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  Here are the notes from that original hand-out (mine are a bit out of date, but it's funny to go back and read them now!), which I hope can be of supplementary use to you this season as you carve out your own niches.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
On Facebook at

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

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.

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!

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

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.

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?....

: )

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Exploring the whole musical package at the Rhode Island Flute Extravaganza

I am super excited to see a new (to me) state as an Altus Handmade Flutes-sponsored guest artist of the Rhode Island Flute Extravaganza June 3, joining Andrea Fischer (Fluter Scooter) and Katy Dorrien in a day of workshops and performances in Cumberland. I've been charged with the duty of talking for one tiny hour about tone, breathing, and expression, which seemed an impossible task at first! But when you think about the linear development of any piece of music, from the basics of sound production to the final musical product, it makes sense.  Here's what I'll be presenting, and if you're local, I hope to see you there! (PS--you're always welcome to use and adapt the materials I share here for your own purposes, and I appreciate your crediting me on any original material you reproduce of mine.)

Spoiler alert: there is a book coming. As soon as I can rub two minutes together to get something more accomplished on it!

Breathing, Tone, and Musicality: Developing the Whole Package!
Dr. Nicole Riner
Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute, University of Wyoming
Altus Performing Artist

1. Breathing: You should fill up from the bottom, all the way up until you can’t find any more space to store air. Utilize those little pockets of space in your sides and back, too. Practice isolating different zones to ensure you are completely filling up. Online exercises: search “Breathing Gym” on You Tube.

2. Tone: Move the center of the lips forward as you go higher on the flute or to get quieter, while forming the syllable “ooooo” in your mouth. To go lower and/or get louder, open your mouth by putting more space between your back teeth and pointing the air, with the center of the lips, down into the hole, forming an “oh” or “ah” syllable in the mouth. Keep your corners flexible at all times. Don’t roll the flute inwards or outwards to achieve different octaves or pitches, but make your lips do it instead. Practice octave slurs, “diamonds”, and harmonics every day for maximum flexibility in addition to chromatic long tones.

3. Expression: A clear idea of where each phrase begins and ends, with one goal note per phrase in mind, is a good starting point. Then, let your dynamics, tone color, depth/speed of vibrato, etc. communicate that phrase shape. For example, by itself, this is a pretty boring passage:

But with some help from you, it can become quite meaningful:

Notice how the crescendos give a sense of climbing to these ascending arpeggios. Put a (*) over one goal note per phrase, indicated by a complete set of < >. Make sure that note is your sonic peak, in color, dynamic, and depth of vibrato. And what about?...

Accented phrases have a muscular feel, while staccato (and later slurred) phrases create a more playful counterpart, as if the soloist is alternating between a march and a light waltz. Be very thoughtful to consistently perform the dynamic and articulation that’s written.
Now it’s your turn: go back up to the first example and pencil in some of your own original markings. How will you clearly communicate them to your audience?

The following material is excerpted from my forthcoming Book, The Flutist’s Expression Workbook. Please contact me at nicole [dot] riner [at] gmail [dot] com to purchase a copy. All material on this hand-out is ©2017, Nicole Riner.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

lessons from Robert Dick

World-renowned new music specialist and all-around genius Robert Dick did a three-day residency at University of Wyoming last month, and he was inspiring on so many levels.  As the host, I got to spend the most time with him drinking wine and driving between Denver and Laramie (not at the same time), so what he said in front of the students and what he said to me has gotten all mixed up in my brain.  But it was all a consistent message, and I will just leave a few of the most precious bits here for you to do with what you wish...

*Playing the flute and making music are not necessarily the same thing. There is a level at which you are merely a technician, and then there's the level beyond that, in which you use your technical skills to actually say something with the sounds you are making.  You must always strive to be at this level. 

*We are all actors on the stage (and I would add, to some extent, in the studio).

*Listen, listen, listen.  Not just to that one piece you are learning, but to all things related to it, however tangentially.  Listen for pleasure, but with awareness.  Listen because this is your art.

*Learn who you are and what you want from your musical life and make it happen; don't just force yourself to fit into a ready-made, imposed formula.

Also, please listen to his latest CD, The Galilean Moons.  It is amazing. Can you wear out a CD?  I might be halfway there. 

Thanks for everything, Robert!!

Robert performing Flames Must Not Encircle Sides at University of Wyoming, April 23, 2017.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Introducing: Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive!

I am so super excited to announce our first-ever Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive, designed for serious flutists grades 8-12, taking place at the beautiful UW campus in Laramie June 9-11, 2017. This has been a fantasy of mine for years now, and I hope we will see students from far and wide attend!

This short, intensive program is designed to prepare students for serious high school study and, eventually, college auditions, and it segues beautifully into UW's long standing Summer Music Camp, but it works great as a stand-alone kick start, too.

My friend Rachel Bergman and I will lead students through the following schedule:


Noon: check in and registration begins
3pm: Welcome, Establishing a Breathing and Stretching Routine
4pm: Building a Better Tone
5:30pm: dinner
7:30pm: Faculty Recital

8am: breakfast
9am: stretches/breathing/tone
10:30pm options: Piccolo Basics OR Conquering Performance Anxiety
12pm: lunch
1:30: How to Practice
2pm: Articulation Class
3pm: Master Class
5:30pm: dinner
7pm: Open Mic Night: everyone plays!

8am: breakfast
9am: stretches/breathing/tone
10:30am: supervised practice
12pm: closing remarks and picnic lunch

You can read all about it and register here. Housing is affordable and tuition is free for all. And of course, contact me if you have questions at nicole [dot] riner [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Choosing the right college for you.

Having just survived another audition season and round of acceptance letters at University of Wyoming, and having also initiated a handful of these conversations with my own graduating students, the topic of school shopping is very much on my mind right now. Prestige is something, but there is so much more to a school, and the fancy name on your future degree won't keep you happy every week if you have found yourself studying with the wrong person, in the wrong environment, or the wrong subject matter for you. I hope this may be helpful for those of you who are just starting this process, as well as those of you who are still finalizing it!

Your flute studio is your family for the duration of your degree and, hopefully, your entire career!  And how lucky are you to get to choose your own family? So for those of you just starting this process for next year's applications, some crucial things to consider...

I.  Research.  Look online for materials like syllabi, audition requirements, and other info about the studio, the teacher’s activity in the field, etc.  A teacher’s bio will give a sense of what “flute family” s/he comes from.  Do this before you email!  Don’t ask questions that are already answered. 

II.  Communicate: Contact the flute teacher and ask specific questions that pertain to you (size of studio, number of graduate students, where do graduates go afterwards).  General questions are virtually unanswerable. Your prospective future teacher should be willing to communicate and do so in a timely manner. It’s a portent of things to come. 

III.  Visit.  Contact flute teachers ahead of scheduling a visit.  See if you can get a lesson and/ or sit in on a current student’s lesson.  Ask for contact information for current students. Sit in on studio class, ensemble rehearsals (not just the elite ensembles, but the one you are most likely to play in as a freshman), and music theory/ history classes being taught that day. Get a feel for the musical community you might be joining. 

IV. Don’t be shy.  It's hard, but do it. Visit the practice room area and approach flute students who are not in the midst of practicing.  Ask them what they think of the program, what they think the differences are between the various majors, what they think of their flute teacher, etc.  Friendly students will be surprisingly candid.  Unfriendly students will not make pleasant colleagues. 

V.  Decide what’s most important to you.  Flute teacher, strength of academics, music ed. placement, location, etc. This seems obvious, but until you have a philosophy on how you will judge schools, you're going to be all over the place, mentally.

VI.  Prepare the audition thoroughly! Find out what the music requirements are as early as possible  (scour the websites before asking) and work diligently to prepare so that you play your best.  Schedule other performances of your audition  pieces (solo and ensemble, a recital, playing at your church, etc.) beforehand to build your confidence, and recycle as much literature as possible from one audition to the next. 

Good luck!

Nicole Riner ©2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My trip to Northern Mississippi!

Some of you know that I also keep another for-fun blog, DrinkFoodTravel, in addition to this flute-centric one. Sometimes those two worlds intersect, and it is a great privilege to travel so much for work, affording me opportunities to see new parts of the country, meet wonderful flutists, and of course, eat delicious food. Here's a run-down of some of my favorite stops on a recent trip I made to visit the flute studios at Delta State University, Mississippi State University, and University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  I also performed with some of my colleagues from Flute New Music Consortium at the inaugural Music by Women conference at Mississippi University for Women.Thank you to all of these hosting flute teachers for your generosity in letting me work with your students, and thanks Shelley Collins for the fab t-shirt (see below)!

Cleveland, MS:

The Grammy Museum Mississippi
800 W Sunflower Rd, Cleveland, MS

Mississippi Grounds
219 S. Court Street
(662) 545– 4528
Coffee House with great breakfast burritos and a killer cappucino

Mosquito Burrito
301 Cotton Row
(662) 843-4822
Fresh-Mexi Cuisine for the hipster student crowd

Hey Joe's Cafe & Record Shop
118 E. Sunflower Rd, Suite C
(662) 843-5425
I didn't try the gourmet burgers, but the local craft beer menu was impressive.

Starkville, MS:
Nine-twentynine Coffee Bar
106 E. Main Street
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 268-8014
Not only beautiful inside, they will make coffee however you can imagine for it to be made.  The pour-over was divine.

UMI Japanese Cuisine
315 Highway 12 W
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 323-5258
Two tasty rolls for $6.95 for lunch? Yes please.

Lost Pizza Company
325 Highway 12 W
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 324-0050
Chewy crust and a plethora of toppings, this is a local favorite with several locations across northern MS.

The Little Dooey
100 Fellowship Street
Starkville, MS 39759
(662) 323-6094
If you want a proper plate lunch, this is the real deal.  Suggested by a local, I do not regret the gut-busting plate of spicy pork, potato salad, and turnip greens that kept me full for over 24 hours (see below).

Oxford, MS:

Burns-Belfry museum about African American history:
710 Jackson Ave. East
Oxford, MS 38655
Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 and Wednesday through Friday 12:00 to 3:00
Admission is free

Civil Rights Monument on campus:
University Circle,
University of Mississippi,
University, MS 38677

I did more wandering than eating here, but the local chain deli Newk's on campus was actually super delish.  The Square is also a great downtown area for shopping and eating, it would seem, but alas, I had to hurry back to a rehearsal in...

Columbus, MS:

Harvey's at 200 Main Street (VISIT WEBSITE
I can you now that the Cajun Pasta (very much like Crawfish Monica) was fantastic.  Upscale Southern food with a varied bar. 

Mississippi State Committee of the National Museum for Women in the Arts Exhibition. Visit for information on this and other W exhibits.
Gallery hours are Monday - Friday, 8am-5pm. The exhibits are free and open to the public.
1100 College Street MUW-70
(662) 329-7291

Other restaurants recommended to me by locals, but which I did not get to try, include

121 S 5th St
Columbus, MS 39701Phone number(662) 327-6500
Cajun/Creole: great fried green tomatoes

Jackson Square Grill
1927 U.S. 45
Columbus, MS 39701(662) 328-8656
Big on seafood and with a great brunch

Hana Korean Restaurant and Market
4226 Mississippi 373
Columbus, MS 39705
(662) 434-8881
Cheap and comforting stone pots and curries

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New Music Review: Escape by Ryan Woodhouse

I loved this piece when I first got it and still hope to see more people program it!  Listen (this excellent performance is not by me) here.

Ryan Woodhouse
©2013 Potenza Music

In the front material to Escape, composer Ryan Woodhouse writes that “Music possesses the amazing ability of transporting its listener to a beautiful world of sound where the pressures of everyday life can be momentarily forgotten.  The escape that music can provide is the inspiration for this piece.”  This rather general description really does not do the pieces justice; Escape is an eight minute emotional roller coaster ride for the audience, taking us from a hazy fog, to intrigue and sheer fright, and on to a dreamy lyricism that makes this a very compelling addition to a collegiate or professional recital program.

The piano part is often minimalist in approach, switching from one vamp to another, while the flute in turn growls, shrieks, slides between pitches, and floats to a mysterious end.  There are some simple extended techniques used very sparingly, including pitch bends, flutter tongue, and humming while playing.  Range in the flute part goes from low C to high G, and rhythm/meter is standard for an advanced undergraduate player.  The tempo remains slow throughout, but the flute part sometimes breaks into fast chromatic and tonal fragments over the piano’s steady, repetitive part.  The piano part is not particularly technical and fits easily with the flute part, requiring minimal rehearsal time for more advanced performers. 

Woodhouse’s ability to evoke so many varied, convincing moods in a short period of time is laudable, and Escape is a thrilling piece to hear.  It is a wonderful addition to the repertoire. 

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Commissioning new music: a guide to get started

This is a preview (and hopefully helpful resource for later!) of the presentation I am leading on behalf of Flute New Music Consortium at the Music by Women festival March 3-4 in Columbus, MS. If you're in the area, I hope you can come!  Some amazing music by Nicole Chamberlain, Amber Beams, and Kay HE will also be performed. And some of this information will be presented again, in round table form with composers and commissioners, at NFA in Minneapolis this summer!

Funding Ideas for Commissioning Projects:


Aggregate Sites:

American Composers Forum: composers

BMI Foundation:

Musical Online:

Barlow Endowment for Music Composition:
Things to know: There is one commission prize every year for an LDS composer, and another one every year for the general public; since requirements are so open-ended, this is a very competitive application.

Carnegie Corporation Aggregate Site:
Things to know: Grants here often require a special focus and/or educational content, so read about the grants first, then tailor your project to the required language.

Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program:
Things to know: must be a member of CMA to apply; the director of the program is very hands-on, so make contact with her as you develop your proposal to see if she has any suggestions for making it better.

Things to know: There is no strictly classical music category, just a general “performing arts” group, and integration with other artworks is an important element to the projects they fund.

National Endowment for the Arts:
Things to know: highly competitive; if you are writing for a grant through your school, only one application per school per year, is accepted, so coordinate with your school director to ensure you are qualified.

Local and stat arts organizations often have either specific grant applications for artists or discretionary money for intriguing proposals.  Must be a member of the organization to apply.  To look up your state and region, go to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies:

Go Fund Me: (No limit required, no penalty for not reaching goal)
Kickstarter: (Financial goal must be reached in order to collect)
Rocket Hub: www.rocket

Finding Composers:
American Composers Forum:
Composer’s Forum:
Cornell University Composers Forum:
European Composers Forum:
UNT Composers Forum:
Washington Composers Forum:
Young Composers Forum:

Composers for Performers, Performers for Composers:
Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers:

Background Information

Bios from every ensemble member and the composer

Ensemble bio that proves some history as a performing entity

Include composer’s and ensemble’s resume (or performer’s individual resumes if an ensemble resume is not possible)

Copies of the front pages of the composer’s and grant writer’s passports to prove citizenship (if this is a requirement for the grant)

Sample works

Sample programs from the ensemble

Sample recordings, generally 2-3 each from the performing ensemble and the composer (there will be time limits imposed and some requirement that a percentage of this recorded material is live and unedited)

Sample scores from the composer, professionally bound

Details of the Project

Composer’s description: Include as much detail as possible, particularly the length and instrumentation of the proposed piece. Description of structure, inspiration for the piece, and special requirements for the performance are helpful to include here if possible.

“About the project”: how does the commission relate to your programming, why have you selected the composer, and what (if any) is the history of your creative relationship?

Projected premiere: when, where, how…

Copy of your agreement with the composer

Financial Details

Create a budget that justifies your financial request, including projected fees for the composer, ensemble honorarium (CMA suggests $1,000 / performer as a maximum), and copying costs. Research the grant’s allowable range sty within it!

Excel spreadsheet of your ensemble’s operating budget is sometimes required (CMA)

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dr. Riner’s Practice Triad of Triumph

It's an "oldy" here at University of Wyoming with a dorky title, but I find myself coming back to this formula again and again in studio class to great results.  In keeping with my post on developing efficient practice habits earlier this month, here's UWYO's good old ...

Dr. Riner’s Practice Triad of Triumph
Tone (45 minutes for music ed./B.A, 60 minutes for performance; 30 minutes for minors)
*First, cover the entire range in step-wise motion
OptionsWye, pp. 8, 16, 21
Moyse, pp. 6-9
Wilkinson, pp. 22-23
Edmund-Davies, 1 exercises from the “Sonority” section, starting 8va, going down to low B
Second, specialize low (do 2 exercises if this is a problem area)
OptionsWye pp. 9-12
Moyse pp. 10-14 (bonus: add articulations to include steps 4 & 5)
Moyse split octaves (from Tone Development Through Interpretation)
Third, specialize high (do 2 exercises if this is a problem area)
OptionsWye, pp. 18-21
Moyse, pp. 15-22
Moyse, split octaves
*Fourth, practice leaps & dynamics to test embouchure (do 2 exercises if this is a problem area)
OptionsWye, pp. 6, 22-23
Wilkinson, pp.10 (#1), 13 (#6), 29-37, 56-58
Edmund-Davies, 1 exercise from “Intervals” section
"Diamonds" + slurred octaves
Harmonics and/ or whistle tones
Fifth, practice articulation
OptionsWye, 2-3 exercises from “Articulation” section
Edmund Davies, 1 exercise from “Articulation” section
Salvo, 5 pages daily
Supplementary: Vibrato
Wilkinson, pp, 46-52
Dr. Chris Potter’s Vibrato Workbook
*Supplementary: Extremes Project, using any simple melodies from books like Louis Moyse’s 40 Little Pieces, rudimentary etude books like Andersen Op. 37, or Gariboldi 30 Progressive Studies or Op. 132, or the “Intonation” section of Wye
*=essential exercises for busy days.
Technique (45 minutes for music ed./B.A, 60 minutes for performance; 30 minutes for minors)
Your time should be spent intelligently on your etude and your assigned scale patterns.  
ScalesYour short-term goal is to pass the semester scale test, but your long-term goal is to achieve mastery over all common tonal patterns for ease of learning and performing music. To this end, it may help to “mix up” your scales now and then so they don’t get stale; just grab any one of the technique books listed below and find the patterns you are currently working on for a different perspective.  
Trevor Wye’s “Technique” section, Paul Edmund Davies’ “Fingers” section, and individual exercises from Geoffrey Gilbert’s Sequences may be used as supplementary exercises after all basic pattern work is done for the day.
EtudesIt is crucial that you woodshed efficiently in your etude; merely playing through it over and over again every day will not get it learned in a week.  Identify problem spots the first day of a new etude, bracket those passages, and spend time woodshedding each one every day.  At the end of your technique practice session, run the entire etude.  Your etude is practice learning music quickly and efficiently.
Repertoire (45 minutes for music ed./B.A, 60 minutes for performance; 30 minutes for minors)
Under this category falls solo music for juries, recitals, and lessons; orchestral excerpts; chamber music parts; and, when necessary, difficult spots in your large ensemble music.  Priorities should be made according to the order listed above. Employ creative woodshedding techniques to avoid the exhausting syndrome of performing a concert every day in the practice room; very little time will be spent running entire pieces.
Books referenced
Edmund-Davies, Paul.  28 Day Warm-Up Book. Pub.: Carolyn Nussbaum Company
Moyse, Marcel.  De La Sonorite. Pub.: LeDuc.
Potter, Chris. Vibrato Workbook.  Pub.: Falls House Press.
Salvo., Victor. 243 Double- and Triple-Tonguing Exercises. Pub: Mel-Bay.
Wilkinson, Fiona.  The Physical Flute. Pub.: Mayfair Music.
Wye, Trevor. Practice Books for Flute, Omnibus Edition. Pub.: Novello.
Gilbert, Geoffrey.  Sequences and Technical Flexibility. Pub.: Southern Music Company.
Marquarre, AndrĂ©.  Daily Exercises.  Pub.: Southern Music Company.
Moyse, Marcel. Exercices Journaliers pour la flute. Pub.: LeDuc.
Reichert, Matthieu .  Seven Daily Exercises for the Flute, Op. 5. Pub.: Southern Music Company.
Taffanel, Paul and Philippe Gaubert. 17 Grands Exercices de Mechanisme pour flute.  Pub.: LeDuc.

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Talent Isn’t Everything!

It is a common myth that only the most talented musicians “make it” in the music business.  But recent research (which I find so inspiring) shows that natural ability is a small part of what sees people through music programs and on to stable work in the industry.  Instead, hard work and dedication are the most important factors to success. So, if you're into setting New Year's goals for yourselves, look no further than revitalizing your good, old-fashioned work ethic! Best wishes for a fruitful 2017--NR


“Hard work will beat talent if the talent doesn’t work hard.”--Etieno Etuk

Studies conducted in a wide array of fields in the past 30 years have changed what we think makes a person great.  Some researchers now argue that the existence of specific, innate abilities is a myth.  No one is naturally born to do anything.  In studies of successful professionals, researchers have found athletes who were terribly clumsy in childhood and international chess masters with below-average IQs.


Deliberate Practice (William Chase and Anders Ericsson) states that it takes at least ten years to show results.  Practice must be lengthy,  regular, and intelligently designed in order to lead to improved performance.

Practice Tricks: visit "Tips for Creative Practice" for advice from the UWYO flute studio!

PUTTING IT INTO ACTION: the need for mentors

The teacher is crucial in guiding correct kinds of practice by assigning useful exercises, teaching for efficiency, and being persistent with a firm but flexible structure in lessons.

Identify promising performers early: starting early allows the body and brain to develop in advantageous ways (not to mention developing good habits from the start).

Chunking of material expands memory, and repetition is crucial: the development of myelin around nerve fibers and neurons in the brain, which makes those fibers and neurons more efficient, occurs by sending the same signal through the nerve fibers again and again.

Choose exercises for your students that push them beyond what they can currently do and allow them to build the skills that are important.

Allow students to not always be perfect so that they learn to continue striving and learn how to cope with failure.

Students need frequent, rapid, and accurate feedback.

Inspiration, not authority, is the best model for motivating your students.

Lead by example, and get parents on board, as well.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, University of Chicago, studied adolescents who were academically outstanding and found that an environment which is both stimulating and supportive at home was a salient feature.

Intrinsic motivation is the only sustenance in the end (but extrinsic motivators can reinforce)

Tips from the graphic design world (from the Design Consortium “Boxes and Arrows“):

1. Practice a lot
2. Attend to details
3. Be versatile
4. Make an effort to learn
5. Anticipate problems
6. Set goals
7. Have a positive attitude

From George Leonard’s Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment.  (1991)

Five Keys to Long-term Success and Fulfillment

1. Instruction
2. Practice
3. Surrender
4. Intentionality
5. Pushing the Envelope

Mastery is:

-the process in which what was difficult becomes both easier and more pleasurable.
-long-term dedication to the journey, not the bottom line.
-gaining mental discipline to travel further on your journey.
-realizing that the pleasure of practice is intensified.
-knowing that you will never reach a final destination.
-being diligent with the process of mastery.
-maintaining your commitment to hone your skills.
-after you have conquered one hurdle, jump the next one.
-being willing to practice, even when you seem to be getting nowhere.
-being patient while you apply long-term efforts.
-practicing for the sake of practice.
-winning graciously, and losing with equal grace.
-placing practice, discipline, conditioning, and character over winning.
-being courageous.
-being fully present in the moment.
-maintaining flexibility in your strategy and in your actions.
-a journey.

Suggested reading:

Colvin, Geoff.  Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else.  New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

Daniel Coyle.  The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown.  New York: Random House, 2009.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success.  New York: Little, Brow, & Company, 2008.

Greene, Don.  Fight Your Fear and Win: Seven Skills For Performing Your Best Under Pressure--At Work, In Sports, On Stage.  New York: Broadway Books, 2001.

Leonard, George.  Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment.  New York: Plume Books, 1991.

Loehr, James.  The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional, and Physical Conditioning from one of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists.  New York: Plume Books, 1994.

Mack, Gary and David Casstevens.  Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence.  New York: Contemporary Books, 2001.

Werner, Kenny.  Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. New Albany, IN: Aebersold Jazz, Inc., 1996.

Nicole Riner ©2016

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Looking back, looking ahead

Good old Wyoming driving. 

One of the things I love most about being a musician is the opportunity to travel and make new friends, and 2016 was certainly rich in opportunities. 

February was the beginning of my travel with a presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention in Virginia. I gave a workshop, "Finding Our Inner Voices as Flutists", which precipitated my slow-moving work on a tone workbook based on vocalises (more on that soon, I hope!). While I was there, I also gave master classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University, where fabulous teachers Tabatha Easely and Julianna Nickel (respectively) have two very positive, talented flute studios. In April I taught master classes at the Oklahoma Flute Society Flute Fair and University of Southern Mississippi, and in September the Montana Flute Association sent me on a whirlwind tour including stops in Missoula, Great Falls, Malta, and Billings. I was and am always so grateful for the warm hospitality I am treated to by hosting teachers and their students alike, everywhere I go.  Anyone who says the music world is cold just hasn't looked in the right places yet! 

Talking about breathing at VCU!

I traveled with my chamber group, Verismo Trio, to lovely University of Jamestown in January (really, it was lovely, just shockingly cold). I don't know that I've ever visited a small town with a population so totally happy to be from there! We also served as the resident ensemble for the New Music Festival in Kearney, Nebraska, where we were lucky enough to hook up with composers Anthony Donofrio and Jason Emerson, whose music we had already been playing for ages. In the fall we stayed closer to home with concerts in Sheridan and Casper, Wyoming, where it was wonderful to reconnect with old friends and meet a couple of news ones, too.  Our most exotic gig might have been Southern Arkansas University, where we were part of the festivities for their first-ever saxophone festival (a very different animal than a flute festival!) and we each ate our weight in fried food. Even the green beans were fried. 
At the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND

At University of Wyoming, we organized some great instructional videos on the All-State audition materials, in keeping with our mission to serve the greater musical community of Wyoming, and got some wonderfully appreciative feedback for our efforts. And while hunched over the computer here and there, I have begun a collaboration with Alry Publications to publish my transcription of a fantastic Dvorak violin sonata along with poking through a new kind of tone book, as mentioned above, which I hope to have ready for preview in the coming months. 

In 2017, look for me, often generously sponsored by Altus Flutes, at the Women in Music festival at Mississippi University of Women in March and giving master classes at colleges in Pennsylvania and Alabama, so far.  My full schedule is continually updated on my website here

Thank you to all of my gracious hosts and willing students, near and far, in 2016, and here's to an equally inspiring 2017!  Wishing you all the best in your artistic endeavors this year...