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.

Handel’s Messiah

Although Handel’s Messiah was first performed in April of 1742, it has now become a traditional production for the Christmas season. I grew up with the Messiah as a natural part of our household at Christmas time. For as long as I can remember, my mother was a choir conductor and led the Messiah for years and years. More mature voices (with a minimum age 16) were required for the Messiah choir so naturally, I looked forward to my 16th birthday so I could finally join.

When my mom was 80 years old, she conducted the Messiah for the last time. I was fortunate to travel to Arizona to sing in that final production with her conducting. You can see her weathered and dog-eared score in the picture above. She just turned 90 and when she hears the music on TV or other places, she still “conducts” it from her chair, complete with cues for the different vocal parts.

I’ve had the chance to both sing in the choir and perform in the orchestras, playing flute, of course, for Messiah productions. I can’t choose which I like best. This is do know – I never tire of hearing it, playing it, or singing it. This holiday season Messiah productions and sing-alongs are probably not happening (thanks to Covid), at least I know they aren’t around here.

I’m grateful for the Messiah memories that I do have and look forward to the time when musicians can gather safely together again to express joy through music. Words cannot describe the feelings of being involved in a Messiah production. There is nothing quite like the glorious Hallelujah Chorus or the end of the majestic Worthy is the Lamb and the grand Amens to bring in the spirit of Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Find a great recording of it and rejoice this holiday season!!

Who Has Influenced You For Good?

I’m thankful for each of my flute teachers who were so influential in my progress.  Our lives are like a quilt or tapestry.  Each person, or in this case – teacher, adds something to make the quilt or tapestry of our musicality and our lives more colorful and interesting and beautiful.  I’ve learned something from each teacher I’ve had, whether it’s one lesson in a masterclass setting or years of study with that person.  Here is a highlight of my prominent teachers that I studied with for months and years.  

Dee Ann McAllister

Aside from my elementary school band teacher, I considered Mrs. McAllister my first flute teacher.  I studied with her in Junior High and High School.   She was very punctual with lessons and had an extremely kind personality.  Her husband, now the late Bob McAllister, was a trombone teacher.  There would often be flute lessons on one side of the house and trombone lessons on the other side. 

Mrs. McAllister took me from playing intermediate level music to college level repertoire.  She taught me vibrato, helped build my confidence, encouraged me to attend summer music camps, and provided performance opportunities which led me to soloing with ensembles and earning flute scholarships for college. 

Jilene Burger

My first two years of college I studied with Jilene Burger at Ricks College, which is now called BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho. Jilene was so supportive while I learned how to adjust to college life.  While studying with her, I learned how to practice more and studied a lot of solo repertoire such as the Handel and Bach Sonatas, Mozart Concerti, French and Contemporary flute music and other repertoire which would later help me as a teacher. She lined me up with a local junior high where I started teaching the flute students after school. 

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