Month: September 2021

Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #5: Oregon)

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday. We will again be continuing our Practice Blueprints-All State Auditions series this week with Oregon. Oregon has a special place in my heart as my husband and I were married in Yachats, Oregon 10 years ago and still visit at least once a year. We also briefly owned a beach house along the Oregon Coast where I taught young flute students and participated in the Oregon Music Education Association (OMEA). Oregon has a very unique All-State Symphonic Band and All-State Wind Ensemble format that enables smaller schools to audition for the All-State Symphonic Band program separately using different audition materials than students from larger schools who are required to audition for the All-State Wind Ensemble. Any student from a larger school who does not make it into the Wind Ensemble is eligible for placement in the Symphonic Band after the smaller school participants have been ranked and placed. This model provides more opportunities for students from smaller schools to gain priceless experience at the state level. Auditions for both the All-State Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band opened on September 1st and will continue through October 4th. For those of you still considering submitting an application, or for teachers with students interested in submitting audition recordings, today’s blog will help make the audition and application process a bit less intimidating. Participating in All-State programs was a very valuable part of my own experience. I also came from a smaller school and know first-hand that the very best talent is often found within the quieter, simpler parts of the world, hidden until it is given the sunlight it needs to thrive. If you are one of these young musicians, I say throw caution to the wind and apply! Seize all of the enriching experiences possible as you grow into fantastic young musicians.

General Information (What You Need to Know)

  • Students must work with their music teacher/band director to complete recordings (separate files for each required excerpt).
  • The cost to submit an audition for high school students is $20.
  • Teachers must be current members of NAfME/OMEA to submit nominations and auditions through OpusEvent.com.
  • Teachers and families are notified of audition results by mid-October via the email address entered into OpusEvent.com.
  • Students must complete audition forms and give these to their music teacher/band director. These can be found here: https://www.oregonmusic.org/files/All%20State/2022%20AllState%20and%20Conference/AllStateInfo&AppPacket2022.pdf
  • The student must perform each exercise with the correct pitch, rhythms, quality tone, articulations, and steady tempo (see tempo markings on each exercise).
  • Each audition track should be a separate audio file (mp3, wav, etc.).
  • Teachers and students may not electronically or otherwise enhance any recordings.
  • The OMEA All-State Festival will be held over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in Eugene, Oregon. Parents/Guardians must supply or arrange transportation to and from Eugene. Some schools might provide transportation to the event. Please see your band director for further information.
  • The audition period opens on September 1st on OpusEvent.com and runs through October 4th.
  • Registration and participation fees for accepted high school students is $334.00.
  • High School Symphonic Band Info
    • Conductor = Marcellus Brown
    • Rehearsals will take place from Friday, January 14 – Sunday, January 16, 2022 at the Lane Events Center.
    • The performance will take place at the First Baptist Church.
    • Students will be staying at The Graduate Hotel Eugene.
    • Auditions are open to students in schools with an OSAA classification of 1A-4A (please see your band director to determine if your school falls in this category).
    • Students from 5A and 6A high schools may not use Symphonic Band audition materials.
  • High School Wind Ensemble Info
    • Conductor = Dr. Rebecca Phillips
    • Rehearsals will take place from Friday, January 14 – Sunday, January 16, 2022 at the University of Oregon School of Music.
    • The performance will take place at the First Baptist Church.
    • Students will be staying at The Graduate Hotel Eugene.
    • Students from 5A and 6A schools MUST submit using the Wind Ensemble/Orchestra audition material. If smaller school students wish to submit using the Wind Ensemble/Orchestra material, they are welcome to do so; however, students can only submit one band audition.
    • All students that submit using the Wind Ensemble/Orchestra material that are not selected for the Orchestra or Wind Ensemble, will be considered for positions in the Symphonic Band.
  • 5A-6A students will be selected to fill out the band after all of the small school students who met the minimum audition scores are accepted into the Symphonic Band.
  • The approximate size of the Wind Ensemble is 90 players and the Symphonic Band is 150, depending on the pool of applicants and the needs of the literature.
  • Audition screening is “blind” – Judges do not know the students’ name or school information.
  • Screeners will listen to each track and assign a score from 1-100. After all auditions are scored, each student will end up with an overall score and then will be ranked.
  • Screeners are instructed that any student who is unable to perform a track successfully are to be marked “unacceptable.” That means that any wrong notes/pitches, wrong rhythms, poor tone quality and inaccurate or poorly executed articulations will disqualify a student.

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Practice Tips

Oregon All-State Wind Ensemble Audition Repertoire

Excerpt #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 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.

Excerpt #1 – Joachim Anderson, 24 Etudes for Flute, Op. 15, No. 24

  • This excerpt opens with a huge register jump from a low D to and third octave F in a fortissimo dynamic with the words “con impeto” (“with force”) below the staff. Whoa! Two notes in and the musical drama is already lit, setting the stage for the entire excerpt! A good way to prepare for this crazy jump is to add harmonics to your daily practice routine. This will train your embrochure to reach for the high F rather than overusing your air. A good place to find harmonic exercises in on page 6 of the Trever Wye Practice Book on Tone. This is a staple in my own practice routine and works wonders to improve the resonance of my lower register as well as the ease of my octave jumps. Try it out!
  • Let’s talk more about that opening low D. It is not easy to start on this note with a fortissimo dynamic. Add a gentle finger slap on your low G key to help this note speak. Also, begin the excerpt with your right shoulder angled closer to your flute. This will help open up your sound in the lower register. Make sure to move your shoulder back for the high F for the best resonance in the high register.
  • Now, let’s talk about that high F. This is an excellent note to practice putting air in your cheek and using your best, most beautifully intense vibrato. You are essentially introducing your listener to your sound with the first two notes. Give them all you’ve got!
  • This excerpt is an exercise in arpeggio somersaults. A great complement to add to your daily scale routine is Taffanel and Gaubert’s Exercise #12 from the 17 Daily Exercises, which covers any and all types of arpeggios throughout the range of the flute. You may also find it helpful to mark the chord name that the arpeggios are highlighting above the staff. For example, in measure 3, we find a D minor arpeggio that moves into a (strange) G# diminished seventh chord, followed in the next measure by an A major chord. If you know your arpeggios well enough, this will save you a lot of time looking at the notes and simply playing the broken chords.
  • There are a number of juxtapositions against opposites in this excerpt. Articulation is a great example. Measure 2 requires very short staccatos followed in measure 3 by sweeping slurred lines that make their way back to short staccatos in measure 4. Understanding this concept is half the battle! Make sure to keep your staccatos short yet “bouncy.” Using a “tut” syllable here will help you have a clean, clear attack on each note while preparing the tongue for the next note. On the slurs, keep your notes smooth and connected while using “snappy” fingers to move from each fingering to the next.
  • The rests in this excerpt are here to help you! Take nice, long, deliberate breaths on the rests to help you get through the longer lines. You may also take short “catch” breaths in measures 13-14 to help you power through until the end of the excerpt (Rampal was infamous for using small “catch” breaths in his Mozart concerti).
  • Another juxtaposition of opposites can be found in the dynamics. Although the excerpt begins in fortissimo (with another fortissimo reiterated in measure 5), a piano (p) dynamic makes its way into the texture in measure 9. Make sure you clearly show the difference in both sound and character here. Remember to transition back to a forte in measure 13, which should not be as boisterous as the opening dynamic but still fairly loud. Make a clear diminuendo in the final two measures to an easy, breezy, clear and calm mezzo-forte.
  • Measures 10 and 12 may be a bit tricky as an F# in the previous measure morphs back into an F natural. Make sure to mark this in your part so you do not forget.

Excerpt #3 – Johann Sebastian Bach, Sonata in Eb BWV 1031 (Siciliano)

  • The good thing about this excerpt is that it has been recorded and performed by flutists young and old on both modern and period instruments. The very best thing you can do before even practicing this piece is to listen to a bunch of different versions of the work by a range of artists. Many of these recordings can be found on YouTube. Find a few samples featuring performances on both modern flutes and baroque flutes. One of my favorite videos is by Jasmine Choi https://youtu.be/kM39vMjIULM, who finds a unique beauty and sound for each note.
  • To better understand the character of this excerpt, it is important to know exactly what a Siciliano is (no, it is not just a fancy tempo word that the Italians made up or a type of pizza). A Siciliano, according to Merriam-Webster, is a “graceful Sicilian rustic dance in which the partners are joined with handkerchiefs.” There is a graceful connectivity to this piece. Nothing jumps to high or too low (not possible if you and connected to your dance partner via handkerchief). Keep this idea as you are performing this excerpt: graceful connectivity.
  • Remember to aim your air toward the higher note on the limited jumps that appear in this excerpt (measures 3 and 5 are good examples). Think of your air as a type of gas pedal when making your way from a lower to a higher note. A great exercise to add to your practice routine to work on this concept is from Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone, “The Middle Register – II” on page 17. These lines feature a jump that will require the same “gas pedal” of air to reach the higher note. Try it out!
  • You may notice that there is something very strange missing from this passage: dynamics. That doesn’t necessarily mean you may play one dynamic. Mr. Bach left a lot of performance elements open to interpretation by performers, including articulations, ornamentation, and dynamics. A rule of thumb when it comes to baroque dynamics is to use contrasting dynamics whenever possible on repeating lines. A good time to experiment with this appears in measures 17-18 and again in 19-20. Play the first repetition of the repeating motive with a forte dynamic and the second with a piano dynamic and again for the next set of repetitions. This keeps the melody a bit more mysterious and multidimensional.
  • Although the tempo is marked in 8th notes, perform this excerpt with a larger dotted quarter note emphasis. It is a dance, after all. The steps will occur not on the eighth notes but on the dotted quarter. I like to watch period dramas such as Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility from the BBC to really capture the idea of this dance as there are often dance sequences that feature baroque tunes.

Piccolo Excerpt – Percy Grainger, Molly on the Shore

  • Do not be deceived by the easy-seeming tempo marking at the beginning – This excerpt flies by pretty quickly! Start working on this slowly to make sure your technique is consistently rockin’ and rollin’ before speeding up.
  • This excerpt takes courage! The high register playing is not for the faint of heart. My best piece of advice is to belt.it.out. Give your band director a set of earplugs while you are recording and pretend that you are the Slash of the flute. Slash plays his guitar as if he doesn’t care who hears him – Play your piccolo as if you don’t care who hears you. Rock it!
  • The triplet figures in this excerpt are more akin to ornaments in the melody than true triplets. You will still want to make sure these are supported by your air and the sound rings out but keep these as ornamental to the primary melody.
  • The style in the first two lines is very much contrasting to the rest of the excerpt. Be sure to bring out this character difference by starting the excerpt in a calm mezzo-forte with sweetly sounding vibrato. Turn up the intensity in measure 6 with short, yet lightly articulated notes.
  • You may get tired from all of the articulation. Remember to use a light “tut” syllable to keep attacks clean and your tongue poised for the next note. A great way to practice this excerpt is in chirps (or tiny puffs of air). This will help train your air to do some of the heavy lifting, giving your “tut” a much-needed break.
  • There are accents! Make sure to circle these with a red-colored pencil in your part so you do not forget to bring them out of the texture. These accents are important as they correspond to what is happening in the rest of the ensemble.
  • The last 3 lines feature a series of crescendos and decrescendos. Makes sure you are bringing these out of the texture. Start these passages off slightly softer than they are marked to make more of a difference in the line. Most of these follow the natural dynamic tendencies of the line.

Symphonic Band Audition Repertoire

If you are in a smaller school, you may be eligible to audition for the All-State Symphonic Band. This will be less competitive and guarantees more opportunities for musicians from smaller school to participate in All-State programs. As a young flutist from a smaller school, I would have loved having more opportunities like this! You will perform with fellow musicians from around the state in programs similar to your own, make new friends, and create priceless new memorizes. The repertoire for this group is a bit easier than that of the Wind Ensemble, but you may instead audition with the Wind Ensemble repertoire if you so choose. Up to you!

Exercise #1 – Chromatic Scale

  • Many of the tips below are similar to those for the Wind Ensemble audition. My two best pieces of advice are to stick to the written tempo of quarter note = 60 and to try to play this excerpt in one breath with good sound.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To keep your tempo consistent on recording day, program your metronome to quarter note = 60 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.

Exercise #2 – Etude Espressivo

  • This is a great excerpt to practice varying the speed of your vibrato to match the character of the melody and dynamics. The excerpt begins quietly, requiring a sweet, almost dolce tone. Build up to a mezzo-forte at the end of the first line and speed up your vibrato ever so slightly. At the climax in line 2, play out on the forte and speed up your vibrato again so that the line is boisterous and intense. Play out here!
  • The unique thing about this excerpt is that it features a number of different types of articulations. For example, just looking at the 2nd and 3rd measures, there are slurs, staccatos, accents, and tenuto markings within the span of 2 measures. Make sure to bring out the difference in all of these types of articulations.
  • The name of the game is to be as expressive as possible in this short selection. Something that really helps me, as well as my students, is to create a story behind the music. Listen to yourself playing the entire excerpt. What comes to mind? Does the music make you think of different types of colors? Does it make you think of people? Animals? Is there a story behind the notes or a dialogue being sung between the voices? Write it down! Imagine your story every time you play this excerpt.

Exercise #3 – Etude Technical

  • Practice with your metronome set to quarter note = 120 and then practice with your metronome again, and again until the tempo is ingrained in your head. If this tempo is too fast, go ahead and dial it back while you are learning the notes, speeding up gradually every day until you can play at quarter note = 120. Record yourself playing without the metronome. How close is your internal tempo to the written tempo? Remember not to rush on the day of the recording. It is a good idea to bring your metronome with you and remind yourself of the tempo before your band director hits the “record” button.
  • This entire excerpt is articulated and most of it is staccato. A great way to practice your staccatos is by using a “tut” syllable on the single-tongued notes, and a tut-kut combination on your double-tongued passages. Another good idea is to practice in chirps (or small puffs of un-articulated air). This will help train your air to do the heavy lifting, freeing up your tongue to lighten your articulation.
  • Remember to place some vibrato on the quarter notes marked with tenuto lines. You’ll want to remind your committee of your awesome sound!
  • There are a number of dynamic changes in this excerpt starting in the second line and continuing until the end of the excerpt. Remember to clearly show the difference between all of these dynamic changes. Sometimes it helps to think of dynamics as different colors. If this works for you, you might add a spectrum with these colors above your music as a visual reminder to change your sound in these sections.
  • There is only one accent in the entire excerpt! This falls on the 3rd beat of the second to last measure. Circle this with a red colored pencil so you do not forget to make this note different from all of the notes that comes before it. This is the false ending. Your listener may think the excerpt is over, but lo and behold, there are still a few notes! Gotcha.

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 Oregon All-State Wind Ensemble or Symphonic Band? 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 Oregon flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)

Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #4: Florida)

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday!

We will continue the Practice Blueprints – All-State Audition Series this week with Florida. Auditions across the state will start today (September 11th) and continue through September 25th. Although most of the prep work may already be done for students auditioning into these groups, the below will serve as a few last-minute ideas for those still in preparation mode. Florida has a wonderful model that breaks down All-State groups into Concert Band (9th and 10th graders) and Symphonic Band (11th and 12th graders). The younger musicians can build experience in Concert Band before excelling into Symphonic Band while performing with musicians closer to their age groups (freshmen do not compete with seniors under this model). This makes competition for All-State groups a bit less intimidating, even in a state as populous as Florida. Although the preliminary auditions are recorded, they are done so in one take by the student’s band director, making these essentially live auditions for the student (one take, one chance to shine). Remember, as I said in last week’s blog: No matter what happens, approach these auditions from a learning perspective. It’s okay to not be perfect in a live audition – Your goal is to put your very best playing out there no matter how nervous you are, or how unpredictable the environment may be on the day of your audition. Just play and let the Universe work out the rest.

General Information (What You Need to Know):

Any questions about All-State auditions should be asked to your Band Director. 

  • Any student participating in an FMEA/FBA All-State band must be enrolled/registered at a public school, private school, public charter school, home education music cooperative, or virtual school. In addition, the student must be a regularly participating member in the appropriate middle school or high school band from that school and sponsored by the Active FMEA/FBA member teacher from that school.  Home education students must meet the requirements and complete the additional paperwork on the FMEA All-State Eligibility Page.
  • Audition Results: Directors will be able to see the audition results for their own students in MPA Online sometime during the first week of November.  The full lists will be released during the second or third week of November.
  • Directors of accepted all-state students are required to register for and attend the FMEA Conference on January 12-15, 2022. See the FMEA Conference Policies for details. 
  • The decision of the selection committee is final.
  • Only instruments listed on the All-State Application or in the 2022 All-State Symphonic Band Requirements printed in the handbook may audition.
  • The student must be a member of the band program at their school and have their name submitted on the proper All-State Application form. The Application form must be typed and signed by the band director and principal. The Application form must be submitted by the proper deadline date as set by the District.
  • The band director must be a member of FBA/FMEA by September 1, 2021.
  • Students selected for any of the All-State groups must bring their own music stand, instrument, band uniform, etc.

Required Repertoire:

  • Concert Band (Grades 9 and 10)https://fba.flmusiced.org/media/2013/all-state-requirements-2022-concert-band-woodwind.pdf
    • a) The specific prepared exercises for their instrument(s) as listed in the All-State Concert Band Audition Requirements. Note the suggested tempi.
      • Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 55, #17; dotted quarter note = 60
      • Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 54, #12; quarter note = 120
      • Piccolo – Piccolo Excerpt – Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 51, #6; m. 1-32, quarter note = 116
        • All Piccolo students MUST also audition on Flute. Their Flute audition will determine membership in the band and the Piccolo double will be determined by the Piccolo audition. The Piccolo audition will contain the chromatic scale and the above exercise – no other scales and no sight-reading.
    • b) A chromatic scale covering the range for their instrument (as given in the All-State Concert Band Audition Requirements.) The scale will be performed in even sixteenth notes at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 100. The scale will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scale is to be memorized.
    • c) Twelve major scales, (in 2:30 minutes or less) from memory, complete with arpeggios, at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 120. Scales are to be performed a minimum of 2 octaves where possible. Students who wish to play a 3rd octave may do so. All scales must be performed within the allotted time frame. Scales must be performed in complete octaves. (Please see audition guidelines for scale and arpeggio rhythms.) The scales will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scales will be performed in the “circle of fourths”, starting with the concert key of: C, F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, B, E, A, D, G.
    • d) A short sight-reading exercise(s) to demonstrate the student’s reading ability. The student will have thirty seconds to study the piece before playing it.
  • Symphonic Band (Grades 11 and 12)https://fba.flmusiced.org/media/2016/all-state-requirements-2022-symphonic-band-woodwind.pdf
    • a) The specific prepared exercises for their instrument(s) as listed in the All-State Symphonic Band Audition Requirements. Students will determine tempi.
      • Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 42, #10; m. 1-16
      • Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 7, #7; m. 1-40 + 1 note
      • Piccolo – Piccolo Excerpt – Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984), pg. 23, #5; beginning – m. 38 + 1 note
        • All Piccolo students MUST also audition on Flute. Their Flute audition will determine membership in the band and the Piccolo double will be determined by the Piccolo audition. The Piccolo audition will contain the chromatic scale and the above exercise – no other scales and no sight-reading.
    • b) A chromatic scale covering the range for their instrument (as given in the All-State Concert Band Audition Requirements.) The scale will be performed in even sixteenth notes at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 120. The scale will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scale is to be memorized.
    • c) Twelve major scales, (in 2:30 minutes or less) from memory, complete with arpeggios, at a minimum tempo of MM ♩= 120. Scales are to be performed a minimum of 2 octaves where possible. Students who wish to play a 3rd octave may do so. All scales must be performed within the allotted time frame. Scales must be performed in complete octaves. (Please see audition guidelines for scale and arpeggio rhythms). The scales will be tongued ascending and slurred descending where applicable. Scales will be performed in the “circle of fourths”, starting with the concert key of: C, F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, B, E, A, D, G.
    • d) A short sight-reading exercise(s) to demonstrate the student’s reading ability. The student will have thirty seconds to study the piece before playing it.

Where can I find the Required Repertoire?

  • Chromatic Scale Example:

Practice Guidelines

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 to the tempos marked on the audition guidelines. 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.
  • 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.

Scales (Circle of 4ths)

  • Make sure you play the rhythms as indicated on the audition guidelines and do not forget about the arpeggios at the end of each scale.
  • A great way to work on memorizing these scales is to turn it into a game. Write the note names of each scale on small bits of paper and draw each one out of a hat (or bag, or sock, whatever works!). Although you will be playing them in the circle of fourths sequence on the day of the audition, this will help avoid learning simply by muscle memory (which may fail you in a high stress audition setting).
  • Set the metronome to the tempos indicated on the audition sheet. When you feel comfortable with this tempo, turn the metronome off and your phone camera on. Record yourself playing your scales and check the time stamp. Make sure you are fitting your scales in the 2:30 indicated. If not, speed up the tempo slightly until you can fit all scales in the required 2:30 while retaining an even tempo.
  • Review your recording. What can you improve on your scales? Are they even? Are the accidentals all correct? How is your sound? Could you project a bit more? Take notes and try again until you are super confident with your scales!

Sight Reading

  • I wrote a separate blog on sight-reading a few years ago: https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2016/08/22/love-at-first-sight/ Check this out! Here I address a number of very valuable sight-reading tips such as paying close attention to tempos and time signatures, remembering the rests, searching for repetitive phrases or common patterns, and keeping your eyes moving forward.
  • It is not easy to prepare for sight reading! One of my best pieces of advice is to practice becoming comfortable with the unknown. Ask your band director or flute teacher to give you random excerpts to play once or twice a week. Sight reading is scary because you never know what to expect. Desensitize yourself and go with the flow.
  • Another good idea is to end each practice session by selecting another etude from the Cavally book and playing through 20 measures while you record yourself on your phone. The recording device serves as a cue to keep going (no matter what)! If you are brave, share your daily sight-reading adventures on your Instagram Live, Tic Tok, or YouTube pages.

Concert Band Auditions (9th and 10th Grade All-State Band)

Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 55, #17; dotted quarter note = 60

  • Since this a lyrical excerpt, keep your notes legato and connected.
  • The guidelines for this excerpt are very specific regarding tempo. Make sure to practice with a metronome set to this tempo. Avoid becoming too reliant on the metronome by recording yourself and comparing your playing without a metronome to the marked tempo.
  • Take the breath marks as indicated in the score. The committee will be looking at how efficiently you are using air. Try not to lose the beat when taking a breath. The breath should still fit within marked rhythm.
  • Circle all accidentals with a red colored pencil as a visual cue to yourself to bring these out of the texture. Since this is a lyrical etude, make sure accents are gracefully rounded (like the sound of a bell rather than a car horn).
  • Make the most out of the crescendo from piano (p) to forte (f) in the 2nd line. Start softly and gradually get louder. Is it possible to make a distinct tone color change here?
  • The last measure of the 2nd line and the 2nd measure of the 3rd line may throw you off with the presence of a dotted rhythm. Try not to linger too long on the dotted eighth. The show must go on!
  • Remember to diminuendo gradually in the 2nd-3rd measure of line 3. This is the transition between the two character voices in this excerpt. We are essentially making a return to the opening melody.
  • The final diminuendo may be a bit challenging with the octave jump at the end. Try not to get so soft on this line that you lose tonal support for the last two notes. This jump should still be graceful (like the triangle at the end of an orchestral work)..

Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 54, #12; quarter note = 120

  • This excerpt is all about articulation! Keep your articulated notes short and light. A good way to practice this excerpt is to use the syllable “tut.” This keeps the notes short and the tongue poised for the next note. Another great way to practice lightening your articulation in this excerpt is to practice in “chirps” (or unarticulated puffs of air). This helps alleviate the work of your tongue to produce the sound of each articulated note.
  • There are a few sneaky F# in the score. Make sure to mark these clearly in your music. If seeing “E#” freaks you out (understandable!), simply write “F” above these notes.
  • Keep a strict quarter note = 120 tempo and practice with a metronome. The guidelines are very specific regarding tempo for this excerpt.
  • The good news is that the dynamic remains in forte (f) for the entire excerpt. Keep the sound resonant and project in all registers. The volume and quality of sound must be the same at the bottom of the register as it is at the top.

Piccolo Excerpt – Rubank Advanced Method Volume II – pg. 51, #6; m. 1-32, quarter note = 116

  • There is a strict quarter note = 116 tempo indicated in the audition guidelines. Make sure to practice this excerpt with a metronome. Record yourself to make sure that your internal tempo is consistent with your metronome.
  • The first measure is a bit tricky as you are required to move quite quicky from a forte (f) on a high G to a piano (p) in the next measure. Playing softly in the high register is challenging on the piccolo! This type of writing occurs in several place in this excerpt. Try tightening your embrochure rather than using more air to control the sound. A good way to prepare for playing softly in this register is to practice 3rd octave scales softly as a warm-up (use your circle of fourths exercise for this!).
  • There are accents in the low register. Circle these in a red colored pencil to bring them to your attention. Make sure to bring these notes out of the texture.
  • This excerpt turns the natural dynamic tendencies of the line (and the instrument) around, bringing out the opposite of “normal.” Understand this concept and half the battle is already won!
  • Practice your Eb major and C# minor scales as a warm-up to become comfortable playing in these keys for this excerpt.
  • Bring out the crescendo/decrescendo pairs at the end of the excerpt. The notes and dynamics move faster than the previous lines in the final 2 measures.
  • Keep dotted articulations short and light. Try practicing with a “tut” syllable in these passages to keep the notes short while preparing the tongue properly for each subsequent note.

***

Symphonic Band Auditions (11th and 12th grade All-State Band)

Flute Excerpt #1 – Lyrical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 42, #10; m. 1-16

  • Although this excerpt is written in 9, be sure to select a tempo that is not too slow but still Adagio. Keep the melody flowing.
  • Think of this excerpt like a dance (it is a waltz after all). Retain a graceful and elegant tone even in the high register. The accents are almost like changes of steps, with slurs representing longer turns or spins on the dance floor.
  • On that note, do what you can to bring out the accents. These should be rounded and graceful, like the sound of a bell. Circle these in with a red colored pencil as a visual reminder to bring them out of the texture.
  • Although this excerpt begins with a piano (p) dolce dynamic, it contains a number of dynamic changes (including several crescendo/decrescendo pairs) that ultimately build to the forte in the final 2 measures. This is a great opportunity to experiment with tone color changes! 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.
  • Think of your accidentals as leading to the next note, particularly in the ascending lines (ex. 3rd line, first 2 measures).
  • Take the breath marks as indicated. If you are having trouble fitting in all of the notes between breaths, speed the tempo up ever so slightly.

Flute Excerpt #2 – Technical Exercise: Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984) – pg. 7, #7; m. 1-40 + 1 note

  • Keep your beat steady throughout the spinning 16th notes by adding a few breath kicks (or very small accents or small bits of vibrato) on notes falling on the downbeats.
  • 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.
  • Keep the tempo swift but still manageable (at least quarter note = 120). You want to impress your committee with your virtuosity but also show them that you understand where the beat is.
  • Make a clear distinction between the marked piano (p) and mezzo-forte (mf) dynamics. This is another great opportunity to experiment with tone color changes between the 2 character’s voices.
  • Many of the mezzo-forte passages fall within the lower register, which is not the easiest register to play loudly. Try bringing your right shoulder closer to your flute. This will help open your sound up in the lower register.
  • The 6th line switches characters completely. The marked “grandioso” says it all! Longer, more boisterous lines are introduced by articulated ascending lines. Change tone colors in this section and use a bit more vibrato to sing out the melody.
  • Keep the staccatos in the 6th and 7th lines short, but not too short. Make sure there is still a center to your sound and keep attacks light.

Piccolo Excerpt – Melodious & Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 Revised by Robert Cavally, Pub: Southern Music Co. (CR 1984), pg. 23, #5; beginning – m. 38 + 1 note

  • This is essentially a march (piccolos playing marches – groundbreaking..). A great way to practice keeping a clear march tempo is to literally march in place while playing this excerpt.
  • There is a character change at the beginning of the 3rd line, introduced by a “dolce” beneath the staff. Experiment with tone colors here. How can you change your tone, dynamics, or sound to create a new, sweeter voice?
  • The accents in the 3rd line are unusual as they fall on the 2nd note of a syncopated 2-note grouping. Bring these out of the texture without slowing down the beat.
  • Speaking of accents, make sure you circle these in your music with a red colored pencil as a reminder to bring these out of the texture.
  • Remember that there are crescendi and decrescendi starting at the end of line 3. Circle these and bring them out as they follow the natural direction of the line.
  • There are a number of octave jumps in this excerpt (particularly at the end of lines 4 through line 6). 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.

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 audition, 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 Florida All-State Band 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 Florida flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)

Practice Blueprints: All-State Auditions (Blog #3: Illinois)

Greetings and welcome a new Flute Friday!

Today we will be continuing the Practice Blueprints – All-State Audition series with Illinois. I have really enjoyed the Fluting with the Stars Masterclass series offered by the Chicago Flute Club this year and was therefore inspired to select Illinois as the next state on the Practice Blueprints list. The Chicago Flute Club continues to offer so many great resources to both members and non-members alike. I encourage everyone to check out some of their future offerings (including their next Fluting with the Star’s masterclass with Paula Robison): https://www.chicagofluteclub.org

Illinois may not be a large state like Texas, but the Chicago metro area attracts many talented high school musicians who have access to exceptional private teachers and music programs. Competition is fierce for positions in the All-State program and live auditions make the audition process even more strenuous than other states that require a pre-recorded preliminary audition. Live auditions are no joke! You have one shot to impress. One shot to play all the notes. One shot to show why you deserve a place in an All-State ensemble. This, of course, is how college auditions work as well as orchestral auditions in the professional world. Learn what you can about how you perform under pressure now. No matter what happens, approach these auditions from a learning perspective. It’s okay to not be perfect in a live audition – Your goal is to put your very best playing out there no matter how nervous you are, or how unpredictable the environment may be on the day of your audition. Just play and let the Universe work out the rest.

General Information (What You Need to Know)

  • Senior level auditions will be blind auditions; click here for a sample script of what to expect.
  • Students are asked to prepare everything listed for their instrument on this year’s Cycle Set for this audition. Students will not be asked to perform everything listed at the audition. A smaller section of the measures listed will be picked for performance on the day of the audition. The portion of the etude listened to at the auditions WILL NOT be published in advance.
  • Wind instrument auditions are designed to evaluate a student’s technical and musical abilities in all registers with both prepared material and sight reading.  
  • The purpose of Junior and Senior level auditions is to rank students in order to determine District Festival eligibility and seating. Additionally, for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students, the audition is used to determine All-State eligibility and seating.
  • WIND INSTRUMENT EVALUATION WILL BE BASED ON THE FOLLOWING:
    • Tone Quality:  10 Points
    • Intonation:  10 Points
    • Technical Facility:  10 Points
    • Rhythmic Accuracy:  10 Points
    • General Musicianship:  10 Points
    • Scale Studies:  10 Points
    • Sight Reading:  10 Points
    • Total Possible:  70 points
  • The student’s use of all electronic and/or mechanical devices to include, but not limited to, metronomes, tuners, cell phones, and audio/video recording devices is prohibited in all ILMEA audition rooms.
  • Students may perform the scales and the etudes from music that contains prepared markings without any deduction in point score.
  • Audition scores, including final rankings, are not to be posted, distributed to and/or discussed with individual students, directors, private teachers, or parents. Notification of acceptance to an ILMEA festival, as well as specific chair and part assignments, is the responsibility of the District President and the ILMEA State Office. Judges are strongly discouraged from attempting any written or verbal critique of a student’s performance beyond a thank you. In addition, judges will refrain from discussing private lesson teachers, past performance experiences, or future college/university plans with any student at any time during the audition process.
  • If call-backs are to be utilized in determining the final ranking of students, information concerning the specific time and place for call-backs must be clearly posted and/or distributed to all students at the start of auditions. Call-backs will not begin until all students have had the opportunity to complete the initial audition within the pre-announced audition time.
  • Normally, a total of 40 flutes and 72 Bb clarinets are selected for the All-State Bands. Consequently, the District Band Representative would be able to nominate the top 5 flutists and the top 9 clarinetists from District X for All-State. 
  • The ranking of students for All-State selection is determined solely by the District level audition score. Part/chair assignment for the District festival does not affect a student’s ranking for All-State nomination. All-State wind and percussion students are not pre-assigned to the Honors or All-State groups. Students re-audition for ensemble and chair placement upon arrival at the All-State Conference. District audition scores are not considered in the final All-State placement.
  • Audition times and dates will vary by region. Check with your band director for the dates for your specific region.

Required Repertoire:

1.  ILMEA Scale Sheet – 3-minute time limit *All notes tongued*

2.  Sight Reading

Melodious and Progressive Studies: Book II, rev. Robert Cavally; Hal Leonard ©2012 1. 

3.  Vivace by Kummer: play from m.1 to Fine (p. 52)

4.  Andante cantabile by Andersen: play mm. 1 – 50 (p. 59)

Where can I find the Required Repertoire?

ILMEA Scale Sheet – https://racheltaylorgeier.files.wordpress.com/2021/09/1dc56-seniorlevelscalesheet.pdf

Cavally Etudes – The entire etude book can be purchased here:  https://www.flute4u.com/methods-and-etudes/Various-Melodious-and-Progressive-Studies-Book-2.html  The Set 3 excerpts can also be found on the following link: https://0140be18-7d74-4556-a387-fa1a1e84c92e.filesusr.com/ugd/6d83f5_08ff0d053be94e068e0c0b1d163ae923.pdf

Practice Tips:

1.         ILMEA Scale Sheet

  • The guidelines indicate a 3-minute time limit on these scales, meaning that you will likely not have to perform all of them at the audition. Practice as if you will be performing all of them – even the super difficult ones with many sharps and flats. You never know which scales will be on the set list at the audition.
  • There is a note on the guidelines stating “all notes tongued” but does not specify whether they are to single or double-tongued. Choosing to double-tongue will help you achieve a decent speed. I suggest practicing all of these scales single-tongued (with a too, or doo syllable), double-tongued (with a too-coo or, for an extra challenge, duck-ky syllable combo), and, most importantly, with a coo syllable (which will strengthen the back of your tongue for any double-tongued passages). Since these will be live auditions, prepare to be flexible. Expect the best (double-tonguing) but be prepared to give the committee a range of articulations in case they ask for it.
  • Aim to achieve a balanced tone between all registers. It is easy to resonate in the high register but not so much in the lower register. A great exercise to work on concurrently is Flexibility Exercise #1 from Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone. Focus on keeping the tone stable while training your lips to gracefully move between each register.
  • Keep the tempo even yet manageable (quarter note = 100-120).
  • If you can, memorize these scales. This will help you be more confident at the audition. You will also need to know all of these scales inside and out for college auditions and beyond.

2.         Sight Reading

  • I wrote a separate blog on sight-reading a few years ago: https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2016/08/22/love-at-first-sight/ Check this out! Here I address a number of very valuable sight-reading tips such as paying close attention to tempos and time signatures, remembering the rests, searching for repetitive phrases or common patterns, and keeping your eyes moving forward. 
  • It is not easy to prepare for sight reading! One of my best pieces of advice is to practice becoming comfortable with the unknown. Ask your band director or flute teacher to give you random excerpts to play once or twice a week. Sight reading is scary because you never know what to expect. Desensitize yourself and go with the flow.
  • Another good idea is to end each practice session by selecting another etude from the Cavally book and playing through 20 measures while you record yourself on your phone. The recording device serves as a cue to keep going (no matter what)! If you are brave, share your daily sight-reading adventures on your Instagram Live, Tic Tok, or YouTube pages.

3.         Vivace by Kummer: play from m.1 to Fine (p. 52)

  • Hello triple tonging! Remember to use a TKT TKT syllable combo. Like we saw in the scale studies, a great way to practice the articulated triplet sections is to use a “coo” syllable to strengthen the back of the tongue. This will help make your articulation very balanced.
  • Try to keep your articulation light and resonant (even in the softer dynamics). Too short and the line sounds mechanical. Keep the beauty of the line intact.
  • Sforzandi are everywhere! Circle these in your music with a red colored pencil to draw your attention to them so you can bring them out of the texture.
  • The tempo is marked “Vivace” which leaves a bit of room for interpretation. Try to select a reasonably quick tempo that is still under control. Vivace does not mean rush. If you lose the tone color and character of your playing due to speed, the tempo ends up controlling you (rather than the other way around).
  • Know.your.chromatic.scale! There are several chromatic passages in this excerpt. Carefully select fingerings that will work best on ascending lines (for example – which Bb works best in these passages? Mark it in your score).
  • There are three (3) types of character changes in this etude (lightly articulated passages (ex. first two lines), long slurred spinning lines (lines 3-6), and longer melodic lines (lines 7-8). Play around with tone colors in these passages to differentiate the voices of each character. How can you alter your sound and vibrato in each of these sections to fit a different type of character? 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.
  • Let’s chat about the trills in lines 7-8. Keep these quick yet controlled. Try placing slightly more pressure on the finger holding down the key of the upper note to free up the muscles in the finger trilling the lower note (for example, if you are trilling a mid-range G-A, place slightly more pressure on the middle finger holding down the A to free up the muscles in your ring finger to trill the G.
  • Make a clear difference between the shorter 16th note pick-ups to the triplet passages. These 16th notes are shorter than you think. An example of this is found can be found in the 2nd and 3rd measures of line 2. Remember to subdivide!
  • There are several crescendi in this excerpt. Practice gradually getting louder (not to early and not too late). Record yourself playing these passages – Are your dynamic changes clear?
  • Be cautious of hairpin crescendos < > in this excerpt. Start these a bit softer than you think to leave room to make clear changes in your volume.
  • The great thing about this excerpt is that the breath marks are already clearly laid out for you. Take them where they are indicated and avoid breathing between beath marks.
  • Try to find the thin grey line between sf’s (or fz’s) and accent marks. Try circling these with colored pencils in different colors to draw your attention to these notes, which require unique attacks. 

4.         Andante cantabile by Andersen: play mm. 1 – 50 (p. 59)

  • This excerpt requires an air of calm amidst a storm of ornamentation and chromatic fingerings! Take a long, meditative breath before you begin playing. Try breathing in for a count of 4, holding your breath for 4 counts, and breathing out for another 4 counts.
  • Practice this excerpt very slow at first, with the goal of a reasonable tempo at quarter note = 66.
  • This is a Romance. Try to play the entire passage as sweetly as possible (as indicated by the “dolce” in the opening measure).
  • This excerpt harkens a bit to the Menuet from L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2 by Georges Bizet. Add this simple piece to your daily warm-ups to capture a similar character.
  • Avoid getting lost in the ornamentation. Practice first without the added grace notes and turns to understand the underlying melody. Add these back in once you are confident playing without them. Remember that adding ornamentation is just like adding a beautiful piece of jewelry to an already stunning gown. It is icing on the cake – not the cake itself.
  • Don’t be afraid to mark in the accidentals. If seeing an F double-sharp is a bit freaky, try simply marking a “G” above the note. The accidentals in this excerpt make it appear more difficult than it actually is.
  • The dynamics change a lot in this excerpt! There are several crescendi/decrescendi/crescendi combinations within each phrase. Make sure you are starting quite softly in these passages to leave room to gradually increase and decrease the volume.
  • Remember – The character of the phrase does not change as the dynamic increases. Keep your vibrato sweet even through the crescendi.
  • C# minor is not a very friendly key. A good exercise to add to your daily studies is Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Studies, Exercise #4 in E major and C# minor. Start to become comfortable with the unusual!
  • Subdivide, subdivide, then subdivide some more! You will be switching from 16th notes to triplets and back again (line 8 is a good example). Make sure you do not rush the 16th and/or drag the triplets.
  • Show off your vibrato on longer notes and play out slightly. Your panel will likely be looking at the quality and flexibility of your sound.
  • Practice using the lever Bb where appropriate in the 16th note passages. This fingering requires less movement from the fingers.
  • Keep your fingers fluid throughout the faster moving passages. Practice graceful transitions from one note to the next. Envision the notes as water being poured from a pitcher into a glass.
  • Place breath kicks (or very small accents or small bits of vibrato) on the notes that fall on the downbeats to keep your beat grounded during longer passages of 16th notes. This will help show your committee exactly where your beat falls.
  • Think graceful and fluid throughout the entire excerpt. It is easy to get caught up in the complexity of the notes at the expense of the calm, cool, and collected atmosphere.

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 audition, 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 Illinois 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 Illinois flute friends (and band/orchestra directors)!

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)