Today’s blog is a bit more introspective than usual Flute Friday postings. Many of you reading this have recently returned from the NFA Convention in Chicago. You no doubt had a great time connecting with other flutists, picked up a ton of new ideas at lectures and workshops, and attended some fabulous concerts featuring world-class performers. That is awesome! As it should be! That being said, there is a side of attending conventions that sometimes does not get addressed and because this is a platform where we can unpack the good, the bad, the difficult, and the fabulous, I am going to unleash the Kraken. In today’s blog, I will be discussing some of the quietly insecure thoughts and feelings that may be running through our heads after the stage lights have gone down. How we might instead reframe these into inspirational positive goals for the future?
The truth is that when we attend music conventions and other professional conferences, we sometimes end up feeling bad about our own progress (or lack thereof) when we are surrounded by musicians who have already built successful performing careers. We look up at the mountain of practice we still need to do to become experts in our craft or behind at the opportunities that we bypassed on our way to different life experiences that may have been off the perfectly paved highway to success. Perhaps we did not follow the magic formula to become A Professional Performing Flutist. Maybe we do not perform as much as we “should” or do not teach as many students as we “should.” It is easy to ignore the “shoulds” when we are out in the World living a flute life designed on our own terms. At a convention, however, we are reminded of the “shoulds” when we start comparing ourselves and our flute playing to others around us. It is hard not to compare. Anybody that has tested out new instruments in the Exhibit Hall knows this all too well. So much of what we do is competitive, whether it is auditioning for chair placements, interviewing for teaching positions, or even just sparking interest to attend our performances over other events. Even the learning process encourages a bit of compare and contrast as we judge who we would like to study with, whose sound we would like to emulate, and which performances to use to model our own style. You may even run into old colleagues at conventions who graduated from the same studio, studied with the same teachers, and performed with all the same groups who are now performing fantastic works and living very successful music careers and think to yourself, “Where did I go wrong? How did I veer off-track? Where did they find the magic formula?” We sometimes forget under these circumstances that the only person we ever need to prove anything to is ourselves.
Yet, how do we stop this comparative game in its tracks when our confidence finds its way onto shaky ground? How do we embrace where we are in our flute playing and love it for what it is?
The answer is to find your niche and own it!!!
There may not be workshops offered in your particular interest. You may find that you can only attend a certain amount of performances before you forget who you are and what it is about the flute that you love. Don’t be afraid to do something different, even if it does not end up in the typical schedule of events. Okay, I’m about to drop a cold, hard truth: Being a flutist isn’t all about performing. Not all of us love playing in an orchestra. Some of us do not really enjoy solo performances. Maybe flute choir just isn’t our thing. Some are drained by teaching. Others of us, like yours truly, like to write and share ideas that are way outside the normal flute-playing tradition. And guess what? That type of variety makes what we do interesting. It breathes new life into old practices. We all learn the same pieces. Practice the same techniques. Drill scales and arpeggios. Host recitals. Take auditions. End up at the bar when we get cut in the first round. It’s okay to exit the hamster wheel and try out a roller coaster. Doing something different makes comparing yourself to others impossible. It is freeing, inspirational, and helps you put your own creative stamp on the flute world.
What we can do instead is use the lessons learned at the convention as motivation to create new goals that combine who we are with new, super creative ideas for the future. I carry a notebook to these types of conventions and always end up with a ton of great new ideas for future blog posts, inventive ways to reorganize my practice routine, new types of music I would like to try out, who I would like to connect with for interesting collaborative work in the future, and where I would like to be in my flute career by this time next year. What is in your notebook? Write it all out! What new goals can you add to your list? What are the action steps needed to attain those goals? Is there a fabulous flutist that you would like to connect with? Message them! Do you have a great idea for a creative project inspired by your time at the convention? Start brainstorming! Use your convention experience to further develop your niche and start thinking bigger, better, and way outside of the box. That is the very best way to silence your inner critic and turn your attention toward positive, awesome new possibilities for the flute and flute playing in the future.
What is your niche and did you find any new ideas to build upon at the convention? What are your new goals for the year ahead? How can you put your own stamp on the flute world as we know it? Please comment below!
Greetings and welcome to a new/belated Flute Friday/Saturday. Sorry for my lateness! I am currently attending the National Flute Association Convention in Chicago and suffering from sensory overload! In a good way, of course!
I have spent some time these past couple of days touring the Exhibit Hall, perusing scores, flutes, piccolos, and investigating the world of fun and fascinating flute accessories. I had a similar mission at the NFA Convention in 2018 (see blog here https://racheltaylorgeier.org/2018/08/19/does-this-thing-really-work-flute-products-review/), where I found one of my favorite ride-or-die devices, the Win-D-Fender https://www.flute4u.com/Win-D-Fender.html. More on that below, but needless to say, if you have not picked up a Win-D-Fender, you should absolutely add one to your collection, particularly if you are performing at the NFA this weekend and battling with the crazy strong air conditioning system. After speaking with folks at various booths and performing some good, old fashioned, flute retail therapy, I have picked up at least one cool new product from each of the major flute swag retailers. In today’s blog, I will be reviewing some of these great accessories. If you are looking to score something new and interesting, be sure to swing by the Exhibit Hall and grab these awesome gems for your collection.
Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company
Cleaning Essentials Take Down Microfiber Pouch Flute Swab – I am going to start with my favorite new piece of equipment. This cleaning rod is EVERYTHING. Yesterday I was sitting quietly in rehearsal for the Professional Flute Choir, listening to the fabulous Jasmine Choi play through the Habanera section of the Carmen Fantasie, when I felt the cold, wet drip of condensation and inner flute grossness travel from the end of my flute down to my calves. Ewwwww! If I had this cleaning rod at the time, I could have quickly and easily cleaned my flute between movements (or during long measures of rest). The great part about this cleaning rod is that you can clean your entire flute without taking the instrument apart! How many of us have been super jealous of oboe and clarinet players that can simply clean their instruments whenever they need with a bit of string and a piece of cloth. No disassembling required! And the part I love the most is that the rod is built in two pieces that screw into each other to form the entire length of the cleaning rod. Why is this important? Because it can easily fit into your flute case, like a standard cleaning rod, when not in use. Genius! I Finally, there is a small tie on the end of the cloth that can be hung from a simpIe folding music stand. I am definitely a fan and will be using this puppy in rehearsal later today. You can pick this up from the Carolyn Nussbaum booth or by visiting the following link: https://www.flute4u.com/cleaningessentials-take-down-microfiber-pouch-flute-swab
Via Handgrip – So, I was skeptical about this one… It looked fun. Brightly colored with varying degrees of resistance to build up finger strength and dexterity. After attending the workshop on Arnold Jacobs breathing techniques, I was reminded just how important it is from time to time to work on our flute playing away from the flute. This is a fun hand-held exerciser for your fingers that you can use while binge-watching your favorite shows on Netflix, sitting on a 4-hour flight from Chicago, or listening to a great concert or workshop. Hello, multitasking! I really like this device but do recommend the light resistance model to air on the side of caution and avoid any potential strain and/or injury. This is also a great gift idea if you are a non-flute player wanting to support your flute-playing friends and/or family. Pick up your Via Handgrip at the Flute World booth or by visiting the following link: https://www.fluteworld.com/product/via-handgrips/
Rio Piccolo Master Cleaner – I recently had my piccolo overhauled by the fantastic John Gil in Sacramento (who quite honestly performed miracles on a piccolo that has been collecting dust for the past several years). I figured it was time for a piccolo gear upgrade. I asked the folks at the Flute Specialists booth what their most popular accessory this year was and they recommended this swab. I loved the color (hot pink – of course!) and was curious about the super absorbent tip. It says “master cleaner” on the name of the product – Does it truly live up to the hype? Well, I love the idea and if I had a different type of piccolo, I think it would a great find! I was also a bit biased after purchasing the new Carolyn Nussbaum swab on my flute and wanted the Piccolo Master Cleaner to be a similar idea. When I tried this swab on my piccolo, I found it was a bit difficult to fit into the smaller end of my conical shaped piccolo. I also really wanted this swab to come in two pieces to make it compact enough to fit in a typical piccolo case. Unfortunately, it does not collapse so you will need to keep it separately in your flute bag or with your regular flute swab. Still, if you own a straight-bored piccolo and carry all of your instruments in a single bag (Fluterscooter, Alteri, Crescendo, etc.), then this product could really work for you. Be sure to stop by the Flute Specialists booth to check out these swabs or pick one up at the following link: https://www.flutespecialists.com/product/roi-piccolo-master-cleaner/
Flute Center of New York
Flute Barrel Bling– This booth had a lot of razzle dazzle! I was initially attracted to their blinged out collection of headjoints (and am still considering adding a sparkly custom crown on my recently-purchased flute), but for a fraction of the price, you can add a bit of sparkle to the body of your flute, while also adding slightly more weight to the instrument itself, with a Flute Barrel Bling. This is by far the most fun and the most ME item I have purchased so far at the convention. The Flute Barrel Bling comes in five different colors and features a sparkly elastic glove that fits over the top of the barrel. The Flute Barrel Bling comes with copper tape that is applied over the barrel to protect against potential scratches. Once the copper tape is smoothed with the accompanying acrylic smoothing stick, apply the Bling from a 45 degree angle gently onto the barrel. And then POOF – your flute is ready for the red carpet! I love this item and cannot wait to feature it in my next Solo Sunday video. So very stylish! Pick up your Flute Barrel Bling at the Flute Center of New York’s booth (in your preferred color, of course) or by visiting the following link: https://flutecenter.com/products/barrel-bling-by-flute-finery-clear
Flute Gallery – Schmitt Music
Hagerty Silver Protection Strips – Schmitt Music was one of the first booths I visited. Having won the Crescendo Bag at last year’s giveaway, I had to give them a huge THANK YOU! When I asked what the best selling accessory was at Schmitt Music this year, I was handed the Hagerty Silver Protection Strips. These little strips neutralize tarnish causing gases inside enclosed storage or display areas, keeping polished silver and gold “shining and ready for immediate use for six full months.” These strips are safe and non-toxic, according to the package. One strip should be used for every square foot of area and kept away from outside air. While I cannot really take these out of the package just yet and test drive them, I think they are a great idea for those of us that have flutes on our shelves that we do not use as often as our primary instruments. Several months ago when my Miyazawa was being overhauled, I dug out the original headjoint (which I hadn’t played in over a decade) and found an incredible amount of tarnish on the outside. It all eventually came off but it was a chore that required an impressive amount of elbow grease. These strips, when used regularly, would have stopped that tarnish in it’s tracks. Now that I have upgraded my Miyazawa to a Burkart, I will be taking extra care of my old flute with these strips to make sure it is still shiny and sparkly years down the road. Be sure to visit the Schmitt booth if you are attending the NFA, or pick up your Hagerty Silver Protection Strips at the following link: https://shop.schmittmusic.com/woodwind/flute-piccolo/accessories/hagerty-silver-protection-strips-8-pack/
Other Super Cool Flute Accessories I Picked Up/Recommend:
The Picc Pocket by Win-D-Fender
I know I have already given a shout out to this product on previous blogs, but I finally purchased one of my own after chatting with awesome Christine Cleary who was modeling the Picc Pocket at the Carolyn Nussbaum booth. I was scheduled to perform piccolo with the Professional Flute Choir on a work that featured six (6) piccolos and, prior to the convention, was trying to plot out the best way to bring my piccolo on stage and keep it relatively warm under the blasting hotel air conditioning system. I knew I had to pick up one of these awesome slings for my performance. The Picc Pocket is like a Baby Bjorn for your piccolo. Instead of fiddling back and forth with your various instrument stands, this product allows you to keep your piccolo attached in a safe, secure place and makes quickly transitioning between instruments super easy. There are even extra pockets on the sides for pencils and a pocket at the top that can hold a tuner or even a phone. In my younger days, I once damaged a piccolo right before a band concert after trying to juggle my flute, piccolo, instrument stands, and music resulted in tumble down a set of bleacher stairs. Had I been wearing the Picc Pocket, no damage would have been done except to my pride (and maybe my shoes). I love this product and highly recommend it to doublers or those performing in flute choirs. Stop by the Carolyn Nussbaum booth to pick up one of these or check them out at the following link: https://www.flute4u.com/Accessories/piccpocket
Win-D-Fender (Clear Version). I wrote a blog about this product back in 2018 and I stand by my option back then – The Win-D-Fender is AWESOME! Many of us have been playing and teaching outdoors over the past couple of years due to the pandemic and this little add on does a fantastic job at cutting down the interference of outside wind on the sound and projection of the flute. It is super light and snaps right on to your headjoint wherever works best for you. This year I invested in the clear version of the Win-D-Fender out of sheer selfishness to make sure the gold of my new flute can still be seen while I use the Win-D-Fender to combat strong drafts from the air conditioner. I also live in Northern California where frequent 100 degree temperatures during the summer keep us all indoors and under the AC for 6 months out of the year. I highly recommend the Win-D-Fender, particularly for those of us that perform outdoors or in warmer climates with intense air conditioning systems. Score yours at the Carolyn Nussbaum booth or at the following link: https://www.flute4u.com/Win-D-Fender.html
Are you attending the National Flute Association Convention in Chicago? Have you picked up a super cool new accessory or handy dandy flute-related contraption? Do you have a favorite booth or flute manufacturer? Are you a product designer with an awesome new product for the flute-playing audience? Please comment below!