I suffered a devastating loss in my family this week. I am very sad and empty and did not think I would post anything on my blog today. Grief is like a shadow over the soul. Your emotions are left completely out of wack and time seems to move at a slower, more grueling pace. The only thing we can do is seek comfort in any way possible. I have found that listening to calming music provides a bit of peace amidst a storm of emotions. In today’s blog, I will be sharing a few selections of calming flute music for those who may also be suffering from grief in any form and for any reason. Please take care of yourselves and one another during difficult times.
Note – I may be posting on and off for the next several weeks. This is a great time to submit a guest posting. If you are interested in writing a blog for the Flute Friday series, please direct message me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to feature your work on my platform while my heart heals. Thank you!
Last year around this time I posted a Practice Blueprints series covering the various All-State auditions taking place around the country, ending, of course, with a master All-State index for all states. This year, I am streamlining this series a bit by focusing only on the Texas All-State audition repertoire. Why? The TMEA auditions are super fierce! Band directors and studio teachers prepare their students to tackle the rather complex repertoire well in advance of deadlines, supported by various instructional blog postings and videos on their social media outlets. If you do not live in Texas, I still think that learning the audition repertoire is a fantastic exercise for your students. You could even have a mock TMEA audition in your studio! In today’s blog, we will look at the TMEA audition material for 2022-2023 and the various ways we, and our students, can master the exercises in record time.
The same basic guidelines apply to this year’s auditions as in my previous blog. Remember to check-in with your band director and/or division chair regarding deadline and regional audition deadlines.
Keep articulation super light in this excerpt. Practice using the “tut” syllable throughout, which will strengthen the tip of the tongue. Then practice using the “coo” syllable to strengthen the back of the tongue. Finally, practice the entire excerpt in chirps, or syllable-less puffs of air. This will help lighten articulation overall.
This excerpt features huge octave leaps. Practice increasing your embouchure versatility away from the excerpt with flexibility exercises from Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone and Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises, Exercise #10.
Try not to rush the trills on longer notes – Keep these quick yet graceful.
Really bring out the lower pedal notes marked with tenutos. Make these notes slightly louder and place breath kicks on the fronts of of each. A pulse or two of vibrato goes a long way!
Make sure to mark all accidentals so you don’t miss anything – It’s better to be safe (and accurate) than sorry.
Try to bring out the note groupings as they are beamed in the score. Use these beamed groups to practice the excerpt in chunks with long rests placed between note groups.
Make a huge crescendo in the second to last measure to show your dynamic and tone color range. Start as softly as possible to give yourself enough room to hit your max volume at the downbeat of the last measure.
This excerpt is lyrical and sweeping. Focus on being as expressive as possible while retaining impeccable control over sound and dynamics.
Use wide vibrato and try incorporating vibrato directly into the sound rather than sitting on top. I like to think of this as “washing machine” vibrato to emulate the sound a washing machine makes on the spin cycle.
This excerpt features a few wide leaps (for example, the 3rd line E octaves in the first measure as well as the end of the 1st line). Think of your air here like a gas pedal – Gradually increase the air speed and pressure to achieve the higher note. You may also try angling your air upward toward the ceiling while lifting the back of your head and moving your lips forward to gracefully play the higher note.
Make the most out of all written dynamics, particularly the changes in lines 3-4 as well as the hair-pin crescendos and decrescendos toward the end of the excerpt.
Keep the grace notes graceful (example, lines 2-4). These are longer than you may think. Create a more singing type of grace note (like an ornament on a Christmas tree).
The last three lines highlight extremes in dynamics and technique. Remember to make the most out of all dynamics (playing as expressively as possible) and keep fingers snappy between fast moving notes. Think of these like robot fingers – in other words, move your fingers quickly and deliberately like that of a robot.
Bring out the last line of the excerpt as much as possible. Play out a bit louder than the written dynamics – This is your last chance to show off your sound.
Excerpt #3 Boehm 24 Caprice-Etudes Op. 26 / 6
This excerpt is all about technique and articulation!
Practice this alongside various arpeggio exercises such as Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17th Daily Exercises, Exercise #12.
Like in the first excerpt, practice keeping articulation light. Practice the “tut” syllable to strengthen the tip of the tongue and “coo” to strengthen the back. This will lighten and even out articulation. Also experiment with the syllable combo “duc-ky” or “toe-ky.” These combos help project your sound a bit better by creating a more resonance.
Bracket all broken arpeggios in the score and write in the chord names above. This will take out some of the mental guesswork for these lines.
Add slight breath kicks on the 16th notes that fall on the larger downbeats. These can take the form of slightly elongated notes or notes with an addition pulse of vibrato.
Start by practicing this excerpt slowly with a metronome until you can play all of the accidentals. Gradually increase speed until you can play up to tempo.
This excerpt requires steady playing and stamina. Record yourself playing the excerpt from beginning to end without stopping. It may be more difficult than you think…
Don’t forget about the key change (minor to major) in the 3rd line from the end. Bring this change out of the texture using a different tone color.
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)!