Thursday, December 27, 2018

The doctor is in: from my inbox

After working with students at our yearly UW Saxofluticon or Wyoming Summer Flute Intensive, I often hear from them with follow-up questions. Having received permission to anonymously post this question from the author, I think this query hits on some great challenges we all have at times. And with winter break looming, many students are left on their own for several weeks in a row without their teachers' weekly reminders to practice intelligently and efficiently.  So, consider this my early New Year's present to whomever wants it! 

Q: I continue to have inconsistent tuning, embouchure, flexibility and posture. My question is if you have experienced this or have an idea of some things I could do to control this.

A: I am a fan of compartmentalization, so if that doesn't fit the way you think (if you need to integrate more), then you'll have to adjust this advice.  But I like to make sure I'm doing something every day that helps me develop good habits in each of the categories you listed; if I do something that only focuses on one problem at a time, I feel like I can tackle it more efficiently, and then it's easier to incorporate and apply to combinations of tasks.  Make sense?  And while I have a variety of exercises I can practice for any given challenge, I only do one exercise per challenge, and then I rotate when I get bored or feel like I've hit a wall (maybe once a month). The Practice Triad of Triumph that I talk about with my UW students is getting at that; don't do a different exercises every day or you'll never master any of them, but know when it's time to try something new because you're sick of what you're doing. So, click on that triad link and you'll see plenty of suggestions for sound production. Additionally,

Tuning: always practiced with the tuner on, try the Daily Embouchure Warm-Up, Drone exercise, or "diamonds" (whole notes, p-f-p)

Embouchure: everything about tone is related to this!  But particularly flexibility: Daily Embouchure Warm-Up, harmonics, or whistle tones

Posture: This is where a good daily stretching routine without the flute comes in handy. It's so super dorky, but I like the Essentrics videos on You Tube the best:

Additionally, here are some blog posts that you might find informative: 


Obviously, you can master each of these exercises and then not apply them to your solo playing, making all of this a waste of time. So, you still have to remember what you worked on for each challenge and stay vigilant about doing it while you're working on your Chaminade, etc. 

Finally, this is something I often do with my UW students.  You may not always be staying focused or making the best use of your time when you practice.  It happens to all of us, because the level of focus we need to really achieve something extraordinary is so intense. So, I recommend keeping a diary/log of your practice sessions for a few days.  It can be quite simple--just write down every starting and stopping time when you practice, and write down what you worked on.  You can get more detailed by writing down when you moved on to a new technique, as well (so, timing for tone exercises and what you did, then timing for scales and what exactly you did, etc.). Then, after a few days, take a look and audit yourself--what did you avoid practicing?  When did you just play the same thing over and over without it getting you anywhere, etc.?  What kind of simple reward system could you set up to motivate yourself to do the things you are avoiding?

I hope this is at least somewhat helpful; happy practicing! 

Best,
NR

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What can you do with a music degree?

When I was in high school, I decided not to major in music.  I knew I didn't want to be a band director, and someone had told me you had to practice 6 hours a day to get into an orchestra, so I didn't think I had either the discipline nor the skill to win an orchestral job. And so that was that, because I had no idea what else you could possibly do to earn a living as a musician! Thankfully, I loved playing the flute too much to quit, so with some support from my flute professor, who was willing to teach me as a non-major, and a strong desire to be happy, I signed back on to music in October of my freshman year in college. Fast forward 26 (?!) years, and I am thrilled to be not only a very busy flutist and teacher, but a career coach to musicians and in the midst of creating an entrepreneurship program for the music department where I teach at University of Wyoming. But before adults ever get to the point where they're asking for career advice from me, they have to survive high school and trust that music is the right major, even if they don't know yet exactly what they'll pursue after graduation.

I am diametrically opposed to twisting arms--if you can possibly stand to walk away from music, then maybe you should. It's a ton of work for very little appreciation and a slow-growing pay scale, so if you aren't completely obsessed, you'll be happier doing something easier/more respected/higher paying. But for students of any age who feel torn between their great love of music and their fear or living in their parents' basement after school, let's just take a quick look at this in-no-way-complete list of job opportunities:


PERFORMER
Freelance: conductor, orchestral musician, $chamber musician, $soloist, $clinician, pit musician, recording artist, accompanist
Cruise ship musician
Church musician
Full-time orchestral (symphony, opera, ballet, musical theater) musician
EDUCATOR
$Private studio owner/teacher
๐Ÿ˜Early childhood music practitioner
$Community music school director/administrator/teacher
๐Ÿ˜Music teacher in the public schools
College professor
INSTRUMENT INDUSTRY
$Instrument repair
$๐Ÿ˜Instrument sales
MUSIC PRODUCTION
$Composer/arranger
Commercial music (composing, recording, marketing)
$Audio engineer
Theater technician
$๐Ÿ˜Artist management
ARTS ADVOCATE
Grant writer
Arts Administrator: ensemble executive director, non-profit organizer, festival director, marketers, ๐Ÿ˜development directors, etc.
$Arts lawyer
$Artist accountant
$Arts journalist
$๐Ÿ˜WELLNESS PRACTITIONER
Yoga, meditation, performance psychology, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, music therapy

$Opportunities to run your own business
๐Ÿ˜Great avenues for the more socially inclined

Non-musician careers who favor artist education background: Computer programmer, doctor, banker, pharmacist, clinical psychologist, engineer


**What am I missing, friends? Chime in below and help make this list more complete!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mastering Your Practice, part 3: Nitty Gritty Practice

(See here for Part 1 and Part 2 of "Mastering Your Practice" if you missed them!)

Nitty gritty practice is actually a term I stole from Sharon Sparrow in her fabulous book, 6 Weeks to Finals. It's a very thorough, very specific guide to preparing for orchestral auditions, but I think it's incredibly inspiring for anyone who wants to get more details in their performance preparation. In this final post about practicing, I'm getting specific about different ways to target what you need to do and how to break things down and build them back up, stronger than ever. Check out my suggested reading guide at the end if you're looking for some additional inspiration, as well. Good luck to you all, whatever your end goals are this semester (and every semester!).


Step 3: Try Something Creative
Ideas to avoid hitting a wall in your technical practice:
  • ·         “Chunking”: studies show the brain digests smaller bits of information better. Try playing fewer notes repeatedly, then gradually adding from the back or front.
  • ·         “Problem Note Sandwich”: do a diagnostic run through a passage and find which notes causes the first fumble.  Isolate that note and one or two (max) on either side and begin reps.  When this passage is learned, add another note on each end, then another…making sure you work past a barline or beamed group to work passage into context.

·         1 minute loops: with a metronome, practice a difficult passage repeatedly for one minute each day at your fastest controlled speed. Take 1 beat between reps to think about what you want to fix from the last rep; work towards performance tempo as quickly as possible.
·         S-L-O-W: practice a difficult passage as a slow, lyrical ballad, paying attention to how you maintain a connection between notes. Imagine pouring molasses from a bottle!
·         Practice rhythms: alter the rhythm to emphasize different notes in a run. If it’s straight 16ths, try dotting the rhythm in both directions; you can also change from duple (8ths or 16ths) to triple (triplets)
·         Move the metronome: place the metronome on all the other parts of the beat, and apply to loops above
·         Memorize difficult passages
Preparing to perform
·         Schedule a weekly recording session to check in on various moments (those that you feel are getting close to ready as well as those that have you stumped). Listen back immediately and take notes in your practice notebook on things that worked and areas of improvement.
·         Take video (preferred) or audio of a run-through of your piece. Watch/listen immediately and take notes as described above.
·         Perform for friends and colleagues whose opinions you value (and therefore make you nervous)
·         Schedule risk-free performances of your pieces to workshop them—nursing homes, churches, coffee shops, or competitions if applicable!




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

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006.

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

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.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mastering Your Practice, part 2: Controlling Your Time


Last week I shared some tips for thinking creatively about how to schedule all your the necessary practice each day. But once you get into that practice room, it can be difficult to know how best to spend your time. Here are my thoughts in part 2 of "Mastering Your Practice":

Step 2: Control Your Time

1. Develop necessary categories of playing that you must exercise every day; consult with your studio teacher on this (mine are sound, technique, and repertoire). For myself, and for my students here at University of Wyoming, I suggest the Practice Triad of Triumph, which I've also shared here before. You can review it here, and feel free to sub in your own favorite sources for each category. 

2. Create a to-do list under each category. Under sound I have tone in each register, flexibility, articulation, vibrato; technique includes scales, arpeggios, chords, and high register fingerings, etc. Again, this comes from the Practice Triad.

3. Decide how your budgeted time blocks, above, will correspond to your to-do lists for each category every day.

4. Insist on maintaining your focus (which is hard after a while!).  Consider the Pomodoro Technique: 25 minutes of work followed by a 5 minute break.  Give it a try for a couple of days and take stock--when do you start to space out? That's how long your work session should be.  How short can you make your break, and what;'s the best way to spend that break so you feel refreshed quickly? (I like to stay off social media, which can suck me in for far longer than 5 minutes at a time!)

5. Keep a practice diary with problems you're tackling and the solutions you're currently testing. Keep lists of practice tempos for different passages you're wood shedding (more on that next week). And if you're a student, keep track of questions you would like to bring up in your next lesson. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Mastering Your Practice, part 1: Finding Time

Crunch time is here for fall juries, concerto competitions, and recitals here at UW!  Of course, one can never successfully "cram" with such an ongoing process as mastering your craft, but there's always room for growth. And as those performance dates get closer, the subject of how to practice effectively always seems more compelling to my students...

In this three-part series, excerpted from my workshop, "How to Become a Practice Wizard", I'll cover everything from finding the time to the nitty gritty of polishing difficult passages. This is a presentation I have given at numerous high schools and colleges across the country, and if you'd like me to come to your school, you can contact me about scheduling  here.

Introductory thoughts…
ร˜  Effective practice habits are the result of discipline and time management skills
ร˜  Practicing, not performing, occupies the vast majority of our time as musicians
ร˜  In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell claims it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. This specific number has been debunked (if only because hours differ based on the person and the specific task), but it’s still true that many hours of repetition are required to achieve the “next level” in any area of your playing.
ร˜  Honing your practice skills will not only help you become a better performer, it will make you a more effective teacher, as well. You are the guinea pig for your future students!

Step 1: Find Time

1. Go through your schedule with a fine-toothed comb, placing ( ) around any non-essentials (like watching t.v.) and a * next to moveable items, like meals. Don’t know what exactly you do all day?  Spend one week keeping a detailed log of everything you do, including specific times when you begin and end each activity. Be honest!

2. Now, take your required daily practice time and sprinkle it into your schedule wherever you can.  Be realistic about how long it will take you to find a practice room, get to and from classes, etc. Your practice blocks may be an hour or longer, or they may be as short as 20 minutes.  Work with what you’ve got, and prioritize having every required minute accounted for every day in your written schedule. Replace ( ) items with practice, move * items as needed…be creative!

3. Follow your schedule, tweaking as necessary without sacrificing required amount of practice time. Keep a log of exactly what you do in each practice session and thoughts on what was effective, when you started drifting off, etc. Read this log every night and devise remedies for challenges. You can further break down long practice blocks of 30 minutes or more into smaller chunks with 1-2 minute breaks to maintain your focus.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Great new chamber music selections for fall


Some great new materials have come in at the NFA office, and I was lucky enough to snag them for review! Here are my favorites from this fall's treasures:

Klezmer Flute Duets by Michael Lรถsch (Universal Edition)

Traditional Klezmer songs in this collection include Mazel Tov, Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym, Klezmeron, and L’Chaim. In total, there are thirteen duets, all of which engage both flutists equally. They would prove somewhat technically challenging – and quite rhythmically challenging—for advanced high school or early college students, but they are also entirely enjoyable to play as a professional. Harmonies are generally tight, with a lot of the parts written in 3rds and 4ths to each other, and the overall range of the book spans from C1 to G3.  Everything lays well under the fingers and has been intelligently arranged for two C flutes.



Album for Flute Quartet or Flute Ensemble; Band B: French composers – Impressionism
Arr. Raphaรซlle Zaneboni (Edition Diewa)

This album includes arrangements of Ravel’s Suite Ma Mรจre l’Oye and Daphnis et Chloรฉ Suite, and Debussy’s “Children’s Corner”: Golliwogg’s Cakewalk and The Little Shepherd. Instrumentation varies by piece, but overall the album calls for 1-2 piccolos doubling flute, two addition C flutes, an alto flute, and up to two possible bass flutes (both of which can also be played on C flute). Designations in the score advise on how to condense each piece into a convincing quartet if a minimum of six people are not available to play every part. There is no simplification of parts in these arrangements (even the opening material of Daphnis includes all those traded 32nd notes from the original!), so all players must be musically as well as technically mature to really do the album justice. Voicing is intelligently arranged on every piece, and the result is sheer beauty in color and depth, regardless of ensemble size.

We have had great fun working on these arrangements in my college flute ensemble, and I greatly appreciate the wonderful musical exercise they represent for my students, in addition to the artistic merit of each as a concert piece. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.



Waltz of the Wolves by Wil Offermans (Musikverlag Zimmerman)

In Waltz of the Wolves, Wil Offermans has written a clever and humorous duet appropriate for advanced students looking to begin exploring the world of extended techniques.  Timbral trills and a “howl” (in which the performer covers the embouchure hole with the mouth and howls into the headjoint) imitate wintry winds and the wolves outside, respectively, and are easy to execute. This piece was commissioned by the Netherlands Flute Academy for its founding faculty, Suzanne Wolff and Emily Benyon.

Parts are evenly traded so that both flutists play everything that has been written, from the slinky waltz melody at the top of the staff to the “oompah” part written into the low register.  The range spans from low C to third octave A. There is some very manageable mixed meter (6/8 to 4/4, maintaining the eighth note) and one tempo change in the middle. Offermans employs good tone painting in both his melodic writing and his use of minimal extended techniques, and the howling sound is sure to get a chuckle out of an audience. A sight-readable treat for a professional recital or a fun challenge for a pre-college student, I find Waltz of the Wolves utterly charming and highly recommend it as an addition to your libraries.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Wyoming All-State Audition Etudes, 2018

It's once again All-State and Honor Band season across the country, and I am always eager to try to create something of value for our auditioning Wyoming students.  (If you're also trying for All-Northwest Wind Symphony, check out my post with videos here.) I have recorded myself performing this year's etudes, which you can find on my You Tube channel and in this post.

A few thoughts about the value of taking these auditions: Every time you challenge yourself to learn a new, difficult piece of music to the best of your ability, you get better as a musician! You also get a chance to practice getting nervous--and getting past those nerves-- in performance, which makes the next performance less terrifying. And whether or not you get the chair you want this year, you can be happy in knowing that you stretched yourself and grew both as a flutist and as a musician from the experience. There's no punishment for not getting in, and potentially great reward if you do make it, so it's the easiest gamble you'll ever make. Given all you'll learn about yourself and how to learn music, you'll win no matter what. 

You can download all three excerpts (two for flute, one for piccolo) and scales here. Scroll to the end of the download for the optional piccolo excerpt (it's after the scales).



Etude #1: 
  • Although there is no indication of articulation length, you'll notice I make mine a little on the short side in the video.  I think it fits the march-like character better than legato would (and displays more variety in your abilities, since you'll be playing legato in #2). Keep it light--we often have a tendency to pound the high notes with heavier tongue, but that will produce a very harsh, unpleasant sound. 
  • Each phrase has a clearly marked dynamic, and they must all sound different. Map out your dynamic range on a single stable pitch: piano is the quietest sound you can make with a focused sound and excellent pitch, mezzo piano is one obvious notch louder, mezzo forte another step louder, etc. Fortissimo should still be in tune. To get louder, you drop your jaw (it should naturally go down and back at the same time) in increments for each louder dynamic. Conversely, to get quieter, your jaw will come up and forward slightly, like saying "oooo". Remember you'll have to do some shifting within each dynamic to ensure that every note is your chosen volume (in the first measure, shifting down for the second, third, and fourth notes and then shifting back up to the high F so you don't sound like you're screaming, mumbling, then screaming again, respectively). 
  • Make sure your fingers are all working as a team on each note! Always practice with a metronome, and alternate very slow practice with woodshedding/looping techniques (minimum 10 perfect repetitions or 1 minute per day on each short difficult passage) daily. You'll see a link to my post describing these practice techniques in "scales", below. 
Etude #2:
  • It is highly unlikely that you will be able to do the phrase from mm. 8-downbeat of 12 in one breath while performing a convincing crescendo to fortissimo. Prioritize the crescendo. In the video, you'll notice I breathe between measures 10 and 11--see if you can make this work for you. Just maintain a resonant ff on either side of the breath and it will still sound good. 
  • Choose one goal note per phrase to help you keep a sense of forward motion; every note leading up to that goal note should have a slight sense of growth, and any notes after your goal will recede slightly. Your goal note should happen pretty late in each phrase--see if you can hear mine in the video! 
  • If q=72 is too slow for you to play beautifully, start by practicing at the slowest comfortable tempo you can do, then gradually slow it down in increments. You haven't perfected a tempo until you can play in tune, with clear tone and correct dynamics ten times in a row. 
  • Your default articulation here is the slur, but be sure to clearly articulate repeated notes, legato style.
  • Be sure your vibrato depth/speed matches your volume--shallow and slow for piano, deep and fast for forte. Practice whole notes crescendo from piano to forte, then decrescendo back to piano ("diamonds") and experiment with your vibrato to fill up, but not go beyond the borders of, your sound at every volume. 
  • Be sure your E to F# slur sounds clean every time--no accidental grace notes!
  • As with etude #1, map out your dynamics
Piccolo Etude:
I encourage all flutists to practice piccolo enough that they feel confident on it. It's part of our instrument family, after all, and affords another opportunity to get into any ensemble, whether it's an honor band or a professional orchestra! Here are some tips to get started.
  • Dynamics work the same way on piccolo as they do on flute (briefly described under "Etude #1"), but the range is more limited. Figure out how quietly you can play on the second line and don't try to go below that threshold.  If the notes don't speak, your audition won't sound very inspiring.  As you are finding your forte, be sure you've shifted down enough to keep from going sharp; check everything with a tuner. 
  • Variety in articulation is important here, and the piccolo is very sensitive in this regard.  It takes very little work to articulate, so be sure you're keeping the staccato light enough to avoid sounding violent. Legato is accomplished mainly by threading steady, generous air through the line and lightly interrupting with a "du" tongue. 

Scales: Visit my blog post, "Tips for Creative Practice" to keep things fresh (and accurate). As per the new procedure this year, specific scales to be played for the auditions will be announced on this website on Friday, October 19th, 2018

Deadlines: check in with your band director early and often about getting everything recorded and turned in on time! 

Good luck, and enjoy the process!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Saxofluticon 2018 registration is open!

The flute choir at Saxoflutison '15
Saxofluticon Flute Choir '15


To all Wyoming and Northern Colorado flutists!:


Flute choir repertoire for this year is JS Bach/s Air on a G String and Gossec's Gavotte, and the mass flute-saxophone ensemble piece is our beloved traditional encore, the Sousa Liberty Bell March! We hope you can join us this year!

Saxofluticon '18 is on October 27 at Kelly-Walsh High School in Casper.  
Register HERE for free by October 8 to be part of the Mass Flute Choir!

Wyoming Saxofluticon (formerly Wyoming Flute Day) is a day-long celebration of all things flute and saxophone!  Run by Dr, Nicole Riner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute at University of Wyoming, and Dr. Scott Turpen, Professor of Saxophone at University of Wyoming, this annual fall semester event includes individual master classes on All-State and All-Northwest audition material for each instrument and general workshops for all, with topics ranging from practicing effectively to conquering performance anxiety and wellness issues like breathing and physical health. Rotating locations ensure that every corner of the state is reached. UW faculty and students perform and serve as mentors throughout the day, and all participants have the option of performing in the flute choir or saxophone ensemble for the gala concert. For ages 13 and up; registration is free.


Saxofluticon is generously sponsored by University of Wyoming Department of Music and Cultural Outreach Programs


Flute choir repertoire for this year is JS Bach/s Air on a G String and Gossec's Gavotte, and the mass flute-saxophone ensemble piece is our beloved traditional encore, the Sousa Liberty Bell March! We hope you can join us this year!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

All-Northwest Wind Symphony Audition Etudes 2018

Dear Wyoming high school flute students from the majority of the state!:

You've got a little less than one month left to put together your Wind Symphony audition for All-Northwest.  And I strongly encourage you to do it!  This new(ish) ensemble opens the door to an exciting, inspiring musical experience that was until recently attainable by very few in our state. From traveling to dreamy Portland to meeting other like-minded, serious musicians from area states, this can truly be a life-changing experience for you.  So please consider buckling down and learning this very playable music--you can do it!

To check eligibility, read the list of qualifying Wyoming schools: 
https://wmea.org/Content/C111/2019/eligibleSchools/2019Wyoming.pdf

And then get the music:
https://wmea.org/Content/C111/2019/2019NAFMEAll-NorthwestWindSymphony.pdf


Here's my two cents on the scale and etudes, with corresponding videos:


Chromatic scale (Exercise #1): Practice this every day with the metronome on. You'd be surprised by your tendencies to speed up or slow down, which will only make it harder! I recommend performing this scale with a resonant, full mezzo forte throughout (be sure to shift down enough for a rock star low register). Articulation should be semi-detached--not too choppy, but not mushy.  Use firm contact with the tongue hitting above the back of the top teeth (or thereabouts--adjust with your ears). You should hear a clear front to each note with no explosion or distortion of sound, and no "thumping" sound from the tongue inside your mouth. 

Expressive Etude (Exercise #2): Work to differentiate between the various articulations. How quickly your tongue snaps back down after initial contact plays a large role in how long or short the articulation will sound; for staccato, the tongue should snap down fastest, for legato, slowest. Accents should involve a bit more surface area from the tongue and a firm but quick placement. Map out your dynamics so that they each sound different, and remember you are changing volume not by drastically changing air speed, but by blowing down more into the head joint (loud) or more across the hole (quiet). I consider mezzo forte to be my comfortable "speaking voice", so mezzo piano should be just a little quieter than your natural sound, forte a bit louder.  Be sure to take a really big breath before the last line to make that extra long, five-measure phrase if possible!



Technical Etude (Exercise #3): This is a great opportunity to practice your springy staccato articulation!  See above, and also visit my articulation challenges from last summer for a brush-up. The last line requires an especially precise coordination effort, as you must decrescendo even as you feel like you're playing ascending pick-up notes at the ends of the measures, then perform a subito forte at the beginning of the next measure.  Remember to do this with air direction rather than speed (see above), and practice this SLOWLY with a metronome so that you can ensure this is happening gradually and consistently while you also take care of notes, rhythms, and articulations.




Be sure to review my tips for making a winning audition recording from last October, as well.

Good luck to all! (Deadline to apply: October 3, 2018)



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Freelancer's corner: pounding the pavement


Summer can be terrifying for a freelancer, when most of the work dries up for the three months of summer vacation. But now the school buses are rolling again, symphonies and chamber series are mailing their season brochures, and everything's going to be OK. Fall is filled with possibilities, but everyone is on the prowl, so you've got to get yourself organized and fast!

In your August arsenal:

1. A clear, succinct email soliciting work. Keep it short, and tailor to the kind of job (playing, teaching) you're looking for.  Something like:

Hi ____________,

My name is your name and I’m a local instrument you play.

I just wanted to reach out and let you know that should you ever need a your service offering that I’m available and would love to play.

I have performed with group, group and group around the area and would to love the opportunity to work together sometime.

For your convenience, I’ve attached my resume and/or recording/website.

Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon!

2. The phone numbers (yes, really) and email addresses for all local band/orchestra/choir directors, personnel managers, and music teacher/instrument-specific organizations.

3. A calendar with reminders of when you'll email all of your aforementioned people, resend emails, and then start calling. (Suggest resending emails after two weeks with no response, then waiting another week before calling.)

4. Your calculator, laptop, and some great sources for figuring out your finances so you know how much work you need to make it until Nutcracker season.

Some of my favorite financial gurus:

Kristen Wong and her new book, Get Money, which is written from her perspective as a freelance writer.
https://www.kristinwong.com/

This succinct outline of what you need to do to be a grown-up from Nerd Wallet:
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/manage-money-freelancer/

Startup Musician is not solely about finances, but he's got some straightforward, helpful blog posts on the topic of budgeting as well as how to book gigs:
http://www.startupmusician.co/

Arguably, you should be trying to piece together work all summer. But if you're new to town, or haven't been able to make contact with people over the summer (a common problem where I live!), it's not too late to get started. Keep a record of your communications and make a plan to follow up on a specific date with people who say "no for now", "get back to me on X date", or just didn't answer.

If you're just starting out, this will consume a fair amount of your energy right now; be sure to maintain a practice routine to stay in shape so that when you get a gig, you sound amazing. If you're feeling pretty settled in your community and your work, think of at least three new contacts you can reach out to, because work doesn't always remain plentiful from one season to the next.

Happy hunting!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

National Flute Association preview!

It's almost that time of year again, that heady mix of excitement, neurosis, and classmate reunion that is the National Flute Association convention. It's in sultry Orlando this year, but I am thrilled to see that next year we'll be in beautiful, dry Salt Lake City. Whether you're going this year or not, I encourage you to make it happen at least occasionally (I know it's expensive, but it's also life-altering!). If you've never been, some words of wisdom:

  • Explore alternative housing.  The NFA discount is never that great when you see how expensive the room are to begin with.  Air BnB has been a lifesaver at these things!
  • Bring (healthy) snacks that can act as meal substitutes to save money and avoid missing out over the lunch hour. 
  • Bring layers. Sitting in a heavily air conditioned convention center all day for four days is painfully cold! 
  • Don't be shy.  Approach performers to congratulate them.  We like that, and we won't bite. 
  • Make new friends. Check our prospective teachers in performance and see if you can take a lesson. This is a great networking opportunity.
  • Maybe don't buy a new instrument there?  The exhibit hall is too chaotic to really get to know anything. But do try instruments and gather a list of what you'd like to try in the calm and quiet of your living room after you get home. (Students: play everything for your teacher before purchasing!!) 
  • It is most customary to arrive late and leave early for events because everything is always double- and triple-booked.  Anywhere else it's rude, but at NFA it's mandatory to breeze in and out for maximum exposure. Don't worry, we won't get mad. 
  • You cannot possible see/hear everything, so don't stress about what you're missing out.  Just go to the things that compel you most.But do go to something every hour if possible!


I'll be doing some performing and some talking again this year, and here are the details:

August 10-11: National Flute Association Convention at Hyatt Regency Orlando
August 10 @ 8:30 a.m.: Kay HE's On the Pivot of an Abandoned Carousel for flute and electronics (Concert: "The Future is Now!"; location: Celebration 5)
August 11 @ 8:30 a.m.: panel discussion: "Adventures in Adjuncting" (Location: Celebration 8)
August 12 @ 3pm: world premiere of a new quartet by Herman Beeftink, performed by ALTUSsimo (Concert: "Flute Chamber Ensemble Concert 2"; Location: Regency Q)

And if you're partial to the contemporary world of flute repertoire, come see me at Flute New Music Consortium's annual NFA dinner Friday at 6:30pm. We'll meet at the volunteer desk and walk to Cuba Libre for some tasty rum and small plates from there! Add yourself to the list here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Is it time for an audit of your private studio? Part 2

If your private studio is thriving, you may not need any advice on how to set yourself apart from area colleagues (or you may find yourself coming back to this advice when the market becomes more flooded and your numbers are decreasing, which can always happen in the future!). But if you're new to a region, and/or struggling to maintain the numbers you would like in your studio, it's probably time to up your game. Here are some ideas to visit, or revisit if it's been a while.

Creating your Mission Statement (pedagogical philosophy) [Here’s mine.]
  • Who do you teach? Age, ability levels
  • What’s your style? Strict, laid back, nurturing environment, college prep…
  • Goals for your students
  • Teaching methods: special certifications, techniques, genres…
Creating a Calendar (what will you offer, and when?)

  • Lessons
    • How many per term
    • How many terms
  • Recitals
  • Ensembles
  • Group Classes
Studio Policies (essentials for your syllabus/contract) [Here’s mine.]
  • Make-up / no-show policy
  • Required supplies (music, instrument in working order, etc.)
    • Recommended places to obtain said supplies
  • How do you define preparation, and what do you do when a student hasn’t done it?
  • Required performances
    • Participating
    • Attending
Developing Something Special / Distinguishing Yourself
  • What do other area teachers offer? What’s missing that you could offer?
  • What are your particular interests and specialties? How could you incorporate them?
    • Create a “complete curriculum” based on your mission statement.
    • Emphasize your special certifications
  • Offer a finite set of coachings for specific purposes (All-State preparation, chamber music coaching…)
  • Ensembles/group classes
  • Community outreach
  • Guest artist series with local friends/colleagues
  • Branding: logo, comprehensive website with areas for use by current students, social media presence…
Retention
  • Help students stay motivated
    • Scheduling musical activities/challenges
    • Competitions
    • Creating a sense of community: parties, small ensembles…
    • How does your mission statement reflect this?
  • Parental involvement
    • What level of involvement do you prefer?
    • Presence (or not) in lessons
    • Help with recitals and other activities
    • Producing results that they can see and appreciate (this can also be stated clearly in your mission statement)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Is it time for an audit of your private studio? Part 1

Whether you're starting from scratch, seeing a decline in returning students, or are currently at the helm of a robust studio, we all benefit from an occasional audit of our business model. And the end of summer is the best time to try out some new techniques to help your studio thrive in any market!

There's so much to cover that I'm going to break this up into two posts, but today's outline covers the basics--no matter where you are, you need a teaching space, students, and a way to collect payment. And if you haven't thought about this stuff in a while, it's worth a quick glance to see what a fresh approach might do to revitalize your studio!
 
Recruiting Students
  • Make flyers and business cards advertising your studio (I like https://www.canva.com/)
  • Contact local public school teachers to
    • Distribute advertising materials
    • Offer a free workshop to their students
  • Join an online matchmaking site like lessonface.com or TakeLessons.com
  • Join local or state teaching groups
    • MTNA local affiliate (https://www.mtna.org/)
    • NAfME local affiliate (https://nafme.org/)
    • Instrument-specific organization (like flute club, etc.)
  • Perform and adjudicate locally

Creating a Studio Space
  • Considerations for home space
    • Waiting area
    • Parking
    • Creating a professional-looking space that is always set up for lessons
    • Issues with sound mitigation / interruptions
    • Liability insurance? [Read more here.]
  • Other possible spaces: must explore financial and other obligations with each
    • Local church
    • Local school (after school or pull-out lessons during ensemble rehearsals)
    • Music store (independently rent a room or work as teaching staff)

Payment
  • What to charge?
    • Consider level of education and expertise when setting a price
    • Ask area colleagues
    • Consult with local private teachers’ organizations or public school teachers
    • Do a Google search in your area
    • If using an outside space (see above), consult with your contact about rules
  • Accepting payment
    • Credit card with a reader (like SquareUp)
    • PayPal (business vs. personal account)
    • Cash (offer discount or other perk if you prefer?)
    • Personal check
  • Payment schedule
    • Options include per lesson, beginning of the month, end of the month for previous services…
    • Late policy
    • Keep records with dates, check numbers, etc.

My next post will cover more creative ways to set your studio apart, as well as giving advice on creating a cohesive curriculum and promo materials.