The Myth of the Magic Formula

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

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

Photo by Teddy Yang on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy fluting!

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

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

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

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

General Information – 2022 Idaho All-State Auditions:

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

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

Repertoire

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

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

Practice Tips

1. Chromatic Scale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts/Recommendations

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

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

Happy Fluting! (and auditioning)

Flute Meme Friday/Saturday, Part V

Greetings and welcome to a new (belated) Flute Friday/Saturday!

These are very challenging times. With all of the tension and anxiety in the World over the past few weeks, I figured we could all use a break to simply chuckle at a few flute memes. I give you Flute Meme Friday, Part V (I think).

Do you have favorite flute meme? Please comment below. (Keep it clean, folks!)

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Happy fluting!

 

 

 

 

Virtual Masterclasses and Summer Programs 2020

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

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The recent shelter-in-place orders and general uncertainty of COVID-19 has dramatically changed all of our lives. Normally around this time of year, flutists far and wide are gearing up for summer masterclasses and music programs. Unfortunately, many of these programs, including the NFA Convention, have been postponed or, in other cases, canceled due to travel restrictions and shelter-in-place directives. Some programs, however, have been moved online. There is a silver lining in our community with the addition of virtual masterclasses as students who may not have otherwise applied to programs due to costly travel and housing costs now have an opportunity to connect virtually with world renowned performers – something that may not have been practical or affordable in previous years. Although there is no true replacement for in-person trainings, virtual trainings do provide a glimmer of hope during a difficult time. Below is a list of masterclasses being held virtually that are still accepting applications for performers and auditors. I encourage those of you looking for summer learning opportunities to check out these programs. Summer can still be a great time to learn a lot from the most prominent flutists in our field through virtual formats.

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VIRTUAL MASTERCLASSES AND SUMMER PROGRAMS

  1. Rocky Ridge Music Center Young Artist Seminar, Estes Park. Advanced flutists ages 18-24. Private lessons, chamber ensembles, orchestra, concerto and chamber music competitions, performance classes, masterclasses, recitals, and panel discussions are offered. June 19-July 15. 6 flute performers. Masterclass teacher Claudia Anderson. rrmc@rockyridge.org, www.rockyridge.org
  2. Dr. Cate’s Flute Camp, Montgomery. Flute students entering 7th-10th grades with at least one year of band experience and/or private lessons. Masterclass teachers Cate Hummel, Leighann Daihl Ragusa, Stefanie Abderhalden.dr_cate@fluteline.com, www.fluteline.com
  3. 2020 Portland (Oregon) Flute Spa Retreat. This Participatory Flute Spa Retreat is for Flutists, Age 18 – Adult (including teachers, flute choir directors and members). Dates: June 26-27, 2020 from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time ZoneFor flutists advanced high school, college and adult. Topics: Crafting the Perfect Practice Session, Melodic Analysis, Note-Grouping and Movement, Ensembles, Etudes and Solo Repertoire, Creative ways to play duets and small ensembles while social distancing. Masterclass Teachers: Patricia George and Phyllis Avidan Louke. https://fabulousflute.com/portland-flute-retreat/
  4. San Francisco Flute Society VIRTUAL COMPETITION http://www.flutesbythesea.com/flute-competition-2020/ Deadline: June 1, 2020. Prizes up to $2,000.00 USD, Judges: Erika Boysen – University of North Carolina Greensboro, Alice K. Dade – University of Missouri, Philipp Jundt – German School of Music Weimar, Gangnam University, Korea, Neuchatel Conservatory of Music in Switzerland., APPLY NOW: http://www.flutesbythesea.com/flute-competition-2020/
  5. Ohio State University Virtual Flute Workshop. Monday – Wednesday, June 15 – 17, 2020 • via Zoom with Professor Katherine Borst Jones and guests. For students entering grades 9 – 12 in the 2020 – 2021 school year, and 2020 high school graduates. https://music.osu.edu/outreach/ysmp/flute-workshop
  6. Webster University “Virtual” Flute Camp. June 1 – 5, 2020, 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. Students entering grades 7-12 in Fall 2020. Deadline: May 20, 2020, or until camp fills. Using the Zoom platform, classes and individual lessons will cover warm-up exercises, tone, intonation and breathing techniques, with performance opportunities throughout the week. http://www.webster.edu/community-music-school/programs/flute-camp.html

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Do you know of any other masterclasses that are being offered virtually? Are you teaching at a summer program that will be offered in a virtual format? Please comment below!

 

Happy fluting!

 

Top 10 Quarantine Practice Challenges

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday. One of the perks about being stuck in quarantine is that we all suddenly have more time to practice. This is a great opportunity to change up your normal practice routine because, let’s face it, “normal” no longer exists. In today’s blog I will discuss my top 10 Quarantine Challenges to spruce up your practice time. Give them a try! You might find some new and interesting connections between pieces you had not noticed before (thanks Quarantine!).

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Top 10 Quarantine Practice Challenges

  1. Practice music by one composer each day for 10 days. This include repertoire, excerpts, etudes, and transcriptions of pieces originally written for other instruments.
  2. Memorize one orchestral excerpt per day. Yeah, okay – I know….We practice excerpts so much that most of them are practically memorized anyways under normal circumstances. This challenge will help you memorize the excerpts that are not often asked for during standard auditions.
  3. Practice only music written in the same key each day. This includes scales, etudes, excerpts, and repertoire. For an added challenge, sight-read in the same key at the conclusion of your practice session.
  4. Set a practice time goal and bump it up gradually each week. If you are a working professional with very limited practice time under normal circumstances, this challenge will be more difficult than you think.
  5. The Many Keys of Mozart. Practice your favorite Mozart concerto (G or D) in a new key each week. This will test your transposition chops and challenge your ear.
  6. Memorize (or re-memorize) one piece a week. Who needs the music anyways! Play from your heart.
  7. Sunday Night Mock Auditions. Set up a curtain or wall of blankets between your family and yourself and hold a mock audition. Give them a list of excerpts to call out and a time limit. Tell them to be cold and ruthless – They will love it!
  8. Practice music from one era each week. You don’t necessary need to practice them chronologically either. Week One could be works from the Romantic era while Week Two could be all Baroque all the time.
  9. 10 Days of Improvisation. Record yourself improvising for five minutes per day for 10 days. How do you play when there are no rules? What can you take into your regular practice routine?
  10. Practice only works, excerpts, and etudes by composers from one country each day for 10 days. Are there elements that connect their music? Is there an underlying “national” character?

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Do you have any of your own quarantine challenges? Which challenge inspires you the most? Have you learned anything new from these challenges? Please comment below.

Happy Fluting!

Top 10 Self Care Tips for Flutists

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! There has been a lot of discussion about practicing “self care” while in quarantine. This term, of course, means different things to different people. Meditating? Sure! Going for a walk outside? Perfect. But how can we use music to practice self care? In today’s blog, I will discuss my top 10 self care tips for flutists. This is a great opportunity to use music as a form of relaxation.

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Top 10 Self Care Ideas for Flutists

  1. The most important thing to remember is that music should be fun (aka a natural source of self care). With that in mind, carve out at least 20-30 minutes (or more) to practice music that you genuinely love or, better yet, pieces that bring back happy memories. This week I have spent time practicing a piece that I performed at the Idaho State Solo Contest back in my high school days when my ambitions were high and my expectations low. It brought back wonderful memories and reminded me of a time when performing was new and exciting.
  2. Read a book about a famous musician or composer. There are fabulous biographies out there about everyone from Mozart to Beethoven, and, for us fluties, Taffanel and Moyse. Brew up some tea and cozy up with one of these classics.
  3. Listen to (or watch) a symphony. When was the last time that you listened to a Beethoven Symphony from start to finish without outside distractions? Probably in the concert hall. Since we are all social distancing from the concert hall, however, this is a good time to turn your home into a performance venue and watch a performance of your favorite symphony played by your favorite symphony on YouTube.
  4. Watch a music-themed movie. There are plenty of movies available on streaming services about composers and performers. One of my all-time favorites is Amadeus. Good music, good acting, and that high-pitched laugh is iconic. You might even find yourself inspired to add those old school Mozart concerti to your practice docket.
  5. Write a flute blog. What inspires you about the flute? Is there a composer that you enjoy? Is there a particular teaching tip that you would love to share with the world? Write it down and post it to your blog. Or, if you do not yet have a flute blog, this is a great time to set one up!
  6. Check your flute horoscope! Shameless plug warning. If you are curious about what is in store for your flute playing this month, be sure to check out your flute horoscope here: https://thefluteview.com/2020/04/dr-gs-flute-horoscopes-april-2020/
  7. Watch as many versions of the same piece on YouTube that you can find. Chose one of your favorite pieces and type its title into the YouTube search box. Pour a glass of wine and binge watch as many videos as you can. What elements change from performance to performance? What interpretations work well? Is there anything that you would like to emulate in your own performance?
  8. Perform duets with yourself. When I was a kid, I used to practice duets by recording myself playing the top line (in those days via cassette tape) and play along to the recording with the bottom line. This can easily be duplicated using your phone’s recording device or even by creating a video. If you are brave, you might even share your performance on your YouTube page.
  9. Deep clean your flute. I am not talking about the quick wipe down of fingerprints. I am talking about getting all of the yucky crud out from the tops of keys and between the joints, cleaning or replacing any accessories such as flute gels or lip plate covers, polishing the outside, and even cleaning out the inner and outer flute cases.
  10. Retail therapy. You may not be able to go to the local music shop, but online businesses such as Flute World are still shipping fun accessories and music. Buy a new piece. Invest in a beautiful yet functional flute stand. Treat yourself to a new flute bag. Have fun shopping!

What are you doing to practice self care? What self care item are you most looking forward to? What other self care tips do you have? Please comment below.

 

Happy Fluting!

Virtual Concerts – Keeping the Music Alive

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

This is a very difficult time for many musicians. Orchestras around the World have canceled the reminder of their concert seasons, with little uncertainty about next year’s season. Performing has now turned to electronic means through videos and other streaming services. We long for the stage. We long for a sense of certainty in an uncertain world.

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There has been a lot of discussion about practicing “self-care” while we try to conduct business as usual under quarantine. This may be easier said than done for musician around the World, but what we can do is support each other by keeping the music alive.  The following is a list of concerts available to view virtually this weekend from performing groups around the globe. Please check them out and add “attending a virtual concert” to your list of self-care activities. Support the arts, support our colleagues, and let’s continue to support our craft!

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***VIRTUAL CONCERTS***

March 28, 2020 – Vienna State Opera: Götterdämmerung
Times: 1 and 3 p.m. ET
Link: https://www.wiener-staatsoper.at/en/staatsoper/news/detail/news/the-wiener-staatsoper-is-closed-but-continues-to-play-daily-online/

March 28, 2020 – Johnny Gandelsman Plays Bach: Cello Suite No. 5 (arr. violin)
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Link: Facebook

March 28, 2020 – International Contemporary Ensemble: Pauline Oliveros – The World Wide Tuning Meditation (audience participation)
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Link: ICE

March 28, 2020 – Jeffrey Biegel: Virtual Concert of Love
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Link: YouTube

March 28, 2020 – Third Coast Percussion: Glass, Jlin & Dev Hynes
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Link: TCP/Facebook

March 28, 2020 – 14:00 GMT: Deutsche Grammophon pianists – including Maria João Pires, Rudolf Buchbinder, Evgeny Kissin, Víkingur Ólafsson, Jan Lisiecki, Joep Beving, Simon Ghraichy, Kit Armstrong and Daniil Trifonov – join forces to mark International Piano Day with live-streamed performances on YouTube and Facebook.
Visit: facebook.com and youtube.com

March 28, 2020 17:00 GMT – ‘Music By 300 Strangers’ world premiere for World Piano Day.
Visit: youtube.com

March 28, 2020, 19:00 GMT – Guitarist Craig Ogden performs the first of London Mozart Players’ LMP At Home ‘Saturday Sessions’, with pieces by Scarlatti and Rodrigo on the programme.
Visit: facebook.com

March 29, 2020, 15:00 GMT – The Inside Out Piano with Sarah Nicolls.
Visit: turnersims.co.uk

March 29, 2020, 19:00 GMT – London Symphony Orchestra performs Sibelius’ Symphony No.5.
Visit: lso.co.uk

March 29, 2020 – Vienna State Opera: Roméo et Juliette 
Times: 1 and 3 p.m. ET
Link: Wiener Staatsoper

March 30, 2020 – Vienna State Opera: Le nozze di Figaro
Times: 1 and 3 p.m. ET
Link: Wiener Staatsoper

March 30, 2020 Johnny Gandelsman Plays Bach: Cello Suite No. 6 (arr. violin)
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Link: Facebook live

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Do you have any concerts to add to this list? Do you know of any flute recitals taking place virtually? Please share links and comment below!

Happy fluting! Take care of yourselves.

Imperfect Balance – Hand Position Correctors

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

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Several years ago, I was reading through Madeline Bruser’s book, The Art of Practicing; A Guide to Making Music from the Heart, and was intrigued by her discussion on the various ways to adapt instruments to our own individual practicing needs. It is true – No two performers are alike. We all have different sized hands, fingers, elbows, embrochures, everything! For centuries, we have been contorting ourselves to fit the instrument, resulting in physical ailments ranging from permanent blisters to Tendonitis. Luckily, instrument makers and accessory manufactures have found clever ways to modify the standard flute to make it easier and affordable for those of us struggling to reach the G# or key or finding perfect balance between our imperfect fingers. In today’s blog I will be discussing some of these accessories and modifications and other options available to make your instrument work better for you.

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Inline vs. Off-Set G. I envied the upper classmen in high school who played on open-holed instruments with inline G keys. I thought that having an inline G signified one of the major differences between flutes owned by amateurs and those by professional flutists. When I switched from an offset G on my intermediate model to an inline G on my first professional model, I thought I had made it! Unfortunately, all that I had actually made was a future path to Tendonitis-ville. I developed Tendonitis in my left arm due to over-practice with incorrect hand position during my Freshmen year of college (specifically in preparation for the annual concerto competition). Many of my problems corrected themselves when I switched back to an offset G on my next instrument. My hands are small – An inline G was all wrong for me! Before purchasing a new instrument, consider if an offset G will fit your hands better than an inline G. My best advice is to try both. Which one is easier and feels more natural?

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The Problem of the G# Key. If you have small pinkies, you may find yourself struggling to play G#s with that pesky G# key. There is some good news and some not so good news. The good news only applies to current and future Brannen flute owners, as Brannen has developed an extender for this key https://www.brannenflutes.com/key-extensions. Hopefully, other flute makers will start to take note (and it doesn’t hurt to ask if you are in the market for a new instrument). The bad news is that all extenders that used to exist for purchase as accessories have been taken off the market. There is certainly a need for this add-on (developers, take note!).

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First Finger, Left Hand.  How many of us have a blister on our left hand where our first finger meets the side of our flute? Did you know that there are accessories out there that can help alleviate the pain and help position our index finger a bit more effectively for better balance? My favorite are Flute Gels https://www.fluteworld.com/Flute-Gels.html?t=0&sort=0. I have raved about these on previous posts and continue to use them to this day. The texture of the gel is really comfortable and cushions the side of my finger, making it easier to play with my existing flute blister while giving me a consistent place to balance the flute. Another good option if you are just looking for a set place to rest your index finger is the Bo-Pep Finger Saddle https://www.fluteworld.com/Bo-Pep-Finger-Saddle–BP-FS-.html?t=0&sort=0. This is a great accessory for those of you that do not necessarily dig into the instrument with the side of your finger. Finally, a newer option is the Fingerport https://www.fluteworld.com/FingerPort–101046-.html?t=0&sort=0. This device is flat with a rubbery texture and brings the index finger out a bit further, creating better balance between this finger and the right-hand thumb.

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Right Hand Thumb. Some of the same accessories that are available for the index finger are also available for the right-hand thumb. Why? Because these two create the primary balance points between the performer and the instrument. Flute Gels can be placed where the thumb meets the instrument, again creating a comfortable, cushy, and consistent balance point. If you are looking for set place to aim your thumb, Bo-Pep also manufactures a Thumb Saddle https://www.fluteworld.com/Bo-Pep-Thumb-Guide–BP-TG-.html?t=0&sort=0. Along these same lines, if you are a fan of the Fingerport, the corresponding Thumbport will also create the perfect balancing point (and they come in fun colors for added pizzazz) https://www.fluteworld.com/Thumbport—C-Flute-Black–101045BK-.html?t=0&sort=0. Finally, a newer option on the market is the Prima Thumb Rest, which creates a wider area to place your thumb, preventing the inevitable thumb roll https://www.flutespecialists.com/product/prima-thumb-rest-for-flute/. I am not as familiar with this product but it seems like a great option if you need a bit more space.

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Finger Position Corrector. One of my worst habits as a younger flutist was letting my fingers fly a bit higher than necessary during technical passages. In fact, my flute teacher used to place their hand slightly above my right hand during lessons as a reminder to keep my fingers closer to the keys. This accessory creates the same reminder in a non-human form, but I would  recommend only using this during practice https://www.fluteworld.com/Finger-Position-Corrector–TA-FPC-.html?t=0&sort=0. Be careful to not hurt yourself – this is still made of hard plastic.

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Plugs (duh). It wasn’t until graduate school that I realized it was okay to use plugs for those one or two open tone holes that my tiny fingers struggled to cover. Just because a flute is made with open holes, does not mean that we need to use them if our fingers cannot properly reach. Go ahead and use plugs on that pesky E key or that G key that your left-hand ring finger struggles to cover. https://www.fluteworld.com/Plug-Set—Medium-Silicone-Rubber–101050-.html?t=0

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There are also a number of DYI modifications that you can make to your instrument, but I would recommend visiting your local instrument shop or flute technician before considering these options. The pros might have a good way to make these modifications with the least amount of damage. A couple of good articles about DYI modifications can be found here https://www.jennifercluff.com/extensns.pdf,  https://www.meerenai.com/blog/2014/11/diy-flute-key-modification.

What modifications have you made to your flute? What accessories do you use and why? Have you requested any custom modifications to your instrument from manufacturers? Please comment below.

 

Happy fluting!

Thoughts on Failure

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

Be sure to check out your flute horoscopes for February on The Flute View webpage. There is a Full Moon this weekend! Find out what this means for your flute playing here: https://thefluteview.com/2020/02/dr-gs-flute-horoscopes-february-2020/

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This week’s blog post will be a bit more reflective than instructive. In an interview earlier this week, I was asked the question, “Explain a time when you felt that you had failed at something.” I mustered up some courage, put my pride aside, and began to discuss my music career. I would like to share my answer with you this week because I think there is a good lesson here for those of you who may also struggle with disappointment in your own music careers.

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I completed my DMA in 2010 and was absolutely on fire about the future of my career! I wanted to teach, I wanted to perform, and I wanted to publish. I immediately began applying to teaching positions around the country. I was ready to make my start as a lecturer in a smaller school while performing in local orchestras. And then the first set of rejection emails rolled in. Meanwhile, I also began working a day job on the same college campus that my husband (then fiancé) was completing his Ph.D. With every new rejection email that arrived in my inbox, I felt more and more like a failure. This cycle continued for a year, then two years, and then five. I felt that the music career I spent several years trying to create was in the toilet. At the same time, I began to excel in my day job, earning a good living while still having the time to teach lessons and perform in local orchestras on nights and weekends. It wasn’t until I stopped comparing my current reality to the reality I expected was waiting for me on the other side of my DMA that I realized characterizing my career as a “failure” was just not right. There is no single cookie cutter version of a music career. I may not have achieved what I thought I would when I received my DMA, but I have successfully achieved many other things in my post-doctoral career. I have built my own flute studio. I have published articles and am currently working on a book with a large publisher. I publish monthly flute horoscopes. I have performed in orchestras and flute choirs and have even appeared at the NFA convention as part of the Professional Flute Choir. I have achieved all of these things while also maintaining a successful career outside of music. I have turned a career that I originally thought to be a “failure” into a series of successes.

If you ever find yourself referring to your music career as a “failure” while staring at rejection emails in your inbox or reflecting on the career path that you envisioned while you were working your way through college, remember that having a music career looks very different from one person to another. The flutist you thought you would be in high school may look very different from the flutist that you end up becoming in the future. Keep an open mind and avoid viewing your career in black and white terms. A successful music career is truly what you make of it.

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Happy Fluting!

Four-Week Flute Boot Camp

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As some of you may know, I have spent the past several months working on a book. While my writing and transcription skills have improved tenfold, my flute playing has unfortunately fallen into a sad state of neglect. One of my New Years’ Resolutions for 2020 is to get back into proper flute playing shape! I have devised the below plan as my own personal four-week Flute Boot Camp. On this program I will review some of the basic fundamentals, revisit etudes with which I previously had a love/hate relationship, re-ignight my passion for practicing pieces that I love, re-memorize pieces I have forgotten, and learn new repertoire to take me well into the new year. If you are in the same boat, you may want to use this plan as an example to devise your own four-week Flute Boot Camp. There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to organize your Boot Camp. Simply select exercises and repertoire that you know you will practice (and love) and new pieces that will inspire you.

 

FOUR-WEEK FLUTE BOOT CAMP

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WEEK 1 – Back to Bach

Long Tones – Trevor Wye Practice Book on Tone. All lower register exercises.

Scales/Articulation  – Taffanel and Gaubert Exercise #4. Alternate continuous slurs and single tonguing every other day.

Flexibility Exercises – Taffanel and Gaubert Exercise #12. Have rememorized by end of week.

Etudes – Bachstudien (Studies on Bach), Select 1-2 etudes

Excerpts – Polonaise and Badinerie from Bach’s Orchestral Suite #2 in B Minor

Revisit Repertoire – Bach Sonata in C Major (rememorize first movement by end of week)

New Repertoire – Bach Sonata in E Minor (not a “new” piece, but one I will be programing on a near future recital)

 

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WEEK 2 – Missing Mozart

Long Tones – Trevor Wye Practice Book on Tone – All middle register exercises.

Scales/Articulation – Taffanel and Gaubert Exercise #4. Alternate “coos” with chirps (or “air puffs”) every other day.

Flexibility Exercises – Taffanel and Gaubert – Exercise #10. Practice 1 new page per day.

Etudes – Karg Elert 30 studies, Opus 107 (select 1-2 etudes)

Excerpts – Beethoven Leonore Overture No. 3 (Opening-mm. 36, mm. 328-360)

Revisit Repertoire – Mozart Concerto in G Major. Work to have first movement rememorized by the end of the week.

New Repertoire – Poulenc Sonata (another not so “new” piece, but one I would like to program for an upcoming recital)

 

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WEEK 3 – French Frenzy

Long Tones – Trevor Wye Practice Book on Tone – Transitions from middle to high registers

Scales/Articulation – Taffanel and Gaubert Exercise #4. All double tonguing, alternating days between “too-coo” and “duc-ky”

Flexibility Exercises – Trevor Wye Practice Book on Tone. Flexibility exercise #1.

Etudes – Furstenau Bouquet Des Tons (edited by Moyse) (select 1-2 etudes)

Excerpts – Debussy Afternoon of a Faun, Daphnis and Chloe

Revisit Repertoire – Faure Fantasie. Work on rememorizing by end of the week.

New Repertoire – Dutilleux Sonata. Another piece I would like to program on an upcoming recital.

 

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WEEK 4 – Twentieth Century in 2020

Long Tones – Trevor Wye Practice Book on Tone – All high register exercises.

Scales/Articulation – Taffanel and Gaubert Exercise #1. Change articulation with every new scale from single tonguing, “coos,” and double tonguing

Flexibility Exercises – Trevor Wye Practice Book on Articulation. Flexibility exercise #2

Etudes – The dreaded Jean Jean etudes. True Flute Boot Camp material! Select 1 exercise.

Excerpts – Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis – Movement III, Peter and the Wolf (all excerpts)

Revisit Repertoire – Nielsen Concerto. Work on rememorizing first movement by the end of the week.

New Repertoire – Lieberman Sonata. Another piece to program for my next recital.

 

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Are you also trying to get your flute playing back on track in 2020? What does your Flute Boot Camp program look like? What exercises do you find essential? What pieces do you revisit from time to time and what new repertoire are you adding to your 2020 practice list? Please comment below.

 

Happy Fluting!