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! 


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:

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
$Private studio owner/teacher
😁Early childhood music practitioner
$Community music school director/administrator/teacher
😁Music teacher in the public schools
College professor
$Instrument repair
$😁Instrument sales
Commercial music (composing, recording, marketing)
$Audio engineer
Theater technician
$😁Artist management
Grant writer
Arts Administrator: ensemble executive director, non-profit organizer, festival director, marketers, πŸ˜development directors, etc.
$Arts lawyer
$Artist accountant
$Arts journalist
Yoga, meditation, performance psychology, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, music therapy

$Opportunities to run your own business
😁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!