Essays

Keeping Long Tones Fresh. by Francesca Arnone

Posted by on Feb 1, 2018 in Articles, Essays, Featured, February 2018, Issues | 0 comments

Keeping Long Tones Fresh.  by Francesca Arnone

Dr. Francesca Arnone has been featured as a flute and piccolo soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, and educator in the US and abroad. For the past 25 years, she has held Principal Flute, Second Flute, and Piccolo positions in the US and Mexico, and this season is performing with the Naples Philharmonic, Sarasota Orchestra, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Tampa, and the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, among others. She has taught at Boise State, West Virginia, and Baylor universities as well as many summer festivals and camps. In addition to her experience reviewing undergraduate through doctoral admission applications and auditions, she has regional, national, and international competition adjudication experience in addition to years of serving on professional orchestral audition and teaching position committees. She’s been a concerto soloist on flute, alto flute, and piccolo, on repertoire ranging from Bach to Chen Yi. Her recordings on MSR and PARMA have met with critical acclaim. See www.francescaarnone.com.   How do we keep our favorite exercises - our go-to, tried-and-true, most comfortable and comfort-offering routines - alive, useful, invigorating, sustaining (look, Ma - no thesaurus - yet!)? In other words, fresh and not dying on the vine. This question can apply to so many things...we like our creature comforts, our "things" and habits that help us feel more secure and safer, especially when we face the day's uncertainties. For musicians, this is an especially  interesting question to pose, as we like our confidence-inducing activities to remain skill-building, yet sometimes we wander into the desert of automatic pilot/self-driving cars/phoning things in/just basically not really being present. . . While a college undergrad, I remember walking up to the practice room building's top floor (since this is where my favorite rooms were located) for each day's first practice session, wondering what exactly kind of tone day it was going to be. Tone is everything to a flute player (and to all musicians, right?!) - it's the ears to the soul, the personal calling card of an individual. It's a big deal. So, sometimes my heart would pound as I unzipped my bag, unlatched the case to my flute...was it going to be a good tone day? A not so great one? A fabulous one? And what to do about it? Here's an average mental exchange from back then: "Yesterday was a pretty good tone day - I'd better start with EXACTLY the same long-tone exercise on EXACTLY the same pitch as I did yesterday." Naturally, sometimes that approach would work, and of course, sometimes that would not. Now that I refuse to play Eight Ball with my sound or my playing (!) I celebrate the wisdom of balancing exercises and knowing what I need to do to keep things fresh: be creative, participate, experiment, and play. So I'm attacking the much-revered exercise, the long tone. What exactly is this important component of a wind player's practicing? Long tones are generally exactly what their name implies:  sustained pitches, under which we play a smooth crescendo and decrescendo, to help us focus on the beginning, development, and release of the tone.  Here's a good explanation by a horn expert, Bruce Hembd, including the key of developing the right mindset to practice these particular exercises effectively, as well as the importance of changing things up (that's our fresh-picked ingredient!)....

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The Benefits of Slow Practice. By Anna Luther

Posted by on Jan 2, 2018 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Issues, January 2018 | 0 comments

The Benefits of Slow Practice.  By Anna Luther

I have lost count of the number of times I have been told as a student to engage in "slow practice." I'm equally at a loss as to the number of times I've passed on this direction as a teacher. "Try that section again, slowed down." "When you work on this at home next week, slow it down to a more comfortable tempo." "Spend some time with this phrase at a slower tempo." "If you slow down, you'll be able to coordinate fingers and air more easily." "That left over right hand crossing will smooth out if you slow it down."   But regardless of whether you are on the giving or receiving end of this advice, sometimes it can feel like you're listening to a broken record. Why all of this emphasis on slow practice? It's excruciating At first blush, slow practice can feel torturous, no matter how long you've been playing music. Slowing your 16th notes down so they are played like 8ths--or somehow worse, quarter notes--can feel like the ultimate in excruciating practice. If you're a beginner, you may assume the teacher thinks you can't handle the "real" tempo of a piece. A little more advanced, and it feels like you're holding yourself back by spending so much time under the final tempo. And I can tell you as a professional, there's a real temptation to think you are "better than this" when a beloved mentor recommends you spend some time with your metronome set to what feels like an unreasonably low number. The rewards are worth it Why do musicians hear and share this correction so often? Because it has tremendous merit. There is so much to be gained from slowing down and being fully aware of what and how we are playing. Here are a few of my favorites.   Intonation One of the greatest gifts my high school flute teacher gave me--aside from an enduring love of the Baroque--was a deep understanding of slow practice and intonation. Under her expert guidance, I spent months with Trevor Wye's Tone book, a tuner, and a metronome set at 60 bpm. Slowing down, working in half step pairs of quarter notes, allowed me to really understand how I was producing sound, what I could change to get a more focused/in tune tone, what sort of sound concept I wanted to convey. What I learned in those slow practice sessions continues to inform my playing and teaching two decades later.     Accuracy The phrase "perfect practice makes perfect" is attributed to Vince Lombardi, and it is as applicable in the practice room for musicians as it is on the practice field for athletes. While we can discuss whether the word "perfect" really should have a place in our vocabulary as musicians, there's a great lesson here regardless. Accurate, deliberate practice leads to accurate, deliberate performance. Often times when working on a piece at a fast tempo, our inclination is to push to keep the speed up, sometimes sacrificing accuracy in the name of speed. Approaching a piece slowly allows for the opportunity get comfortable with the finger patterns, embouchure changes, air speed, and other nuances that can easily be overlooked when playing fast.   Stamina Slow practice strengths the physical aspects of your playing. If you can make...

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How to STAND OUT in a world of SPAM. by Fluterscooter

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Articles, December 2017, Entrepreneurship, Essays, Featured, Issues | 1 comment

How to STAND OUT in a world of SPAM.  by Fluterscooter

Black Friday. Giving Tuesday. Cyber WEEK (didn't it used to be just Cyber Monday?)  As we're in the midst of holiday Spam Season, I thought it would be a good time to share what has been on my mind lately.  Every year, I feel worse and worse about sending holiday sale newsletters and promoting social media posts.  And I shouldn't feel bad about it.  I worked hard to establish my business for the past 7 years, and I enjoy making my fellow flutists happy with a flute bag they adore.  I continue to speak to college students and graduates about Entrepreneurship in the creative arts, I encourage them to think outside of the box, and I give them advice on starting their own businesses as I did. In a recent talk to a college Music Business class, we discussed how to promote yourself, and the topic of spam came up.  While just a few years ago, I encouraged students to promote themselves heavily on social media, now I am telling them to shy away.  We talked about how, these days, everyone has a brand (including themselves as an artist) that they are trying to push.  The problem is how to differentiate between the real and the fake.  And I guess that is a common thread everywhere now.  The internet has grown into a spam mega-mall, and it seems everywhere you turn, someone is trying to sell you something. First, we need to clarify the difference between supporting an entrepreneurial business, and one of the minions of a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme.  While so many facebook friends now have their own "small businesses" of selling everything from press-on nails to essential oils to jewelry from multi-level marketing companies, and they are constantly sending messages and posting to get friends to buy these products, we tend to get overwhelmed and our inboxes oversaturated.  There is nothing wrong with having a side hustle, but the problem lies within the over-posting, the aggressive marketing tactics, and the lack of personalization.  We have turned into robots marketing to fellow robots. So, what IS the new way?  How can we stand out if everything gets filtered in with everything else?  How do we differentiate the real from the fake and choose what businesses to support?  One idea is to go back to making things personal again.  We are all craving more real experiences and personal connections, at least I am.  Lets pretend there is no internet, for a second.  How would you get your brand out there? Here is a good exercise for you:  Think of 3 ways, without internet/social media, that you can reach people in a more authentic and personal way.  Here are mine: COLLABORATE.  No, I don't mean collaborate on another "Acapella" video.  Collaborate with real people in real life.  Go to events, concerts, etc..to meet those people. DISCUSS.  Lets have real conversations again.  Lets speak over the phone, lets have in person meetings.  Lets discuss our thoughts with as many people as possible.  Build your network based on personal connections rather than impersonal emails. LISTEN and SLOW DOWN.  Listen to each others' ideas.  Are we really listening?  Are we really paying attention?  The more we can understand each other and understand how connected we are, the more success we will can all build together....

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Is your Social Media feed affecting your self-esteem and productivity? by Fluterscooter

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Articles, December 2017, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Is your Social Media feed affecting your self-esteem and productivity?  by Fluterscooter

How many times have you checked Instagram today?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Are you looking at your phone as you're reading this article?  How many times did you check your phone during your last practice session?  These modern technologies are not only causing us to become more distracted and disconnected, but they are also affecting our self-esteem and productivity both in the practice room and in our daily lives. We took an Instagram poll: 116 replied that they turn their phone off/on silent during practicing, but 85 replied that they do not. And this is a problem. As a student and a young professional flutist, I consider myself lucky that smartphones did not exist during my formative years.  I had intensely focused practice sessions with no distractions except if someone needed the practice room.  Where I see how phones are necessary to not miss calls for gigs and such, I do not see the point of bringing them into the practice room otherwise.  Since I started my Transcendental Meditation practice, the importance of quieting the mind and getting into a zone of pure focus has changed my practicing methods.  Think of your flute practice as a meditation.  Would you check your phone when you meditate? For example, you are concentrating on a phrase, and then your phone vibrates.  Whether or not you check the message, the thought of the phone vibrating is still there, and your phrase has been interrupted and your concentration affected. Or you take a break and check social media, with the rage of the daily news infiltrating your thoughts.  Picking up your flute after that and trying to focus on creating beautiful music will not be as easy.  Or, you look at videos from other flutists and think to yourself, will I ever be that good?  While the videos can also be motivating, for the most part, they set unrealistic expectations for a less advanced student and can be discouraging. Is the next generation of musicians turning into distracted performers? It will be interesting to see how this next generation of flutists will be as performers.  Will their performances flow as well as their predecessors'?  How will nerves come into play?  And what about audiences? For those of you who answered "No" to our Instagram poll, here are a couple things you could try: Disconnect to Reconnect.  I have been making it a habit to turn off all devices at 8pm every night.   Try it!  And, of course, try it in the practice room and see how much more connected you are to the music. Stop looking Outward and look Inward.  Look within the music, your sound, your breath.  If you feel yourself getting distracted by the outside world, look...

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Canary in a Coalmine Project. By Lois Herbine

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Issues, November 2017 | 0 comments

Canary in a Coalmine Project. By Lois Herbine

Lois Bliss Herbine is an internationally renowned solo piccolo recording artist. All six accompanied recordings from her CD, Take Wing, including premieres of Michael Daugherty, Daniel Dorff and Vincent Persichetti, can be heard on radio stations across the United States. The Gramophone hails her recital as “high-flying” and Music Web International exclaims, "Another leading wind soloist takes flight”. Philadelphia Inquirer music critic David Patrick Stearns described her piccolo performance for her Concerts at Carmel series DTR records release a “model of color driven expression”. A premiere solo recording on Inverno Azul (BCM&D Records) of music by composer Cynthia Folio has gained much interest in her work Philadelphia Portraits: A Spiritual Journey for piccolo and piano which is currently being performed by professional piccoloists around the world. It's first known broadcast was August 22, 2016 on Canadian radio CKWR FM 98.5. Herbine has performed multiple times at National Flute Association conventions to favorable press, including premieres of solo music for piccolo by David Finko, Daniel Dorff, Cynthia Folio and Lucien Posman. She has performed on two closing ceremonies - in Anaheim 2010 as a duet with European piccoloist Peter Verhoyen and she shared the stage with some of the worlds' top piccolo players and the US Army Field Band during the 2015 closing ceremonies. Composer Howard Hersh’s I Had to Go Down in the Mines to Climb Up to the Sky is an aural memoir for solo piccolo with a ghost choir of 16 recorded piccolos. Its premiere will take place on a full piccolo recital in the Capistrano Concert Hall at Sacramento State University’s Festival of New American Music on November 7, 2017 at 8:00 PM The festival is one of the West Coast’s leading forums for contemporary American music and this year it is celebrating 40 years of free recitals, concerts, lectures and educational outreach. The premiere from this accomplished Californian composer will be the finale of my solo piccolo recital, including works by Daniel Dorff, Joseph Hallman, Cynthia Folio, Vincent Persichetti and Michael Daugherty. This concert, titled Moving West, is sponsored by Powell Flutes. A 2006 article that I wrote for New Music USA’s online publication TheNewMusicBox, Escaping the Nutcracker Suite: Composing for the 21st Century's Piccolo Player with sound samples from past recordings, attracted the attention of composers and professors of composition who reached out to me online. One in this community of readers was Howard Hersh. We began a correspondence and he sent me one of his recent CDs. I was immediately drawn to his music and knew that one day we would collaborate. I Had to Go Down in the Mines to Climb Up to the Sky was composed in 2013 in service of the bravery and anguish of America’s great immigrant experience. It was inspired by the history of my family, whose heroic lives as laborers facing daily struggles in the coal mining communities in both Wales and Pennsylvania laid the foundation for the opportunities that I and my children now enjoy. This living history connects two worlds for me- my love for the piccolo and reaching new audiences outside the orchestra and my love of ancestral research. My ancestral story begins with my great, great grandfather, John Lewis, who perished in the pit along with 178 men and boys in the great coalmining explosion of 1867 in Wales. Within weeks Great Britain set up the...

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A Cave, a Bone, a Flute. By Arlene Keiser and Nancy Horowitz

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Issues, November 2017 | 0 comments

A Cave, a Bone, a Flute.  By Arlene Keiser and Nancy Horowitz

“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of our soul.” (Anon.) Life must have been quite difficult 35,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic Age. Ice covered half the earth’s surface. Humans spent their days seeking shelter, protection, food, and warmth. Most interestingly, however, they weren’t just concerned with basic survival, they were also creating music by playing flute! We know this because, in 2008, archeologist Nicholas Conard of the University of Tubingen and his colleagues made an astounding discovery. They excavated the oldest musical instrument ever known, a bone flute, 35,000-40,000 years old, in a cave known as Hohle Fels, in southern Germany.  As a result of this discovery, Conard’s team concluded that, “music played an important role in pre-historic life in southwest Germany.”      Earlier, in 2004, Conard and his team had explored caves in the area and found two small ivory flutes, as well as sculpted figures of a horse head, an aquatic bird, and a lion-man made of mammoth tusk ivory. However, it was not possible to define their precise ages. The discovery of the bone flute in 2008 was significant as its age was able to be determined by radiocarbon dating. This ancient flute was handcrafted from the wing bone of a griffon vulture. An early chipped-stone tool made by Paleolithic people was used to carve it out. There are five finger holes with a v-shaped notch at one end, where the player places his lips. The other end was found broken off with two to three inches missing. The flute measures 21.8 cm (8.5 in.) in length and 8 mm (0.3 in.) in diameter.      It’s possible to view the actual griffon vulture flute, which is housed in the Landesmuseum in Stuttgart, Germany. A natural question is how does it sound? We can’t be sure, because due to its age and delicate condition no one has played it. However, Wulf Hein, an experimental archaeologist, made a replica and can be seen on a YouTube video dressed in pre-historic garb explaining how he crafted his flute and performing The Star-Spangled Banner (see link below). His flute sounds very much like a present-day penny whistle. How did the original flute maker decide on where to place the holes? Amazingly, the holes are spaced based on a major scale! Did he experiment with many bone flutes and destroy them before deciding on this one? Was he playing diatonic scale lines? Pentatonic scales? Harmonics? Let’s paint our own picture, a portrait of Saturday night Paleolithic partying: our Stone Age musicians are relaxing near the Danube after a long week of foraging for food and shelter. What to do? Unfortunately, they are not able to travel down the river to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic. They have to create their own magic, and so a musical tradition in the form of a flute emerges! They gather around a fire and join the flute player singing songs, relaxing, enjoying the music, the stars, the evening, and each other’s company. This image is significant, as the Paleolithic Age witnessed the emergence of early modern humans coming together for the simple experience of music making. They enjoyed the pleasure and fulfillment that a musical instrument could bring to their ears, their souls, and their senses. By beginning this musical...

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Starting a Flute Choir. By Ray-Michael Kauffman

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Interviews, Issues, November 2017 | 0 comments

Starting a Flute Choir.  By Ray-Michael Kauffman

  What inspired you to start a flute choir?   I love playing the flute, and I love performing. I had played in flute choir ensembles growing up as well as in college and even now, in many flute choir groups I play with. I also believe that flute choirs have such a unique and special sound, with all the timbres of different flutes coming together making something magical. I concluded that there needs to be a choir closer in my area. The area I live in is an hour to a major city such as Philadelphia and Harrisburg, but there was no ensemble for adults like myself that had formal music training, but were not professional flutists and worked in other career paths. And I concluded that a lower key, “not-so -serious” group in my area would be well received. With my experience in different ensembles, I had a strong feeling what would work and what would not. I live in a thriving and quickly growing area (Lancaster County, PA), especially culture-related with many wonderful galleries and art studios. There’s a true need for varied musical groups that are not as professional as an orchestra in many areas across the country. Many of the average citizens in these areas tend to be more down-to-earth and people who really do not have exposure to classical music, and these citizens may find the traditional classical music stuff boring. Audience members who attend symphony concerts are geared especially for that. Smaller non-traditional adult musicians who are not professionals, can play various genres of music exposing the public to a diverse and entertaining program. I also knew that due to the high demand and all the responsibilities the adult hobbyist or non-traditional flutist had in their lives (such as children, working and working overtime, taking care of family, and other priorities) that the more low-key model would be well suited for this area. How did you find the members of your flute choir?   Kismet. I had returned to flute playing after many years of not playing due to adult life changes, and started taking lessons with Morgann E Davis Parrish many years ago. Through Morgann I met Dot Lippart, a wonderful flutist who also wanted a choir locally. We had talked about starting one, but it didn’t come in to fruition until meeting Jenny Fritsch at an adult flute summer program by The Pocono flute society. Marta Oberlin, who is the president of the Pocono Flute Society, had so much great advice and experience with starting a flute group. Jenny, Dot, and I started talking there and we all wanted a choir in our area. We enlisted William Hoff, who had worked as a professional flute player to help our group. With continued input and advice from Marta O., Morgann D., and from former flute professor at Drew University Dr. Virginia Schulze-Johnson, who William and I both knew, the four of us, William, Jenny, Dot, and I met several times and brainstormed about starting a choir. We thought it was prudent to post info about the flute group forming, in new papers, stores like grocery stores, libraries, at churches and with the social media (which is a big help) as well word of mouth. I learned that by being a musician, I know...

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Schenkerian Analysis on Hamburger Sonata. By Heidi Kay Begay

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Issues, November 2017 | 0 comments

Schenkerian Analysis on Hamburger Sonata. By Heidi Kay Begay

Heidi Kay Begay is currently a doctoral flute performance major studying with Dr. Lisa Garner Santa at Texas Tech University. Heidi has held many teaching titles, which include adjunct music instructor positions at Eastern New Mexico University and Tarrant County College. She has held executive and festival committee positions with the Texas Flute Society; such positions include: registration coordinator, festival co-chair, industry/commercial liaison, and president. Her March 2010 publication, “Hopi Culture and the Music of Katherine Hoover,” can be found in Flute Talk magazine. Heidi’s degrees include a Masters of Music from Northwestern State University of Louisiana, and a Bachelor’s of Art in Music from the University of Arizona. Her past flute teachers include Dr. Brian A. Luce, Dr. Diane Boyd-Schultz, Dr. Dennette Derby McDermott, and Don Bailey. How A Schenkerian Analysis Can Help A Musical Performance of C.P.E. Bach’s “Hamburger” Flute Sonata in G Major, Wq. 133, Rondo: Presto Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was the second living son of Johann Sebastian and his first wife Maria Barbara Bach. Emanuel Bach, as he was known within the family, 1 was born on March 08, 1714 in Weimar, and died at the age of seventy-four on December 14, 1788 in Hamburg, Germany. C.P.E. Bach was the most successful and notable of J.S. Bach’s descendants; and in fact, Schenker stated that he was the only son of Johann Sebastian Bach’s worth studying. For thirty years. C.P.E. Bach worked for Frederick the Great from 1738 to 1768. Frederick the Great was a music supporter; he not only was a composer himself, but was a flutist, too. Emanuel Bach later accepted the prestigious position of director of sacred music in Hamburg, Germany in 1768. Bach replaced his godfather and colleague, George Philipp Telemann in Hamburg. Bach remained in this city for the next twenty years, until his death in 1788. The research presented here will focus on C.P.E. Bach’s “Hamburger” flute sonata in G Major (Wq. 133), movement two, and how a Schenkerian analysis can aid the musician with the performance of the piece. From a performer’s perspective, it can be quite daunting to study the notes at hand; however, if one were to understand the form, harmonic analysis, and a Schenkerian approach to the piece, one will find ease within the technical difficulties. A Schenkerian analysis is an approach of musical analysis of tonal music based on the theories of Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). The objective of a Schenkerian analysis is to interpret the underlying structure of a tonal work and to help reading the score according to that structure. Much like a painting, a Schenkerian analysis can be thought of the same way. Imagine an artist depicts a desert scene with the blue sky in the background, mountains in the middle ground, and cacti in the foreground. In the background, there is not much detail, but as the illustration will show, there is much detail in the foreground, so much so that one can view the needles on the cacti. A Schenkerian analysis can be approached the same way. At the background level, one will hear the Ursatz, which is the fundamental structure that contains the Urlinie and the Bassbrechung. The Ursatz is at the deepest level, and is a progression presenting the ultimate structure of a tonal composition.2 Within the middle ground of the musical composition, one will hear melodic prolongations...

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The First Panama Flute Festival

Posted by on Sep 1, 2017 in Articles, Blog, Entrepreneurship, Essays, Featured, Issues, September 2017 | 0 comments

The First Panama Flute Festival

Dafne Guevara, Manuel Ruiz Acosta, and Valentin Martinez are the founders of APAFLUT (Asociación Panameña de Flautistas), the brand new and first flute association in Panama.   Fluterscooter was a Guest Artist of their first flute festival this summer in Panama City.  In this interview, she asks them about the festival, starting a flute association in Central America, and the flute and music scene in Panama. Explain a little about your background and how you founded APAFLUT:   Dafne: When I was studying in the USA, I saw a video of kids holding guns. The kids were barely 6 or 7 years old, and they were talking about killing people. These kids were reflecting all the hate that the older people had against society, and it was reflecting how hate can be passed down. I was thinking how sad it was for me, and that the government is not helping too much. They care about other things instead of education and culture. I used to live in one of these areas, so I know where these kids come from and what they see everyday. I said, we don’t need to wait for the government to do something; we have something beautiful. Let us use it, and take advantage of what we know, and all we know is to play the flute. We don’t have money. Manuel is also very enthusiastic, so we called and organized 40 kids and paid for pizza. One kid said he wanted to quit school, but saw what we were doing and your story, and now he will graduate and be someone. The kids said that we are their idols. After the first Panama flute “mini-festival,” we decided to create APA Flut. It’s been 113 years since anything happened with the flute here. We are the new generation. We need this! Without any money, I went back home and talked to Prof. Almarza, and he said he would support it. I went back to UNLV, and Dr. Grim was also on board. After that, I had a lot of opportunities to write projects for fellowships, and I won one fellowship through UNLV. I’d also write to friends of flute foundations and explain about the project, and I got a lot of support. Manuel: My sister is a lawyer, and she helped us with all the legal things we needed to create APA Flut in Panama. Was it difficult?   Manuel: It was VERY difficult, especially since we don’t have money, but luckily my sister helped. Valentin: We did 4 recitals to earn money to pay for the creation of the association. Dafne: We owe everything to the kids. Ever since we gave them the idea that we’re starting the flute association here, they knew we didn’t have money, but they said they still have flutes. From January until last week, the kids have been presenting recitals to get money. We sold tickets to the recitals, and advertised mostly on Facebook. Is this an ongoing flute association? What are your responsibilities until the next festival?   Dafne: Besides getting sponsors, it is to keep the kids motivated. We don’t want to give them something beautiful like this, but then have it go away. I want these kids to be someone and be inspired. So you’re really empowering these kids.   Dafne: Exactly....

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365 Days of Flute. By Robin Meiksins

Posted by on Sep 1, 2017 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Issues, September 2017 | 0 comments

365 Days of Flute.  By Robin Meiksins

Online challenges and process projects have been a popular category for quite a few years now. Hilary Hahn has been doing a ‘100 Days of Practice” challenge on Instagram, and there are thousands of YouTube challenges that range anywhere from eating chili peppers, to dancing, to answering questions. On September 27, 2016, I created my 365 days of flute. The idea of a 365-day challenge isn’t new; in the photography world they are a dime-a-dozen, but musicians largely haven’t taken to them. Joo Won Park did ‘100 strange sounds’ in 2012-2013 and Olivia Jageurs’s 15-Second Harp has been successfully running for almost two years, but neither project really covers the scope of what I attempted. Mimi Stillman’s Syrinx Journey, in which she recorded Debussy’s iconic flute work “Syrinx” for a year in different places, is probably the closest to what I am doing. Here are the rules I set for myself to successfully complete the challenge: every day for a year I had to record and post a video to YouTube. Each video had to be a unique piece, movement, excerpt or etude, and none could repeat through the whole project. Each video should be no longer than 5 minutes (except for some special cases) and I couldn’t prerecord. In October, I started a call for scores to incorporate more contemporary music, since I’m a contemporary specialist. As I am writing this, it is Day 293 and I have recorded 294 videos (an April Fools Day prank caused the video count to be off by one). I have played pieces from every continent, excluding Antarctica, and I have yet to miss a day. I started the project because I wasn’t practicing after I moved to Chicago after graduating with my master’s. I needed something to force myself to practice, but didn’t have any performances lined up or competitions to enter. I also wanted to do something that would push my musical skills and expose me to a wider range of repertoire. I had been posting videos irregularly on YouTube and Tumblr for years, so it seemed like a logical way to keep myself honest. There would be a record of my progress and an audience to be responsible to. But what have I learned from this project? I definitely have learned to practice better and more efficiently; I have to be able to give a performance every day. I can pinpoint the passages I can’t play already and how to practice them so I learn them as quickly as possible. With every piece I see and sight-read, the patterns I already have in my fingers increase, and the next piece gets easier. These skills don’t replace the hours I would like to spend on music, but throw me into a studio setting where I have to perform almost by sight-reading alone, and I have learned that I can produce in this context. I’ve also learned a lot of repertoire. That seems obvious, but I didn’t realize how much of the standard repertoire I hadn’t studied. Even having played for sixteen years, there were pieces people requested that I play or that were on repertoire lists that I had never seen. I can say that I now know at least fifty more pieces, and that doesn’t include the composer submissions....

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