Congratulations to Emma K. and Leonie S., both of Mauldin Middle School, who WON their auditions into All-County Band on Tuesday, January 9! Way to go!
Saturday, December 2, 11am, Musical Innovations at 150G Tanner Road, Greenville, SC
This semester, our student make-up day will be wrapped into Show and Tell, a group lesson experience in which students share with each other what they are learning. During our lesson time, each student is preparing a piece he/she is working on, and a story to go with it. Students will share challenges of the piece, or a bit of history surrounding the life of the composer or interesting facts about the piece.
Musical Innovations has graciously agreed to host our event on Saturday morning, December 2, at 11am. The event will last one hour.
All students have something valuable to share, and each of us can learn from one another. My goals are to:
foster a team spirit among flute students
allow younger students to appreciate the advanced music of older students
allow older students to appreciate the learning stage of younger students
give all students an opportunity for a low-pressure public presentation experience
promote learning across all stages of musical development.
Emma K. and Leonie S., students of Mauldin Middle School, recently auditioned and won top chairs in their school's elite Wind Band! Emma and Leonie prepared all summer to play the SC All-State Flute Solo for this audition. Their hard work paid off! They are now 3rd and 1st chairs, respectively. Both of these students work diligently and purposefully. Congratulations to you both!
Below is a link to a 3.25 minute piece played by Emmanuel Pahud, one of the foremost flute performers of our time. I would like for each student to view this at least once before our next lesson, with these observations in mind:
1. What is the setting? (orchestral solo)
2. Describe Mr. Pahud's flute
3. Would you describe the piece as lyrical or technical?
4. Make note of Mr. Pahud's embouchure and hand position
5. Listen carefully to his tone. How would you describe it?
6. What other instruments do you see, and what are they doing?
For bonus work, students may research Emmanuel Pahud, listen to more videos of his playing, or listen to more of the Carmen opera. Students may use part of their practice time to complete this assignment.
My students do a great job with their music, but they also excel in other areas of their lives as well! Here are a few highlights:
Sandra, Emma, and Roshni successfully performed solos in the All-State auditions. Emma and Roshni advanced to All-County Band, and Roshni also advanced to Region band. Good job, girls!
Hanna, Chloe, and Gabrielle all participated in their school talent shows recently. Hanna performed a flute solo, and Chloe and Gabrielle danced. This is such good performance experience!
Maureen's poem was published in last week's edition of Greenville Online, a weekly news publication. Her poem was about fingers, and included how her fingers play flute :)
Upcoming Flutes-Only Recital is scheduled for 2pm on Saturday, May 21 at Musical Innovations (150-G Tanner Road, Greenville). It will last about an hour, and will include flute solos, duets, and group flute ensemble pieces. There is no recital fee, but there is a $10 accompanist fee for students needing an accompanist. This fee includes a rehearsal and the performance. Commitment forms will go out in April, at which time the non-refundable accompanist fee will be due. During lessons, all students will be studying pieces that can be used in recital, whether they participate or not.
Summer Lessons: Yes! I teach through the summer :) Summer lessons benefit students in many ways:
*they have more time to focus on musical progress because they don't have academic homework, thereby accomplishing greater milestones, faster
*they don't regress in their skill. It normally takes at least 6 weeks of remedial work in the fall for students who don't study in the summer to catch up
*the student's lesson spot is reserved for the fall (my studio is full and still growing!)
*the student's tuition typically stays the same. New and returning students pay a higher tuition rate which increases in August.
Summer lessons are flexible and pro-rated in June, July, and August due to family vacations and summer activities.
I'm proud of my students and their accomplishments, and I like to post student photos and videos on my website and studio Facebook page. When I do, only the student's first name and last initial are mentioned, for safety's sake. Many parents have already given their consent, but if for any reason you do not want your student's photo on the internet, contact me and I will respect your wishes. :)
I encourage all my students to share your music! We learn these skills to benefit not only ourselves, but others as well. Take opportunities to bring pleasure to others and build performance experience by playing for your family, at nursing homes, in church, or any place you can find to share. :)
Many flute students participated in one of two spring recitals on May 16 and 26 at First Baptist Church of Mauldin. I received many, many compliments about how well my students played, and particularly about how good their tone is! I was so pleased to know that our hard work has payed off. Beautiful tone is what sets apart great flutists from mediocre ones.
My students also exhibited exquisite stage deportment--they each introduced their pieces, connected with the audience, had stable performances, and showed excellent performance etiquette. Pictured below are some of the recitalists:
Most students participate in band, which means that the performers they listen to most often are their peers. While band is helpful in many ways, all students need a bigger vision for what they themselves can accomplish with music.
Attending concerts is tantamount to the well-rounded musical experience. Concerts give students a chance to hear many types of instruments working together to create a variety of sounds, textures, and emotions. Students need the exposure to the timber (peculiar voice) of instruments other than their own to discern how many sounds blend together for different effects.
Concerts generally include musical works from different time periods and composers, offering listeners an opportunity to compare and contrast the various forms and expressions used. Classical works, for example, differ greatly from music that was composed in the Romantic, Impressionistic, Modern and Post-Modern periods. Students often choose favorites and learn how the music performed compares to the pieces they are currently studying.
The concert experience opens the student's mind to a new cultural setting. Though the degree of formality may differ depending on the performance, the general expectation of a concert is that it is a cultural event, so students learn to dress appropriately as an audience member, to be courteous listeners, to applaud at appropriate times (at the end of a complete work instead of between movements of a work or items in a series), and to pay close attention visually and aurally.
I encourage my students to attend as many professional performances as possible; in fact, I update parents regularly on upcoming opportunities, many of which are free. Here is one that would be well worth your attendance:
The BJU Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, April 25, 7:00pm
1700 Wade Hampton Blvd.
Greenville, SC 29614
for a complete list of upcoming concerts and a campus map, click here:
I can think of very few activities that build confidence and stretch students' abilities as musical recitals do. Friday night, January 16, five of my students participated in a recital at Musical Innovations. For many of them, this was their first opportunity to share their music publicly! I was very pleased with their poise and performances. Each student first introduced himself/herself and the selected piece, played well, then took a bow and acknowledged the accompanist (Alexandria Ensley). They showed professionalism, even though some are still in elementary school!
For Ryan M., this performance opportunity was a trial run before he auditions for scholarships at 3 different colleges over the next 8 weeks. He played the Bach Partita in A Minor Sarabande, a solo work for flute.
Ryan has studied with me since August 2013. He attends the Fine Arts Center in Greenville and is involved in such organizations as the Fountain Inn Symphony Orchestra and the Greenville Youth Symphony. He also freelances as a musician.
Several people asked me about Aravind's flute, which is short and has a curved head joint. This flute is sometimes called an Eb flute because that is the lowest note it plays (instead of a low C which is common on a student flute). The head joint is curved to allow his arms to reach the keys with ease. It won't be long until Aravind grows big enough for a regular C flute, but for now, he is making outstanding progress on a flute that is just his size without undue strain, tension, and the development of detrimental habits. Aravind has studied with me since last fall.
Well, why not? People play "air guitar"; why not "air flute"?
Recently, my student Chloe had oral surgery which will keep her from actually playing her flute for about 6 weeks. Her mother wisely decided to keep her in flute lessons during her recovery time, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to help Chloe learn how to practice "away" from her flute.
Sometimes it is even more helpful to practice without an instrument than with it because it reduces distractions and helps us to focus on specific concepts we are trying to learn. It is easy to fill a 30-60 minute or more practice session developing rhythm, breathing, theory, and even technical passages. In Chloe's lessons, we work from a rhythm book for the first segment anyway, so we check the written counts and then clap out rhythms. If the tempo is inconsistent, we use a metronome. To change things up, I might even use a percussion instrument to perform the rhythm exercises.
Chloe doesn't want to get behind in learning her music, either, so we use her flute to finger the music and "air play". If we listen carefully, we hear the pitches that are voiced when the flute keys are depressed because the flute tube resonates quietly. That way, we do know if she's hitting the right notes. She gets used to the note combinations without having to blow! This exercise is one I commonly use in other students' lessons as well: we call out the note names (in rhythm, of course) while synchronizing the key fingerings. The brain makes a strong connection when so many kinesthetic tools are used: feeling the fingering, saying a note name, hearing oneself call out the note name, etc.
While playing "air flute", it would be easy to forget to breathe in appropriate places because air is not used in the same way. Therefore, it is important to consciously inhale at the breath marks just as one would do while playing. Building this habit is quicker than trying to learn many things at once, as when one is sight reading or learning a piece in the beginning stages.
When Chloe is able to resume regular flute playing, I fully expect that she will not have lost any ground. In fact, some habits may be stronger, and others may have improved! Practicing "away from the flute" is handy for all students, whether they are in a place where they are not allowed to make much noise, such as while waiting in band class, or if they want to learn a concept quickly by building one habit at a time.
So you've got your flute, your music, and your stand. What's missing? Other than a metronome, a chromatic tuner is the most useful tool in your music bag!
Being a musician means that you are constantly training your ear, brain, and body to work together to bring out the message of the music you play. Fingerings and note reading are just details; to make music, your SOUND must be the highest quality you can produce. Part of that dynamic (pardon the pun) is playing in tune. Even many untrained listeners can distinguish between flat and sharp pitches, and so should you!
While it is important to assemble your flute in such a way that it is roughly in tune with itself, it is even more important to play in tune. Learning to do this takes years of practice for some students; however, a chromatic tuner can help develop this skill.
For the ensemble player, playing in tune is important for blending with other musicians' pitches. Sometimes an ensemble may not be perfectly in tune, but the group can still produce a pleasing sound if the members are in tune with each other.
For the soloist, it is tantamount to good musicianship to learn to play in tune by hearing yourself play in tune. Just as using a metronome helps develop your internal rhythmic steadiness, using a tuner helps a student recognize correct pitches.
An excellent teacher will introduce the use of a tuner relatively soon after the student has begun lessons. Good teachers know the value of ear training and will constantly seek to develop that skill in students.
How-to: The Nitty-gritty
*At the first of each practice session, warm up your flute by playing some slow scales.
*Turn the tuner on and play an "A". (Theoretically, you could play any note and a chromatic tuner would respond correctly; however, "A" in the staff is the standard orchestral tuning note.) Play your note the way you always play--not softer, not louder, not harder--just plain. Let the tuner tell you what it reads. The needle may indicate flatness; if so, make the tube shorter by pushing in the head joint slightly. Conversely, if the tuner indicates sharpness, lengthen the tube by extending the head joint outward. Repeat this experiment until the tuner registers a correct pitch (at A=440). At this stage, it is important to not force the tuner to read the way you want it to by making your pitch match by manipulation. Instead, let the tuner do it's job, giving you a true reading so you can make adjustments.
*Next, play an "A" above the staff. This time, since your flute is already in tune in the lower register, you will be checking to adjust yourself (air speed, position, embouchure) to play in tune.
Just because your flute is in tune does not necessarily mean you will be playing every note in your piece on a correct pitch. Notes in the third register are particularly problematic, and each flute may respond differently to various notes. Use a tuner during your practice session to check the tendency of problematic notes. Is your high Eb generally sharp? Learn to adjust your embouchure to keep it in balance.
The tuner that's right for you
Many of my students enjoy using a combination metronome tuner such as the Korg TM-50. However, if you already have a metronome OR you like having a separate tuner, the Korg CA-40 would work well for you. There are several reliable brands, however, such as Sabine, Seiko, and Fender. A good tuner is indispensable and should last you for many years (as long as you don't drop it too often).