Month: August 2021

Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #2: Texas)

Greetings and welcome to a belated Flute Friday/Saturday. Apologies for the late post – Eye strain is no joke (aggravated by smokey air due to California wildfires), so I gave my eyes the day off yesterday. A late post will have to suffice this week. The length of this post hopefully makes up for its tardiness.

Today we will be continuing our Practice Blueprints – All State Audition series with good, old Texas. All-State auditions in Texas are intense (Don’t mess with Texas!)! The repertoire is quite difficult and the state is very large, making competition for spots in All-State groups fierce. I had the opportunity to coach students at Kerr High School in Houston a few years ago on Texas All-State repertoire and the one piece of advice I gave to everyone at that time was to keep trying. If you do not make it into an All-State group on your first try, try again next year, and the year after that. Learn from your audition recording. Before practicing for this year’s auditions, listen carefully to your audition recording from last year. What can you do to make this year’s recording even better? Ask your band director or flute teacher for some honest feedback and helpful suggestions for ways to improve this year. Above all, approach All-State auditions from a growth mindset rather than a perfectionist mindset. The audition process should be a fun, challenging, yet exceptionally rewarding experience. 

General Information (What You Need to Know)

  • When are recordings due? This will be dependent on your region. Please see your band director for more information and to determine when recordings, forms, and dues will be due. They will likely be the ones uploading your materials to the TMEA site.

1. You must be a full-time student in grades 9-12 in a Texas school during the semester in which the TMEA All-State activities take place.

2.  A student must be certified by his TMEA Active Member director as a *participating member of the school’s parent musical organization during the semester in which the TMEA activity is held. A student may only participate with organizations affiliated with their full-time campus.

3.  A student shall compete in the Region in which he is currently receiving the majority of his educational instruction to meet graduation requirements.

4.  All TMEA activities are extracurricular. In order to participate in TMEA activities, a student must be passing the number of courses required by state law and by rules of the State Board of Education.

5.  In order to participate in TMEA activities, a student must have been in attendance and have passed the number of courses required by the University Interscholastic League for extracurricular participation.

6. A student may not participate after the end of the eighth semester following his first enrollment in the ninth grade.

7.  Changing schools within the state after acceptance at any level of the All-State selection process will not affect eligibility for further competition.

8.  A student representing a home school must enter the audition process in the same TMEA Region as the public school ISD in which the home school is located.

9. Each student’s TMEA Active member director or member sponsor must be in attendance at all TMEA auditions and any related activity, such as clinic/concert, in which their students are involved.

10.  A student may be removed only by:  (1) the audition process itself, (2) the TMEA Appeals Process, or (3) the student’s TMEA Active member director or member sponsor.

11. TMEA Policies and Procedures specify an appeals process that shall be used in connection with protests arising from any TMEA selection procedure or failure to fulfill any rehearsal/performance obligation.

12. During any event sanctioned by TMEA, violation of any of the rules in Section I above shall jeopardize the student’s ability to further participate in the tryout process. Said violation may result in forfeiture of a place in any TMEA organization.

13.  A student who does not complete the rehearsal/performance obligations (Region, All-State, etc.) will not be eligible for an official participation patch or other award and risk being removed through the Appeals Process from further participation in the All-State process.

14.  A student advancing beyond the Region-level must be certified by the Region Divisional Chair. In a Region that sponsors a full orchestra as part of the Region audition process, the Region Orchestra Chair shall certify the Area orchestra candidates representing that Region.

15.  Students may initially audition for multiple groups: band, jazz, choir, orchestra, and mariachi. If a student qualifies to Area in multiple groups that include jazz, orchestra, and mariachi, they must select only one of those groups for that Area audition (occurring in the fall). If a student is named to an All-State Jazz, Orchestra, or Mariachi Ensemble, they cannot audition for any other All-State groups. If they did not get named to any of those All-State groups. they can continue to either a Band or Choir Area audition (occurring in January). The director must ensure that a student submits a completed Area Declaration Form by December 15.

Practice Tips:

This blog has essentially already been written! The guidelines for the Texas All-State repertoire include a wonderful Performance Guide for each excerpt: https://www.tmea.org/band/audition-material/etudes/ Before trying out any of the practice tips below, I encourage you to find a pencil and add all of the errata notes and performance tips directly into your music. These are the items that adjudicators will be focusing on when reviewing audition recordings. Half of the battle is won if you already know what they are expecting to hear!

Excerpt #1 – Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Op. 107 / 10, Complete (Play from beginning to end).

  • Articulation will be key in this excerpt. To keep your staccatos nice and light, try practicing using a “tut” articulation on these notes. The “tut” syllable gives each note a sharp attack while cutting the note short and preparing the tongue for the next attack. 
  • This excerpt essentially has two personalities – long melodic lines verses light, articulated passages. Make a distinction between these two voices by altering your tone color and/or vibrato speed for each.
  • There are a number of octave leaps in this excerpt. A good way to train your embrochure for these leaps is to add the Flexibility Exercise #1 from Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone to your daily warm-up routine. Focus on keeping the tone stable while training your lips to gracefully move between each register. Another great warm up to help you work on flexibility is to add harmonic exercises to the mix. There is a wonderful harmonic exercise on Page 6 of Trevor Wye’s Tone book that is simple enough to practice daily. Give it try!
  • Beginning in measure 17, the slurs start to shift the emphasis to the off-beats and become a bit less predictable. Try adding breath kicks (or very small accents or small bits of vibrato) to the notes that fall on the downbeats to keep your beat grounded. Another great exercise to add to your daily routine is from the Trevor Wye Practice Book on Articulation (Page 14). Add some slurs to this that follow the slurred patterns in the excerpt to become more comfortable with the changing articulation.
  • The Practice Guidelines encourage performers to breathe on the rests, which is easier said than done. To get a quick, but large, breath during these rests, try breathing through the sides of your mouth (I sometimes refer to this a “frog” breathing with my students). Julius Baker was the ultimate master of this technique, as you can see in the following video: https://youtu.be/ijLx7k-y6fs Watch carefully every time he takes a breath. What do you notice? (P.S. This is one of my favorite flute videos of all time!)
  • The other element that is key in this excerpt is dynamics. Really bring out all crescendi and descrescendi. For example, in measure 27 try to show the entire range of your sound from the marked pp up through the in the next measure. Avoid using more air when crescendoing into the louder dynamics. Instead, try to make your aperture a bit smaller to create more pressure using the air you already have at your disposal. Watch out – there is a pesky descrescendo at the end. Try to retain resonance even while getting softer (don’t let your sound become thin and unstable). Finally, keep an eye on intonation between changes in dynamics – spend some quality time with your tuner.

Excerpt #2 – Theobold Boehm, Ab Minor, Op. 26/16, Andante (Beginning to first note in mm. 36)

  • Intonation will be tricky in this excerpt! Like in the previous excerpt, be sure to practice with a tuner, but also learn a bit more about the general pitch tendencies of the flute (I wrote a blog post several years ago with some great resources to help you with intonation: https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2018/02/18/flute-pitch-tendencies/ ).
  • There will be a tendency to drag the tempo when the rhythmic emphasis changes (especially when moving from 16th notes (mm. 17) to triplets (mm. 23)). Try practicing marching in place to the beat while playing these lines to keep your tempo steady, or, if marching makes you a bit self-conscious or if you are like me and totally uncoordinated, try conducting the line with the end of your flute while playing.
  • This is a great excerpt to experiment with tone colors. I wrote an article last year for The Flute View entitled Rainbow Score that describes a system of assigning certain colors to certain sounds and coloring your music in to represent your tone plan (check out this article here: https://thefluteview.com/2020/09/9681/). The sound may change from color to color based on volume, resonance, and vibrato speed depending on how you, as an individual performer, interpret it. Try inventing your own color plan and adding a simple spectrum above each line.
  • The key signatures in these excerpts are very tricky (hello, 7 flats!!! What??!). A good exercise to add to your daily studies is Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Studies, Exercise #4 in these same keys. Start to become comfortable with the unusual! Write in any seldom-used accidentals. Also remember that Ab minor is the same as G# minor (enharmonic tricks – you almost had us!). Consider re-writing the opening in G# minor, which will make transitioning into the next key change a lot easier. The 7 flats at the beginning could suggest that the composer wished for a darker sound and/or character in this section. Use color changes to differentiate between the key changes.
  • Sing out when the dynamic goes into the forte range and measure 9. It’s okay to be a diva here! 
  • Like in the last excerpt, bring out the dynamics in this etude, particularly during the many instances of crescendi/decrescendi (ex. mm 1-2, 9-10).
  • Do not slow down too quickly in measure 27. You have a long way to go! Slow down very gradually and focus on increasing your dynamic while changing your tone colors.

Excerpt #3 – Joachim Andersen, Op. 15/16, Andante (17-end)

  • Are you ready for a workout!?! This etude will definitely test your endurance! To avoid burning out, try to keep the dynamic on the mp-mf side. Playing louder will require more air and cause more fatigue (this is like a 5K for the flute).
  • Write in accidentals!! There is a double wammy of notation chaos with a key of 6 flats and crazy, changing mordents everywhere (like a carnival funhouse of accidentals!). Don’t be afraid to write a few note names above the staff here and there.
  • Practice this excerpt slowly at first without the mordants to understand the basic line without all of the fancy ornamentation.
  • Use trill fingerings on the mordants as much as possible. Remember, a mordant is an ornament (sort of like adding a piece of jewelry to an already stunning red carpet ball gown).
  • There is literally nowhere to breathe. This is will become an issue. The Practice Guide suggests breathing where indicated after accented beats. If you need additional breaths, try adding in a few “catch” breaths between notes (Rampal was famous for this, particularly in Mozart concerti).
  • Bring out the accented notes as much as possible. These are the notes that are framing the melody. Use a red colored pencil to circle these accented notes in the score. This will draw your eye to them so you don’t forget.
  • Practice keeping your articulation light by practicing this excerpt very very VERY slowly using a “coo” syllable. This will help strengthen the back of the tongue, improving your articulation later when you switch back to double tonguing.
  • Practice this excerpt in chunks. Play each 6-note figure, pause/collect yourself, then play the next 6-note figure. Continue this for a small section at a time. This helps train your brain and fingers to process the music one step at a time (like putting together a puzzle).
  • As the Practice Guide suggests, you will have an opportunity to use all three of the different Bb fingerings. While you are practicing this excerpt slowly (for all of the reasons outlined above), carefully decided which Bb fingering works best and where it changes. Write these decisions into the score so you do not forget.
  • Remember that there are a few dynamic changes in the score (it’s not just about performing technique Olympics!). For example, measure 39 has a number of, you guessed it, crescendi/decrescendi patterns. Try to bring these out of the texture as much as possible (this will definitely separate you from the other performers).
  • The passage in the lower register from measure 42 until the end can get a bit, what we flute nerds like to refer to as, “tubby.” Bring your right shoulder a bit closer to the flute during this passage to make your sound resonate while you are gradually reducing the dynamic.

Final Thoughts/Recommendations

(These are going to be very similar to my last blog and can apply to most audition scenarios.)

  • Record yourself playing all of the excerpts. Review your recordings and mark down anything that could be improved. Avoid being a perfectionist! Mark it down, work on it, and trust in your ability.
  • Hydrate! This is one of the first things we forget when we are nervous. On the day of the final recording, make sure to bring a bottle of water.
  • Avoid comparing your playing to other flutists. I know – easier said than done, especially when you are stressed. Do not become intimidated by a senior with more experience. Instead, ask them for advice. Collaborate more than compete and you will create allies.
  • Have fun! Auditioning should be a fun, challenging experiment. You never know what exactly the judges are looking for or if they will find it in your playing. Play your best, put it out there, and wait patiently for the next steps.

***

Are you auditioning for the Texas All-State Band/Orchestra program? Which one of the above tips works best for you? What are your own practice tips? What are you struggling with? What questions do you have about the audition or All-State performance experience? Please comment below and share these tips with your Texas flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)

The Myth of the Magic Formula

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

Hope everyone attending the NFA Virtual Convention is having a great time participating in all of the performances, masterclasses, panels, and meet-ups. The virtual format of this convention has been great! Love that we can all connect in the online world.

Photo by Teddy Yang on Pexels.com

I attended a wonderful panel discussion today on Tips for Entrepreneurial Musicians that really hit home and inspired me to share with you today some of the experiences and lessons I have also faced in the ongoing struggle to find a flute “career.” Many of the stories were eerily similar to my own and echoed some of the same questions I have asked myself for years. What today’s session helped to finally understand (and accept) is that I am not alone. I was never alone. If I could turn back the clock and tell my college-aged self this, I would. 

Like many aspiring students, I did what my teachers asked growing up (or at least as much as a girl from the sticks with a notoriously stubborn Irish heritage is capable of). I learned my scales, Mozart concerti, Bach sonatas, and French Flute School works, deciding early on that I wanted to pursue the flute in college. Although I never really understood what exactly each new step entailed, I knew there was a formula to get there. I followed the formula (win state solo competitions, attend fancy/schmancy summer camps, memorize repertoire, participate in youth symphony) and it worked! College was paved with more and more formulas – perform the recitals, learn the excerpts, perform in the orchestra, learn the standard repertoire, and practice.literally.all.of.the.time. It was never easy, but it was fairly predictable. I asked myself often, “Where is this leading?” I knew that the formula many of my flute heroes took suggested that landing a chair in an orchestra and teaching at a college was what awaited me after graduation. Sadly, I was wrong.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As soon as I had my DMA in hand, I began applying to teaching jobs at smaller colleges and universities. I was engaged to be married at that point and not crazy about the idea of asking my fiancé to live in separate places in the short term while he was completing his Ph.D. (in the event that I was offered a job). We also did not have enough money for me to travel around the country auditioning for orchestras, so I started with good, old fashion job applications. And what I soon received was rejection letter after rejection letter. No preliminary interviews. No college visits. Not a sniff of interest. Just a whole lot of “no”s. My ability to call myself a Musician (with a capital M) was fading and my confidence in well, everything, was shattered. The career I had envisioned for myself did not exist. The work I had spent decades putting into my flute career looked more and more like wasted time (and money).

Needing a “real” job to pay the bills, I went to work at a local university in an 8:00 am- 5:00 pm staff position, like an adult. A sad, normal, run-of-the-mill, adult. But an adult that was getting paid a decent salary. I vowed to keep my flute life thriving on the nights and weekends. I did what I could, teaching on weeknights and Saturdays while performing in local orchestras and flute choirs, but as the months turned into years, I slowly began to realize that the formula I believed in so whole-heartedly for years was a myth. I had a choice – I could accept my adult fate and give up on my dream of a flute life, or I could make a name for myself doing something outside of the formula. I chose to keep one foot on both of these paths. Could I do both? Is it possible to be everything to everyone and still be my authentic flute-playing self?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I continued to work in my staff job while setting up a flute blog that discussed a bit of everything and anything. I was done sticking to the part of the “formula” that flute players should only discuss certain subjects with other flute players. I wanted to start putting ideas out into the world no matter how big, small, or off-the-wall. My blog caught the attention of other flutists and my readership began to take off (only going “viral” once when Jasmine Choi shared one of my posts on her Facebook page). What I learned during this time is that I.Love.To.Write. If you have followed my blog over the years, you have seen my posts grow into articles, presentations, and even a book project. This was not part of the formula. Writing about flute is not where I thought I would build any kind of reputation. I still do not know if I have a Reputation (with a capital R), but I do know that my blogs and articles have connected me to numerous flutists and musicians around the World. That is worth everything.

One of my blog posts eventually led to a series in an online flute journal. I began taking deep dives into all things astrology shortly after receiving rejection letters from job applications. I did not understand what was happening and was searching for answers in the stars. The more I learned about astrology, the more confident I became in connecting astrology to music, particularly on my blog. The folks at The Flute View read a few such blog posts and asked me if I wanted to write horoscopes for their online journal. I continue to publish my column, Dr. G.’s Flute Horoscopes, in The Flute View every month. I carve out time in my adult 8:00-5:00 life to write these and I love it! This is definitely part of my walk away from the formula.

My love of writing helped me write a book proposal for Oxford University Press (based on my DMA paper). I put my ideas out there thinking there was nothing to lose since it was highly unlikely they would accept my proposal. I was wrong (a common theme in my life is that I am wrong a lot). Oxford emailed me within a month or so of submitting my proposal, informing me that it was going to the next level for peer review and acceptance. Still convinced something would go awry in the approval process, I continued to put my best work out there without fear of the outcome. I eventually was offered a contract and my book will be finalized in the next few months.

What did I learn through all of this? I learned that there is no magic formula for building a flute career. Not all of us will have the same path or share the same strengths or interests. Every flutist is different and being different not a liability – it is an asset. I also learned that daring to be different is far more fulfilling than trying to fit into the mold of someone else’s idea of the perfect flutist. There is no “right” way to be a flutist. Great things come when you release your fears of being wrong. Being wrong is what make you extraordinary. Building a flute career on what makes you extraordinary is how you can succeed on your own terms. Dare to be weird. Dare to be edgy. And dare to do something new.

I am about to shift my focus solely onto my flute life, so today’s presentation could not have come at a better time for me. Others have done it, following what they love doing to a more fulfilling life, and have come out on the other side stronger and happier. I am not alone. I am different type of musician. I am a writer, a scholar, an astrologer, a flutist, and a mystic. I am proud of the unique flutist I have become and the one that I will be in the future.

What is your story? Have you taken a road less traveled in your flute career? What makes you unique as a flutist? Share your tales below!

Happy fluting!

Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #1: Idaho)

Greetings! After taking a bit of hiatus, I am happy to report that Flute Friday posts are back and better than ever! As always, if you have any suggestions for topics you would like to see covered on this blog, please comment below or shoot me a direct message. Happy to discuss all the latest and greatest flute content.

The next few weeks will feature a new series on my blog: Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions. Summer is quickly coming to a close and schools are almost back in session. Fall is traditionally when high school band and orchestra directors start urging students to audition for spots in their respective state’s All-State Band and Orchestra programs (which usually take place sometime in the Spring). These auditions are always very competitive, moreso if your state is large (Texas), populous (New York), or both (California), and attract the best of the best high school musicians from across the state. All-State groups are a type of dream team band or orchestra that rehearse together for only a few days before performing a culminating concert. The repertoire is not for the faint of heart. The experience, however, will last a lifetime. Even so, some students tend to shy away from auditioning because the audition repertoire may be a bit intimidating and difficult to master. I am here to help! Each blog in this series will offer practice suggestions for the required excerpts as well as a few helpful hints for audition prep in general. I want to make it easy for students who may need a few extra resources (or even just words of encouragement) to audition for All-State groups across the country this season.

We will start with the state most near and dear to my heart: Idaho. As a high school student, I served as Principal Flute of the Idaho All-State Orchestra in my Sophomore year and Piccolo for the Idaho All-State Orchestra as a Senior, performing, among other works, Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. I did not own the fanciest instrument. I did not come from a large town with a wealth of performing opportunities. Prior to my Sophomore year, I hadn’t even set foot in an orchestra! I did, however, come from an outstanding high school band program and took regular weekly flute lessons from an equally outstanding flute teacher. I practiced and auditioned not knowing exactly what the next steps were. I simply put my best playing out there and let the Universe decide my fate. That, of course, is the single best piece of advice that I can give any student auditioning for these groups. Practice carefully, play your very best, and let the Universe decide what is next.

General Information – 2022 Idaho All-State Auditions:

These are most important items you need to know if you, or your students, are planning on auditioning for the 2022 Idaho All-State Program:

  • Complete auditions and audition forms must be uploaded by your band/orchestra director no later than October 8, 2021. Your directors will likely have even earlier deadlines so be sure to check in with them about all final deadlines.
  • There is a $10 fee to audition – Make sure to give this to your director before audition materials are due.
  • You must fill out the Student Audition Information Sheet and submit to your director.
  • The All-State Convention will take place February 2-5, 2022.
  • Your band/orchestra director MUST be a member of IMEA/NAfME and your school must be a member of the Idaho High Schools Activity Association (IHSAA).
  • If you participated in All-Northwest last year, you are not automatically in the All-State program and must submit an audition application.
  • Points are deducted for going faster or slower than any of the indicated tempos.
  • The example solo (#4) is optional but if you would like to be considered for a principal spot or play any solos during the concert, you must submit a solo recording not to exceed 1 minute in length. The chosen solo should be relatively difficult from standard repertoire and should demonstrate your musical strengths.

Repertoire

A PDF of All-State Flute Audition Repertoire can be found here: https://idahomusiced.org/forms/allstate/AllStateAudMusic/Flute.pdf

  1. Chromatic Scale – Low C to C4 using slurred sixteenth notes ascending and descending. (Quarter note = 72) 
  2. Selected Studies for Flute –  Page 20: measures 1-18. (Dotted quarter note = 48) 
  3. Selected Studies for Flute – Page 33: measures 1-25 and 43-52. (Quarter note = 120) 
  4. Example solo: Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in Eb Major Mvt. 1 Beginning to measure 53 (quarter note = approximately 88)

Practice Tips

1. Chromatic Scale

  • Start practicing your scale slowly to make sure your fingerings are correct and your 16th notes are even. Start with a tempo of quarter note = 60 (or below) and work your way up slowly to quarter note = 72. Try not to exceed this tempo in the practice room. You will likely be a bit nervous on recording day, making it very easy to rush the tempo. Your brain may decide that day that it prefers the faster tempo! Sorry brain, you are wrong today.
  • The high register turnaround point to the high C requires fingering gymnastics. Keep your finger transitions from note to note “snappy.” I sometimes refer to this as “robot fingers” with my students. Of course, do not actually play like a robot! Just keep your finger movements quick and deliberate from one note to the next.
  • Don’t forget about that gizmo key on the high C! The gizmo is your friend.
  • The thing that will separate the flutists selected for orchestra vs. band on this excerpt is breath control. The goal, if you can swing it, is to play the excerpt in one breath. I know – scary, but it can be done. Memorize your scale and practice! Use it as part of your warm-up routine in band rehearsals or at the beginning of each practice session. Alter your dynamics so that you are using less air but still retaining a center to your sound. A mp-mf should work nicely, staying on the mp-side if at all possible. If playing this in one breath is just not an option, take a quick breath after the third C (C3) on your way back down the scale.
  • If I haven’t driven this home yet, keeping the tempo steady is very important. Another great way to accomplish this is by placing small breath kicks on the first 16th note of each beat. A breath kick may take the form of a very small accent or a small bit of vibrato on the downbeat.
  • To keep your tempo consistent on recording day, program your metronome to quarter note = 72 and keep it on silent while you play. This works best if you have memorized your chromatic scale. And finally..
  • Memorize your scale! Memorizing your chromatic scale will help you well beyond All-State auditions.

2.  Selected Studies for Flute –  Page 20: measures 1-18. (Dotted quarter note = 48)

  • Start by practicing this excerpt in 6 at eighth note = 144 or slower to make your subdivisions clear and precise. Those grace notes in the second measure may lead you to drag the tempo a bit. I would even suggest keeping your metronome set to eighth note = 144 and on silent during your audition but to still emphasize the larger dotted-quarter note tempo by placing slightly more vibrato on the notes that fall on the downbeats (or beats 1 and 4 if you are counting in eighths).
  • Dolce e con express means “sweetly with expression.” Try not to overload this excerpt with vibrato. Save your best expressive vibrato for the crescendos and, as indicated, use a slower, sweeter vibrato at the beginning and during sections marked in “p” (piano).
  • Dynamics are key in the excerpt! Make sure your crescendos are clear and, although not marked subito, there are two subito moments of piano after a crescendo. Bring these out of the texture.
  • Speaking of bringing elements out of the texture, there are two accents on the second line that must come out. This is a bit tricky because a simultaneous diminuendo requires you to play softer while also accenting (whaaat??). My best advice here is to play slightly louder than piano at the beginning of the measure so you have room to get softer while making a differentiation between the accented notes.
  • Okay, let’s talk about the shrieking elephant in the room – Those octave + jumps at the end of the second line. This will take some serious flexibility work for your embrochure! To help you prepare for these and train your embrochure to flex, I suggest adding harmonic exercises to your daily routine (Trevor Wye has some good ones in his book on Tone – Or, more simply, overblow a low C gradually to achieve all harmonics in the C series) as well as some flexibility exercises. The Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Studies, Exercise #10, is a perfect complement to this exercise. Add this to your daily scale studies. Remember to keep the higher notes softer and anchor the lower notes to create better balance between the registers. Avoid shocking your committee with startling high notes.
  • Know when to lay on the drama. Slow down the tempo and be a bit extra on the rall. at the end of the 2nd line and the final allarg. This is where you can play out a bit more and shine a bit brighter than dolce.
  • Count. The. Rests. (particularly in the last few measures)
  • That final Bb is tricky. There are other excerpts that haunt flutists of all ages and levels featuring a similar Bb as a final note (Hindemith, I’m looking at you). Lift your chin and air stream a bit to keep the pitch up on this note. You may also want to direct your air to the top corner of the room if it helps.

3.  Selected Studies for Flute – Page 33: measures 1-25 and 43-52. (Quarter note = 120) 

  • Welcome to the wonderful world of grace notes! Carefully check the accidentals on all of these grace notes (write them in the score if needed). Place these slightly before the beat (or subdivision). These are super quick grace notes and not Bach-style graceful grace notes. Practice the same “snappy fingers” technique you used for your chromatic scale. Keep them quick, energetic, and light.
  • Con Allegrezza means “with joy.” Joy. Not stress. Think of something that makes you happy before beginning to play. A carnival or walking through Disneyland. A day at the beach. Rocking out at a concert. Start this one with a smile!
  • Dynamics again are key. Make the most of those long crescendos. Don’t get too loud too fast or save your crescendo until the last minute. Mark the subito pianos, particularly the ones that come after a crescendo (2nd full measure, end of the 2nd line, and beginning of 5th line). Make a clear difference between forte and piano.
  • Work up to quarter note = 120. I recommend starting with a more conservative tempo at quarter note = 100 and slowly working your way up. Those grace notes will likely lead you to drag the tempo a bit while you are still learning the music. Work on these measures separately.
  • Find the accents and bring these out of the texture. The accents in this piece are located on anchor notes whenever there is a corresponding octave + jump (in baroque music we call these “pedal” tones). Circle all accents with a colored pencil so you do not forget about them! These passages also require the same embrochure flexibility we saw in the previous example. Remember to keep practicing your harmonics and flexibility exercises to properly train your lips. Keep the higher notes a bit softer than the lower notes. To really bring out those accented lower notes, try bringing your flute closer to your right shoulder for the low notes and out again for the notes in the higher register.
  • Try to play the fourth line in one breath. I know this is a bit tricky with that crescendo there. Start the phrase softly as indicated and save most of your crescendo for the last half of the phrase.
  • Hit. That. Last. Note. That is your “the end” opportunity and the most important accent of the excerpt.
  • If you find yourself rushing this excerpt (and many will), record this one with your metronome on silent to keep your beat consistent.

4.  Example solo: Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in Eb Major Mvt. 1 Beginning to measure 53 (quarter note = approximately 88)

  • This does not need to be the Bach excerpt indicated above.
  • Select a 1-minute selection from a work that you know very well. This could be a piece that you prepared for last year’s state solo competition or smaller solo and ensemble competition. Make sure it is a work that you are super comfortable and familiar with.
  • Ask yourself honestly: What is your greatest flute playing strength? The piece you choose should really show off this strength. If your articulation is as light as air, select something such as the Ibert Concerto or one of the Mozart Concerti. If your technique is smooth and your scales always very even, try the Hanson Serenade. If you are an expressive player with a larger-than-life sound, try the opening of Griffes Poem or the Faure Fantasie. Strut your stuff with this solo!
  • If you are looking to show the committee a bit of everything, you may want to consider playing an unaccompanied work such as Honneger’s Danse de la Chevre or Debussy’s Syrinx. 
  • Time it! Record yourself playing your solo to make sure your cut off measure does not exceed 1 minute.

Final Thoughts/Recommendations

  • Record yourself playing all of the excerpts. Review your recordings and mark down anything that could be improved. Avoid being a perfectionist! Mark it down, work on it, and trust in your ability.
  • Hydrate! This is one of the first things we forget when we are nervous. On the day of the final recording, make sure to bring a bottle of water.
  • Avoid comparing your playing to other flutists. I know – easier said than done, especially when you are stressed. Do not become intimidated by a senior with more experience. Instead, ask them for advice. Collaborate more than compete and you will create allies.
  • Have fun! Auditioning should be a fun, challenging experiment. You never know what exactly the judges are looking for or if they will find it in your playing. Play your best, put it out there, and wait patiently for the next steps.

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Are you auditioning for the Idaho All-State Band/Orchestra? What are your best preparation strategies? What do you find the most challenging about the audition repertoire? What questions do you have about the audition or the All-State performance experience? Please comment below and share these tips with your Idaho flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)