Saturday, September 18, 2021

WyoMEA All-State auditions 2021!

It's that time of year again! If you are a high school flute student anywhere in Wyoming, I hope you will audition for All-State Band this year. If you get in, it will be a great experience playing with your fellow ambitious flutists from around the state, and if you don't you'll still learn so much about playing and conquering your fears! 

I'll be giving two free virtual workshops again this year to help students prepare for their auditions:

Monday, October 11 at 7pm: All-State Practice Session for Flutes (register here by Oct. 10)

Monday, October 18 at 7pm: Piccolo Basics and All-State Practice Session (register here by Oct. 17)

To get you started, here are some pointers on this year's etudes:

Etude #1 (Con fuoco):

  • Strive for 4-measure phrases when possible; otherwise, make them 2-measure phrases.
  • Start subdividing the 8th note pulse in m. 7 to make a smooth and accurate transition into the mixed compound meter at m. 9. 
  • Review your extreme dynamics by practicing lots of crescendos and decrescendos with the tuner.
  • Accents get their weight from length and strength; staccatos get their lift from letting the tongue snap back down faster after the initial attack.
  • Always practice with the metronome--you can even put it on the 8th note beat to make the compound meters easier. 

 Etude #2 (Tenderly):

  • Strive for 2-measure phrases in this one so that you're not tempted to play with a tiny sound in order to "save air".
  • Use a free, spinning vibrato on last notes of phrases, and especially in m. 8 to help exaggerate your crescendo. 
  • Be very accurate with articulation--where exactly does each slur begin and end? Don't improvise. 
  • Review advice on dynamics and metronome work, above!

And listen to my demonstration of the flute etudes!:

You can always find composer's notes, download etudes, and look up selected scales at the WyoMEA website here.

Good luck to everyone auditioning, and I hope to see you at one of my virtual workshops this year! 

Dr. Riner

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Basics of caring for your flute

 Flutes are delicate and a good repair person is hard to find!  Follow these tips to minimize trips to the shop (but do plan on a COA every 1-2 years for proper maintenance):

How To Put Your Flute Together

  1. Hold the body of the flute where there are no keys and gently twist the head joint into place.

  2. Line up the tone hole in the head joint with the the first key on the body.

  3. Gently twist the foot joint into place. The keys on the body should line up with the rod on the foot joint, approximately (adjust to fit your hand).

  4. The sections of the flute are meant to fit together without using any grease. If you have difficulty fitting the sections together, clean them with a clean cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

When You Have Finished Playing

  1. Swab your flute every time you finish playing. Take your flute apart.

  2. Thread a small piece of lint-free cloth through the slot in the cleaning rod. Be sure to tuck the end of the cleaning rod into the cloth so that as you push it through the instrument the metal rod does not scratch the flute. Leaving moisture in the flute will cause your pads to deteriorate.

  3. Never put anything into your case that it was not designed to hold because the pressure from papers or music can bend the rods and keys.

  4. Keep your flute safe. It should only be on your face, in the case, or on a specific flute stand set far away from foot traffic. Do not leave it on your chair, your music stand, the sofa, the table, the floor, or the piano. If a flute is dropped or sat on it can easily bend the body, an expensive repair.

Regular Maintenance

  1. Always play with clean hands and a clean mouth. Wash hands with soap and water (not sticky antibacterial gel) and brush your teeth before you play. If you cannot brush, at least rinse out your mouth with water to remove extraneous food particles.

  2. Use a clean, soft cloth to wipe off moisture and finger marks after playing. Never use silver polish or any other cleaner on your flute.

  1. DO NOT adjust or twist the head joint cork button. This button changes the total pitch of the instrument and has been adjusted at the factory. If you have any concerns, please contact your teacher.

  2. If the pads are damp or sticky while playing, remove the moisture from them with cleaning paper. Insert cleaning paper between the pad and the tone hole, and lightly press the key a few times. Repeat this operation two or three times, applying the paper to different spots on the pad. Do not pull on the paper while the key is pushed down, which can tear pad skins. DO NOT use money to clean your keys--it is filthy.

Dr. Riner's favorite Flute accessories

  1. Hodge Silk Swab (you can also use a clean handkerchief or bandana)

  2. Hercules Flute Stand or K & M Flute Stand

Thursday, February 4, 2021


 Classical music has a well-documented problem, and we're just starting to peel back the cover on it. To be brief, we tend to learn lots of music by dead white guys, and not much else. This February, as I take on my own ignorance of black composers, I'll be sharing videos of some great solo flute works in the hope that you will follow my lead. To add to this project, upload your videos on You Tube, Instagram, or Facebook and use the hashtags #blackcomposersmatter and #blackcomposersproject. Happy recording!  

Adolphus Hailstork, Flute Set (also available as Bassoon Set)

Shawn Okpebholo, On a Poem by Miho Nonaka: Harvard Square

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Making the Most of This Year's Virtual Auditions

 College auditions have universally moved to online platforms this year as we ride out the pandemic. This presents challenges for everyone involved, but being mindful of what adjustments you need to make, and how your actions will affect the audition committee, can help to make things go as smoothly as possible in this "new normal".  Incidentally, I predict we'll be seeing a lot more virtual auditions in future years as it alleviates financial woes related to travel and scheduling challenges for schools, so keep these tips in your back pocket for the future, too. 

For pre-recorded auditions:

Read my post on making a decent recording with home equipment here

Upload video (or audio) onto a ubiquitous platform, either You Tube, Google Drive or Dropbox. 

On You Tube, you can set your videos to "unlisted" so they can't be found by the general public. "Private" does not allow anyone but you to view, so avoid this setting! 

For Google or Dropbox, make videos playable from the program; when faculty members are required to download videos, they become easily aggrieved. 

Large files (HD video, .wav sound) are cumbersome and don't improve sound much.  We are listening on our laptops, so go ahead and upload compressed files for ease of uploading (for you) and playability (for us).

Carefully label each file with your name. In a sea of recordings, we may not remember who sent what. 

Check all links before sending! We may or may not take the time to track you down and ask you to resend materials that don't work. 

For virtual live auditions:

Do everything to ensure your connection is strong: close all other windows on your browser, and if you're at home, ask family or roommates to support you by not using streaming services or other bandwidth-greedy activities during your audition. 

Turn off all sound notifications.  They distract us all. 

Use the most robust equipment you can get your hands on. A laptop and, if you've got it, a USB mic are ideal.  Your phone is not a good option, but an iPad might be alright. Do a test run by Zooming a friend or your private teacher beforehand to check sound quality.

Make sure sound settings in the app are ideal; for Zoom, you can turn off mic attenuation and choose "original sound" to allow more dynamics to come through. 

Dress nicely and choose a tidy backdrop (i.e., hide your dirty clothes under the bed). It's a good-faith show of effort and we appreciate it. 

I worry that, without seeing campus, it's particularly difficult to imagine yourself at a school, let alone being comfortable committing to moving across the country to attend in the fall. Many universities have pretty impressive virtual campus tours on their websites that will help you get a feel for campus. But more importantly, you want to get to know the music department you'll potentially be joining. Ask for contact information for a couple of current students in the studio so you can ask them questions from a student's perspective. Attend all online meetings or class observations related to audition days, or see if the studio teacher would let you join a virtual studio class to get to know the studio a little bit. 

And as always, make the most of your time interacting with any prospective teacher, whether over email or in your Zoom audition. You're choosing a school based on how much you think you can learn from the teacher and what it will be like to join that particular musical community, so look for every clue you can! 

Good luck to all of you who are auditioning in this decidedly strange year. I am confident that you can still find the right fit despite our current isolation, and I also look forward to a more open, in-person fall 2021!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Announcing the 2021 Virtual Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive!


Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive 2021: Virtual Edition

June 29-July 2, 2021


Dr. Nicole Riner, flute professor at University of Wyoming

Dr. Brittany Trotter, flute instructor at Dickinson College and West Virginia Wesleyan College

Lucas Regnell, BME student at University of Wyoming



TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (all times listed as MDT, subject to enrollment):


“360⁰ Flutist”: Developing a complete daily routine for maximum control of technique and all aspects of sound production. Includes group playing, material modified each day for further development. (Riner)

“Field Guide to Extended Techniques for Beginners”: Learn how to execute and practice all of the most standard extended techniques in modern literature, including some basics of beat boxing, and incorporate them into simple melodies. Includes group playing. (Riner)

"Mindset": Based on Carol Dweck's groundbreaking research in her book, Mindset, this interactive workshop explores how musicians can overcome their fears to embrace challenges in their musical and career development and thrive as well-rounded musicians. (Regnell) *This class is free and open to the public; email for link.

"Tone & Technique Development Through Modern Interpretation for the Flute (and other wind instrument)": In this interactive workshop, we will study expression, vibrato, color, and articulation and their application to creating a robust tone using melodies and break beats from popular modern songs featured on Tik Tok. Be ready to play! (Trotter)

Lessons and Master Classes will be taught by Dr. Riner and Dr. Trotter.