As of this season, I am an official member of the Raleigh Flute Choir! This is the parent group of the Raleigh Area Flute Association. A chamber ensemble made up of only flute players, this group is conductor-less and promotes the composition and arrangement of new music for flute ensembles. We play on everything from piccolo to contrabass, and, as it happens, I am taking up the mantle of the great Ann Cameron Pearce, who has just retired from the group this year, and becoming the new contrabass flute player!
This is the contrabass! It plays in the bass voice range, two octaves lower than the C flute, and is made up of about 9 feet of tube. Ours is made by Jupiter.
I know, I know, it's already February, but it's still a good time to reflect on my 2018 goals. In fact, now that I've had a month of feeling those goals out, I feel like I'm more focused and can streamline what 2018's goals will be.
1. Play more flute
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But often when we teachers start taking on as many students as possible and trying to focus on making the big bucks (haha, jokes!), we lose sight of our own playing. I don't want my playing to get stagnant, and that corner bookshelf heaped music shouldn't be taking up space for nothing!
So I'm entering some contests, working up some rep I've had laying around for ages but never got around to reading, and maybe trying some new things. I've been trying to work up the nerve to attend an Irish music session locally, and I have one on my calendar. I'm giving myself a couple of weeks to review some music (since most of it is played by ear) and get back into the groove with my tinwhistle. This is one of the first "music for fun" dates I take myself on since last summer at Swannanoa!
2. Share my music
I want to have a more visible online presence, and not just by writing occasional blog posts! I want my music to be "out there" for people like you to find and hear. Hopefully it brings you some joy. Also, it keeps me accountable for working up more music!
The current goal is to record the Telemann 12 Fantasies. Or at least learn them all. I've been playing these since high school and, still, that #7 in D Major looks scary. It shouldn't - it's just D Major! - and yet... In my practice photo, you can see all my cat bookmarks on the ones I feel are close to ready. #10 in F-sharp Minor is front and center because of the NFA Young Artist Competition (deadline in one week!).
3. Practice Efficiently
Even right now, I am taking a little break from practicing, since I had some pain in my wrist yesterday. I'm trying to avoid a tendinitis flare-up, so after applying ice and heat last night, I'm breaking today's practice session into 30-minute chunks. This is actually easier to stick to when I'm recording, because I can do one "take" at a time, then either listen back to it, or work some trouble spots before my little break, after which I'll come back strong.
October 14th at 7pm at the Center for the Arts (click for website with map). Lane Edwards will join me on flute in duets, and we will collaborate with my brother-in-law, pianist Eric Luke, and percussionist Mariana Poole.
There is no admission fee but we are happy to accept any donations. We will also be hosting a small reception after the concert and would love to visit with you (and let me know in the comments what snacks/drinks might entice you to stay)!
Here is the program so far:
We hope you can join us! We are all so excited to make our Pittsboro debut and try out this awesome venue.
All right. I've changed things up a bit today; I'm sitting in my dorm with my feet up (and eating my bland food dinner) while I write this time, before the double-length, final staff concert tonight. I feel like I've made some decent progress in my classes today, especially flute after getting a chance to listen to my recordings and practice at my own pace. We have a set of four tunes learned (mostly), and Nuala Kennedy is just amazing to get to work with. I highly recommend checking out some of her lovely playing - and singing - at her website.
My whistle class with Kathleen Conneely, another fantastic person who is just so fun to be around, is proving easier for me, though I'm trying to use my ears more than my eyes for learning tunes. My biggest pet peeve with these classes is what Swannanoa Gathering Coordinator Jim Magill called "noodling," people playing their instruments incessantly during class, especially while the instructor is playing or talking. It's so annoying!
Meanwhile, in Sean Nos dance (or "old-style" Irish dance, and here is an example), we have learned lots of steps and have been challenged to start making up combinations on our own! We have a routine to go through as a class that basically runs through all the basic types of steps, though I'm really enjoying that just as much as trying to put together my own phrases.
Another fun thing that happens after class sessions are over for the day is the "potluck" class: a teacher getting to put on a one-time performance, film, talk, or workshop of his or her choice. Some are very specialized, like specific regional variations of different instrument's styles of playing, and others are more general. Yesterday was more of an informal performance by Cathy Jordan from Dervish with guitarists John Doyle and Eamon O'Leary, all of whom are amazing players and engaging performers.
This session was called "The Happy Subject of Death," and consisted of the three musicians suggesting some of their favorite songs that happen to involve or concern death: some humorous, others more serene, and still others downright depressing. If you've never heard Cathy Jordan's voice, you ought to go check her out because it is so powerful. The men sang very well, too, as did Nuala Kennedy and Alan Murray when they dropped by partway through class and added their voices, but hers is so strikingly passionate.
They were also hilariously comparing the "body count" of different songs. They are all masters at coming up with solos and variations on the spot, but this sometimes led to the guitarists taking a verse to solo, encouraging Cathy to rejoin them, and her shouting, "He's dead!" because there were no more verses.
I'm sure I will have more awesome people to write about tomorrow. Tomorrow is also the Old Farmer's Ball, a weekly dance event open to the public, but this time featuring Celtic Week instrumentalists. It sounds like several of us in the under-30s crowd are a little leary of this, but some of us are going to try and dance anyway!
It is not even 10pm yet and I am exhausted! I just got in to my dorm (which is blissfully quiet) from practicing outside in the last of dusk, plugged into my digital recorder. This poor little device has been working incredibly hard today and has everything I learned in the first three hours of flute and whistle classes today, as well as almost an hour of music from a beautiful song swap this afternoon.
In Nuala Kennedy's Intermediate/Advanced Flute class, we are learning a set consisting of Jean Mauchline (jig), Cutty's Wedding (strathspeye), Malts on the Optics (reel), and Tune for Maura (reel). The last two of these are relatively new to the Celtic repertoire, written respectively by Hamish Moore and Cathal McConnell. I am feeling a little in over my head with the playing by ear, but twelve hours later I am surprised at how much I remember after hearing so many other tunes all day. I can remember most of the first three tunes, disregarding ornaments because that is a whole different blog post!
Kathleen Conneely takes a slightly different approach in Intermediate/Advanced Tinwhistle, passing out A-B-C notation sheets for us to use as reference in learning the tune - which today was Strike the Gay Harp, a song that I have actually played before with Ethan from one of those old collections sold in Colonial Williamsburg. I'm really looking forward to taking this one home and adding in some of the cool slides we learned today!
I have a lot more to say about all the people I've been meeting, the other two classes I took today (including dancing!), and some of the performances, but I will get into some of that tomorrow.
Tonight I was feeling a little icky during the staff performance and decided to come home a little early, listen through some of my recordings, and continue to rehydrate my body. I've downed several bottles of Gatorade and water, eaten the blandest of healthy foods, and restricted myself from alcohol and regular coffee (but I will admit I had a cup or two of decaf - an introvert needs all the help she can get). Listening to my body, I heard that it was time to go quiet down, take some me time, and rest. I'm still not up to 100%, but I am just so glad to be here and taking part in all this wonderful activity!
So I have arrived at the gorgeous mountain campus of Warren Wilson College, off the outskirt of Asheville, NC, for Celtic Week at The Swannanoa Gathering. In a nutshell, this is a chance for world class Celtic music lovers to reunite for one week out of each summer to play, listen, jam, dance, and connect (and drink a little whisky - and whiskey).
I am on the Work Exchange Crew this year, which helps me pay for the tuition cost of the week by essentially plugging me in to a staff position for several hours a day, allowing some of the "real" staff to take care of more important things - like they helped me today, but more on that later. We helped check in the almost 300 staff, teachers, and students, getting to feel like we were on the inner circle, and introducing us to about twenty team members right from the get-go. For an introvert, that was a little slice of heaven; I automatically made friends because of the amount of training and work time we spent together before we even started making music!
In the evening after orientation, we heard several teachers and staff perform together, and these are seriously WORLD CLASS players, singers, and dancers. But so down to earth, sweet, and just clever! Small jam sessions immediately broke out under several tents after that, the beer tent lit up, and we all glommed together on main campus to either reconnect, introduce ourselves, or just sit back and listen. We did not go to bed until very, very late.
Monday, the first day of classes, where the real fun begins, learning tunes and getting to know the other flutists...
...is what was supposed to happen. Instead, I got to spend my entire morning in a disgusting, sick mess, erupting from all orifices as quietly as I could so I didn't wake my roommate, a lovely older fiddle player. I slept it off as best as I could and tried to get some water in me, but by 10am I just felt wrong: shaky, bleary, sore, and nauseated. This is where the Gathering magic happened; I texted my Work Exchange manager basically saying, "Help me I'm dying," and there followed a series of lovely people corresponding together in the blink of an eye and getting me shuttled to urgent care.
After taking the afternoon to get medicated, hydrated, and moderately rested, I had missed all of my classes for the day, but was still able to make it to a potluck session (History and Styles of Sean Nos Dancing), a slow jam session led by Martin Hayes and Kathleen Conneely, and the staff showcase concert...
IT WAS SO AMAZING!
I am so full of inspiration, lovely songs, outstanding performances, and no idea how I am going to even begin playing alongside any of these people tomorrow when I get to wipe the slate clean and start my day of classes over, hopefully making it to all of them this time. I would love to describe it all, from Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O'Leary teaming up with lead singer from Dervish, Cathy Jordan; to sweet, modest Liz Carroll absolutely rocking the auditorium. However, remember when I said I woke up at 5am sick and went through a hellish morning? So I'm going to get myself to bed a little early tonight and hope for a brilliant day tomorrow!
Also, if you're wondering why I'm still writing after complaining so much about my lack of sleep, it's partly due to the fact that I left my phone charger in the car and am having to charge my phone via USB cable plugged into my laptop...and of course it won't charge unless the laptop is running... Fingers crossed that I won't be such a hot mess tomorrow!
Hello friends! I just had a great morning yoga session in Carrboro that woke me up gently but more fully than I've woken up in a long time. I was the youngest in the class - by about 30 years - but each of us went our own pace and got as much difficulty or ease as we needed. It was a beautiful, cloudy, 70-degree day and afterwards I got a fresh coffee and hot cross bun from Weaver Street Market downstairs.
I have been working on audition repertoire for the last few months, trying out for the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, Central City Opera's summer festival, and some others. Unfortunately...I've gotten no's from all of them so far. But that's OK! I'm 25 and did not go to graduate school to study these excerpts like some of my competition. I have taken this opportunity to work on some of the hardest music I have ever played, and recording myself has been so exciting.
Recordings have been a great measure of my progress over the last year.
However, something has been missing. Between lessons and rejections from orchestras, I haven't been feeling like I'm reaching my potential. Here's a story to explain.
I was at the UNC Greensboro Flute Fest two weeks ago, and heard some amazing music honoring guest of honor Brooks de Wetter-Smith, and featuring the brilliant Marianne Gedigan. Once the masterclasses began, however, I felt a sinking feeling while listening to some of those same pieces - some that I had worked on years before, others that I had always heard of and knew I would have to attempt at some point. The lectures about the same technique books, the same orchestral excerpts and the same references. We all know the ones, and sometimes you really do just have to dig in and grind through this stuff.
Then something Gedigan said really touched me. "You have to find your way - your voice - in this industry, or you risk getting lost in the noise. If you're a writer, write. If you're a designer, make yourself a great website." I tried to start thinking about myself. What am I good at? What's in my soul?
So, here I am in the midst of auditions, reminding myself to go to yoga, keep reading, playing music that lights me up, and looking for places to perform - even the smallest venue - for myself.
I want to make this clear - I'm not giving up.
But, I have to make sure that I am following my passions, keeping myself satisfied and happy with my life, as well as reaching towards my goals! If I'm not playing with passion, then I shouldn't be playing at all.
In every music studio's policy, there's bound to be a section about this topic: make-up lessons. This is not a special lesson for musicians to learn to apply stage makeup for concerts! Make-up lessons are nothing but rescheduled lessons when a student has to miss a lesson for some reason. However, they become looming creatures at the end of the semester that teachers fear beyond nothing else...except the flu.
You see, from a teacher's perspective, a make-up is extra. This is our job and we have worked hard to schedule each student carefully. Some of us travel from studio to studio to piece together enough students in enough towns to make this our living, while others teach more for fun in their spare time. However, whether we have loads of spare time or very little, make-up lessons have to happen outside of work hours. Yes, work hours are a flexible thing for many of us, but scheduling a make-up lesson is like moving a Tuesday-afternoon board meeting to a Satruday morning.
Listen, we're all human.
We all have lives. I have doctor's appointments, sick pets, car troubles, family emergencies - hell, once I had to cancel two lessons because I locked my keys in my car at the coffee shop on the way to lessons and had to wait for my husband to get done teaching at his school and drive the 30 minutes home, then over to deliver my keys to me!
Things happen. If you let us teachers know what's going on, we are usually very flexible with scheduling make-up lessons! We are teaching a life skill, and part of that is time management and communication. If a student falls ill, has a sudden school or family conflict, we won't know until you tell us. Whether the student gets home from school or work and isn't feeling well, or if they got stuck in traffic on the way to the lesson after leaving an hour early for the lesson, it's the same to us in our studio, checking the clock.
Your missed lesson time is, at best, enough time for us to catch up on e-mails or run through some scales. We're not able to run out for lunch or boot up the Xbox. Most of the time, we're flipping through e-mails and texts. Did they say they had a band concert today? Am I thinking of Sarah F. instead of Sarah B.? Am I in the right studio today or am I supposed to be in Apex?! Unless, of course, we are teaching from our home studio - if you show up late at my studio, you might find me changing the laundry over to the dryer, sweeping the walkway, or refilling my coffee. That said, home make-ups are much easier to schedule because I know I'll be there!
If we have already been paid for a lesson that a student chose to miss for whatever reason - even a really good reason - then a make-up is a free lesson we have to schedule outside of work hours. This is why many studios will place a minimum requirement on make-up lessons. For example, one of my employers only requires us to teach two makeup lessons, no questions asked. This is to protect us from the obligation of teaching lessons for every school conflict, forgotten lesson, college visit, family emergency, date night, or any other excuse a high school kid with a ton of homework can come up with.
Most teachers are really good people and love to treat each student like a human being with a very busy life, so we would love to give unlimited make-up lessons. Unfortunately, we as professionals already have to struggle to be paid for our services in enough situations, and it's unfair to expect us to offer lessons for free whenever someone wants to reschedule.
I don't mean to sound angry, even if I'm speaking in capital letters.
It's a fact of life - we're all going to have things that come between us and music. Of course we will! If we didn't, we probably wouldn't be taking music lessons because we'd be magical prodigies who wouldn't need food or sleep or ever get sick.
All we, as teachers, freelancers, and musicians, ask, is that you value our time as we value yours. If you must miss previously scheduled lessons, tell us about it as soon as you can, reschedule it in advance, or consider changing your lesson time to one that will more consistently work for you.. Thanks!
Happy 2016! Welcome back - and thanks for coming back after such a long hiatus from my postings.
I'd like to comment on ways to boost your flute game for the new year. First of all, just remember that only a few days have passed since December and the past isn't that far away, but neither is the future. It's not like you can really let go of everything you did in 2015 immediately, and 2016 isn't going to come all at once.
If you're like me and getting back into the swing of things this week, be it school, work, practicing, teaching, cleaning, or whatever, you probably feel a little overwhelmed by all of the things you were taking a break from! I know it was a shock for me to come back to a house packed even fuller with Christmas presents (which I'm not complaining about) that I have to find places for, high-calorie, sugary treats given by friends (which I'm also not complaining about) that I have to try not to eat all at once, and a couple of very cold and very grungy instruments waiting for me to pick them back up (I will complain about the clarinet corks that desperately need replacing).
I plan to take this week as slowly as I can, blocking out my days into a couple of distinct parts. One is for obligatory work, obviously, but one is for personal work - i.e. competitions, websites, and personal projects. Another is for tackling a couple of things around the house (today, Tuesday, is my turn to scoop kitty litter, for example), and another is ME TIME.
sometimes we are bad about finding "Me Time"
As a freelancer, it can be really difficult to justify taking breaks. I want to cram together as many lessons, projects, gigs, and contracts together so I can make some actual money and feel like I am spending the "free time" that so many people aren't fortunate enough to have wisely. However, it is a different lifestyle altogether, and I have to remember that it's OK not to live by some arbitrary schedule or number of hours worked. Besides, freelancers - musicians and performers especially - often have to work unusual hours anyway, like the 8pm lessons that pile up because you can only teach students once they are out of school, like the morning church services, like the concerts in a different state that you travel to for only one or two hours of actual music-making.
It all adds up, so every day doesn't have to be completely full.
My main New Year's resolution (ugh, I hate this term so much) is to participate in an orchestral excerpt competition. Specifically, this one that the National Flute Association is holding as a part of its Annual Convention, which will be in San Diego this summer. So what if one of the requirements is from Stravinsky's Firebird? So what if the deadline is February 16th? So what if it costs $70 to enter and only three finalists will get to perform at Convention and earn prize money? I'm doing it anyway because I need to set a goal. Luckily, it's an easily obtainable one: all I need to do is record and submit them, and I've achieved my goal! Would it be nice to win? Of course, but that is not my ultimate goal.
See what I'm getting at here?
What are your goals for 2016? what competitions, auditions, or masterclasses are you excited for?
I just returned from the National Flute Association's annual convention in Washington, DC, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm! I had so incredibly much fun at my first full-length convention and I cannot even begin to express all that went on there.
I attended one day - ONE DAY - of the convention in Charlotte, NC, several years ago and it was not nearly enough. This time I splurged on three full days and my husband and I stayed in a home we rented through AirBnB. I volunteered as a door monitor, page turner, ticket seller, usher, and docent in order to work off some of my registration fees. This gave me a huge behind-the-scenes look at convention and to talk to people I may not have had the excuse or confidence to speak with before. For example, Gary Schocker noticed my Kokopelli tattoo while I was selling tickets and complimented me!
Some of the highlights:
I'll elaborate more in the coming days, but I wanted to let you know how much fun I had!