or perform? What concepts will you address? Which composers will you highlight? What group activities do you have planned? What handouts do you plan to circulate and discuss? This should also be limited to 1-2 sentences tops. Finally, the closing sentence should state exactly what you expect your audience to walk away with after listening to your presentation. Is this a new understanding of the works of a particular composer or an appreciation for compositions written for a specific type of flute? What is the overall point of your topic?

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Need an example? Below is an abstract that I submitted for the 2015 Canadian Flute Association Conference, which was accepted and converted into an hour-long workshop. Feel free to use this as an example to format your own abstract:

PAPER PRESENTATION

The brilliance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s compositional construction transcends numerous musical mediums, most notably that of opera. Intricate relationships, particularly those between men and women, serve as preeminent themes in operas such as The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro. “Character” development can also be found in Mozart’s instrumental works where dynamics, rhythmic figures, changing styles, patterns of articulation and ornamentation serve to illustrate masculine and feminine qualities of the musical line. Mozart’s Concerti for Flute and Piano in both D Major and G Major outline such character distinctions within the solo flute line using sharp staccato rhythms and forte dynamics to initiate strong, antecedent phrases (masculine) which are often followed by legato, melodic consequent replies ranging from mezzo piano to mezzo forte dynamics (feminine). This paper addresses the various compositional techniques used in both Mozart flute concerti that depict masculine and feminine “characters” in the flute solo line and how these “characters” interact with one another to create an instrumental opera without words. In this regard, Mozart shows us that music does not necessarily need a libretto to convey intricate relationships between multiple characters.

Remember: You will likely have a word count limit. Be as concise as possible. Going over the word count is a no-no. Avoid run-on sentences or over-explaining concepts that could be easily be abbreviated into a short, sweet sentence. When it comes to abstracts, following the rules is key to getting your idea through the velvet ropes of the review committee. Be sure to dot your “I”s and cross your “t”s.

Finally, keep in mind that a rejection does not mean that your idea is no good. I have had abstracts rejected from smaller, regional conference that ultimately went on to become published articles. Take any rejected abstract and turn it into something new and wonderful. A “no” is not a “no” forever. A “no” can become a “yes” with a little bit of elbow grease.

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Are you preparing an abstract for an upcoming conference? How did you come up with your idea and translate it into 300 words or less? What other tips do you have when it comes to constructing a good paper abstract? Please comment below!

 

Happy fluting (and writing).

 

Flute Attitude Dos and Don’ts

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday. Just a reminder to check your September flute horoscopes on The Flute View (written by yours truly) to discover what this month holds for your flute playing. http://thefluteview.com/2018/09/dr-gs-september-flute-horoscopes/

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While I was at the NFA convention this year, I was very much inspired by the incredible sense of community present during many of the panels, recitals, lectures, and even in the exhibit hall. I am so grateful to be part of an industry that encourages and promotes art, no matter what form it takes! Unfortunately, I also noticed a few instances where pettiness and unnecessary competition sadly reared its ugly head. In today’s blog I will be discussing a few Dos and Don’ts when it comes to having good “Flute Attitude,” based on some of my observations. Bottom line: we should encourage each other no matter what level, celebrate our differences, and continue to embrace all of our shared knowledge and flute playing experiences.

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FLUTE ATTITUDE DOS and DON’Ts

DO appreciate others and what they bring to the table. We are all unique players and approach playing the flute from vastly different backgrounds. When listening to another flutist, it is important to resist the temptation to immediately compare your flute playing to theirs. Take yourself out of your observations and appreciate the wonderful sounds and techniques of other players. What can you learn from them. What inspires you?

DON’T be a know-it-all. Try not to finish the conductor’s sentences when they are addressing a group (or individual players – including yourself). I have done this myself and it just isn’t a great idea. You may totally understand what they are trying to say and are excited to be part of the conversation/teaching moment, but in these instances it is best to just listen and really dissect what they are asking from the group. There may be others that do not quite understand the concept and need further clarification directly from the horse’s mouth.

DO fit into each other’s sound without judgement when performing with a group. It is about blending, not outplaying.

DON’T try to one up other flutists by lecturing about what an expert or panelist meant. This also goes back to not being a know-it-all. It is okay to help others out if they don’t understand something or sharing your experiences if they relate to the topic, but try not to take over as the expert and pontificate in front of a group in an attempt to upstage others. Let the experts do their thing and build upon their ideas in constructive ways with others.

DO support each other and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments, no matter what level. Sometimes we get so focused on being “the best” that we forget about how difficult the journey is along the way. I love attending high school and college competitions because I remember how difficult it was to learn and excel at that level when so many flutists are trying to do the very same thing. Celebrate the moments when the younger generation breaks through the barriers of skill. Embrace the instances when a flutist playing 3rd part is promoted to 2nd. Good work!

DON’T go crazy with the name dropping. “I studied with X teacher at Y school, and then performed with Z famous flutist in W group on V super fancy stage in U Hall, etc.” It is great to be proud of your experiences, but if you are using names of famous flutists or places to intimidate your competition (or students – yikes!), you may be annoying rather than inspiring other flutists.

DO let go of past rivalries. Put the past in the past and cultivate newfound collaborations (or at least respect) for old colleagues. I was fortunate to run into an old college friendly rival at the NFA and was super happy to discover that we had become two very different types of flutists with mad respect for each other’s respective successes. It was like that rivalry never existed (seriously – back in the day it was like a Britney vs. Christina scenario) and, really, in the end it did not matter. Let it go!

DON’T leap into other’s music to correct notes. There is a very professional way to check notes that does not involve pointing at your neighbor’s score. Simply ask politely to double check a measure to make sure you do not have a misprint. Boom! They will almost always figure out the problem themselves and if there IS a misprint, you aren’t the person falsely accusing others of making mistakes.

DO listen to learn, not to judge. We can learn something new in everything we hear and everything we see. What new ideas or techniques can you bring into your own practices by listening to others?

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What are your Dos and Don’ts when it comes to having good “Flute Attitude”? What helps you keep a positive attitude and encourage others? How do you promote and celebrate the work of others. Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!

Solo vs. Flute & Piano Performances

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday. September 2018 flute horoscopes have been posted in The Flute View. Check them out here to discover what September holds for your flute playing: http://thefluteview.com/2018/09/dr-gs-september-flute-horoscopes/ . These horoscopes are available without a subscription this month!! (But of course, you should also subscribe because The Flute View is totally awesome!).

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While I was at the NFA Convention this year, I attended a wonderful recital of solo flute works that really made me appreciate the differences between performing solo pieces versus repertoire written for flute and piano. The two approaches are so very different, but we often take some the nuances for granted, particularly when we are teaching others. In today’s blog, we will look at some of these differences and how to better approach performing works from each of these scenarios. Remember to adapt to the role you play and embrace the spotlight when it is your time to shine.

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Solo vs. Flute & Piano Performances

Performing flute & piano works is a partnership. There is a natural give and take in this performance scenario. Sometimes you are the star and sometimes you are the accompaniment. This is a great opportunity to display your ability to adapt your playing technique based on your role. In contrast, performing solo works requires you to be in the spotlight at all times.

 
You have more creative freedom as a soloist. When performing solo works, you are like a musical painter in which every color change or slight variance between notes contains a brand-new meaning. You may have opportunities to do this periodically in flute and piano works during cadenzas, but it is not the focus of the entire performance.

 

Flute and piano works test your ensemble skills. This performance scenario highlights how well you communicate with other musically, challenging how you indicate changes in tempo, rubato, dynamic changes, mood changes, fermatas, ending and beginnings, and much, much more.

 
Solo playing tests your pacing and projection ability. There is literally no room to hide or blend into the texture when it is just you and the stage. You must be brave and play out no matter what!

 
Physical stage movements and stand/equipment changes are much stricter in a flute and piano scenario. You must be able to see each other to effectively communicate both musically and non-musically. In contrast, as a solo performer, where you stand and how much light you require is far more flexible. For example, at the closing performance during this year’s NFA Convention, Jim Walker performed Debussy’s Syrinx in a darkened room, while slowly walking from the back of the hall, up the isles, and to the front of the stage (accompanied by the sounds of the thunderstorm occurring outside). Very effective!

 
Stamina is a concern in solo playing. You must be prepared to go from Point A (the beginning of the work) to Point B (the end) without collapsing on stage from exhaustion. There are no rests, leaving little time for you to catch your breath.

 
Introverts may prefer solo playing. Extroverts may gravitate towards collaborative opportunities. Know your personality before programming a solo-heaving recital versus an all flute and piano recital. A healthy balance of both types of pieces will help give you a well-rounded performance.

 

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What other differences can you identify between performing flute and piano works versus solo repertoire? What types of works do you prefer to play? What are the challenges between each performance scenario? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!