Month: November 2021

Top 20 Grateful List

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving! This week I have been reflecting on some of the things I am most grateful for as a flute player, particularly over the past year as our industry has made our way through a pandemic. Today I am sharing the top 20 items on this list. I encourage you to create your own lists! We have a lot of reasons to celebrate our passion and resilience as artists. What are you grateful for? 

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com
  1. Flute Talk Magazine. It was announced a few weeks ago that Flute Talk will be discontinued. I am so very grateful for the many years this journal was in publication. Flute Talk was the inspiration for many things in my younger days (including this very blog). Thank you for all of the articles and priceless advice over the years!
  2. Win-D-Fender.  I was lucky enough to try this device out at a past flute convention and loved it! If you are an fan of practicing outside (or not a fan of trying to project through powerful air conditioners), check out this clever flute accessory: https://win-d-fender.com
  3. Flute Overhauls. I was very fortune this year to have both my flute and piccolo overhauled by the talented John Gil in Sacramento and now they both play like a dream. Thanks John!
  4. YouTube Piano Accompaniments. I know I know…nothing beats the real thing, but thanks to YouTube, we now have simple piano accompaniments for some of our standard repertoire on YouTube. This is a great resource if you are working on memorizing (or re-memorizing) the works we all know and love.
  5. Connecting with other Flutists via Social Media. I have met many wonderful flutists at conventions over the years and thanks to outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, I can stay connected to these folks every day. It is wonderful to see what my colleagues are up to (and fun to share cute pet photos!).
  6. Community Flute Societies. These are also great for meeting and connecting with flutists in and around your own community or even those in larger cities. Many of the societies, such as the Chicago Flute Club, offer regular masterclasses that can be attended online from anywhere.
  7. Flute Masks. Although not fail-safe just yet, these have helped many of us and our students return to live rehearsals and performances. What is your favorite flute mask?
  8. Stylish Flute Bags. From Fluterscooter to Crescendo, there are a number a very colorful, stylish, and useful flute bags on the market today. I, myself, have a lilac Fluterscooter bag and was fortunate this year to win a Crescendo flute backpack at the NFA convention. I love them both!
  9. The 2021 National Flute Association Virtual Convention. Although the live convention is irreplaceable, this year’s virtual convention was absolutely wonderful! I was so very happy to experience the lectures and performances online this year from the comfort of my home studio. I also really enjoyed having the ability to chat virtually with my colleagues, some of which I have not seen in years.
  10. Youth Solo Competitions. These drove me to be the best flutist I could be when I was young and the best, most supportive judge I can be as an adult. I was fortunate to judge two of these competitions virtually this year and very much enjoyed all of the performances I reviewed and adjudicated. I am constantly impressed by the young talent out there today!
  11. Electro-Acoustic Flute Pieces. One of my very favorite parts of the NFA Convention this year was the gala concert featuring new, interesting works for the flute. Some of the electro-acoustic pieces featured here were wild but very cool! I love seeing the flute featured in non-traditional ways. 
  12. The Flute View Magazine. Shameless plug here: I love writing for this online publication! The Flute View always features fabulous articles highlighting what is new in the flute world and what we can reimagine in the future. I am super proud to be one of their monthly contributors.
  13. Any Video Performance by Jasmine Choi.  Okay, I know we all have our favorite performers and nobody has exactly the same taste, but Jasmine will always be Queen to me. Her performances are #fluteplayinggoals!
  14. Flute Players who Love Astrology. I publish monthly flute horoscopes in The Flute View and I am always grateful for other flutists who reach out and share their own love of all things tarot and astrology with me. I love hearing about horoscopes that come true or how they have come to understand more about themselves as performers by studying astrology. Yay to shared interests!
  15. Flute Players who Understand the Struggle. I am so grateful to have connected this year with flute players who, like myself, have struggled to build their careers along traditional lines. We are not alone! The world needs more flutists who have the courage and tenacity to do something different with their flute lives. Playing the flute does not need to look the same to everybody.
  16. The Bond of Flute Choirs. Playing in a flute choir is fun! I was fortunate to perform with the Professional Flute Choir at an NFA convention a couple years ago and loved it!  The people I met were great and the repertoire we performed was fabulous!  I have also played in local flute choirs for several years and really respect the bonds that are formed when we just play music and have fun. Isn’t that what it is all about anyways?
  17. The Creativity Behind Cleaning Cloths. I know this sounds weird, but have you checked out all of the super fun and useful cleaning cloths on the market these days??? From Sempre Flute to Beaumont, there is a style and fabric for everyone. I love being creative with my flute gear!
  18. Fancy Wood Flute Stands. I have a confession – I had been using cheap, utilitarian, foldable instrument stands since I started playing the flute in 6th grade. I hadn’t updated my instrument stand game until last summer when I invested in one of those super fancy stands with a large wood base and interchangeable flute pegs. I love this set up! Not as light as my old system, but very solid (aka nothing is tipping this one over) and very beautiful.
  19. Free Virtual Masterclasses. I have audited so many excellent masterclasses via Zoom this year that I would have otherwise had to pay beaucoup bucks to attend in person in the days of yesteryear. From Keith Underwood to Carol Wincenc, I have soaked up so many wonderful tips from the experts that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to under normal circumstances.  I hope platforms like this continue in the future!

And finally…..

  • Our industry has survived a pandemic! I know – We aren’t out of the COVID woods quite yet, but isn’t it inspiring to see the ways we have come together to do things differently and survive a very difficult, unpredictable set of circumstances? I am very proud to be part of the global flute community and hope that we can take some of the lessons we have learned during this time into the future.

What are you grateful for in your flute life? Do any of the above resonate with you? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!

What’s the Frequency, Fido?

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

Today’s blog is inspired by my precious English Bulldog, Patty. My husband and I adopted Miss Patty about a year ago. As first-time dog owners, we have been a bit overprotective when it comes to our pup (what she eats, what noises she makes and why, etc.). Prior to adopting Patty, I typically practiced my flute and piccolo in my home office with the door shut, as to not disturb the rest of the household. One Friday a few weeks ago, I moved my practice session to the living room (which has a much higher ceiling and significantly better resonance) while Patty slept in her favorite green chair across the room. As I was belting out a few high C#s, I started to wonder if the sound and frequency of my playing could potentially hurt my pup’s ears. If so, how will I know if she experiences any pain or hearing loss? In today’s blog, I will discuss the connection between the flute and hearing sensitivity in dogs. Disclaimer: I am so not a veterinarian – just an overprotective dog mom. If you are reading this and know something animal sciencey that I don’t, please comment below! A lot of us flutists are proud puppy owners and would love to know more about updated hearing data.

So, first thing’s first – There is not very much research on the impact of loud noises on dog’s ears. Bummer! Most of our understanding is based on comparisons with human hearing thresholds as the structure of our ears is similar (outer ear – pinna – ear cannel – eardrum). One of the most significant differences, however, is that a dog’s ear canal is longer and deeper than a human’s, allowing dogs to funnel sound more efficiently than humans. Loud noises may effect dogs in two ways – physical pain and/or hearing loss. As we will see below, is it unlikely that flute music (or piccolo music) will cause a dog physical pain, but hearing loss is a different story. It is important to carefully monitor your dog’s behavior if you are practicing in close proximity. Are they hiding? Are they covering their ears? Are they howling? Dogs experiencing pain will most likely run away from the sound, hide, or cover their heads. If you notice this, you should move your practice behind closed doors ASAP or plan to move your daily sessions off-site. If your dog is howling along to your playing, you may have more than just an adoring fan. The modern dog’s ancestor, the wolf, howls to other wolves in the wild to communicate to other pack members where they are or to warn off other animals from moving into their territory. They also howl to assemble the pack (Patty joins in a similar howl chain when the neighborhood dogs start yipping in the backyard). This behavior is ingrained in a dog’s genetic code. They may be trying to communicate with a sound from what they perceive to be another pack member. Or they may be howling along to something that you can’t even hear as dogs can pick up higher frequencies than the human ear (overtones, perhaps?). Dogs also surprisingly have a sense of pitch and may howl in a different pitch to individualize their own howl against the cacophony of other sounds. If your dog is howling along to Ibert, you are probably okay. If they are covering their ears or cowering in the corner, they are likely experiencing pain. Poor pups! Time to move your practice elsewhere ASAP.

And now for some science – Sound is generally measured by loudness/intensity and frequency (or pitch). Sound intensity refers to the number of decibels a sound emits. A dog barking is roughly 60 decibels while fireworks are around 140-150 decibels. According to the article, Piccolo Playing and Noise Inducted Hearing Loss by Kelly Wilson, The Noisy Planet website (National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders) states that any sound over 85 decibels can damage hearing in humans. Again, we don’t have much research on where dogs fall on this spectrum, but it is safe to assume that if it can hurt our ears, it can hurt theirs as well. A sound registering 90 decibels over an 8-hour time period can cause serious damage while sounds at 140 decibels or higher can cause pain and immediate hearing damage. When it comes to sound frequency, according to Pet Dog Owner, humans can hear sounds from 64-20,000 Hz while dogs can hear from 67-45,000 Hz. Sounds can become uncomfortable for dogs around 25,000 Hz. The rule of thumb is the higher the frequency and the louder the noise (or higher the decibel), the more discomfort it will cause your pup.

When it comes to the flute, Kelly Wilson outlines in her article that the flute ranges from 92-103 decibels and the piccolo from 90-106 decibels. Elsewhere on the interwebs (particularly from hearnet.com), this can also range from 85-111 decibels for the flute and 95-112 for the piccolo. These are both above the 85 decibel threshold for potential hearing damage. As far as frequency, the flute ranges from 262 Hz to 2096 while the piccolo can reach up to 4096 Hz. Although these are not comfortable frequencies for humans, they are within the comfortable ranges for dogs.

All dogs are different. The science suggests that our flute/piccolo playing is unlikely to cause physical pain to dogs but the decibel level may eventually lead to hearing damage. Some dogs may also have behavior or emotional sensitivity to certain sounds. Again, it is important to monitor your dog if you practice in the same room or nearby. If they are experiencing pain, stop your practice immediately and relocate to another safer location (possibly off-site). If they seem cool, you are not necessarily in the clear as they may eventually experience a degree of hearing loss. Protect your pet if possible, and practice in another room. If they howl along to your sweet flute tunes, don’t panic – It’s just in their nature to sort out pitches and differentiate their voice from Bach’s. An after-practice treat is also a good idea (Patty’s note).

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Do you practice in close proximity to your pet? Does your pet howl along to your playing? What other behavior does your pet exhibit while you practice? Please comment below.

Happy fluting!