This past November, I took a bit of a personal leap and made myself not only join but actually post in the Facebook group Etude of the Week. In this group, each week an etude is assigned to prepare and post and members of the group can make comments on one another's offerings.
My perfectionism was so deep that I never publicly shared video of any of my performances. Of course, this lack of "sharing" is ironic considering that my performances are public and are shared live with countless people anyway. For me, the difference between live and video was that with video, there is a way to be able to rewind and review every flaw. And believe me, I could always find a flaw that I didn't want anyone to "rewind and review."
I made myself participate mostly to get over myself.
I joined this group to put myself out of my comfort zone. Not only was I going to post an etude each week, but I was going to prepare this etude solely as a side effort to the practicing that I already had to do. I wanted to become comfortable not only with sharing on social media, but to up the ante by sharing under that particular "less practiced" scenario.
Pressing post that first day was really hard for me.
Eighteen Berbiguier Etudes and nineteen Köhler Romantic Etudes (37 posts!) later, the benefits have been more than expected. Here are some of my discoveries:
1. I have desensitized myself to sharing performance video online. I can't say a little voice in my head doesn't still notice every little flaw. It still does. I try to ignore that little voice. Because on the flip side, I've received much positive support and feedback.
2. I have become a bit more forgiving of the flaws that I hear in my performances. I've realized more than ever that that what I perceive as glaringly obvious flaws are received very differently by other listeners. Even by other flutists. There are times when the exact part of my playing that I felt was lacking is what I have received positive feedback for. It doesn't mean I won't stop trying to improve, but it is evidence that people are listening for more than small hitches here and there. They are listening for music.
3. I have made more video footage of myself performing than I ever have before. I have used audio as a learning tool in the past but saved video for performances only. The benefits of this endeavor have been countless.
4. I have fast-tracked my playing improvement. It is a highly educational experience to both see and hear myself perform on a weekly basis. I have already made changes to my playing just from watching myself and seeing something that I need to fix. I also have some good ideas as to how to continue to work on my physical approach to playing and my body awareness going forward into the future. Watching myself play has renewed my interest in Body Mapping and self-awareness. Instead of being irritated by what I see or feel, I am now doing something about it because I saw it or felt it.
5. I am honoring my own voice more. I started out my etude-posting journey a bit stilted, much more so than I am in live performance. As the weeks went by, I kept asking myself what I wanted to say, and trying to honor what I thought was important. I kept the "I" in my interpretation.
There are times when I lack the practice time I desire to bring a technical etude to the full extent of my capability. In those times I bring my focus toward the music and what I want to say instead. And I still post it. I am really enjoying this aspect of interpreting a new work each week.
6. I didn't think I'd be able to find time to add something "just for me" into my practice time, but I do! Time constraints, family obligations, motherhood, and mostly repertoire for my paid performances have made me set etudes aside more often than not. Keeping myself accountable to play a new study each week has been an amazing addition to my practice, and has turned out to be a welcome distraction from orchestral music. There are weeks now when I'd really rather plow through my etude book than play the music I need to learn for a concert. It's FUN. It's been a great change of pace.
7. I've improved my focus. I have arrived to the point where I can play several takes in a row that would all be "acceptable" to post (in their own "perfectly imperfect" kind of way of course.) In fact, I don't know why I even do the extra takes most of the time anymore. Clicking record no longer sends me into a tailspin of false starts. I love this change in my focus when I click the record button on the camera.
8. I have had the opportunity to hear some lovely approaches to playing. I've gotten new ideas. I've been inspired. I have had "aha" moments where I realized a phrase that troubled me had another solution. I realize that if all of the flutists in this forum didn't share (just as I had not been sharing for so long) I would not have the opportunity to hear so many wonderful flutists. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn, share, and to be pushed to give more of myself each time.
9. I have "met" a wonderful community of supportive flutists from all walks of life and from all over the world. I am really excited to meet many of them in person for the first time at the NFA Convention. I feel, in a way, that I have re-connected with a broader slice of the flute community.
10. I have great satisfaction that I gave myself a challenge and I followed through. I will kid you not: posting in this group was really hard for me. My need to wait until I am perfect continues to be something I am working on. However, I have noticed that, as time goes by, I am improving my offerings despite time restrictions and lack of sufficient preparation time. That can only mean I'm becoming more efficient at cutting to the chase with these studies.
Sticking with it has certainly been an amazing part of my satisfaction. There are weeks in which my mantra is "Just show up." That's it. Make a showing. My mind, of course, screams "Don't put anything out there that stinks! There is so much more you can do with this one! and I wrestle with it still. But I keep showing up, and I keep following through. I can't wait to see what comes next in my journey.
Special thanks to Katy Wherry for creating such a wonderful, supportive forum for flutists around the globe!
I am a freelance flutist by choice. My flexibility with varied roles, compatibility as a player, and my talent and passion for playing have allowed me a wonderfully varied career. From solo and chamber music to symphony orchestra to Broadway pit orchestra, I have done it all, and with love and thanks for so many great opportunities to play. I have performed with:
The (Grammy-Award-Winning!) Albany Symphony
I enjoy performing as part of local back-up groups for rock and pop acts throughout Connecticut. Some of the artists I have had the privilege to share the stage with are: Josh Groban, Clay Aiken, Deep Purple, Kansas, LeAnn Rimes, The Irish Tenors, Peter Frampton, Yes, and Brian Wilson.
The pit is a special place for me. I have performed with the Wicked, the Musical on Broadway, as well as with the national tours of countless shows at Connecticut venues such as the Bushnell Theater, The Oakdale, The Palace Theaters in Waterbury and Stamford, and the Shubert Theater. There is probably no place I love more than the pit, and pit playing has afforded me the challenge of performing on a wide variety of flutes including recorders, whistles and even Asian flutes and pan pipes.