Just Play

The Joy of Performing

How do you get over the fear of playing your flute in front of others? Just do it. Play in front of others as often as you can. Yes, there are a bunch of performance preparation tips but this blog post is mostly about simply getting yourself in front of others.

As a teacher, I try to provide performing opportunities for my students on a regular basis. If you don’t take private lessons from someone who provides these types of opportunities, create your own. Volunteer to play in church, or for a social event, or at an assisted living center, or let your community choir director know you are available to play a flute obbligato if they need one.

When my children were younger (and at home more often), sometimes I’d bring them in the living room where I taught flute lessons and made them sit on the couch and be an audience for my students. Believe me, my kids were attending recitals and concerts as soon as I’d allow. They learned to be exceptional audience members from a very young age. If nothing else, set up your favorite teddy bear or pictures of others on your couch and have them be your fake audience.

When you are preparing for a bigger audition or performance, visualize the performance in your mind while you are practicing at home in your living room or bedroom, or wherever you practice. Imagine the setting you might be in. Then “practice performing” in your mind.

Then when you get to your performance, try visualizing your “comfort zone” of being in your living room or your bedroom or wherever you practice. Let that “comfort zone” help calm your nerves. Above all, don’t freak yourself out before you even get there. (Not that any of you would ever do that.) Yes, sometimes judges or a room full of audience members can be intimidating, but for the most part, I truly believe that they are there to support you and if a judge, help you improve and offer constructive criticism.

If you really want the practice before a critical performance or audition, play in front of others in 10 different settings. That’s right, T-E-N, 10 different settings. Ask your neighbors, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends of friends, anyone. Tell them you need to practice performing and ask if you can come play your pieces for them at THEIR house. This way you are in a different setting with different lighting and different acoustics and you can practice performing. I can’t imagine that people would turn you down. But if they do, who cares. Ask someone else. Performing gets easier with practice and with time as you gain more experience.

So play, and play, and play in front of others! Then play your flute some more!!

What Do I Love?

What do I love about playing the flute?

When I was young, the criteria in my family for choosing an instrument was that it had to be something acceptable to play in a sacred, religious church setting. Since my grandpa played violin, all of my siblings and I naturally started on the violin and I had several cousins who also played violin. I started violin in the 3rd grade. In 4th grade, the band program began in school and I started the flute.

I played the violin and the flute for a few years. I remembered how nicely the flute would fit in my yellow-gold backpack and how the violin was more cumbersome to take on the bus ride to school and I had to find a place at the back of the classroom to put my violin case everyday. I feel like the fact that my flute fit in my backpack easily was a contributing factor in why I stopped playing the violin and stayed with the flute.

I have many more reasons now for loving the flute. When I ask new students why they want to play the flute they frequently say, “I don’t know. I guess cuz’ it sounds pretty.” I agree. The flute does sound pretty.

I love the feeling of soaring when I play. Most people think the flute is a small, weak instrument. My flute professor, Dr. Ted Wight, would always tell me that the flutes can compete with the trumpets. He was the one that helped me develop my tone projection through support, air control, and opening my chamber cavities. Dr. Wight could get amazing volume on his flute and pushed me to learn how to do the same. We did this through MANY tone exercises. You can’t expect this to develop overnight.

I love the feeling of singing through my flute. I love to express music through how I play the flute. Marcel Moyse, famous French flutist, said that the flute is an extension of the voice. He has a wonderful book called Tone Development Through Interpretation which is mostly a collection of excerpts from operas. Like Marcel Moyse, I too had a parent that was a singer. Singing is a great art form to study to apply to flute playing.

I love the feeling of peace it brings. While I was in college, a friend of mine was killed in a head on collision involving a semi truck. I have vivid memories of the time after that. While practicing my flute in the small practice room on campus, I reflected on my relationship with my friend, the last time I saw him, and processed the change that had now taken place. I know I’ll see him again in heaven, but it felt strange to have someone my age have his life cut short so suddenly. Playing the flute during that healing process brought me peace.

I love the friendships it creates. It’s fun to play chamber music with others and share my talent. Some of my closest friends in high school and college came through being in music groups together – band, orchestra, and choir. In college, I had more opportunities to play lots of duets, trios, quartets, woodwind quintets, bands and orchestras. Even now, I have a circle of “music friends” as I call them. Still participating in orchestras and choirs, the music bond I create with people lasts forever. I love to run into old friends in the community or at flute conventions. That love of music binds us together forever.

Those feelings of soaring, singing, peace, and friendships are just a few of the reasons I love playing the flute. And yes, I still love how my flute fits into a small bag for traveling.

What do you love?

Never a Failure, Always a Lesson.

What have you learned from this?

Has anyone ever asked you that question? Especially these days with a worldwide pandemic, I’ve often heard people ask, “What have you learned from this?” I recently asked someone this same question, to which this person replied, “Why do we always have to learn something? Why can’t we just let it happen and go on with our life?” How would you answer that question?

Continue reading “Never a Failure, Always a Lesson.”