Open Minded Vibes: a German Flutist at NFA. By Barbara Kortmann

When I received the NFA's invitation to play at their annual convention in Orlando in February of this year, I was really excited! I have always loved to play in America and was happy to be able to travel back to the US and perform there due to the NFA's invitation. The prospect of being an active part of this gigantic convention, seeing people I had grown very fond of over the years again, and performing with the fantastic pianist Dianne Frazer, made the 18-hour journey and jet lag hardly noticeable to me. There was far too much excitement about everything that would wait for me in Orlando in the coming days.

The fact that the crew of the NFA must be true organizational talents, in order to be able to arrange such a gigantic event so perfectly planned and carefully, became clear to me already with the email arrangements in the apron. And yet the gigantic scale of this convention had not been clear to me until my arrival at the Hyatt Regency, the site of the event. The sheer size of the hotel, the endless number of halls in which concerts would take place in the upcoming days and the thousands of flutists who were either looking forward to their concerts or to listening. No matter where I looked, everything was just a whole dimension bigger than I knew it from Germany or Europe.

The American proportions never deterred me, but rather always fascinated me. Paired with the heart-warming and open American mentality, these gigantic impressions of my former US tours have always been associated with great joy and euphoria. And again I felt this feeling of being warmly welcomed and expected from the very first minute of the convention.

Curiously I studied the thick program booklet and the concert programs of the following events. What struck me immediately was that we Europeans are used to play a completely different flute repertoire. I didn't know many works and composers at all and was eager to get to know them. Until then, I had not been aware of the fact that there was such a strikingly large difference in repertoire between America and Europe. I got to know great, brilliantly played and for me completely new works during the convention and decided to consider the American flute literature much more in the future, both in my teaching and in my own concert repertoire.

Being able to play my beloved Schumann Romances together with Dianne Frazer was one of my personal convention highlights. Being connected without words, understanding each other blindly and simply letting the music happen together - what a privilege to be able to make music with such a partner. And also my always existing curiosity about everything flutistically and musically creatively different and new could be satisfied during the Convention Days.

Unlike here in Germany, where most students only pursue the goal of playing in an orchestra later, there is already a much larger entrepreneur and freelance music scene in America, which opens up completely new, sometimes very experimental musical worlds for us.  In the long term, we German musicians will also have to look for alternative jobs to the orchestral position, because supply and demand are no longer matching.

The Americans are far ahead of us in creating alternative careers. This realization, once again confirmed during the NFA, reaffirmed my desire to focus my students' education more and more on careers beside the orchestral or teaching jobs.

 

So what did I take back home from my days in Orlando?

The reunion of old and the meeting of new friends, the listening to completely different literature and other ways of playing, this extremely open convention atmosphere and once again this warm and open nature of the Americans will remain in my memory forever. But I also take with me impressions that encourage me to continue working and developing my own teaching and musical personality. No matter where we are in the world, it is always the emotional vibration from person to person or from musician to audience that touches our heart. We must never forget that all virtuosity, all varity of sound colours or each tempo of a piece are only the technical tools to represent the composer's feelings combined with the expression of our own individual emotions.

During the convention I was able to hear many inspiring flute tones, for which I am very grateful. Now, full of new ideas and plans, I am starting a new academic year together with my students and am already looking forward to returning to the USA soon in order to experience another exciting musical journey.

(Barbara Kortmann, www.barbarakortmann.de/en/)

 

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