Injury Prevention and Strength Training for Flutists Through Yoga. By Christina Guenther and Sherri Fleshner

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, June 2015, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Injury Prevention and Strength Training for Flutists Through Yoga.  By Christina Guenther and Sherri Fleshner

Many musicians are becoming more involved with various body awareness principles, and the desire to take care of our bodies as we put them through the rigors of practicing and performing is great. In order to facilitate this awareness, and in hopes to help strengthen our bodies and prevent injury altogether, we have outlined 15 yoga moves that will help with issues flutists face specifically. We would like to emphasize that if anything does not feel right or is too intense, to modify the move or not attempt it. As with any exercise regimen, be sure you are in good enough health to proceed with the positions outlined below. Additionally, it is always advisable to secure a good teacher to help enforce good practice habits and a proper stance and hand position; you may also like to consult a trained yoga instructor for further development if this kind of wellness approach interests you. Neck Relaxation and Flexibility Head Balance: Find an easy, comfortable seated position. Slowly start to stack up the vertebrae in your spine, one on top of the other, rocking back and forth, until you feel that your back muscles and stomach muscles are fully relaxed. Tilt your chin upwards until you can feel the tension release in your forehead. Find a balancing point for your head so that you are relaxed and all of the muscles in the neck are relaxed. Start to breath in and out through your nose, expanding your chest sideways to make room for the breath. Regular Neck Stretches: As you exhale, release your chin towards your chest, feeling the muscles in the back of your neck and trying to release any tension. On an inhale, bring your right ear to right shoulder, remembering to keep the shoulder relaxed. Breathe. Focus your inhales on any tightness you feel and release that tension along with your exhales. Exhale back to center and do other side. Neck with Arm Stretch:[1] Find a comfortable seated position. While keeping your left fingertips on the ground, or holding on to the side of a chair, release your right ear to right shoulder, breathing into the stretch on the left side of the neck. Take 3-5 breaths. Start to lift the left arm a few inches off of the ground, or away from the chair. Feel free to move the arm slightly forward or backward to find the perfect stretch. Take 3-5 breaths. Rotate the left palm up, feeling the stretch work its way down the shoulder and arm. Take 3-5 breaths. Finally, extend the wrist (towards the back of the hand), pointing the fingers down. Take 3-5 breaths. Slowly release the arm and bring the head back to center. Repeat on the other side.   Shoulder Strength and Stretching Shoulder Squeeze (with & without blanket/towel): From a seated position, start by picturing 3 parts of your shoulder blades: the top tip, the middle, and the lower tip. On an inhale, open the chest as you squeeze the top tips of the shoulder blades back towards each other. As you exhale, release the squeeze and open the shoulder blades apart. Repeat with the middle part of the shoulder blade. For the lower tip of the shoulder blades, bend your arms at the elbows, bring your hands in front...

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A Flutist’s Nightmare. By Dana Joras

Posted by on Jun 1, 2015 in Articles, Essays, Health & Wellness, Issues, June 2015, Lifestyle | 0 comments

A Flutist’s Nightmare.  By Dana Joras

Winters in Chicago can be very dangerous. By mid-February, however, my mind was focused on the warm Spring months ahead, not the unexpected layer of black ice beneath my feet. I fell on Friday the 13th while walking my dog and managed to break two bones in my left arm, the radius and the ulna, as well as badly dislocate my wrist. I rushed to the emergency room, leaving my dog and manual transmission car with a friend. When the nurses in the ER cut off my glove I was able to see the full extent of the damage. My arm looked akin to Harry Potter’s after his inept professor tries to magically mend it in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The arm bent where it was not supposed to and the wrist was swollen beyond recognition. And then the fear set it. I couldn’t feel my fingers. What if the nerves were damaged? Broken bones are one thing, but what if I damaged the muscles? Would I ever be able to play my flute again? Two hours after falling, I cried for the first time, and not because of the pain. A few days later and after a long, painful weekend (by the way, never break your arm on a Friday afternoon), I finally had a consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon who assured me that I would have absolutely no difficulty playing flute after proper recovery time. He was a trooper, surviving my barrage of questions and concerns regarding the surgery and recovery process. I was probably the worst patient ever, the kind that reads every possible WebMD article and suddenly knows the anatomy of the arm backwards. I knew all the complications, all the terminology, and my chances at getting my full range of motion back. In order to avoid atrophy and jump start the recovery process, the doctors removed my cast two weeks after surgery. I cradled my arm, the strange feeling of the uncasted bones startling me. It felt very unstable and I couldn’t bend the wrist more than a degree or two in any direction. A doctor came in with my x-rays and having noticed me cradling the arm said, “Don’t worry, dear! That arm isn’t going anywhere!” She pointed to the x-rays, “You see this piece of metal? That’s going to hold everything together so there is no need to be so careful. Just don’t bang it on anything,” she said. I felt relieved. She continued on to say that I should slowly add small rotation exercises in every day prior to the start of my physical therapy. The next few weeks were bad. I couldn’t drive my car or motorcycle and I couldn’t play my flute. Most flutists’ posture requires a slight bend in the left wrist and turning the left arm almost completely inwards so it faces the body. Not only was I unable to bend the wrist, but I couldn’t rotate my forearm at all. Depression set in. I tried to keep my spirits up through teaching and composing, but I hated everything that I wrote and my darling students only reminded me more of how much I missed my flute. I could see my composition and flute goals slowly spinning down the drain. I started to feel...

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From Body Casts to the Stages of the World by Viviana Guzman

Posted by on Mar 2, 2015 in Articles, Blog, Featured, Health & Wellness, March 2015 | 0 comments

From Body Casts to the Stages of the World by Viviana Guzman

I was born with dislocated hips, with dysplasia, con-genital hip dislocation. I was never supposed to walk. I was the worst case in Chile, so my parents brought me to the States, to Stanford Hospital so that I could undergo better medical treatments. The coolest thing was that if I was flipped over on the hospital gurney where I lived, I was able to play the piano. To this day I say that music healed my life. The doctors told me that I would never be able to walk. So, at age 6, I joined a swim team. And by the age of 7, I became Champion Swimmer in Butterfly for the state of California. Ever since then, the Butterfly has served as a metaphor for my life. My body casts became my cocoon from which I grew my wings that later enabled me to fly. In the Tales of King Arthur, Vivian was Merlin’s Mistress, the Lady of the Lake, the bearer of Excalibur. I like to see my life as magical journey and that my flute is my wand, my sword. I have been able to travel and perform on all 7 continents, including Antarctica, after being told that I would never walk. I have learned how to become a Master at Manifesting and I believe everyone has these same capabilities. In fact, I participated in 5 fire walks just to prove to myself that whatever we set our minds to, we can accomplish. Dreams do come true! I learned to to embrace my challenges, and to strive further than what I was initially told I could create in my life. I spent 3 years performing in Tahiti where I learned about the cultivation of the pearl. The clam creates a pearl when a grain of sand gets introduced inside. Little by little, what is an irritant to the clam, becomes a precious gem for the rest of the world. The pearl also became a metaphor for my life. I spent my whole childhood in and out of body casts. It would be a year to recover from a surgery. I would have to go from the body cast, to the wheelchair, to the crutches, to the cane, only to have the doctors say, it didn’t work, we have to do it again! So back into the body cast I went! And this is how I spent the first 11 years of my life, life now seems so incredibly easy! After the ball and chain were taken off, it really makes life’s challenges seem like a piece of cake! Every step I take is so full of gratitude! Every minute of the day without pain is an absolute miracle! I feel so full of joy and blessings that I just want to sprinkle the world with some of this magic. I have spent my whole life limping and in ridiculous pain. It has only been since 2008, 7 years, since my second total hip replacement, 11 surgeries later, that I am finally pain free and limp free. Having to relearn how to walk each time, taught me the value of doing a little bit every day. I learned discipline. My threshold of pain is so much greater than most people’s. This is a normal person’s threshold of...

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Yoga and Flute Playing. By Cynthia Ellis

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, Lifestyle, March 2015 | 0 comments

Yoga and Flute Playing.  By Cynthia Ellis

Namaste: A Hindi word used as a greeting and a goodbye: It means I honor the light in you, I honor the light in myself. It is spoken with palms pressed together. It is part of the centuries old tradition of a yoga practice. Playing any instrument is a physical, emotional, and logical endeavor. We use our body, our imagination, and our brain at all times for optimum performance. We always schedule consistent time for practice and study of our instrument but sometimes in a busy life, scheduling time for physical activity takes a back seat on the ‘to do’ list. I have found that by making physical activity a big priority and working consistently in a yoga practice, my flute playing has reaped many benefits, often in unexpected ways.   What is yoga?  It can be defined as “a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.” There are many different styles of yoga, (over 14) from Bikram yoga (or hot yoga, practiced in a room close to 105 degrees and 40% humidity) to restorative yoga, which focus more on stretching and relaxation, and power yoga, which is more athletic and demanding. You will be able to experiment with different styles once you try out the discipline, and it really helps to know which kind of class you will be taking before you go. Now, some of you out there are more of the solitary exercise types who use videos: nothing wrong with that! However, you will miss out on the experience of community in a face-to-face class, bonding with other students and having a knowledgeable instructor there to answer questions and help you with correct alignment in poses, or asanas. If you go to a gym or yoga studio, ask which kind of class you will be taking, what kind of equipment you should bring (your own yoga mat and a towel are usually all it takes) and if this class is appropriate for you as a new student. If you decide to try hot yoga, please make sure to hydrate REALLY well before you go! There are also classes which combine styles of yoga or have target audiences (maternity yoga) for example so it helps to look at the specific kind of class you will be taking. Physical Benefits Flute playing is asymmetrical by it’s very nature: since we hold the instrument across our bodies from left to right, we are shortening muscles on the right side, and lengthening them on the left side. This natural imbalance from holding the flute hours each day over the years can be helped with many gentle stretches of the arms, upper back, neck, and torso. Sitting for long periods of time in orchestra rehearsals or when teaching tightens the hips, legs, and back: the stretching in yoga can reverse all this tension by working out the entire lower body. Restorative yoga classes will concentrate on asanas that will work to lengthen muscles and destroy tension. I take this kind of class once a week and I can notice the difference if I need to miss a week…my body LOVES to stretch and relax. Emotional Benefits It is HARD to...

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Performing Yoga Throughout Your Recital. By Jonathan Huffman

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, Lifestyle, November 2014 | 0 comments

Performing Yoga Throughout Your Recital.  By Jonathan Huffman

"Don't shun your performance anxiety ---harness it and become its best friend. After years of struggling with anxiety myself, yoga has helped me understand that sometimes you need to be uncomfortable as an artist."– Amanda Taylor, yoga instructor “Yoga is an effective strategy for managing performance nerves, especially when guided by someone as qualified and sensitive to the multi-layered issues of musicians’ anxiety as is Amanda Taylor. Some musicians learn to control their jitters through one modality such as yoga, while others require multiple practices such as positive self-talk, mental visualization and self-compassion. As Amanda emphasizes: when a program of poses and/or skills is developed based on *the individual,* success is more apt to be achieved." – Helen Spielman, performance anxiety coach “I wish that, long ago, I had learned yoga from someone as tuned in to her students as Amanda Taylor, when I was struggling with my own performance anxiety.”- Helen Spielman “Yoga helps me immensely with stress and anxiety. Practicing yoga helps me concentrate on specific physical and mental aspects while performing. I guide my body through poses just like I guide it through performances. For every pose or section, I have to concentrate on different things such as balance, breath, or ease.”- Meera Gudipati, Winner of the 2013 National Flute Association Orchestral Audition Masterclass Performing Yoga Throughout Your Recital: Therapeutic Effects of Yoga with Amanda Taylor At the 2014 Wildacres Flute Retreat in North Carolina I had the pleasure of sitting with Amanda Taylor, flutist/yoga instructor, to discuss her history with performance anxiety. Inspired by her personal anxiety struggles and the physical challenges brought on by a car accident, Taylor examined her options and ultimately developed accessible, cross-disciplinary techniques beneficial to anyone, but specifically crafted for musicians. Among her specialties: to instill posture, breath support, optimum relaxation, and increase confidence. Background Amanda Taylor always assumed music would be part of her life. After all, she was highly involved in her formative years, playing flute in various ensembles and taking part in camps and competitions. As expected, she decided to pursue music as a career, first receiving an undergraduate degree from University of Louisville and then a Masters in Music from University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Mid academic career, Taylor noticed a significant change in her perceptions about performance and her ability to execute what she had come to expect from herself. Most notably, Taylor experienced distress over performing her master's recital. Fearful of losing the time invested in her future and not knowing where to start, she turned to the medical profession for a solution. Her physician prescribed beta-blockers that restrict the binding of norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) and therefore weaken the effects of stress hormones. While the medication aided in the reduction of Taylor's physical symptoms it did not address her cognitive worries; "am I prepared, will the audience judge me, what happens if I fail?" To compound matters, during her doctoral studies, Taylor was involved in a terrible car accident. Prior to the accident, she lived an active lifestyle and enjoyed the physical aspect of working out, especially running. After the accident, Taylor was limited in her range of motion and forced to find an alternative workout routine. After much experimentation, Taylor discovered the benefits of yoga, which provided her with physical stimulation and challenged her...

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Piccolo Strong: Fitness for Piccoloists. by Nan Raphael and Angela McCuiston

Posted by on Oct 4, 2014 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, Lifestyle, October 2014 | 0 comments

Piccolo Strong: Fitness for Piccoloists.  by Nan Raphael and Angela McCuiston

One would think that playing such a tiny instrument would be a piece of cake. After all, it barely weighs a pound and is only 12 inches long. Over the course of my career I have encountered piccoloists who have struggled with injuries severe enough to cause them to stop playing for an extended period of time to undergo rehab. Some of these injuries include tennis elbow, neck and shoulder issues. The stress of holding the instrument for extended periods of time is enough to cause fatigue of certain muscles, tightness, soreness and sometimes overuse injuries. Learning how to play with less tension, good posture and alignment as well as being physically fit can go a long way to preventing many of these injuries. Alexander and Feldenkries are two excellent ways to become more aware of how we use our bodies and learn to use them in the most efficient way possible. Another possibility is to work with a personal trainer who is a specialist in dealing with musicians’ physical issues. A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Angela McCuiston, at the Florida Flute convention and NFA conventions. Angela is a professional flutist and owner of Music Strong, a business the specializes in personal fitness training for musicians  She is currently based in Nashville, TN and teaches flute and piccolo in the area and on Skype. Angela is Assistant Principal/Piccolo of Sinfonia Gulf Coast of Destin, a member of the 129th Army Band in Nashville, TN and recently completed her final season as Principal Flute/Piccolo with the Panama City Pops Orchestra in Panama City, Florida.  A Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Angela has studied Alexander Technique, Barbara Conable’s “What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body” Body Mapping Class and Eva Amsler’s classes in Dynamic Integration. As a trainer, Angela actively trains at Next Level Strength and Conditioning in Nashville, TN. Besides personal strength training with clients, Angela also teaches classes in mobility and group training. She has taken her workshops to flute festivals and universities nationwide. What lead you to become a personal trainer for musicians? I have always been interested in fitness, ever since I was a child. My grandfather was a Colonel in the Army National Guard and one of the fittest people I know and my Uncle was a USA Cycling Teach Coach and Massage Therapist so an interest in health and fitness runs in my family.  I started working out in the gym in college and after graduate school I decided to challenge myself by entering a figure competition, which is basically a beauty competition rewarding muscular aesthetics. Unfortunately, I fell subject to myths and dogma and my health suffered for it so I decided to immerse myself into learning everything I possibly could about health and fitness. I was playing in the symphony and taking auditions while working a part time job at The Vitamin Shoppe and had so many people asking me for fitness advice I figured I should just go ahead and get a certification in personal training and see if I liked it. While practicing for an audition and trying to fight off injury one day it just occurred to me that I had never heard a presentation on...

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Flute in the City-The Search for Mr.Big. By Rachel Hacker

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Featured, Flute Fashion, Issues, Lifestyle, September 2014 | 0 comments

Flute in the City-The Search for Mr.Big.  By Rachel Hacker

I’m seated in the terminal of the Cincinnati Airport, writing this article. My mind is too fried to continue prepping for NYU entrance exams on Monday. Coffee has rendered me anxious and fidgety in my seat. “CVG to LGA, Flight 6260, 12:30 PM, On Time” is illuminated on a TV above my head. It is entirely too late to brainstorm through things I might have forgotten to pack. “That cute, flowered top didn’t make the cut. I didn’t finish that pint of Salted Caramel Ben and Jerry’s. I currently possess a single pencil with lead in it… hope I don’t lose it before Monday.” My eyes nonchalantly wandered around the terminal at fellow passengers. A pair of new, oversized, and rhinestone-adorned glasses felt so cosmopolitan on my red-lipsticked face. For whatever reason, I have this idea that everything I wear in New York needs to be excessive. You never know whom you’re going to meet in New York. A celebrity could approach me one day on 5th Avenue, then we fall madly in love, and finally we get married in Fiji. I’ll be living close enough to Wall Street to land myself with a distinguished, wealthy man, who will take me to Peter Luger Steakhouse and drinking martinis on rooftops. Obviously, I’ve concocted all of these absurd ideas from watching too much Sex and the City. The TV’s in my undergraduate rec center would frequently show reruns. I found myself forgetting about the treadmill, and getting involved in the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Both men and my musical career are difficulties in my own life, just like these four women. Out of the four, I related most with Carrie Bradshaw.   It was a recurring theme to see Ms. Bradshaw be tempted with a bad decision, before coming to her senses and doing what was in her best interest. Carrie and I also have a penchant for impractical fashion, usually involving my shoe choices. Little did I know that I would be moving to Carrie’s world, filled with eccentric people, money, and even the smell of garbage in the summer. Everyone in New York is vying for success, whether they obtain it or not. I’m moving there with the same aspirations as countless other young people before me, with determination, naiveté, and fear. Throughout the series, Carrie Bradshaw has an ongoing love affair with a man she calls “Mr. Big,” a handsome, older, business executive. At many points throughout the series, Carrie and Mr. Big have broken up and gotten back together. At the end of the series, the two conclude that they are meant for each other. Through my new, fancy, glasses, I searched the terminal seating for eligible men. “Which of you is my Mr. Big?” Eying the handsome, young, man across from me, I see a “Columbia Law School” backpack resting on his knee. He returned a gaze for a brief moment, before returning to highlighting a wordy document. Mr. Law School was a nice enough looking guy, but I’ll probably never see him again after this flight. Since the series finale ended with Carrie and Mr. Big being together, it could be concluded that they were soul mates. To me, Mr. Big wasn’t just a literal human being, but also a figurative one....

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Overcoming Focal Dystonia: by Mark Dannenbring

Posted by on Jul 2, 2014 in Articles, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, July 2014, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Overcoming Focal Dystonia: by Mark Dannenbring

It is been practically three years since Mary O’Brien asked me to write an article on living with focal dystonia.  I had written a short one back at the end of the nineties discussing a possible cure for focal dystonia.   (Hands On, Issue #4)  I had made much progress at that time but had little idea how much more lay ahead of me.  It really has not been till this present school year, 2006-07, that I could finally see the end of the tunnel, the end to a long process of recovery.  From the onset of my first problems, 1989, it has taken nearly 17 years to overcome this malady, but I still consider myself very fortunate.  Most never overcome focal dystonia.   The best advice I can give is never give up if you really want to continue to play flute or whatever instrument you happen to play.  Even when you cannot control the fingers continue to play what you can.  I was told by one of Moyse’s pupils that Moyse continued to play flute, even if just one note up until the end of his life.  I would also encourage all sufferers to keep an open mind during their struggles.  I believe there is always a way around problems.  Life continues no matter how bad things seem to be, and one can always learn from good and bad experiences.  It does little good to beat oneself up or put blame anyplace on something that has already taken place.  I think an appropriate question is to ask where do I go from here?  But before I continue with any more advice or give possible solutions I will backtrack and provide a short history of my own problem.   I first noticed a problem with the coordination of my right, middle finger while working on a doctorate at the University of Iowa.  The finger could not lift off the key properly but rather pushed downwards when I desired an upward motion.  It happened quite suddenly, and Betty Mather, flute professor at Iowa, actually thought it sprung from a number of possibilities.  I had been given two years by my employer, Tunghai University, Taiwan to complete a doctorate and return to my job.  I had done much of a Ph.D. at a previous school.  Nevertheless, it was a demanding schedule, playing upwards to 4 or 5 hours each day while also doing a great deal of research towards my dissertation.  I had recently also acquired a baroque flute and was playing a great deal of contemporary music which required sliding of the fingers for various effects.  In addition my wife had just bore our first child.  I am not a tense player, but four or five hours of practice with little time for sleep because of dissertation deadlines was probably not the best situation for interest of health.   I decided that I could continue to play flute by making slight adjustments, using my middle finger for all F#s and adjusting the intonation with my lips.  I even continued to play forked fingers on the baroque flute if somewhat awkwardly.  I did begin to see various top hand-specialists starting with the University of Iowa medical staff, but to no avail.  The hand appeared normal except in playing the flute.  It...

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A Flutist’s Journey Through Healing. By Sherry Finzer

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in April 2014, Articles, Essays, Featured, Health & Wellness, Issues, Lifestyle | 2 comments

A Flutist’s Journey Through Healing.  By Sherry Finzer

My journey as a flutist has taken me to places I never imagined. When I first started playing in elementary school, I wanted to play the flute because it was shiny, and small compared to the other instruments, which meant it would be easy to carry. I never realized at the time just what an effect my playing could have on others in the future. As a classically trained flutist, I’ve always enjoyed attending flute concerts and master classes, absorbing as much as I can and trying new techniques. I have taken lessons from, and performed for, a large number of professional flutists over the decades, gaining valuable insight from every one of them. With classical music, each composer and each piece have a certain style and many possible interpretations.  You can debate the interpretation of a piece (how do you think the composer would have wanted this note to be played?), but I eventually realized that while you can spend your whole life trying to perfect your playing, for me, it is all about the connection I make with people. Everyday, ordinary people who thank me and who tell me that my music has touched their souls, helped them get through a bad day, made a change for an autistic child, helped them focus on a task at hand, calmed them…the list goes on and on. I had only a classical music background when I moved from Rochester, NY to Phoenix, AZ eight years ago. I didn’t know anyone when I arrived in Phoenix. Although I quickly made friends with members from the AZ Flute Society, and found a place to teach at a small music studio near my house, trying to find an orchestra to play in as the new kid on the block was challenging. I met a guitarist and composer named Ric Flauding at the music studio. He writes a variety of styles of music including jazz, new age, and Celtic. I loved his compositions and style of playing, and decided to record and perform some of his music. This was my first attempt at branching out from my classical training. From there, I went on to play with a flamenco guitarist, where I was forced to learn to improvise! Can you imagine? Playing something that is not written out and printed on paper??? Let me tell you – that is one of the best things I ever did for myself, and I encourage you to try it as well! Then I moved on to playing Latin jazz and pop cover tunes with an electric harpist, and booked some gigs with jazz guitarists. Yep, MORE improv! I moved WAY out of my comfort zone and into a new place where I not only play by ear, but most importantly from the heart! Two summers ago my friend Jane, invited me up to Alaska for the annual Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. She had been inviting me for years and for some reason I took her up on her offer this time. A well-known music therapist named Dr. Deforia Lane happened to be teaching some classes at the festival that summer. I signed up, not realizing how much of an impact her class would have on me. It had been arranged for participants to go out in...

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Flute fashion and Dancefluting with Riria Niimura. By Fluterscooter

Posted by on Mar 1, 2014 in Featured, Flute Fashion, Interviews, Issues, Lifestyle, March 2014 | 0 comments

Flute fashion and Dancefluting with Riria Niimura.  By Fluterscooter

I first met Riria Niimura in Tokyo at a performance I had given at the Apple Store.  The 19 year old flute sensation now resides in Los Angeles, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Riria at the Colburn School in LA, and we talked about everything from flute competitions to fashion design to Michael Jackson. FS:  Nice to see you again, Riria.  Welcome to LA!  So, where are you originally from in Japan? RN:  I’m from Tokyo, in Chiyoda-ku, which is near Shinjuku around where the emperor lives. FS:  Cool. You’re famous in Japan! I remember seeing a poster of you and your flute outside of Shibuya 109 (Tokyo’s trendiest shopping mall and my favorite place in the world to shop). RN:  It’s my favorite place to shop, too. FS:  I can tell!  I can definitely see the Tokyo fashion influence, but we’ll talk about that later.  Lets talk about flute:  growing up as a flute prodigy in Japan.  Did you start in a brass band like most students do in Japan? RN:  Actually, when I was 3, my mom asked me if I wanted to play the flute.  When my mom was in junior high school, the teacher made her play the trombone, but she always wanted to play flute in the band.  So we wanted to start when I was 3 years old, but it was very difficult since I was so young.   We met one flute teacher in Japan from Germany and her husband, Megumi Hori, was a flute teacher too.  They wanted to teach someone really young to make into a huge artist one day.   In Germany, they start you on the recorder first, so they recommended I play recorder first, so I did recorder from 3 to 7.  But I was always mesmerized by the shininess of the flute, so when I was 7, we finally started.   Even when I studied recorder, we did exercises to prepare me for flute, like blowing into a bottle, so getting a sound on the flute didn’t come difficult to me.  A lot of times I almost gave up, but my teacher told me I could do it! FS:  So did you play in an orchestra or band as a child? RN:  No.  I went to a music high school, so that was the first time I played in an orchestra.  The school was called Ge-Dai, which is part of Tokyo University of Music.   I really didn’t want to go to the music high school, because I also wanted to do things like normal kids at the regular high schools, but since I already had a music career in Japan, it was the right thing to do. FS:   I’ve watched most of your youtube videos, and I remember one when you were 14 and on Japanese TV dancing and doing backbends while playing flute.  I wish I could do that!  How did you start doing that? RN:  One day, my mom told me to look at the TV.  I never watched TV because I was always practicing, so I wasn’t sure why.  But it was Michael Jackson dancing on the screen.  I didn’t even know who he is until then, but I felt something after watching him, like a thunderbolt, and I knew this is...

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