As we enter the Spring 2021 semester many students are resuming their aural and theory courses. These classes can be taxing under neutral circumstances, but given the continued changing instruction modalities (remote, hybrid, etc) there are extra barriers and challenges that can make these courses even more anxiety-inducing.


Apps and Programs designed for Ear Training/Theory

  • MacGAMUT
    • An ear training (with a theory edition as well) software.
    • Randomized exercises – in short and long sections.
    • Customize simple, compound meters; certain elements such as rhythm and range.
    • Sections for particular ear training skills – step-by-step.
  • MusicTheory.net
    • A great entry level tool. As a visual (theory) and ear training tool for notes, intervals, scales, and chords.
    • Customizable – omit specific clefs, range, chords, scales.
  • Teoria
    • Includes both ear training an music theory tools.
    • Customizable ear training exercises for intervals, notes, chords, scales, melodies, and rhythms.
    • Comprehensive basic theory – intervals, reading the staves, keys, scales, chords/harmonic functions. Also includes introductory jazz music theory.
  • GoodEar – apps
    • Great for smartphone or tablet.
    • 4 main apps: Intervals, Scales, Chords, Melodies.
    • Customizable.
  • AP Music Theory Barron’s Book
    • Aside from prep for the AP Music Theory exam, this book provides a condensed overview of basic-advanced Western music theory during the Common Core period.
    • CD with listening exercises; as well as self-assessment sections.

Practicing tools/tips for Ear Training

  • Start simple: when listening ask yourself is the pitch higher or lower? The move on to steps or skips?
  • When playing your own music think about these same concepts (make the context more directly applicable to you!). Listen to something simple without any visual music and try to play it back on your instrument.
  • Constant and consistent ear training; and be aware of out of tune pianos the intonation issues be confuse your brain, tricking it by a half/whole step depending on how severely out of tune it is.
  • Consistent labeling of pitches, find a system that works the best for you.
    • Examples: Solfege Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do
    • Numbers 1-12 (12 chromatic notes in a scale)
      • Ie. a C Major scale would be 1-3-5-6-8-10-12-1
    • Neutral; ie. la, du, ta
    • Note names: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
  • [More advanced] Identify which type of solfege is more comfortable:
    • Fixed Do
      • Typically associated with perfect pitch, tonal memory of specific pitches.
      • C is always Do, D always Re, E always Mi, etc.
    • Moveable Do
      • Do doesn’t have to always be C like Fixed Do. For example in F Major, F is the new Do and by going up the scale C becomes Sol. Or in G Major, G is the new Do and C becomes La.
  • Practice exercises with a drone
    • It’s a good habit to practice with a reference pitch to help develop an ear for the “home” or tonic note in a key.
    • A building block for harmonic function/context.

Music Theory Tips

  • Find a good tutor/mentor
    • A bad theory teacher or unclear instruction can destroy motivation, especially since theory on its own is so dense; a big part of comprehension is how it is presented
    • Everyone can understand music theory, you just need to find a way to think/process it that makes sense.
  • Break down scary concepts into steps
    • Roman Numeral analysis, most people. dread hearing that type of assignment…
    • Break it down, keep it simple:
      • What is the chord function? Just think Tonic/ Subdominant/Dominant?
      • Then figure out how to label each chord.
        • Tonics can only be I and sometimes vi.
        • Subdominant is ii, IV, and vi
        • Dominant is V and viio
        • And forget about iii (I’m kidding… only a little bit)
  • Patterns
    • Do you like puzzles? Make it a game of finding the same or finding opposite.
    • If you don’t you’ll need to figure out another way to process/recognize similarities and differences in rhythm/pitch.
  • “Common facts” sheet
    • There are solid rules in Western theory (these rules have exceptions, of course) by writing down the fundamentals it will help keep track and act as a physical checklist of what is ‘allowed’ and what is ‘rule breaking’.
  • REVIEW
    • It can be mentally taxing. Take breaks while also keeping on top of the material.

I spent the first two years of my undergraduate program not realizing I had been hearing all my melodic dictation exercises in fixed-do (relative to C). It was only by the time I got to atonal music that one of my professors noticed the stark contrast in my performance on dictation exams and I FINALLY was able to get a grasp on melodic dictation. I hope some of these resources are helpful! Share your favorites in the comments.

In August I did a post which covered the flutes I had played before getting to university; now I will covering ALL the piccolos I have owned and played from high school (which was when I started playing flute) through graduate school.

One important note before I get into the reflection is that it is very common in my area that university students upgrade to a professional piccolo – a piccolo made of higher quality materials (resin/wood/metal); even in my undergrad (as a Music Education major) I felt this pressure to upgrade. And then as a Master of Flute Performance student there is DEFINITELY a push to upgrade, however, I am here to share why this isn’t a must have. Don’t feel pressured to do something that isn’t financially viable or you (yourself) feel is necessary.


High School

It is important to know that I started playing flute as a sophomore in high school for marching band. The flute section comprised of 2 seniors, 2 sophomores, and 2 freshman. Because the seniors were graduating I started my piccolo training only 3 months after learning flute (this is as a 15 year old).

  • Emerson – Nickel Silver Plated

PROS:

  • Durable for outdoor playing, I used mine exclusively for marching band every year.
  • Metal LH 1st finger rest to help with the size difference from flute (like a hand crutch).
  • Reliable – I kept this instrument through my undergrad for any outdoor playing – the mechanism held up well.

CONS:

  • The shrillness that comes with metal piccolos – less suited for indoor/concert playing.

  • Jupiter Nickel Silver Plated Head; Plastic Body*

*Before the PROS/CONS I just need to disclose I went through FOUR (yes, 4!!!) of these in a month so here’s what happened: The September of the following school year – my first school year exclusively on marching piccolo – I took a trip to a SamAsh because it was “the” musical instrument distributor in my area. The night I took home my first one I was practicing and then went to remove the head joint… and off came the barrel (aka the part that attaches the body to the head). We went back the next day and got a replacement… and I tried it in store (cautious) and it happened again. I’m not here to say anything bad about SamAsh or Jupiter, but this was VERY frustrating 8 years ago (now it’s actually comedic). I don’t know why we kept on going back to this one model of piccolo, and for context this all took place in the month of September by October I had found the piccolo I still have today. On the 3rd and 4th piccolos, there were issues with the mechanism going out of alignment. Anyway so:

PROS:

  • Decent price (just speaking on my own experience I can’t say much more than that)

CONS:

  • FRAGILE – better suited for indoor/concert rather than outdoor/marching
  • Quality assurance – in my own experience from 2013

  • Gemeinhardt 4SP; Plastic Head and Body

WINNER, WINNER. This is the piccolo I still own today, of course I have played professional piccolos, but in my own experience this piccolo plays well enough that I can not justify the price gap from this to a higher quality one.

And also considering that when you upgrade to a professional instrument you also have to pay for professional REPAIRS!!!! That is the biggest reason I keep this piccolo, it saves literally hundreds of dollars to play on this piccolo (especially considering piccolos go out of alignment much easier than flutes).

PROS:

  • Durable; can manage both indoor and outdoor playing
  • The plastic helps reduce the shrillness in the tone, more suitable for playing indoors than metal student piccolos
  • Stable tuning/intonation – 8 years on the piccolo – and even after playing professional piccolos I find that I can navigate tuning on this instrument with no issues.

CONS:

  • Not available anymore – the current comparable model would be the 4P

Bonus: Piccolos I Played In College

  • Haynes – Grenadilla Wood

This was a school instrument that I shared and borrowed within my studio, mainly because there was a stigma on student piccolos versus professional.

PROS:

  • The wood made the tone significantly less shrill.

CONS:

  • Durability – for all wooden instruments, being mindful of the temperature and not cracking the wood.
  • Scale, tuning – this particular piccolo just didn’t feel right under my fingers for the few years I played it; and intonation was always a struggle between registers.

Basically designed to be a “small flute” – has RH pinky keys, extending the lower register of the piccolo.

I don’t have any PROS/CONS for this still I tried it at a convention, but it was mind-blowing and I am still mildly interested in owning one for the novelty of a piccolo actually being designed to be a “small flute”.


What piccolos have you played? Thoughts on student versus professional models? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

There’s not just one type of student or teacher. Everyone has there own learning styles, needs, and quirks that make up a diverse learning community.

In the instrumental ‘traditional’ symphonic band and orchestra tracks, the expectation is excellence, discipline, and high-achievement – this is a grandfathered system that keeps going, but why? Because it’s comfortable or at the very least familiar? Or because it is what is right for our diverse learners?

In this article, I will be providing an argument for why it is important to seek alternative paths and perspectives that can be married with that familiar “excellence, discipline, and high-achievement”; as well as how these alternatives will help keep our art form alive for there to be another 100+ years rather than gradually lose public funding and favor.


University – Who are you?

When in university you are exposed to a whole new pool of people that – most likely – differ from you and the people from your formative teenage years. You have an immediate choice: do you integrate yourself into as many of these diverse pools as you can? Do you dip your toes into a few pools that either rebel against your former experiences? And/or end up fitting into your former experiences? Or do you completely reject these new perspectives in favor of your own personal experiences?

Identity.

This is something most people begin thinking about around the time they develop social awareness; however, one people are left on their own – without a familiar backdrop of places and people – they are forced to see who they really are.

Hence, why it is paramount to take advantage of the time you have in university to explore these alternative perspectives. Now that doesn’t mean you have to do things that go against your morals or beliefs; but LISTENING to people about why they feel the way they feel does not do any harm to you. It doesn’t suddenly mean you are rebelling against your morals or are doing anything wrong.

One term that has gained popularity with the widespread use of internet forums is “echo chamber”. For those of you unfamiliar, you can read about it here; to summarize, it is usually characterized by people seeking out others who hold the same opinion as they do to further solidify their biases – most of the time this is not malicious and can often be done subconsciously.

With all this in mind, every once in a while take a step back to reflect on the media you are consuming to see if you are exposing yourself to a wide array of ideas or are just listening to what you know you will agree with.


Grandfather Music Education

Like many things in life, there isn’t one way to become a music educator.

Most people may think that you become a music educator through a 4/5 year Bachelors program (which includes clinical experiences, teaching portfolios, and state/nation required exams). The first glaring issue with this is that this is strictly an American perspective. Likewise there is also the bias of time – expecting someone to finish their degree in a set number of years – more or less. As well as assuming that someone HAS to do their Bachelors in Education. And the list can go on….

Here I will be reflecting on Music Education in America because that is where I studied and have the most insight on:

  1. One of the biggest issues is the separation of music in school and out of school. We demand support for the arts (rightly so) yet when it comes to music making we rarely ever create new things, we simply recreate what is expected. On top of that most of the music we perform is not meaningful to the students. Popular instrument, music technology, film score, etc. classes are heavily undermined and not taken seriously by many educators. However, can it be at the fault of all these educators? Or is it really the lack of preparation and training in degree programs to get these educators to make music education more accessible.
  2. Accessibility for special needs. At the end of my Bachelors they tacked on a few special education courses – which they graduate above my year never took and that is worrisome. I graduated with my Bachelors in 2019 and special education was not given a platform to all these educators who may not actively seek ways to support and reach students who really need it.
  3. Poverty – this gets touched on yes, but no one actually knows what to do, most of us are just told to make it up as we go. Not having enough instruments for students, or not enough materials (stands, music, chairs, space) for students is devastating when the engagement is there. However when there is low enrollment or interest, how do we get these students in the door? How do we make an environment that supports them, their learning, and their financial need?
  4. Racial distribution – this was never really discussed in my undergraduate classes (even with my University being on the East coast). Racial diversity doesn’t look one way it is highly dependent on the school you teach in/the district. You CAN NOT have a band of predominantly one racial group and them a sprinkle of other groups in there and call that diverse. There are many interconnected issues within this topic such as: lack of proper healthcare (which can effect proper diagnosis of special needs) and economic inequity.

Those are just a few of the topics that stick out the most (from my perspective). Others may want to call out gender, family/home stability, LBGTQ+ harassment, and more. Those are all valid perspectives that are not covered in this grandfathered music education pyramid.

Expanding Grandfather Music Education: Resources

Here are some resources that I could find address these topics – feel free to share ones you have found:

Roderick Cox – Conductor’s Perspective discusses “A live conversation among four American conductors across generational lines- sharing their unique stories navigating the elusive profession of orchestral conducting, and perspectives on classical music as a unifying art form for the future.”

NAfME: Teaching Lessons to Children with Special Needs

Article: Inner-City Schools Find Music Programs Could Be Key To Happier, Harder-Working Students

@blackgirlmusic_ / @iamcreateorg supporting Black and Latinx female musicians.

BrassChicks

Article: Orchestrated Sex: The Representation of Male and Female Musicians in World-Class Symphony Orchestras

Reddit: Hello r/flute! What are your thoughts on males playing flute?

Trumpet Headquarters – Black Female Brass Players

NAfME: How to Teach Commercial and Popular Music in Schools

Forum: Students with Divorced Parents

Article: The ‘shadow education system’: How wealthier students benefit from art, music, and theater over the summer while poor kids miss out

Article: Teaching Music in Inner City Schools


Is it that easy?

No it’s an ongoing battle. Especially for the groups that can not just walk away from it. If you are able to turn it off and walk away you NEED to acknowledge your privilege. We (especially those with privilege) need to complicate our lives to make any sort of impact in the way music education is taught and experienced.

Especially with this pandemic that is rolling into its tenth month: people are either going into poverty or deeper in to poverty; the gaps in educational achievement are widening; people are stressed and emotionally unwell; and there is still so much instability in the world.

As a future educator my one message to you is: that people come first. Ease your students into lessons – how was your day/week? What did you have for breakfast/lunch? Who’s that on your shirt? What have you been listening to?

Make them feel seen and that they matter because they might not be getting that support elsewhere. The music can come later.


Share any resources you like in the comments!

Hi Everyone, I am happy to report that I survived my graduate comp essays. I passed the history portion, and just waiting to get my theory results back.

Other updates:

I finished teacher training for Suzuki Flute Book 1 so I can now teach that!!

I got my own ukulele – since my Teacher Popular Music course is coming to an end, I’ll have to return the school’s instrument so I wanted to have my own to continue learning – right now I can really only play the opening to “The Moon and Me” from the Addams family music and the melody to the Animal Crossing New Horizons intro song.


I thought I also might be useful to share some holiday gift recommendations for flute players since this is being posted on Black Friday, and most online retailers will continue sales through the weekend.

Originally, I posted this list on my OG tumblr (x):

Warm up/Technique books:

1. Paula Robinson Warmup Book

2. Taffanel and Gaubert – This is on IMSLP

3. Reichert – Also on IMSLP

4. Trevor Wye Omnibus Edition

5. The Flute Scale Book

6. Moyse … he has so much I like his 24 little pieces in particular

Solo (ie etudes,flute and piano or orchestral/band excerpt)/Technique

1. Flute 101 and 102

2. Baxstresser Orchestral Excerpts for Flute

3. The Orchestral Flute Practice Book – Trevor Wye and Patricia Morris

4. Andersen op. 33 (etudes)

5. Berbigiuer (etudes) – This may also be on IMSLP

6. Karg-Elert Caprices (etudes)

Solo (ie solo flute or flute and accompaniment) music*

*as a general rule, Barenreiter or UrText collections (such as Bach or Handel collections) are great if you’re looking for a specific piece and also want some other material to read through

Also, many parts published by the “International Music Company” are littered with errors (I have had several pianists go on and on about this so just a heads up to be cautious).

Flute-centric books/reading

1. The Flute Book (Nancy Toff)

2. Flute Secrets (Trevor Wye)

3. Quantz’s How To Play the Flute

Some good flute specific online shops:

The Flute Center of NY has an online sheet music shop: Rose Music and the prices have been very fair in my experiences with them – and they usually have sales going on soo definitely worth checking out.

Flute World also has a ton of music on their website, but it can sometimes be more expensive or take awhile to get to you because they do not have the item in their facilities and have to order it for you.

Or the Flutistry of Boston also tends to have a wide array of flute goodies!


How was your November? Do you have any holiday gift recommendations – flute-centric or otherwise?

Hello all!

This month is usually a hectic one for a lot of music students.

This November I am taking my Comp Exams (Graduate Exams in both Theory and History) to graduate. They are research based, running all month. If I was just taking my comps (if only) I might be able to keep on top of posting this month, but I also have to balance projects for my Teaching Popular Music course, Suzuki teacher training and observations, 20th Century Music History War and Peace seminar, teaching, and just my general sanity!

I may add some posts this month as updates to this process, but I will not be posting regular content (at least that’s the plan) again until December once things simmer down.

Good luck to all with a crazy month ahead of them.

Emma

Presently, there are MANY barriers that prevent people of socioeconomic and racial status from pursuing higher education, especially in music. Take a look at what type of programs and audition repertoire are asked for at music programs across the country. We expect everyone to be on some standardized playing field… we expect everyone to have access to teachers… access to instruments. It is frustrating on both ends. Those who are marginalized by this are not given a platform to advocate; and those who are in a position to make change are shut down. People are afraid of change, “if I had to learn this then you have to suffer through it too”. There is this idealistic, utopian perception that reading Western sheet music is this “almighty, higher than thou” pedestal. When really there is this repressed fear of altering the way instruction is implemented, how curriculum is structured, and how to allocate resources so that (in the best case) education is accessible for everyone.

Before going forward with this article, I must disclose the identity advantages that I have as a passing-straight, abled, cis-gendered, white woman living in the United States. I deal with significantly less LGBTQ+ issues head on because I can pass. I deal with less misogyny because I am white woman rather than a woman of color. I deal with barely any physical limitations because I am abled. Generally, I deal with less barriers because I am a passing-straight, cis-gendered white woman.

However, I was born into poverty; and still live in the very low socioeconomic pool. There was a lot of moving in my early childhood that made learning especially challenging because the curriculum from school to school varied… I am the first in my family to go to college – both undergraduate and graduate. I had to learn how to do all of college alone. How to request federal financial aid, loans, grants. So my perspective for this article will be centered around the socioeconomic barriers; however, I will make the effort to be aware of other barriers that may make these resources less accessible to people of other identities.


Financial Resources

I qualified for EOF (the Educational Opportunity Fund) when I started my undergraduate degree, but it was completely on accident…. I had not idea what the program was when I applied, I just saw it being pushed by the school and decided to see if I qualified for the aid. Let me tell you about my experience:

Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF)

Offered to both undergraduate and graduate students who are low income first generation college students can be awarded financial aid for tuition each semester as long as they are in good academic standing and meet all of their universities specific requirements.

  • The requirements I had as an undergraduate student were to attend a summer institute prior to my first semester, attend a freshman seminar during my first semester, attend 2 counseling sessions each semester I was enrolled in school, and maintain my academic perform to my university’s standard.
  • For my graduate school experience the regulations were much less active, it functions more like a grant rather than an active program. Each school year I need to reach out to the EOF department coordinators to get access to the application form, if I qualify for the financial need then those funds help cover my tuition.

You can do a quick google search to see if your university offers an EOF program or fund. Or email your academic advisor or the financial aid office to see if you can find out if the school offers any assistance that you may qualify for.

FASFA

This one is no secret. The secret is DO IT EARLY. The sooner you do it, the better off you will be with your aid (pending you are in good academic standing and depending which financial bracket you fall into).

Since I started college in 2015, the dates have been moved around. It is now OCTOBER 1st…. DO It NOW!!!! It used to be in December/January, you may miss out on aid if you wait a month or several months to complete the form.

Know Your Financial Aid (Grants, Loans…)

In case you aren’t familiar with the different types of financial aid available, there are 2 main types: the one you have to repay and the one you don’t. Awards, scholarships, assistantships, work-study, and grants are all the latter – you DO NOT repay these. You can get awarded these by completing your FASFA early, applying for grants/funds (like EOF), and reaching out to your school’s cashiering or financial aid office for resources.

  • Schools will usually have a grants/scholarships page where you can see the more common awards you can apply for!

Loans (of which there are two types subsidized and unsubsidized) are more or less a last resort. When you don’t have enough aid or savings to cover your tuition, you must take out student loans.

TIP: Max out your subsidized loan BEFORE you increase your unsubsidized loan. Why? Because the subsidized loan does not earn interest while you are at least a 1/2 time student while the unsubsidized loan starts earning interest once the money is distributed to you. This may not seem like a big deal when you are getting your award money, but by the end of you degree (4 or more years for a Bachelors) you WILL notice the difference of 4 years worth of interest.


Online Music Resources

Free Apps

  • ProMetronome : iOS / Android
  • GuitarTuna: iOS / Android
  • **Spotify: iOS / Android
    • **Students get 3 free months of Spotify – it is worth it if you want access to more recordings while in school!
  • GarageBand: iOS

Websites


Music Resources at School

1. LIBRARY: You can use the library to borrow sheet music, scores, textbooks, and other materials you may need for classes.

2. ONLINE LIBRARY: As a student you have free access to journals and databases for academic resources. Take in as much as you can. Websites like JSTOR, Ebsco, and ProQuest are a few examples of the many, many databases I had access to in both my undergraduate and graduate schools.

3. COLLEAGUES and TEACHERS: If you really can’t afford to buy you own music or books for courses, sometimes you can borrow or buy materials at a heavily discounted price from upperclassman. Or you professors many be willing to loan you their materials for you to use.


Feel free to share any resources I missed in the comments below!

The flute is not the most ergonomic instrument. It’s played horizontally; where the instrument is mainly on the right side of the body. There is a lot of fine motor skill required for advanced flute playing which can lead to significant injury if done without they key element of balance. Not just of the flute – but taking regular breaks, stretching, etc. to maintain stamina and wellness.

Here I’ll be sharing some tips and resources I’ve worked with on the everlasting journey of maintaining health while playing the flute.


Breaks!

Taking 5-10 minute breaking during practice sessions is so important. No matter how long you plan to practice for: IF YOU FEEL STRAIN/FATIGUED… STOP, TAKE A BREAK!

One of the hardest things for me to accept as an undergraduate student was taking multiple breaks during practice sessions because I felt like I could better spend that time practicing – pushing through the strain – because my schedule was so hectic that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up for lost time.

Now, I know that’s completely pointless. Pushing yourself is one thing, but when your hands are numb, tingling, or extremely sore you shouldn’t “push” yourself. And if the problem is consistent start tracking when (if a particular exercise/pattern triggers pain) and what (level of pain and where is it located).

TLDR; 5-10 minute breaks during practice sessions, especially when you become fatigued is #1!

Change your warm ups

Variety is good – coming up with creative exercises and ways to practice the same material is not only beneficial to your physical health, but it will also keep you engaged and active in the warm up process.

For example, if you were to warmup with Taffanel and Gaubert #1 (Major scale, spanning scale degrees 1-5) every single day at the same time: You do your TG #1, long tones, articulation, and etude in that order all day every day (or most days…). That can lead to issues down the line.

While, yes, you are building muscle memory. You are also only using the same muscles and can cause strain from the repetitive motion. How can you prevent this?

  1. Change the order of your warm up – or intersperse your warmup with short/easy pieces on occasion (like the Moyse 24 Petite Exercises)
  2. Section/chunk larger exercises and spread throughout the week – with TG #1, for example, practice the lower register one day, middle register the next, and high register the day after that. Then loop back to the lower register.
  3. Find different exercises that focus on the same area. Again, looking at TG #1, you could do Paula Robison’s the Singer’s Warmup.

Breathing/Relaxation

Being aware of any tension while playing is worth noting.

Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I developed (or became aware of) my cubital tunnel and carpal tendonitis. It started with soreness any time I played for more than 10 minutes. During that time I was under a lot of stress – student teaching, recording for graduate pre-screenings, making travel arrangements, etc. I had to take a break from playing (more so than if I had done preventative care) to go to a rheumatologist (aka a hand specialist) who referred me for occupational therapy after the 2 diagnoses. I’ll come back to that in the next section.

Preventative care is #1, it is ongoing, so being aware of your body’s needs is so vital. Taking time during those 5-10 minute breaks to breathe or just decompress.

Many of the wellness/tracking watches have a breathing reminder. Or there are apps to follow along with breathing exercises. You can even just watch a short video on your phone and breath/decompress while watching that.

The Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book even starts with several breathing/stretching exercises to do.

Stretches

Stretching is necessary for any physical activity so playing an instrument shouldn’t be exempt from that.

Everyone will have a different area of fatigue that they will want to focus on maintaining. For me – back to the experience I had in occupational therapy with cubital tunnel and tendonitis – the strain was coming from the larger muscles in my shoulders (the serratus anterior) and causing issues in the small muscles up my forearm and in my hands (particularly numbing the pinky).

I did a full blog post on my OT experience right after I finished my therapy – it’s still an ongoing process and I still use many of those exercises to this day – check the link out if you’d like to see that full process (getting referrals, what occupational therapy entailed, and what modifications I needed).

If you are unsure if you need occupational therapy, you should consult your primary care doctor/family medicine doctor – even if they aren’t specialized in music medicine – the repetitive movements of flute playing can cause physical injury that shouldn’t be minimized.

Some of the stretches I do my own areas of fatigue include: tendon glides (obviously for the tendons – focusing on my forearms), cup stretches (for the upper traps in my shoulders), hip and back floor stretches for hyperextension, and wall exercises (in which I face a wall with my elbows flat against the wall – to focus on the serratus anterior or ‘wings’ area in my shoulder/back area).

Definitely seek out a referral for physical or occupational therapy if you believe you are suffering from injury (repetitive fatigue or strain while playing) to learn your own personalized stretches and modifications.

Other Ideas

Breathing Gym

Video

Alexander Technique


Do you have any wellness recommendations that I didn’t include here? How do you balance your physical and mental health especially during COVID? Share your ideas in the comments below.

My first collegiate ensemble was in no conceivable way the best showing of my talents…

That summer I had been studying with an alumni of the flute studio I was joining. Unbeknownst to the both of us, the audition requirements had changed since her time out of school (which had only been 3 years at that time)…

The audition list for the semester called for Beethoven Leonore No. 3 overture, Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis, Brahms Symphony 4, Bizet Carmen Entr’acte, and the exposition to the Mozart Concerto in G.

The audition packet just included the PDFs of the excerpts, and no clear directions… at the time I decided to give the list directly to my teacher and work through it with her. During her time at the school, students could choose which excerpts to prepare – specific ones were not required (can you guess where things went horribly wrong?). I prepared Beethoven, Brahms, Bizet and Mozart.

When the day of the audition came, to my shock and dismay, I learned that the process had changed and that I was expected to play Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis…. which I did… poorly. And don’t even get me started on the sight-reading (I’ve repressed the memory). Here’s what I’ve learned since that scarring day…


I am going to separate this article into two sections: one for incoming college students and one for seasoned veterans looking to just do better in auditions. After looking at both demographics, I’ll give some suggestions for sending out virtual recordings since covid-19 has already began to change how auditions are being held. Let’s get started with the incoming students:

Tips for Incoming Students

  1. COMMUNICATE with the faculty and current students.
    • Ask for clarification – unsure about articulation? Markings? Tempos?
    • Learn more about auditions – how does the scoring work? Is there sight reading? How many rounds are there? Is there separate Fall and Spring semester auditions?
    • Nail down exactly what you need to prepare – and DOUBLE CHECK.
  2. Find recordings – be selective!
    • Just because it’s available on YouTube doesn’t automatically make it good or bad. Be an active listener and compare recordings. If you are completely unsure, you can always ask someone which one they prefer and use that as a starting point!
  3. Be aware of the audition day protocol.
    • Is it a blind audition? Should you dress up?
    • Who will be on the panel? (Area teachers? Ensemble directors? Mixed?)
    • Should the excerpts be memorized? Will there be sight reading?
    • Sign up for time slots? How early should you be prepared to go in?
  4. 2020 Video Auditions???
    • Determine if there will be a moderator and how the panel will be judging.
    • Dress up.
    • Don’t leave recording the audition to the last minute – you may not get a good take that reflects for playing.
    • Don’t worry about getting all excerpts in one take.
    • Be honest with yourself and listen back – if the judges can hit replay so can you.
  5. Record yourself.
    • Listen multiple times each for different qualities (rhythm, intonation, expression).
    • Be active, and write down or mark any mistakes.
    • Positive mindset, you can start to spiral if you get to critical – there are ways to correct yourself that aren’t negative. For example, instead of staying DON’T RUSH, you can say maintain a steady pulse or slow down. Both these alternatives are giving purposeful action and directing you to change.
  6. At the end of the day… a bad audition does not reflect your playing. Have a plan for the day following your audition. Treat yourself for all the work you put into preparing!

Tips for Returning Students

  1. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. The more you progress in your program you may start to shift towards a more comfortable bubble where auditions feel less stressful – that’s great – but that doesn’t mean that you will achieve your personal best if you skimp on preparing in advance.
    • As soon as the list is out, the LEAST you can do is compile a list of recordings to start sifting through. Listen to them and begin to separate quality recordings to study and listen to more intensely.
  2. Record yourself! The first day you get the audition list, record the excerpts (it will be nice when the audition is close to see how much progress you’ve really made).
    • And keep recording yourself throughout the preparation process. You don’t need to record every practice session, but you will benefit greatly by listening to yourself and breaking down the same criteria as the judges.
  3. Know what to listen for… Rhythm is FIRST. Intonation and tone is second. And musicality/expression is last.
  4. Find scores whether you buy them or find them on IMSLP or elsewhere.
    • woodwindexcerpts.com was a LIFE-SAVER during my undergraduate ensemble auditions!
    • Knowing the context of what your role is and what the rest of the ensemble is doing is ESSENTIAL to properly preparing.
  5. Practice slowly – you don’t need to have the goal tempo down a week after the audition repertoire is posted. Moderate-tempo, clean technique is better than fast, muddy technique.
    • Take half the tempo on the first read and see how comfortable it feels. Gradually bump it up until you reach a tempo range that it becomes challenging. Don’t be a champion, stay objective to see the best results!
  6. Have a consistent warm up and mental preparation for the audition day. You want to be focused and centered so that you can project that energy in the audition room.
    • There’s no ‘right’ warm up or preparation, figure out what will make you feel the most confident. And don’t forget to treat yourself after the audition.
  7. Prepare for sight reading… you don’t have to jump in blindly.
    • Know what the judges are looking for, most often, they are listening for: rhythm, pitch/tone, intonation, style/articulation, and musicality/dynamics/phrasing.
    • Practice sight reading – use other instrument’s (ie violin or oboe) repertoire and focus on the elements they judges will be listening for.
      • Rhythm: If they notes happen at the wrong time, they pitches have no chance at being correct. Get comfortable with as many rhythm variations as possible.
        • Once surefire way to do this is by practicing “rhythm-cells” which is just taking a single rhythm and repeating it over an over until you are comfortable.
        • Also, practice different meters – practice in duple, triplet, quadruple! Practice simple and compound meters! Even practice odd meters!!
      • Pitch/tone: Practice. Your. Scales. (and arpeggios and 7th chords) You won’t know what key or pattern the sight reading will be in, but if you are proficient in all your scales then you will be able to put more energy into rhythm, dynamics, etc rather than working about getting all the right fingers down in a key signature that has 5 flats.
      • Intonation: Know your tendencies. This should be an ongoing process, be aware what pitches tend sharp or flat and figure out how you should be adjusting (the answer is not always to pull out the head joint).

Tips for Recording

If you were a music student during the beginning of the pandemic, you may have already began to troubleshoot issues that arose last Spring. Issues like peaking audio, recording equipment, placement, framing, etc.

If you have a virtual audition coming up, FIRST figure out what type of audition you will be taking. Will it be asynchronous or will you actually be in a video conference? If it is asynchronous will the audition be blind (aka will there be a moderator to keep the auditions anonymous) or will the panel be watching the videos?

  1. Take a lesson with your primary teacher. And/or do a mock audition with your peers. This is a MUST, first it will provide you with an objective perspective – both with your actual playing as well as how well your playing translates through technology.
  2. Figure out if there are any technology issues in the case of blind auditions mainly audio issues. If your current equipment isn’t cutting it… your laptop or phone is just not getting good results. RESEARCH affordable and quality options. (As of writing this, the Zoom or Snowball microphones are the most accessible – the Zoom one can be plugged into a phone and the Snowball connects to a laptop with a USB).
  3. Experiment, how does moving the camera/microphone effect the sound quality? Move around the room and figure out where you get the best results.
  4. If the audition is going to be a conference or the panel will see you – practice getting comfortable in the space you will be recording/streaming.
    • Make sure the part of you the camera can see if presentable – dress to impress!
    • And make sure you feel free and just as capable in your playing as if you were on stage or in an actual audition room.
  5. If the audition is going to be asynchronous…
    • Figure out if the audition needs to be entirely one take or if you can do individual takes for each excerpt.
    • Communicate with a faculty member or moderator how the recording should be formatted…
      • Should it be in a specific order? Can you send multiple clips or one long clip? When and where should be clip be submitted?
    • If you need to make a long clip (compiling all the excerpts into one video) look into free, accessible movie editing software. For iOS devices, iMovie on either a phone/tablet/laptop can take less than 5 minutes to just put individual excerpts together and save to your camera roll.

What are you best audition preparation tips? Do you have any audition horror stories that you learned from? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

What should I being doing? Should I take a semester of leave? My student teaching placement just fell through – what are schools going to do? How can we even have ensembles or chamber groups?

These are the thoughts that my colleagues and I have been discussing for months – mainly as a coping mechanism since there is really nothing we can do to change the situation. I live and go to school in New Jersey so I can only speak on what my experience has been here – I can not speak for other states and countries experiences with quarantine and the process of reopening things.

When everything shut down in March 2020, my school was on our spring break – which got extended an extra week when our governor, Phil Murphy, mandated that universities cease in-person meetings. It was scary – a recital was looming, our first spring concert was only a week away, and I am a graduate performance student… how was I meant to perform if we couldn’t be together? I managed to preserve through the Spring 2020 semester. My recital (originally a chamber music program scheduled for April 1st) drastically changed to all solo repertoire and was moved to May 13th. Our orchestra concerts didn’t happen… chamber groups didn’t happen… At the time, I thought to myself that there must be another way for us to create. We can’t just stop performing. But we did, at least for that semester. And now as we are rapidly approaching the Fall 2020 semester I am left with more questions than answers:

Are ensembles going to happen at all? Are auditions happening at all? Are lessons going to continue online? Are chamber groups going to be formed? Are my classes going to be remote or hybrid? Will those classes be asynchronous? Are recitals happening? Will I be able to work? How am I going to survive? Should I just take a semester off?

I hope someone out there can relate to these feelings and know that you are not alone in this.

In New Jersey, we are still trying to figure out what to do with schools come September. Our governor left it open for K-12 public school districts to determine their communities’ needs on a case-by-case basis, but with state universities there is a much larger pool of students. International students and out-of-state students will not have to determine whether or not they feel safe or supported enough to continue their education or wait until some breakthrough allows people to feel safe meeting again (which who knows how long we will have to wait to see that). Especially considering – as a performer – that Broadway and the NY Philharmonic have ceased their performances until 2021 at the earliest, the future for the Fall 2020 semester is looking bleak. And the part of the worry is that no one has answers. No one knows when it will be ‘safe’ again.

Yes, there are virtual learning options, but in the arts it can feel like a fate worse than death. We have this desire to communicate and create with others, but using technology to do so feels like we are removing ourselves, putting up barriers, closing ourselves off. There are technological issues, delays, and a whole lot more effort than the time before quarantine. Is it worth it?

If we want to keep the arts alive… yes. We need to be willing to adapt and be innovative given the current situation to pave the way for a safe future. But it will be tough.

I recently had a conversation with a non-music friend about looking at COVID-19 in the grand scheme of things. I said something like this to her, “You know… we aren’t even half way through this.”

And she said back to me, “What do you mean?”

I elaborated, “We’ve only been in quarantine for 4 months – March to July. We still have 5 more months until December… we aren’t half way through this.”

To which she replied, “You really think quarantine is going to last the rest of the year?”

We continued to talk, and between us (of course, these conversations are merely for our morale and not some factual, data-based TEDTalk) we came to the conclusion that we could be like this until March of 2021. What is ‘this’ by the way, well in New Jersey ‘this’ refers to: not being able to go out in public without a mask, maintaining proper social distancing of 6ft or more, not being able to physically greet people, not being able to meet with friends indoors, keeping small friendship bubbles that follow the same strict quarantine guidelines that you follow, spending a lot of time at home, doing the majority of your work from home, etc.

That was harrowing for the both of us as young 20-something-year olds. To think that we haven’t even made it over the worst part. Where is the motivation to keep working? That is a question I have found myself pondering: I am working on all of these things, but why? What am I working towards?

I’ll be honest – I can’t even say for sure what goal I am actually working towards. I feels like one of those dreams that you just keep falling and then you wake up clammy with your heart racing. At the moment, I am holding out the hope that my colleagues and professors do not give up during the Fall 2020 semester. I hope that we adapt and navigate this strange situation together… the best we can.

The solution is to be persistent, insistent and… some other word ending in -sistent. We need the arts to thrive, especially in a time where people are suffering physically and emotionally. I recently saw a post going around online; it was a picture of a sign that read, “Why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated”. I laughed when I first saw it. But why should we go to school?

I go to school for community. I go to school because I want to be exposed to new things. I go to school because I get to experience things I wouldn’t have in my hometown. Those are just a few reasons. I don’t go to school for others, I go to school for myself.

To be persistent for me is to preserve through these unknown waters and see it to the other side (think like Moana – a movie I finally watched during quarantine). And to be insistent for me is to not let others or the world’s pandemic stop me from from pursuing something that brings me joy. Yes, I believe it is nonsensical to meet in groups of 30 people and play in an ensemble, but my insistent is finding a way to make it work given the new rules we have to play by.

What brings you joy?

In my MISC blog post for July 2020, I list several performances that have brought me comfort and joy. Ranging from Elgar’s Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations) to Rimsky Korsakov’s 3rd movement of Scheherazade. As music majors (whether we are focused on education, performance, composition, therapy, etc) one of the core elements is creating.

While listening to performances may be a good bandaid for a short time, it isn’t much help when what we really need (in this metaphorical sense) are stitches. What are some ways you can tap into that creativity?

  • Chamber music – yes, chamber music as we know it will be on hold for a while. That doesn’t have to prevent us from playing it: whether you are playing with a recording of your self, collaborating with someone else virtually, or playing with a track someone else recorded. The process of creating music can still be collaborative.
  • Notation software – maybe you picked up Sibelius for one orchestration class and just left it to collect dust after your final project. Notation software is great for a plethora of reasons: Musescore, for example, has an online database where you can find arrangements of music (in the even you want to do a chamber piece, but don’t have the right instrumentation). You can also take you current repertoire and put it in and listen back to – especially if the piece is for your instrument and another – this can help you be more actively aware of what other parts are doing and how everything fits into the larger picture.
  • Take up a secondary instrument or find a way to push yourself out of your comfort zone on your own instrument. As a music education student, if you have access to a secondary instrument, this is probably the best time you have to really hone in on an instrument outside of your primary area – take advantage of it! If you don’t have access to an instrument, consider extended techniques or repertoire that you are less comfortable with.
  • Explore other music technology. Being familiar with recording software – BandLab, Garage Band, Audacity – can be extremely beneficial even after the pandemic is over. Likewise, learning what kinds of recorders/microphones are on the market and being knowledgeable of their pros and cons.

How are you feeling during this pandemic? What has your experience been thus far and how are you coping? What are you hopes and plans for the upcoming semester? And what are you doing to be creative?