Book Review: Advanced Etudes for flute by Sandy Kipp Iles

Sandy Kipp Iles is a freelance flutist and music educator. She received a Bachelor of Music, cum laude and Master of Music with Distinction from California State University, Northridge. She began teaching private lessons in 1979 and has been on the Music Faculty of California State University, Northridge since 1997. 

The Nutcracker Studies: Advanced Etudes for Flute, Volume I by Sandy Kipp Iles

The Nutcracker Studies: Advanced Etudes for Flute, Volume I was written and arranged by flutist and educator Sandy Kipp Iles. Sandy’s orchestral performance career, as well as her teaching career, has certainly shaped the foundation for this etude book. Sandy has brilliantly gathered the musical experiences of playing in the pit orchestra of this ballet and has created an opportunity for flutists to study not only the challenging flute moments of the ballet, but to also learn and perform the famous non-flute melodies we know and love so well.

The Nutcrack Studies is broken up into two acts. Act I consists of the Overture, March, Galop of the Children, Clara and the Nutcracker, and concludes with Walz of the Snowflakes. The second act includes the various dances, Mother Ginger, Waltz of the Flowers, and a few other key musical moments from the ballet. Prior to each study, Sandy “sets the stage” in explaining to the flutist what is happening during each number in the ballet. She also shares her insights regarding musical and technical aspects, such as common pitfalls, alternate fingerings, breathing suggestions, rhythm and articulation exercises, and much more. In the introduction to the etude book, Sandy mentions her differences in articulation, dynamics, and tempi from that of the ballet. While this book is a great resource for becoming familiar with the Nutcracker Ballet, it is not an excerpt book and should be played with the understanding that there may be musical differences from Tchaikovsky’s version.

Each etude is beautifully crafted to help flutists strengthen different fundamental aspects of their playing whether that be rhythm, articulation, dynamic contrast, phrasing, etc. This book is a great tool for both teachers and students, as Sandy is extremely detailed with her markings. There is never a moment where you may be guessing what the arranger has asked for. Each etude is given a suggested tempo range with the intention that flutists will slowly work their way toward mastering these studies.

I believe these etudes are accurately labeled for “advanced” flutists, for each study has some combination of complex rhythms or subdivisions and a majority of the etude book covers the entire range of the instrument. While not every etude has an extensive range or  contains complex rhythms, a majority of the book would become quite challenging for flutists not comfortable in the extreme registers of the flute.

As a teacher and performer, myself, I love this etude book! Each study poses its own challenges while maintaining the musical integrity of the ballet. This is something I will absolutely be sharing with my students. While I have a handful of students who are not yet ready to learn all of the etudes in this book, taking the time to read through one or two of the studies in this book seems like a wonderful opportunity this holiday season.

The Nutcracker Studies: Advanced Etudes for Flute, Volume I Review, November 2021 by Sammy Holloman, The Flute View Magazine

Carmen Studies: Advanced Etudes for Flute, Volume II by Sandy Kipp Iles

Carmen Studies: Advanced Etudes for Flute, Volume II was also written by flutist and educator Sandy Kipp Iles. In following the main concepts from her first volume of advanced etudes, Sandy has compiled a series of studies to help flutists with fundamental playing concepts such as: articulation, rhythm, dynamic contrast, phrasing, range, and more through learning the famous and beloved melodies from Bizet’s Carmen.

Volume II is broken up into four acts with each act containing, what could be considered, the opera’s most well-known numbers. With 17 etudes in all, Sandy has managed to bring this opera to life in a manageable number of studies. Similar to Volume I, Sandy has provided the flutist with an introduction to Bizet’s opera and once again “sets the stage” before each study.  Sandy provides tips to the flutist regarding musical and technical aspects, such as common pitfalls, advice on intonation, alternate fingerings, breathing suggestions, rhythm and articulation exercises, and much more.

While I do not find the material in this etude book to be as rhythmically complex as in Volume I, I would not recommend this book for beginner or intermediate level flutists. Again, flutists should be comfortable playing in all three registers of the instrument in order to navigate these studies. In following Volume I, Sandy has been extremely detailed with each study in how the music should be played. In learning these studies, students will have the opportunity to practice their diligence in attention to detail with the flexibility of reasonable tempo ranges.

Whether you are looking for a new etude book for yourself, or you are wanting more resources for your students, either (or both!) of these volumes would a great addition to your library!

Carmen Studies: Advanced Etudes for Flute, Volume II Review, November 2021 by Sammy Holloman, The Flute View Magazine

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