Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Teaching Under Quarantine

As of Friday, University of Wyoming announced that it was cancelling all in-person instruction for the remainder of the term to help keep cases of COVID-19 low. While this can be frustrating for all of as Type-A people who have had everything planned to a "T" for months, I welcome the opportunity to explore new technology and get creative in these strange times.

Since I'm rooting around for clever resources to make lessons, studio class, juries, and recitals still happen, I thought I'd share what I find. I'll keep adding to this list as I discover more, and I welcome you all to add your favorite apps and programs in the comments, as well. Also, if you have a social site featuring how you're keeping your flute studio running this month and you'd like more buddies, please share a link in the comments, as well! We here in rural areas have long known the internet can be used for good to bring people together; now is our chance to stretch those muscles!

Teaching lessons: Zoom allows you to create a scheduled meeting and generate a shareable link to help your students get on, and it also has a) built-in recording equipment and b) "show screen" function. Since I already encourage my students to record their lessons, I particularly appreciate how easy it is to share the video of their remote lessons for transcription.

"Hiring" a pianist: Smart Music is offering free accounts through June 30 due to our collective sequestration. The repertoire choices are not amazing (not nearly what they were years go), but I did find some simpler pieces like the Godard Suite, and oddly, The "Undine" Sonata-?!

"Performing" with piano: Now that students cannot rehearse on campus with their pianists, I'm asking them to have their pianists record their parts to jury and recital pieces whenever possible. With Sound Trap, students can upload the recorded piano part and then record themselves playing on top of it, which yields a more blended recording. They offer a 30-day free trial.

Creating chamber music: Acapella is a popular app you've probably all seen in use--think your favorite flutist playing Christmas quartets with herself on Insta. Your students can all upload videos of them each playing their parts and put it together. Not the same experience as in-person (as is true with all of these apps), but if they were rehearsing together the first half of the semester, it might be a reasonable time to do this. Here's a nice video by flutist Gina Luciani to help everyone get started.

Studio class / Juries: Flipgrid is an easy way for students to upload their performance videos to one place. You can create a class and add everyone, which allows all members to view all videos with one handy portal to collect everything.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

University of Wyoming has a Music Entrepreneurship Certificate!

Friends, I am so thrilled to announce the creation of University of Wyoming's Music Entrepreneurship Certificate program, the culmination of two years of work between myself and several colleagues in two different departments here at UW. I have created, and will teach, all of the music-specific entrepreneurship classes, and we've got some great courses on offer from our internationally recognized College of Business, as well.

The beauty of this program is that it's a tidy 12 credit hours, offered online, and can be taken in tandem with any degree program or independently.  So, if you already hold all the degrees you wish to earn from academia but feel like your education lacked the practical life skills you now realize you need, this certificate is for you!  If you're currently enrolled somewhere in a music program that fails to offer any training in creating your own unique career, this certificate is for you, too! And did I mention it's all online??

Here's what we're offering:

Careers in Music
Careers in Music complements traditional musical training by expanding the student's understanding of the range of careers in the professional music world.  Students will learn how music progresses from artistic creation to consumable product, and how professional musicians utilize skills in marketing, performance, teaching, recording, technology, venue management, and fundraising. Individual projects will develop professional materials, and guest speakers who have succeeded in building viable, unique careers for themselves will present information to help the modern musician not only compete in the marketplace, but to be a creative and dedicated professional.

Entrepreneurial Mindset
This course introduces students to entrepreneurial mindsets and concepts essential to success in startups or within established firms. Provides a basic overview of creativity and innovation, and students experience the process of identifying and evaluating ideas and developing them into business

Music Entrepreneurship Seminar
This class further crystallizes successful business enterprise development introduced in Entrepreneurial Mindset – ENTR 2700. In this experiential learning environment students will hone their entrepreneurial skills in idea creation, business incubation, development, research and finally commercialization. This learning laboratory will foster entrepreneurial venture development by combining core readings and assignments in the first half of the class with the development of individual music-centered projects to guide students through their selected business venture experience.

Internship in Music Business
The internship in music business offers a monitored and evaluated professional work experience in
public or private organizations on assignments relating to students’ individual career goals, allowing
students to explore the relationship between theory and practice in their major. Placement is limited to situations approved by the Music Entrepreneurship Certificate adviser or Department of Music Chair.

Management and Organization
An introduction to the theory and practice of management with emphasis on individual and small group behavior, design and structure of organizations, relationship between the organization and its environment and statistical and quantitative skills used in examination of management processes. Also covers interpersonal communications, ethics and international management.

Introduction to Marketing
An investigation of the marketing discipline with emphasis on vocabulary; principles; functional
interrelationships; marketing strategies, practices and problems in national and international

If this sounds like it might be up your alley, or if you know someone else who might feel the same way, visit uwyo.edu/music to learn more!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

You Will Survive Your College Auditions

This is a revamped repeat from last year, but it's one of my more popular posts and I suspect it stil holds true. As I welcome myriad frightened flutists into my office for their auditions at UW this month, I am reminded of what a daunting, earth-shattering process it can feel like for you. I even vaguely remember going through it myself! And if I could go back in time and give my uptight 17-year-old self some advice, here's what I'd say:

  • You'll end up where you should be. And if it's not your number one school, it's not going to ruin your life. So do your best, and prepare like a fiend, but don't give a mere school other-worldly powers to decide your fate for the next 70 years. You will be FINE.

  • Touch base with prospective teachers early to schedule a lesson.  You need to be with someone whose playing and teaching styles you admire and who you trust to be a reliable mentor. And teachers are looking for a good fit, as well. Get to know them, and let them get to know you. 

(For help writing that introductory email to prospective teachers, read this.)

  • Teachers don't want you to suck up and be fake, but we do want to know how interested you are. We really only have one chance to get the scholarship assignments right, and we want to spend those precious dollars helping to support the students who really want to be at our school. So don't be shy--tell us if you really need financial assistance (politely, of course).  That's helpful to know.

  • Conversely, we all know everyone's got a "safety school" or two, and if we're on that list, no need to make it really obvious (examples include emailing the teacher to ask about an alternative scholarship date because you're prioritizing another school's audition schedule or sharing who's accepted you so far when you show up to our audition.)

  • Really try your best to give a live audition. You need to meet the teacher, the current students, experience the campus and some music classes...in short, get a sense of what it would feel like to be a student there.  And it's another way to express your level of interest, regarding my previous tip (ahem).

(If you must send a recording, here are my tips for capturing your best.)

  • Working within any specific audition requirements, present a program that highlights your strengths, not your weaknesses.  Not quite ready to kick butt on the Chaminade? Don't play it! Pick pieces you can play beautifully in your sleep (and hopefully you've been training with that standard in mind).

  • Be flexible. You might play alone for a teacher in her office at one school and for the entire woodwind faculty in the auditorium at the next.  You may play all of your program or a very short portion of it. And if a teacher is particularly interested in hearing what you can do, she may ask you to try something again in a different way.  That's a good sign, so try to enjoy the mini-lesson and give your best! 

I also love this post from Dr. Bret Pimentel, Delta State University woodwinds professor, about auditioning: What I Listen For in Scholarship Auditions. Read it and be inspired!

Good luck to you all this audition season, and do your best to enjoy the process! 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Taking care of yourself this winter

I just got back from an exhilarating four days on Long Island, where I was part of the team that hosted Flute New Music Consortium's New Music Festival at Stony Brook University. I don't know if it was the stress of the festival, the lack of sleep and poor eating habits while I was there, all the time spent walking around campus in the bitter cold and gale force (really!) winds and sitting on trains and planes, or just because it's winter, but now that I'm home I am S-I-C-K. Like, almost Coronavirus level. And I am now remembering just what an inconvenience illness is when you do something as physical as playing the flute for a living. So, whether your illnesses are weather-related, stress-related, or come from filthy people invading your personal space, some thoughts on how to get through it when you're past the point of prevention:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Think of this as prevention AND remedy. Herbal tea or just hot water might be more comforting than cold water if you've got chills, drainage, or a sore throat. (I am drinking hot water all day now.)

Invest in a personal humidifier or vaporizer.  The more moisture you can add to your immediate environment the better.

I'm not going to tell anyone what drugs to use, but find a decent decongestant, pain killer, and cough suppressant that you can live with.  I avoid drugs whenever possible, but now is not the time to be a hero if you've got concerts coming up.

Be a baby.  Sleep, lay around binging on Netflix, do what you've got to do to conserve energy and let your body heal. A couple days of missed lessons is less expensive in the long run than a lingering cough that hangs you up for a month.

Staying in shape on your flute: probably not totally going to happen, but there are a couple things you can do so the transition back to playing isn't as painful. Whistle tones will give your embouchure something to remember when you can't spare the air speed to play fully without having a coughing fit. And if you have a lot of notes coming up, you can always practicing the "typing" without blowing into the flute.  Play along with a recording if you're up to speed, or woodshed with the metronome on the body of the flute.

Once you get back into practicing, you may have to rebuild lung capacity (I always have to).  Moyse De La Sonorite, pp. 10-14 are a brutal but very helpful boot camp.

Take care of yourselves this winter! But failing that, know it's temporary, and baby it so you can get back in the saddle as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Avoiding burnout this holiday season

Happy Gigmas, everyone! December is blessedly busy for musicians; I say "blessedly" because we need the cash.  And we all know that this full calendar is temporary, so we tend to say "yes" to every extra holiday gig that comes our way in order to make up for January's blight.

But that can make us super crazy by the time New Year's rolls around. 

The need to gig is real, so I'm not going to preach (too much) the virtues of taking time off, meditating for 30 minutes a day, and other things we can't afford to do.  But I do have some suggestions to get through December...

1. Start every day with structure.

The busier you are, the harder it is to maintain a feeling of control. But control eases anxiety, so you want to keep proving to yourself every day that you've got some.

If you open emails, texts and social media first thing in the morning, you've opened up your life to everyone else's energy and opinions. Once this happens your own mission and focus become diffused.

Start with a morning ritual that works for you and is easy to accomplish. For instance, if you like to meditate, read or work out in the morning, have everything you need ready the night before. And remember, your morning routine is not someone else's. Do what's right for you.

I always find it is helpful to set an intention for your day. If you crave a morning warm-up routine (I do), schedule it into your day and insist upon it. If you need to get up earlier in the morning, or skip some non-essential task (that's a personal decision), do it.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness references morning routines to avoid burnout and support productivity. "When first starting the day, it's important to avoid 'decision fatigue' by having a set morning routine."

2. Focus your thoughts

What you focus on grows. So, if your focus is on everything that is not working, you can expect those things to expand in your life and stress you out. Focus on what is working, then reboot the places that need attention. Similarly, if you spend all of your time focusing on how tired you are, how many more Nutcracker performances you have to get through, etc...well, you know.

I find it helpful to write down what I want to accomplish by the week. This allows clarity and keeps me from having to remember everything. It also keeps me from focusing solely on the (sometimes negative) minutiae of getting through each busy day, so that I'm not neglecting longer-term projects I need to accomplish (like updating syllabi for my adjunct teaching, etc.) And the bonus is that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

3. Stay out of the how

How is an exhausting word for most people. When you ask how, you'll feel a rush of anxiety going through your system that sets you off in many different scenarios and opens loops. For instance, "how am I going to get this all done?" is quite a daunting question.This is a recipe for burnout.

Instead of how, ask yourself, what needs to happen next? This puts your brain in solution mode. Make a list, and then prioritize. Where there is a problem, there is a solution.

Asking questions around next required actions will keep your brain focused on a solution map rather than spinning worry, which creates burnout.

4. Remember the 2/3 rule

Is it too late in the season to say this? There are three general gains you can make by saying yes to a gig: music, people, and money.  To elaborate, the music might be so inspiring that you just have to say yes. The people might either be really great to work with or really great for making connections in order to network in the community--you decide what's important to you there. And the money...I don't need to explain that, do I? So, if 2 of the 3 categories are fulfilled, you can probably rest assured you'll be glad you did the gig. You can decide to do a gig for just one of those categories, and people often do, but know that it's your choice to make. And if the calendar's filling up, it might be wise to insist on 2/3.

5. Avoid comparison and judging.

Somehow, even when w're at our busiest, we manage to covet others' work, perceived prestige, accomplishments, etc. Seeing other freelancers more during this season can dredge up all those competitive feelings, along with the unwelcome humble brags. But when we compare ourselves to other musicians, we'll likely do one of two things: think negative thoughts about them or think negative thoughts about ourselves. This creates a boomerang of low vibe energy and throws emotions into a downward spiral.

Two thoughts here: the grass always seems greener, but that other musician you envy may feel like she's drowning right now. She may even envy you! And focusing on your fantasies of inadequacy are not helping you get though the here and now: "negative self talk is the No. 1 barrier to success."

You can avoid deprecating self talk by lifting others up. Be excited for those doing well. You're building a career in a system that thrives on all musicians doing well.

Once you understand there's a never-ending amount of support and creativity, you'll feel inspired by those who do well and drop the competition.

In the long term, you may find burnout creeping in for reasons other than the PTSD "Sleigh Ride" is causing you (like, "what am I doing with my life ?" sort of stuff). If that's the case, I encourage you to read these two excellent blogs by Clarinet Jenny and Dr. Jessica Quinones, International Flautist.