Thursday, August 3, 2017

Creative Careers for Flutists

NFA is next week, and I hope to see many of you there! I am very excited to be participating in Flute New Music Consortium's round table discussion about commissioning new music, called "Keeping Score", Saturday at noon. And for anyone interested in learning more about FNMC or advocating for new music in general, you can join us Friday at 6pm for our annual meet-and-greet; just look for me at the registration table. Otherwise, I will be keeping a pretty low-key schedule this year, so there's plenty of time to visit and/or schedule lessons for any of you interested in either of those things...just message me here.

I am reminded of another inspiring and informative panel I participated in a few years back at the Las Vegas convention, and I think the information is just as timely today.  Here are the notes from that original hand-out (mine are a bit out of date, but it's funny to go back and read them now!), which I hope can be of supplementary use to you this season as you carve out your own niches.

NFA 2012: Creative Careers for Flutists
Panel contact information
Jan Boland: Red Cedar Chamber Music in Eastern Iowa
My career has been shaped by chamber music. What does a career in chamber music require? Persistence, relationship-building, persistence, creative solutions to obstacles, and persistence. Get on the “chamber music bus” and no matter where it goes, “don’t get off the bus.” For the first part of my career, I followed the typical independent artist path – balancing 5 part-time jobs in performance and teaching, determined that at the end of the year they would amount to a full-time income. About 15 years ago, I co founded Red Cedar Chamber Music – a not-for-profit arts organization designed to serve Eastern Iowa with quality chamber music while, at the same time, providing a living wage for its core ensemble (my guitar partner and myself). I serve as flutist and Executive Director – and play 80-100 concerts each season. Our venues are the concert hall, libraries, rural communities, schools and senior residential facilities. The beautiful part of this model is that I (with my guitarist partner) design the programs (3 annually) – the repertoire, the schedule, the composers we commission, and the artists with whom we work are our choices. The down side is, it is a lot of hard work. Non-musical skills required include fundraising, marketing, bookkeeping, database management, artist management, music arranging, board development, web-design, lots of people skills, and more – some I enjoy a great deal, and other parts, not so much. At the end of the day, I like what I am doing – playing lots of concerts, making an artistic impact on the people in my region and beyond. I’m happy to talk to you.
Check out Red Cedar Chamber Music online at www.redcedar.org
On Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RedCedarMusic


Stephanie Pedretti: freelance teacher/performer in Chicago, IL
Currently the main component of my career is teaching, although I am also active as a performer.
As I was going through undergraduate and graduate school, I thought of myself more as a
performer than a teacher - my major was “flute performance” after all! In spite of that, I was
lucky enough to have had some teaching opportunities, and after graduating, somehow ended up
with more students of all ages and levels than I knew what to do with. I became intrigued with
the art of teaching and discovered that it was something I really enjoyed. It helped me to analyze
my own playing and learn at the same time as I was teaching others. As I sought for creative
ways to engage the youngest students in my studio, I discovered the Suzuki method and began
taking teacher training courses. When I decided that I wanted to live in Chicago and see what
kind of musical life I could build for myself there, it was this combination of teaching experience
and Suzuki training that opened doors for me. The first step was casting a wide net -- I sent out
letters and resumes to every community music school and college in the Chicago area that I
could find. Out of approximately 40-50 letters, I received six responses -- one very positive letter
from a college that had no current opening, and five offers for interview/auditions at community
music schools. I started off in Chicago that fall teaching at three community music schools.
Over time I became involved in the Chicago Flute Club (a great way to meet other flutists),
and reached out to colleagues of different instruments to create opportunities to perform - the
beauty of this has been choosing our own repertoire and the challenging part is seeking out the
venues to perform in. I’ve found a good balance and enjoy the musical life that I’m still in the
process of developing. Please feel free to contact me:


Chris Potter: low flutes specialist in Boulder, CO
My love of the sound of low flutes started with the first Atlanta convention – 1976 I think it was. I had played a straight tube alto as an undergraduate, but the twist of the right wrist was too uncomfortable. When I discovered they could be made with a curved head as well, I started saving my pennies. In 1983 I was able to purchase an alto, and now almost 30 years later, there is an NFA Low Flutes Committee of which I am chair. I have performed at many NFA conventions and all over the U.S. and in England and France as an alto and bass flute soloist. I have commissioned and premiered many wonderful pieces and met many interesting people. Along the way, I have had several books published and been the guest artist with many flute associations, including the British Flute Society. I started an Alto and Bass Flute Retreat that just completed its 8th year. People contact me from all over the world for advice about altos and basses. If you would like some advice regarding low flutes, please contact me at
cpotter@altoflute.net

Nicole Riner: national freelance teacher/performer
I followed a very typical educational path, going all the way through to my doctorate, all degrees in flute performance, without ever taking a moment to stop and think about my goals.  As I neared completion of my doctorate, my husband, also a musician, won “The Golden Job” (full-time, tenure-track) at a small school in the Rocky Mountains.  There was not much freelance teaching to be had in our new town, and despite doing everything I had done in the Midwest to develop a studio, I had very few, irregular flute students coming to my house.   I finished my doctorate while remodeling our old Bungalow; I started to get occasional sub work with local part-time orchestras, but it wasn’t very fulfilling work, nor did it fill up my days.  I taught adjunct at a local college and did not feel like I fit in; I cared about playing and teaching, but not about the politics or the committee meetings that seemed to fill the full-timers’ schedules.   I was fortunate enough to win a new adjunct position at University of Wyoming, 90 miles northwest of my house in Colorado, where I have spent six blissful years doing nothing but making chamber music with great colleagues and teaching motivated students, but it is still only part-time work, and the weeks are long. 
So, in my early 30s, I finally figured out what it was I wanted to do: I wanted to perform in addition to teaching advanced students, and I also wanted to resume my love of writing, which I had shelved in college in order to be the best flutist I could be.  I did not feel like this is quite what I was groomed to do in graduate school, so I began to work piecemeal to create opportunities to practice my crafts.  I began to seek performances elsewhere, calling old contacts scattered across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest to see if someone would have me out for a recital.  To my great surprise, people often said yes, sometimes with offers of money to cover my travel expenses and beyond.  Slowly, I have built very satisfying relationships with other college flute teachers and freelance performers from across the country and have pieced together whole tours in which I actually get paid to give recitals and master classes.  In 2010 I released a CD with a colleague from UW which has further fueled invitations to perform.  Contact with contemporary composers through my school’s new music festival has led to commissions and world premieres, and I am currently in the throes of my first commission with one such composer from our festival.  I am a teacher and performer, but I am also a business manager, a talent agent, grant-writer, and a well-seasoned traveler who can cite most major airlines’ baggage fees.  I have also reached out of my isolated area to create a national network of flutists with a collaborative website called The Pedagogy Project.  On the side, I have published a book about my travels and maintain a blog.  By never winning that tenure-track job, I spend the time my colleagues are in meetings and sitting on committees doing things I care about: teaching, playing, writing, and dreaming of the Next Big Project. 
www.nicoleriner.info


Ruth Ann Ritchie: Astraios in Dallas area, Texas
After I finished grad school in Australia and moved back to the States, I started the usual round of orchestra auditions.  I was teaching a studio of about 55 students, but I wanted to play.  I made finals in my third audition, but knew that I wasn’t cut out to practice Daphnis for the rest of my life.  The teaching was a good income, but I needed a better artistic outlet. My friends from school were facing the same questions—they were finished with grad school, but the economy was shaky and orchestras everywhere were facing cuts.
As a teenager, I’d given many informal concerts where people would ask questions and want to look at my music, or touch the buttons on my flute. Now in my 20s, I began to realize that there was a huge need for this kind of concert.  There are many people out there who think classical music is something on a pedestal that can’t be reached without a secretive induction ceremony, and that asking questions is unacceptable.  So in 2007, I founded Astraios, a network of chamber musicians working to remove barriers between audiences and performers.  We provide various forms of interaction for the audiences in our concerts—clapping exercises to understand the rhythmic drive, voting for which instrument sounds better with a melody line, even dramatic readings of poems. We always provide lots of time to meet the musicians and ask all the questions you’d like.  We also run a monthly blog profiling our different musicians and giving updates on our rehearsal progress.  We hold our performances to the highest level, but we want to show that classical music is not terrifying. I know that classical music is worth saving, and this is what we’re doing to help.
Astraios now runs a summer chamber concert series in Colorado and is a frequent performer on Colorado Public Radio.  We also just received the go-ahead to start a fall-spring concert series in Dallas, Texas; are working with local directors to help gather interest in the school band and orchestra programs; and are raising money for our first commissioning project.  Please contact me if you’d like to know more!
https://www.facebook.com/AstraiosMusic
www.astraiosmusic.org


Nicole Riner ©2016

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Album review: The chamber music of Nino Rota


Still listening to this for fun, and this album just totally sounds like summer to me...

Rota: Chamber Music for Flute
with Mario Carbotta, flute
Dynamic©2012

Composer Nino Rota was born in Milan in 1911, studied in Milan under Gioseffo Zarlino and in Rome under Alfred Casella, all preceding World War II.  He was best known as a film composer, including many collaborations with Fellini until his death in 1979.  Despite this background, his harmonic language, at least on this album, is quite conservative  and traditional, favoring simple stepwise melodies and neo-Romantic chord progressions.  The repertoire included on this CD was all written between 1935 and 1972, and any sense of musical tension or strife in these works is quickly glossed over and replaced by pastoral scenes and light, French-influenced melodies. 

Three Duets for flute and oboe (1972) employs simple, clean lines with an equal interchange of ideas.  The flute stays mostly in the middle and beginning of the high register and the oboe is generally in the same range, creating a sparkling, playful sound.  Rhythmical integrity is key in the fast outer movements, when the flute and oboe rapidly exchange fragments and finish each others’ sentences.

Five Pieces for flute and piano (1972) is clearly influenced by Satie’s simplicity and diatonic language with perhaps a touch of Debussy’s sense of ambling, uneven phrases and cool, aloof chord structure.  Likewise, the Sonata for flute and harp (1937) evokes Ravel in its elegant simplicity.  The Quintet for flute, oboe, viola, cello, and harp (1935) also fits into this category, marked by gentle, undulating melodies.  The choice of instruments in this piece works very well, and voicing is well-written to highlight each instrument’s strengths. 

The Trio for flute, violin, and piano (1958) is a rousing, technical fanfare right out of the gate.  The playful exchange between voices reminds one of similar chamber works by Bohuslav Martinu, and there is a great energy present in all three parts.  The harmonic language is still very accessible, but it does wander a bit more into atonal territory than the aforementioned pieces, adding some welcome variety to the program and allowing listeners to enjoy flutist Mario Cabotta‘s excellent technique. 

The performance quality on this album is stellar; each musician plays incredibly well as individuals and as chamber musicians.  Ensemble is solid on each track.  Mario Carbotta plays beautifully in a rich, sonorous lyrical style.

Sound quality is just fine on the majority of the CD: the atmosphere is warm and intimate without sacrificing clarity of sound.  The Trio for flute, violin, and piano is an exception; the violin and piano often overbalance the flute, which suddenly sounds far away, unlike any of the other tracks. 

Nino Rota’s repertoire highlights the flute’s lyricism and clean simplicity of sound, and it is beautifully wrought by all of the musicians on this album.

Nicole Riner ©2016


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Help writing that all-important first email to a prospective teacher

If you're going into your senior year of high school in the fall (or starting to consider graduate programs!), summer is a popular time for visiting universities and scheduling lessons with prospective flute teachers. [Read my advice for picking the right college program here.] I know this because I am inundated with emails from prospective students every June through early August.  I greatly appreciate hearing from students this early and being given the opportunity to get to know them ahead of an all-too-rushed audition in February, but students should know that our acquaintance begins with the very first email. I often receive lovely, well-spoken,thoughtful emails, which always impresses me.  But when I receive an email that is casual to the point of sounding rude and vague enough to convince me the writer didn't spend any time at all researching me or my school, I feel like my time is being wasted.  I answer all the same, but those students have already raised a little red flag with me regarding maturity and interest in my program. And that's probably not even a fair assumption, but it's all I have to go on. So, to help you avoid inadvertently misrepresent yourselves, some tips from the past decade of reading prospectives' emails at University of Wyoming:

Email is the new snail-mail.  Texts are supposed to be abbreviated and to-the-point, but they're for someone you already know, and should never be used as a first contact with a teacher. "Business" emails of this nature should include a formal salutation and closing, and the body of your text should employ proper spelling and grammar. Use formal language like you (hopefully) plan to use when you see me in person at your audition. And please, no Facebook Messenger.  Oh, how I wish no one would mistake that for business use (colleagues included)!

Do your research.  Please don't ask me to recite policies that are clearly stated on the music department's website or tell you what the band director's email address is.  It's all online.  Scour over the school's website, the music department's site in particular, and my website/You Tube videos/ blog (ahem) etc. and see how much of your curiosity is satisfied there.  Then, and only then, should you ask questions (see below) that you don't get answered online.

Formulate clear questions. Ask about the size of the studio, what financial aid is available to you, who you'd study with (all of my students study with me, but at some schools, freshmen all study with a graduate assistant, for instance), and other pertinent information about the program that will greatly impact your decision. Anything you can't find an answer to online (see above) is fair game. When you ask in general what the studio "feels" like, I don't know what you mean and therefore may or may not answer the question you really want to ask.

Customize your letter.  I don't expect a student to write a completely original letter for each prospective teacher--that would be wasting your time. Just include some personalize references, like naming my school (not someone else's!) and typing my name correctly so that I know you really meant to send the email to me. That little show of effort goes a long way.

Here is an example of a well-written email from a prospective student:

"Dear Dr. Riner:

I am writing to request information about the University of Wyoming's undergraduate program in flute performance. I am currently in high school at XXXXXX, and will graduate in 2017. My flute teacher is currently XXXXX. I have also studied with XXXXXX and XXXXXX. 

I have looked online and was able to find information about applications, auditions, and a schedule of courses. I’d also appreciate any information you can provide about:

·       Opportunities I would have as an undergrad
·       Grants and scholarships you offer for flute performance majors
·       Requirements you have for students entering your program

If there is anything else that would help me to better prepare myself for your program please let me know.
Would it be possible for me to schedule an introductory lesson so that I can learn more about your program and see if it's a good fit for me?

Thank you for your assistance. I look forward to receiving this information.

Sincerely, 
A flute student with excellent communication skills"

And here's one that could use a little work:

"Hey Nicole, I am interested in getting information about your school's music program. I will graduate in 2016 and I really want to be a band director could you please tell me where to find: application, audition requirements, band director's email, and anything else you can think of I should know. I was in XXXX Allstate Band last year and have played in solo and ensemble contest for four years. I'd like to know what the feel of your flute studio is, too." 



Don't be intimidated by the task--if you are contacting a teacher you are truly interested in and have done some minimal research on the school before typing your email, it's going to be great!  Reaching out to a prospective teacher ahead of time allows you both to see if you might be a good "fit" for each other, which is crucial to your success. Just keep in mind that you are formally introducing yourself in that first email and give it some real thought before hitting "send".  Good luck, and happy hunting!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Summer 2017 Articulation Challenge!

Coming off of an incredibly fun week of teaching at the Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive and then UW's Summer Music Camp, I couldn't help but notice how many eager, hard-working students lack guidance in the area of articulation.  We're all guilty of letting that ball drop at times when we think we've gotten it all figured out, but attention can be paid every day to either strengthening and varying your articulations or, if you truly are a master of them all (what's your secret?!), maintaining what you have already developed. And summer is such a great time to dig in to a project like this. So, this week begins the Wyoming Summer Articulation Challenge; to participate, join our private Facebook group here, and you can send me one video per week for individual comments and suggestions.  You'll have to join to see all of the videos, but here's the first one to give you an idea:


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Introducing the Wyoming Flute Sessions!

I am very fortunate to teach at a school with a beautiful, and incredibly flattering, recital hall. So, I thought I'd take advantage of it by recording run-throughs of some new pieces I've been learning. It's great fun to play at University of Wyoming, and I find these little-known works by emergent composers so good, and I hope you will, too!

Toys by Jean Ahn: I was introduced to this charming piece when I judged a new music competition last fall.  It didn't win, but I was so intrigued by the colors Jean got by combining flute and piano with wind-up toy, and when I asked, she was generous enough to gift me a copy of the parts. As she says in the score,

"Toys that sing, toys that sing like your mommy...Not the electronically synthesized sound, but a sound that is only tailored for you.  Breathe, laugh, cry, cuddle, and hug...That is the imaginary toy that we as musical moms want to leave when we can't be there with our babies. This piece explores eight nursery songs, from 'Farmer in the Dell' to 'ABC' song, sometimes explicitly and sometimes ambiguously."

The pianist in this recording, Theresa Bogard, and I gave the Wyoming premiere of this back in March in Rock Springs, and played it again in April at UW for a faculty recital.





Gocce by Emanuela Ballio: Italian for "drops", this solo work was a finalist in the Flute New Music Consortium composition contest last summer. It is great fun to play. and Emanuela has been such a kind and supportive cheerleader!  I gave the world premiere of this piece in April at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and plan to program it many more times.




Look for more installments throughout the summer; I next plan to explore the sound board with some electro-acoustic pieces by Nico Muhly, Kay He, and who knows?....

: )