Conquer Fear

How do you define fear?

Here we are again, another Halloween. We are surrounded by ghosts, skeletons, creepy pumpkins, headstones and scary movies. A strange holiday, but I like the happy side of Halloween: happy pumpkins, happy ghosts, happy costumes and happy decorations.

I’m sure everyone has been afraid of something at some point in your life. How do you define fear?

What are common types of fear? Fear of failure. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of spiders or all types of phobias. Fear of being late. Fear of judgement. Fear of the unknown. Fear of unmet expectations. This list could go on and on. As a flute teacher, I frequently see the fear of performing or the fear of making a mistake in students. But what exactly are they afraid of?

Psychologists and therapists use something called The Feelings Wheel to help identify the root causes of emotions.

This is my copy that has been on my fridge for a while. Here is also a link to another Feelings Wheel developed by Dr. Gloria Willcox of The Gottman Institute.

According to this chart, fearful is a word that can include scared (helpless or frightened), anxious (overwhelmed or worried), insecure (inadequate or inferior), weak (worthless or insignificant) rejected (excluded or persecuted), and threatened (nervous or exposed). Dr. Willcox’s wheel also includes bewildered, confused, discouraged, submissive, foolish and embarrassed. Other wheels also use the words vulnerable, suspicious, apprehensive, concern, worried, susceptible, and terrified.

When I think about conquering fear, the words I just listed above are much more descriptive than just the word fear itself. Once you’ve identified the root of your fear, then it makes it easier to address the thinking process. I am not a trained therapist nor do I claim to be by any means. I just know that thinking through things and adjusting thought processes contributes immensely to emotional health.

Many of these feelings listed on the chart are normal. But when these emotions paralyze you, it’s time to address them and turn them around for your benefit. I encourage you to seek professional help, if necessary.

I love this quote from the movie Princess Diaries:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.

Princess Diaries

Recognize that fear exists. What you decide to do about it is the important part. Acknowledge it. Face it. Conquer it everyday.

Also, visit my post from October 29, 2020 called Don’t Be Scared, for specific details on how to address performance anxiety as a flute player or musician.

Thoughts on Performing

If you came to our superhero symphony concert last week, thank you. If not, you missed out on some concert fun and marvelously majestic music.

During the dress rehearsal and the performances several times I thought to myself, “You know, this is fun. I really enjoying doing this.” Last year, I wondered that if our conductor retired, would I still keep playing in the orchestra. We’ve had a guest conductor for our summer concert and last week’s concert and I’ve decided that the answer is definitely YES. I would still keep playing with the Utah Valley Symphony.

I enjoy playing my flute. I enjoy making music with others. I enjoy the thrill of sitting in the center of the orchestra, the best spot in my opinion. I enjoy the comradery with others. I enjoy performing.

At the beginning of each school year, I send out a list of performance dates to my flute students. The ones who have taken lessons for more than a year expect it. Those who just started lessons inevitably, shall I say, “Freak out”. We have masterclasses, also known as group flute classes, recitals, and festivals throughout the school year.

Scientific evidence supports that learning a musical instrument is great for your brain, but it is also great for your soul and helps build character.

Why do we perform?

To work towards a goal and accomplish it. To stretch yourself. To learn from it. To share with others. To make music and express the emotion, the passion, the energy and the beauty through it.

One of my college professors, Dr. Ted Wight, often said that whatever happened at the recital was not the most important thing. The most important thing was the progress I made since the last recital. I wholeheartedly agree.

A performance is the culmination of time and effort to create a work of art.

Don’t hide from performance opportunities but rather seek them out and embrace each chance to perform.

Music expresses what cannot be put into words and yet cannot remain silent.

Victor Hugo

Utah Valley Symphony Super Heroes

Tickets are now on sale for our Utah Valley Symphony Superheroes concert. Thursday and Friday, October 20th and 21st, 2022, 7:30 pm at the Covey Center in Provo. Click here for tickets.

Experience a mash-up of contemporary and classical heroines and heroes with the Utah Valley Symphony. Spiderman meets Franz Liszt. Wonder Woman goes head to head with Beethoven. Benjamin Britten makes way for music from Frozen. Join us in enjoying these family friendly heroic themes as well as photo ops with Spiderman, Elsa, and Wonder Woman for an adventure packed evening. The orchestra musicians will be in Halloween costumes, so audience costumes are also encouraged.

We all have our favorite super hero, whether it’s Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Thor, Iron Man, or dozens of others to choose from.

Synonyms to superhero include defender, model, fighter, guardian, or rescuer. Merriam-webster.com lists some synonyms for heroic as “brave, courageous, fearless, and valiant,” to name a few.

Setting all Marvel and Detective Series and Disney movies aside, who is a super hero to you?

Someone who has fought cancer multiple times? A single mother or a single father raising their children? A helpful neighbor who serves in a quiet way? Someone who donates to a humanitarian fund? A flute teacher who changes your direction in life for good? A friend who stands by you and doesn’t judge you whether it’s through good times or hard times? Someone who shovels the snow from your sidewalk on a cold, brisk, winter morning? Or simply someone who is there to truly listen when you most need them?

The following is a quote from cbr.com.

In Spider-Man 2, Aunt May is clearing out her house with her young neighbor Henry, who asks Peter where Spider-Man has gone. When Peter replies that Spider-Man is gone, Aunt May delivers a heartfelt speech about why it is important to be a hero. [A partial quote is…]

I believe there’s a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally, allows us to die with pride.

https://www.cbr.com/best-superhero-movie-quotes-ranked/

Superheroes are around us every day. I challenge you to look around and notice the superheroes near you or strive to be a superhero for someone else.

And then, buy tickets for our Utah Valley Symphony concert and come enjoy some heroic music on October 20th and 21st at the Covey Center in Provo.

Michel Debost’s Scale Game

I took lessons from Michel Debost for 6 incredible months. I was introduced to his scale game several years before studying with him privately in Oberlin, Ohio. This quickly became my favorite way to practice the Taffanel-Gaubert Daily Exercise No. 4 every day. I would practice the first 30 on a daily basis, then on random days I’d play #31-60. Find what works best for you. This is from the book called 17 Daily Exercises for Flute which is a section taken from the Complete Method for Flute, both published by Alphonse Leduc.

Click on the following links for a PDF of what he is explaining. Enjoy!!

Rotation chart and page 1 and page 2 of notated music examples

This article by Frances Lapp Averitt is a reprint from the March 1988 issue of the Flute Talk magazine.

The Gamme [Scale]-Game of Michel Debost

The scale format devised by Debost consists of playing twice through all keys of the Taffanel-Gau­bert Daily Exercises, No. 4 using 60 articulations and rhythms. Though time-consuming, Debost’s scale exercises have great value. With diligent practice the flutist will achieve not only agility, but improve ar­ticulation, dynamics, and more important, tone. Each day the scale practice is different because of the key-rotation through the chart. I nicknamed this intriguing format The Gamme-Game. Following is a paraphrase of Debost’s scale instructions to his stu­dents.

Scales are the essential part of daily prac­tice and must be played by memory. Begin each day with a different key. Carefully define the transitions between scales by slurring them. Debost says that this transition is very im­portant to the musical feeling. “This is the time to rest, relax, and relieve tension by listening to and loving your tone. Taste every note like you are tasting wine.”

Always play the scales rhythmically. The pri­mary concern should not only be speed, but also cleanness and evenness of execution. Breathe after the first note of a group of eight. To breathe in scales with repeated notes, leave out notes when necessary so that the ongoing rhythm remains unaffected.

The scales of C major, C minor, D flat major, D# minor, D major and D minor are to be repeated one octave higher. Repeat the upper octave key right after the lower octave.
The chart gives 60 articulations and rhythms. Assign one scale at minimum to each example and persist with those that are most difficult to handle. These 60 combinations represent two complete play-throughs of the scales. The 12 ma­jor keys and 12 minor keys with 6 repetitions one octave higher give 30 patterns, multiplied by 2 to make a total of 60 different scales. This is the minimum to be practiced each day; the rou­tine takes about 45 minutes.

Nothing less than perfection is acceptable for scales: strive for evenness in all registers and tempos, attacks without cracking the tone, and control at all dynamic levels.

Key Rotation

  • Day One: K1 [meaning the Key-Chain] on C1 [meaning the Chart]; K2 on C2; K3 on C3, etc.
  • Day Two: (move forward one key): K2 on C1; K3 on C2; K4 on C3, etc
  • Day Three: (more forward another key): K3 on C1; K4 on C2; K5 on C3, etc.
  • Each day thereafter: move forward one more key for C1.

Suggestion: to keep track of your place in the key-chain, clip a paper clip over the key that will begin the next day.

Carefully define the transitions between the scales by always slurring them with a singing tone at a moderate or slow tempo. Assign only one scale to each example. Strive for evenness of tone and dynamic control.

-Michel Debost

Fun with Music at Any Age

Last Night we (the Utah Valley Symphony) had our concert with Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys at the Scera Outdoor Theatre. Talk about FUN!!! It was great.

First, I have a story to share, even though it’s not about one of my flute students. Earlier yesterday afternoon I was teaching one of my younger piano students about how any finger could play middle C; it isn’t always played with your thumb. I told him that you could even play it with your toe or your nose. It didn’t matter; that key would still be C. So he immediately tried to play the piano with his toe and his nose, of course. Then while he played the 8 measure Middle C March from Faber’s Primer Level of Piano Adventures, he tried to use his toe to play the last measure.

I often do silly things like this with with my younger students. But last night I realized that I also need to have more fun with my older students. How does this relate to Jon Schmidt and our concert? Read on.

Continue reading “Fun with Music at Any Age”