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Flute Pet Peeves

As soon as I saw this picture I knew that I needed to write something about it. This represents perfectly one of my pet peeves.

When younger students take a break and need a place to put their flute, they often have a tendency to set it on the music stand. I’d recommend NOT doing this because you never know if the stand is loose and the weight of the flute will cause the top part of the stand to move down or tip forward and possibly cause the flute to fall off. In addition, with other fellow band students walking around during a break, your flute could very easily get bumped and fall off. I know these scenarios happen because I’ve seen them. When either of these things happen, then you have created a bigger problem of bent keys or a dented flute.  A better suggestion is to ask a trusted friend to hold it for you or invest in a reliable flute stand such as a Hercules stand or take it with you while you get a drink from the drinking fountain.

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Mr. Love

I started playing the flute in the 4th grade band program in Arizona. I have memories of staying after school occasionally for lessons with the band teacher, Mr. Love. I remember him as a tall, lanky man and very patient and kind. (I admire anyone who teaches elementary band.) A few years later when I reached 7th grade, I had progressed and was ready to learn the piccolo part to Baby Elephant Walk. You know you had arrived when you got to play the piccolo part on that song. Thanks for your encouragement, Mr. Love.

To this day, I still love to hear the Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini. If you haven’t heard it before or lately, it’s a great piece to lighten any mood. Then the song will stick in your head for the rest of the day and make you smile.

Mistakes Happen

Years ago during a lesson, one of my former teachers, Michel Debost, said in his French accent, “If you make a mistake, you make a mistake.  The heavens are full of mistakes up there.” 

What does that mean to you? I take that to mean a couple of things. First, don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Sometimes I’ve had students stop playing in the middle of a phrase. When asked why they stopped, they said, “Because I was afraid I was going to mess up the next part.” How many people have not done something because they were afraid of making a mistake?

Second, give everything your best shot and full effort. Don’t back off if something doesn’t go quite right. If you are going to make a mistake, make it with a good sound, and keep on going.  It’s not the end of the world.  We all make mistakes and you can keep trying, keep playing, keep improving, keep learning and keep sharing your talents. 

In fact, Debost had a good musician friend who, as he got older, wouldn’t have flawless performances like he did at the height of his professional music career, yet he continued to play and perform because he still loved it. Mistakes and all.

GOALS

S.M.A.R.T.

C’mon.  You know you love it.  It’s January and time for those yearly goals of exercising, eating better, and practicing your flute more. Many have heard of SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. Using SMART tools has proven to be successful in achieving goals.

Let’s look at an example. GOAL: I want to get better at playing the flute. What’s the problem with this? Too broad, not specific, doesn’t state how to measure progress or why it’s important, nor does it specify a time goal with it.

Instead, try something like this…

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I Played My Best

I love the song The Little Drummer Boy. The drummer, a poor boy too, feels like he doesn’t have a gift that’s fit for a king. But then he realizes that he can play his drum for Him as a gift. Like the drummer boy, we all have something we can give and contribute, no matter how small. (Horton Hears a Who, anyone?)

“I played my best for him.” What is playing your best? What does that mean? Students often say they played things better when they were at home. If you have practiced and prepared the best you can, worked hard, and applied yourself the best way you know possible, then that is your best.

Or is it? What if your best isn’t good enough? Then what? There are a lot of flute players out there. How do you compete? How do you stand out? How do you find your place?

If you tried the best you can with the time frame and resources and energy you have been given, then that’s all you can do. Don’t beat yourself up over a memory slip or a missed note. Continue to work and learn and grow.

As you prepare for a new year, be ready to give it your best, whatever that is. That’s for you to decide. That’s all you can ask of yourself and that’s all God expects. Keep doing your best, just like the little drummer boy.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!