Mastering the notes and rhythms of a piece is only one small part of learning music. Much more artistry lies in the ability to convey the style and message the composer intended. Do you know who composed your piece? Do you know when in history that composer lived and penned the music you are playing? Do you know the ins and outs of that particular period of music history?
When I was a young high-school and college music student, I rarely spent time thinking about these things. It was my goal to "get-by" with just learning most of the notes and rhythms and trying to pass my juries and perform my recitals without making too many mistakes. I felt like a trained monkey with little to offer in terms of emotion or style. I just wanted to survive without the dreaded violent shaking and blackouts that often plagued my performances..
Well, I'm here to tell you that this is a very sad existence. Music is so much more than playing everything "perfectly" and I guarantee you will glean much more excitement and satisfaction from your musical pursuits if you can enter into the lives and purposes of those who composed the pieces you are learning. Becoming familiar with the social norms and events that were occurring in these time periods adds a whole new layer of understanding and connection your audience (or jury panel) is sure to appreciate.
To explore the historical context of the piece you are learning, here's a handy guide:
1. Research the composer and the musical period in which the piece was written. These times are approximate--there is much debate over the actual dates of each period.
2. Find out the purpose of the music.
3. How does the historical context relate to the performance practice of the piece?
4. If possible, look for recordings from the time period the piece was written, or a modern recording that uses period instruments and styles. As you are listening, make notes about the performer's interpretation.
As you explore the historical context of your piece, here are some handy online resources:
Oxford Music Encyclopedia
Famous Composers by Musical Period
Learn Listening Online
If you are really interested in learning more, go to your local university's music library and start exploring! Most music librarians are very eager to point you in the direction of your research--make good use of their expertise!
I hope this guide is helpful for you in your study--leave me a note in the comments to let me know how your music preparation is going!
Learning New Music: The "Chunking" Method
I can't think of many things more daunting than staring at a new piece of music. Can you relate? Often times, when I'm in such a situation I want to start at the beginning and play through the entire thing without stopping. This leads to extreme frustration when I can't play all of the passages correctly or anywhere near the indicated tempo.
I give up. Defeated, I file the piece of music away in the drawer from which it came and try to never think about it again. Then, every time I hear someone else performing that really cool piece that I really wanted to learn I feel sorry for myself.
Who has time for this kind of apathy? I know one thing for sure: If I don't have a plan before I sit down to tackle a new and challenging piece of music, I will never learn to play the things I really love.
The following is just one of the many ways to break down the goal of learning a new piece into bite-sized manageable chunks. If you find yourself in a similar situation as mine, just follow this easy guide and you'll be on your way to beautiful flute music in no time.
What are you waiting for? Try it now and then leave me a comment to tell me how you did. I'd love to hear your success story!
The "Chunking" Method
1. Gather a pencil, a practice journal/calendar, and your music.
2. Quickly study the form of the piece:
3. Make an simple outline of the large scheme by marking it in the music or drawing it in your practice journal.
4. Set a goal date to have the entire piece learned:
5. Set goal dates for each larger section:
6. Divide each larger section into logical smaller sections
7. Assign goal dates for each smaller section
8. Start learning your first smaller goal section:
9. Once the first section goal is met--move on to the next one and the next until the piece is learned.
Things to Remember
If this list seems overwhelming to you, you are probably over-thinking it. Don't be too detailed in your diagrams and notes in your journal--make it as quick and easy as you can so you can spend your time playing the music.
As you get started on your chunking adventure, keep me updated on your progress! I'd love to know what pieces you are working on and how you are feeling as you meet your goals.
Performance Anxiety is something that has plagued me since I was four years old.
Well, when I was four my mother had me get up in front of my whole church and sing a little song. It was a song I knew by heart and loved singing it at home for close family and friends. When I got up on the stage with the microphone in front of my face and peered out over the audience just staring at me...I completely forgot the whole thing.
My mom had to help me by singing with me, and I was MORTIFIED.
I'm sure everyone would have thought I was adorable whatever the heck I did up there...but as a very sensitive child with perfectionist tendencies (even at the age of FOUR...)...I was beside myself with shame that I'd screwed it up and let everyone down.
If you are someone who gets really nervous when performing in front of others, you are not alone! Most accomplished musicians with whom I have conversed struggle with this on some level. It's good to remember that part of your nervousness is because you are so passionate about your craft and are quite concerned that the audience enjoys the experience with you.
Scenarios That Can Trigger Performance Anxiety
On my journey to cope with performance anxiety I have learned a few things that have really helped me overcome the more severe bouts of nervousness. If you have a performance or audition coming up, try following these five simple steps to set you up for success!
Preparing for Performance in Five Easy Steps
Was this article helpful? Do you have other ways to combat performance anxiety? I'd love to hear about your journey--please comment below or contact me if you have any specific questions!
And We're Back!
Leaves are falling and the crisp air is a gentle reminder that the semester is in full swing! Lessons at Smyth Flute Studio are ramping up and I am ready for new discoveries and musical milestones for each of my wonderful students.
Rehearsals at the Missouri Symphony Conservatory are also underway and the flute sections in both orchestras are quite sizable! I am so pleased with the talent and morale in each of the sections--the first concert is bound to be a treat. It's also very exciting to teach the young flutists the differences of playing in an orchestral setting versus band. Considering I was almost thirty years old before I played in an orchestra myself, I find it so important to show each of the students the ins and outs of sitting in the back of the ensemble. Most of them love the new found "freedom" they have to whisper to one another without the director noticing. :)
Thank you to all who attended the Pipes and Keys family concert last month--it was a blast! I must say my most favorite moment of the recital was playing a Bach invention with Elysia from Crecelius Flute Studio while Jazz Flute Extraordinaire Justin Cook beat-boxed in the background. A-Maz-ing. I'm sure we were quite the spectacle...but it was a performance I will never forget. Recordings will be coming soon, but to see some recently uploaded videos from our Summer Duo Recital, click HERE and scroll to the Chamber Music section. Enjoy!
Taking a much needed break from the rigors of pro orchestra auditions this year has been bittersweet. I find if I don't have something musically challenging on the horizon I get horribly bored and un-motivated in my flute playing. So--I'm dreaming up a solo recital...hopefully for Spring 2015. I'd like to combine a few older pieces in my rep that I've never performed with some new ones. Here are some considerations...I'd love to know what you think!
Sunday Morning by Ian Clarke
Piece by Jaques Ibert
Bortel--1900 and Cafe 1930 from the History of the Tango by Astor Piazzolla (replacing cello with flute, of course...however in moments like these, I really wish I would've learned classical guitar...)
Happy fluting, everyone!
P&K is proud to announce our next exciting concert! For this performance, we have chosen light pieces that the whole family will enjoy, so pack up your family and join us on Saturday, Sept. 13 for a relaxing and fun evening of music! It will be the perfect place to relax after a scorching afternoon at Faurot Field. :) Looking forward to seeing you there!
P.S. A surprise beat-boxing guest will make an appearance in the most unexpected place :)
I've been so busy that I haven't had any time to blog! Whew! My final concert for the summer with the Missouri Symphony was last Saturday--and it was so much fun! I was privileged and blessed to play piccolo on Debussy's La Mer and Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov (my new favorite--I'm still singing it to myself). My goal for the summer was to "break-in" my new piccolo and to feel comfortable playing it in an orchestral setting. It's always scary at first when you are finding your bearings on a new instrument, but by the end of the festival I felt more confident and comfortable--with the encouragement of my section mates Tim and Chris. As I mentioned before, it was very bittersweet to say good-bye to friends old and new, but there are many more exciting things to come....
Such as a RECITAL IN FRANCE!! Yes, my friends, I will be traveling to Mons, France in two days to assist my dear friends make their matrimonial debut--but also to share in a wonderful recital with all of their amazing musical friends! I will be performing Morceau de Concours by Faure, and Maya by Ian Clarke. I'm itching to meet several of M & Em's friends from all over the United States and Europe (spanning multiple degrees, cities, careers, cats...) to come together in celebration with some soul-touching music---in a gorgeous stone church atop a beautiful mountain nestled in the South of France. Ugh...I'm even jealous of myself! Don't you wish you were coming with me? Well for now, you will find contentment as you gaze at our lovely recital poster, and I will do my best to post recordings when I return!
One last thing I must share is this video of Sunday Morning by Ian Clarke. I found a partial recording on Clarke's website--and I can't believe I haven't heard it before now! It's peaceful and inspiring, and the flutist is amazing! I know I will be ordering it soon to start learning it. :) Have a lovely weekend, and I will write to you again when I return from my travels! Bonjour!
The Ben E. King concert was an absolute hit!. By the end of the evening it was standing room only as the audience couldn't stay seated! As we played through Ben E.'s set list with his band, I became especially reminiscent when we got to Stand By Me. After learning to sing the thumping bass line as a child, I went around belting it out for days. Looking back, I'm sure it was more than a little annoying to my parents. :) Mr. King and his entourage (a kick butt band and two sizzling back up singers) were spectacular!
This weekend I am also sharing a performance and saying goodbye to the amazing ladies I've had the privilege of coaching in the Hot Summer Nights Music Academy. In one short week my students not only managed to conquer three orchestral pieces for the concert tomorrow (6/27 2:30pm @ Missouri Theatre) and two woodwind trios that they performed today, but they also spent time learning about theory, music history, and how to conduct. The program packs a big, albeit brief punch---and it's such a great experience for these school aged students. The level of professionalism in collaboration and personal responsibility in these young musicians was outstanding to me and way fun to witness.
Three of my lovely ladies are pictured above, and one, as you can see, decided to show her dramatic side for the photo op. Life as an oboist:)
The fun isn't over yet--stay tuned for an upcoming post about the Patriotic Pops concert 7/2/14 7:30 @ Missouri Theatre!
The past several days have been such a whirlwind! The concert with the MSO on Saturday evening was just splendid. The soloists dazzled the audience and played beautifully. Scheherazade was quite the crowd pleaser as well. I received many comments that it was the best performance of the piece they have heard. It's great to have the support of the community and to hear such positive and encouraging comments. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such incredible talent! After every performance I am left inspired to attain the next level of ability and artistry.
After some rest and time with the family (and a few picturesque bike rides around Columbia), I jumped right into Hot Summer Nights Music Academy managed by the Missouri Symphony Society for grade school instrumentalists. What fun! I am so lucky to coach some talented (and witty) wind players with their orchestral pieces and chamber groups. Sometimes I forget how much I love working with larger groups of students--especially when they are excited to play fun music! It's been exhausting, but I'm enjoying every second. Our student chamber ensembles perform on Saturday, June 28 at 11:00am (free), and the Music Academy Orchestra performs with the Missouri Symphony during the "Love Notes" concert on Sunday, June 29 at 2:30pm ($5-10/ticket). Details are on MSO's website.
Lastly--on Friday evening, I will be joining the MSO again for another pops concert featuring Ben E. King, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend! Come and sing along with your favorite songs--Details can be found here.
Have an amazing end to a gorgeous week, everybody!
This weekend I will be joining the Missouri Symphony for the Orchestra Showcase featuring Bruch’s Concerto for Clarinet and Viola, Mozart Horn Concerto No. 4, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. It will be a delightful evening of orchestral masterworks and brilliant instrumental soloists! For more information and ticketing, visit the Missouri Symphony webpage, and to view the program for the evening, click here. We hope you will join us for some inspiring musical moments!
Well, my first concert of the season with the Missouri Symphony is under my belt! It was an amazing night of reminiscing during numbers from Titanic, Wicked, Gypsy, Wizard of Oz, Funny Girl, and My Fair Lady (to name a few...).
The guest artists were just incredible---and sported new sparkly dresses for each set! I don't even own that many dresses! Must. Go. Shopping. :)
Anyway, it was a lighthearted way to start off the season and exhilarating to share it with a large energized audience (Thanks, Nicole for coming out tonight!!). I'm looking forward many more hours of rehearsing and performing with fellow flutists Tim Hagen and Chris James--Bravo to everyone!
And now, it's time to rest up for another day of practicing--Scheherazade is on my stand starting tomorrow morning! My baby girl will be thrilled.
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