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Posted by: tyonce on: December 4, 2013
The holidays came early to the SDSU flute studio in November. Several of my students wanted to try out new flutes; most were ready to upgrade, and one wanted to get an idea of her options in anticipation of upgrading next year. We had seven brands of flute to try out over the course of about a week. Every flute was within my students’ budgets, so they knew that any flute they tried was a possible purchase. Included were well-known brands, and the majority of them (6 our of 7) were solid silver headjoints and bodies with plated mechanisms.
My students were quite excited, of course, and each approached the trial process in a different way. Some wanted to try all of them in a single session; others wanted to just try a few and come back later to try the others. One student knew immediately which brand she preferred and didn’t change her mind at all during the trial process. The others had a more difficult time and took longer to make a decision.
Each student played the flutes over several days. They played long tones as well as scales, etudes, and repertoire. They also tried the instruments in different spaces, including the flute studio as well as the recital hall. Other than the student who immediately knew which one she wanted, the other students’ opinions changed a bit over the course of the week. They slowly began eliminating choices based on “feel” (e.g., this mechanism just isn’t comfortable) and sound. Eventually, two more students decided on a new flute. I also enjoyed trying these flutes outside of the usual convention atmosphere. It was a luxury to have some time to really get to know some of these brands.
My goal was to guide them in this process. I carefully tried to not influence their decision, since I strongly believe that each person has to buy the brand that works best for him or her and not just buy the brand name alone based on its reputation. I also don’t have extensive playing experience with some of the brands they tried, so I didn’t feel it would be fair to push one brand over another. Since they were trying solid, high-quality instruments, I knew that there wasn’t really an issue with them choosing something that wasn’t going to hold up. I answered a lot of questions about mechanisms and structural aspects of the instruments but I really wanted them to have the experience of careful, critical listening to determine which flute was best for each of them. In the end, I think each student chose the instrument that was most comfortable and responsive and had the best sound. There is also a lot of room for each student to grow artistically with the new instruments.
They’re still in love with their new flutes and another student has a very good idea of which brand she prefers when she is ready to upgrade, so I think the entire process was a success.
Posted by: Robin Fay Massie-Pighee on: November 25, 2013
Every so often, when you plant a seedling in love, you have the opportunity to see the tree that grew as a result of your sacrifice. As founder and executive director of a budding grassroots nonprofit organization, I am in the habit of planting such seeds through my viola. Last year, Musicians of Mercy (MOM) presented a benefit concert for our own Baltimore Police Department’s Southeastern District. Sponsored by the Community Relations Council, our concert was just one of many organized efforts utilized to helped to raise funds for a new gym and training facilities for our men and women in blue!
For years, Baltimore police lieutenant Brian Pearson had appealed to the city and state for increased financial support for his southeastern district, all to no avail. Finally, tired of waiting, he decided to spearhead an effort to make a change! Early in the summer of 2012, I received an email from a woman named Clare. A friend of Lt. Pearson, she had heard of our service efforts. She explained how our officers were in need, were looking for fundraising options, and suggested that they contact me. Following that initial message, I established contact with Lt. Brian Pearson. This man was so full of stubborn joy! He would not allow his men and women to continue to suffer.
Pulling this together would be a concerted effort (no pun intended) from both sides! I made several visits to the station and was appalled at the conditions. Peeling paint and mildew decorated the interior of a building with a dungeon-esque feel. Truly, our men and women in blue have been facing serious neglect. In spite of their great sacrifice, they have been treated as second-class citizens in uniform. Furthermore, there was neither proper exercise equipment nor a proper shooting range!
After months of planning, and on an incredibly windy day at the end of September 2012, my husband Arron and I raced over to Patterson Park, Baltimore. There, Lt. Pearson and his officers had set up tents, a make-shift stage, and had food trucks at the perimeter of the park! Little by little, our musicians began to arrive. We had a very small but dedicated turnout but performed as if we were serenading a crowd of thousands! With a planned helicopter landing, S.W.A.T. Team demos, and more, it was very moving to see often-mistrusted police officers reach out and connect with the community they protect.
Fast-forward, one year later: the buildings are near completion and we have been invited to attend the grand opening of the new gym! As Thanksgiving approaches, it is important to remember that a little kindness goes a long way toward changing lives! <3
Posted by: Robin Fay Massie-Pighee on: November 1, 2013
In January 2010, a devastating earthquake shook Haiti to the core, changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. As images of loss and destruction flashed across the news media, my initial was reaction was a deep sense of sadness… followed by anger. I wished that I could do something to help. I had no money to fly over there. After a few days of thought, I decided that the best way to offer help was through my music. Never before had I felt such urgency to perform for a purpose beyond art (or my career) itself.
What began as my personal response to a natural disaster became my contribution to society — Musicians of Mercy (MOM). MOM is a collective of over seventy musicians and artists in the Metropolitan Baltimore/D.C. area which raises funds for humanitarian causes through the production of benefit concerts. Since 2010, we have performed twenty-one concerts to raise funds and awareness for various charitable causes including: disaster relief, anti-bullying, HIV research, the fight against domestic violence, music and arts education, and more! Tomorrow, in our twenty-second showing, we will perform to raise funds for victims of the August 2013 Sudanese floods. Although each concert is a drop in the proverbial bucket, change begins as a seed.
As author C.S. Lewis so aptly stated: “Affliction is often that thing which prepares an ordinary person for some sort of an extraordinary destiny.” No, I am not an extraordinary woman. I am merely a stubborn chick who chooses to try to leave the world a little happier than when I entered it.
Posted by: tyonce on: October 9, 2013
performed by Kate Prestia-Schaub, piccolo and Martin Kennedy, piano
Barry McKimm – “Air”
Daniel Dorff – “Flash!”
Frederick Lesemann – “Slow Music for Piccolo Alone“
Michael Daugherty – “The High and the Mighty”
Daniel Kelley – “Passage”
Martin Kennedy – ”Desplazamiento”
Kenneth Benshoof – “Timeless”
Steve Kujala – “Eurythmionics”
Timeless is Kate Prestia-Schaub’s debut album for piccolo and piano. Overall, she exhibits masterful control, lyricism, and virtuosity. The piccolo, which is often seen as the flashy member of the band or orchestra, is seen here as a solo instrument that delivers flash but is also sensitive. Of particular interest is Prestia-Schaub’s low register, which is quite lush. In addition to her impressive playing, she is helping to add substantial new works to the piccolo repertoire; three of the works on this album (Dorff, Lesemann, and Kennedy) were written specifically for her.
The first work on this album is “Air” for piccolo and piano by Barry McKimm. “Air” is actually the second movement of McKimm’s Piccolo Concerto, written for Frederick Shade, principal piccolo with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This is a lyrical, melodic work that serves as a solid opener to this album.
“Flash!” for piccolo and piano by Daniel Dorff lives up to its title, featuring lots of fast scales, a catchy melody, and frequent forays into the high register. Prestia-Schaub’s performance is convincing and makes the work sound easy.
The next work, “Slow Music for Piccolo Alone,” is indeed slow but intense.
“The High and Mighty” in two movements was inspired by air travel in the years after World War II. The first movement features a beautiful lyrical melody, which includes pitch bends and flutter tonguing. The second movement begins with a piccolo cadenza, which then turns into a bossa nova.
“Passage” begins with a lyrical section, which is followed by a more active section. It’s an inviting work that draws in the listener.
Kennedy’s “Desplazamiento” features tango rhythms and motives. It is rhythmically complex and well-executed.
The title track of this album is introspective and lyrical. Quotes from the jazz standard “Embraceable You” give “Timeless” a jazzy feel.
“Eurythmionics,” the last track on this album, is a technically challenging work that Prestia-Schaub manages to make sound easy. It ends the album with a positive flourish.
For more information and to buy the album, visit Kate Prestia-Schaub’s website athttp://www.k8trills.com/.
Posted by: Robin Fay Massie-Pighee on: September 20, 2013
Think back to that first encounter… that touch, that initial moment when you coaxed a beautiful sound out of your instrument. For me, it happened when I was in high school. My private violin teacher had an old viola laying around at home and asked if I wanted to play it. Well, it was love at first stroke! From that day forward, I knew that I had found my voice in the viola! That deep, sonorous and mellow tone had me at hello!
Over the years, I learned that I would have to make a lot of ugly sounds before I would achieve that ideal tone. I experienced a lot of frustration, broken bow hairs, body aches, and self-doubt. Yet through it all, with determination and perseverance (not to mention subsequent student loan debts), I began to hear the results I wanted!
What has changed since then? Well, very little. Seven years since graduate school and the artistic process is hauntingly similar in some ways. How do we continue to stay in love with our craft after years of repetition? Always return to the basics!
Nurturing your love affair with your instrument is like being in a committed relationship. Contrary to popular belief, you are not crazy for trying to make a career out of your passion! This profession requires consistent self-evaluation; encouragement (from yourself and others), intense time of focus and time away for reflection, qualitative rather than quantitative practice, and constantly reminding yourself of your purpose.
1. Inspire yourself! Become familiar with a new artist/genre. Attend a concert! Make time to go for a walk! Variety is the spice of life!
2. Ask yourself the hard questions. What am I doing? what will be my legacy? Incorporate your answers into everyday goals.
3. Don’t merely practice. Sometimes, it’s good just to play something that you love!
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Music is a dog-eat-dog industry. Still, there’s a place for all of us so be thankful for your gifts.
5. Share your knowledge. What good is it to learn something and hoard that information for yourself? Pass it on and pay it forward!
None of us decided to become artists for the financial benefits. A happy musician makes for a happy audience. Keep in mind that YOU are an instrument! Sing your song as if it’s for the first time!
Posted by: jdunnavant on: September 10, 2013
by Dr. Jessica Dunnavant
I used to hate marching band. I had fun participating in marching bands as a teenager and later as a college student, but as an educated, professional musician, I have to admit that I looked down my nose at the whole experience for years. I preferred an orchestral setting for my musical experiences and, as a young professional, of course I believed that everyone should agree with me! I simply couldn’t see the value of it as a musical endeavor. From my perspective, it was shaky line dancing mixed with bad intonation, and I did my best to sashay down the 50 yard line, dodging twirling flags and trombone slides. Nineteen years have passed since the last time I was a member of a marching band, and I’ve only recently changed my mind. So what gives?
The thing that changed is this: I now make most of my living and spend most of my time teaching flute lessons and sectionals for middle and high school students. These students come to me with a fairly regular roster of issues: bad posture, inefficient hand position, trouble maintaining a steady tempo and counting in their heads while they play, trouble multi-tasking, trouble remembering instructions, assignments, the music itself. This time of year–from the end of July into autumn–for the past four years, I’ve been doing the same thing. I’ve been going from school to school, working with flute sections and helping them prepare for a hectic marching season.
What I have begun to notice, although it’s probably always been the case, is that participation in marching band helps my students with many of these issues. When you have to tie your sense of pulse to your feet, it’s really hard to ignore your inner rhythmic inconsistency. While the parallel plane of a marching band flute posture is actually pretty wretched for creating a decent tone, they do learn to stand up tall. They also learn to persevere through the late summer heat and humidity, pushing on physically when it would really be so much easier to go inside to the air conditioned band room and do something else! I watch my wallflowers become social butterflies, and this year, I’m watching a few of the butterflies become even more confident and poised. Believe it or not, I think the thing that’s helping is marching band. As the bands compete, I hear the directors telling the students that posture matters, that their expressions matter, and that how they present themselves to the judges and the audience really matters. These are valuable lessons. As the teacher who regularly forgets to talk about bowing before recitals, believe me–it matters!
In my region, I can’t make the claim that marching band music is worthless or easy, or that the bands aren’t encouraged to play musically. I can’t tell my piccolo players that it really doesn’t matter how they play, since the trumpets will cover them up anyway–because that’s just not true. These groups are putting creative, difficult arrangements on the marching field. Among the bands with which I work, this year alone, they’re using compositions by John Mackey, Dvorak and Beethoven mixed with Radiohead on the field, and I hear the directors in rehearsal from time to time. They are truly encouraging development of the ensemble sound in a very mature way, and they are sending the message that every instrument counts toward the whole. These are lessons that will come back inside when the weather cools and the season ends.
So I’m through being a marching band snob. For my students, anyway, it is worth the time commitment and worth the trouble, and I’m happy to finally see the (stadium) light!
Posted by: Paula Brusky on: September 1, 2013
America LOVES small businesses….unless you’re really small….
America is the land of opportunity. It is the land of the entrepreneur. If you want to start a company, the country supports you….except it doesn’t, not really. There are a lot of laws and tax breaks for small business, but not if you’re really small. There are all kinds of problems when you’re a truly small business (gross receipts under 50K).
Example 1: If you have employees and run a respectable, legal business then you will have workers compensation insurance for them. The amount of this insurance isn’t based on the number of employees or the amount of hours they work. Instead the amount you pay is based on the payroll. That makes sense! If your payroll has a lovely small business payroll of $10,000 you pay a percentage on that. NOPE, that would make sense. The problem with this is that there are minimums (there seem to minimums for EVERYTHING dealing with insurance….this is just one annoying example). The insurance company has a minimum payroll amount that you must pay a percentage for workers comp insurance on depending on your state and industry. So if you have a $10,000 you may actually need to pay WC insurance on $60,000 worth of payroll in order to get insurance! Make sure to ask about your industry and be knowledge when starting your company that costs my actually be much higher then they logically should be.
Example 2: Business loans are entirely different then personal loans. You can’t get a simple “home equity line of credit” in the same ways for your small business as you can for your personal life. Like a home loan, you need collateral but if you are in a service industry that may be very difficult to present (this is very true for musicians!) If you want to borrow a small amount of money (under $10,000) for your company it is actually extremely difficult. For example, if you wanted to borrow $2,000-3,000 the bank won’t touch that small amount of a loan for a business because going through your business tax returns and verifying your collateral really isn’t worth their time for the little they make. So they will recommend opening their credit card with a 14.99% APR. Or you could borrow $20,000 and have a 6% interest rate. How does that make any sense! When you logically point out that a 15% interest rate is silly when compared to a 6% the banker will likely encourage you to take out a personal loan since that will provide you a better interest rate. If you do this, you are borrowing money from the bank to then loan it to your company and you need to make VERY sure that you clearly document this!!!! If you lend your company money and then write checks from your company to yourself and it has not been properly documented that your company is repaying the loan you gave it, the IRS may think you are paying yourself illegally and avoiding paying appropriate taxes…that would be a bad thing for the IRS to think.
So be aware as you are running your very small business that you are in an un-fun bracket where you may experience odd difficulties that small businesses don’t deal with. Ask LOTS of questions. Have a great accountant and attorney help you navigate the very small business issues. It would be really wonderful if large companies/governments /banks were actually aware of the difficulties a truly small business faces and implemented changes to make it easier for people to run small companies.
Posted by: Robin Fay Massie-Pighee on: August 23, 2013
I am not an extraordinary person. I am a thirty-two-year-old daughter to wonderful parents; sister to two brothers; mother to a vibrant six-year-old daughter and a newlywed. I grew up in a neighborhood with families representing every nationality, faith, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. I had childhood friends from all socio-economic levels and of every ethnicity. My parents did their best to teach me about our family history, expose me to all kinds of music, cultural activities, foods and places of interest. From the time I was about five or six, I aspired to be a doctor and a musician. Little did I know that I was not to become a physician; however, through my musical pursuits, I am striving to assist in bringing hope, joy and healing to others.
As a child, you don’t think too much about the things you do. You merely do what gives you feelings of fulfillment. As a young student in middle school orchestra, I was often the only African-American child with a violin (later, the viola) in hand. That situation didn’t deter me from loving, studying or practicing music. Even while painfully shy then, I realized that music is a vehicle for self-expression and a powerful unifying force. One of the most encouraging statements I heard about music during those early years is: “there’s a place for everyone in music.”
During the years that I was pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in viola performance, my life was primarily engaged around the practice room. Although I devoted myself to the performance of classical music, I was interested in all genres. The viola became my instrument of choice, and it became my voice… my mirror. I delved into musical study and learned the art of discipline and problem-solving – how to embrace my strengths while facing my fears and limitations through creative methodology. The positive outtake is, therefore, I don’t refer to myself as a musician; instead, I consider myself an artist.
Therefore, it is with great pleasure and humility that I make my virgin post as a new member to Music Collective. I look forward to learning from each blogger for each of you are my colleagues in this industry. Each of us heeded the artist’s call, not to gain riches, but because we didn’t really have a choice. Even with the many strikes against the music industry, I have not fallen out of love with my craft. If anything, I have fought more fiercely to survive as an artist, enjoying my gift and experiencing the positive impact my music makes in the lives of others.
Posted by: tyonce on: August 20, 2013
It has been a while since I attended the annual National Flute Association convention, but I just returned from the one held in New Orleans from August 8 – 11. The convention is simultaneously overwhelming, exhausting, and inspirational. I performed and presented during this particular convention, saw a lot of friends and colleagues, attended as many recitals and workshops as possible, and enjoyed the city of New Orleans before retreating to South Dakota to prepare for the upcoming semester at South Dakota State University.
I arrived late on Wednesday evening to prepare for a Thursday performance. My performance on Thursday was shared with a flute quartet based in New York as well as several performers I know in person and those I have met online. Our portion of the program included works based on this internet connection; all performers and composers know each other online. I had met some of them in person before, but I met a few others in person for the first time at this event. Meerenai Shim and Erica Sipes gave a performance for contrabass flute and piano by Daniel Felsenfeld; I gave a performance of a new work called Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice for glissando headjoint and electronics by Jay Batzner; Alexis Del Palazzo and Erica Sipes gave the premiere of a work for flute and piano by Peter Amsel. We also performed a quartet by Nicole Chamberlain called Tamar; those performers included Kathy Farmer, Alexis Del Palazzo, Meerenai Shim, and me.
After my performances, I spent some time visiting the exhibits, which is quite an event. Vendors are there to sell everything from flutes to sheet music to accessories. I had a great time play testing dozens of flutes, which allows me to keep up with what’s available on the market for student, intermediate, and professional flutes.
Keith Underwood’s class was another worthwhile event that afternoon. He discussed breathing and how to use the breath builder to become more aware of what the air stream is doing. His teaching is remarkably effective even in short doses.
On Friday, I attended one of the early sessions on international career opportunities. The presenter, Alice Dade, performed in orchestras in Europe, and detailed her experiences in getting those jobs and working overseas. I saw a bit of the Atlanta Metro Youth Flute Choir concert before heading back to search for sheet music at the exhibits. Later, I went to a workshop on a new pedagogical method for flute by Patricia George and Phyllis Louke. Since I use their other books for my students and just bought this new one at the convention, it was helpful to attend this workshop.
It was great to attend the masterclass given by my former teacher, Angela Jones-Reus. She was my teacher during my doctoral studies at the University of Georgia, and I hadn’t seen her since my 2010 graduation. I enjoyed watching her teach, and we had a chance to catch up. I ran into my former teacher Kate Lukas from Indiana University in the hallway; I hadn’t seen her since 2005. Being able to reconnect with friends and colleagues that you don’t often see is one of the very best things about the NFA convention.
Next on my schedule was to attend a recital of world premieres. I was able to reconnect again with colleagues, meet some in person who I had previously only known through mutual friends, and hear some really good new music.
On Saturday, I attended a panel discussion on flute ensemble programming. Since I have inherited a library of flute ensemble music and am not sure what else would be appropriate music for a university ensemble, this was helpful. The panelists shared a wealth of knowledge, and I’m looking forward to flute ensemble rehearsals this fall.
I then headed over to another recital of premieres. These were both NFA and world premieres and included works for electronics, piccolo, and flute. Following that was a recital of chamber music, including performances by several friends.
Of course, this is just a sampling of everything that goes on at the NFA convention. With multiple events (sometimes 11 or 12!) occurring simultaneously, it’s impossible to hear everything. This provides a lot of variety and ensures that there is always something interesting going on, but it also means that there is often something you have to miss. I hope to be able to attend next year’s convention in Chicago but for now, I’m still trying to process everything I heard this year. I’m inspired and looking forward to the upcoming school year of flute teaching, research, and performance.
Posted by: Paula Brusky on: August 1, 2013
Last month I had the privilege to see two iconic bands from the 80s rock scene perform: Bon Jovi and Van Halen. As I am a child of the 80s and addicted to hair metal, this was amazing. But I learned a lot about showmanship watching these aging rockers.
Now I will fully disclose that my favorite band of all time is Bon Jovi and I paid a pretty price for great seats. I booked in advanced and was really excited about this. Plus my friend, Phil X, was playing in place of Richie S so I had another reason to be giddy. Bon Jovi was in Soldier Field on a HUGE stage that truly provided an excellent vehicle for them to perform. Van Halen on the other hand is a band I know a few songs from but isn’t a passion. I didn’t know anyone personally who was on stage and the venue was Rock USA; meaning the stage was smaller and not specific to the group, seats were unassigned and I got a ticket last minute.
All that aside, I truly believe loving what you do and communicating that love to form a relationship with the audience is critical to a successful performance. Bon Jovi was outstanding. They played almost 3 hours, they looked like they were having fun! I truly believed they wanted to be on that stage playing for us. Hell, sometimes I swear Jon was singing just for me! When a guitar solo came, Phil brought the audience on a journey with him by making eye contact and positioning his body for the cameras and audience to be part of it. I loved the show, I left loving the band more than before, I went home and bought their new album and looked for special releases on iTunes.
Van Halen on the other hand completely missed the mark. I was ready for the concert to end after 20 minutes, I have no desire to hear a Van Halen song, and I am uninterested in the group. Why? Is it just that Jon’s voice has “aged” better than David’s? No. The difference between these groups – Showmanship.
There are well known issues between Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth, but how truly unprofessional to make it so obvious on stage. Their chemistry was palpably animosity. You could tell they didn’t want to play together, how un-fun to watch. But it wasn’t just that. I have the utmost respect for Eddie Van Halen as a guitar technician. Man can his fingers fly! At the end of his über impressive solo his thumb was bleeding. He is truly amazing, and I understand on an academic level why many call him the best player alive. But I didn’t see heart. He’s amazing and knows it, it’s almost like he plays to show off rather than plays because he loves it and wants to share it. I know that sounds crazy but with all his mad skills, which he seriously has in spades, his playing left me cold. I got bored watching his outstanding technique because he never invited me in to what he was doing.
So what does this mean? Being the best at your instrument doesn’t matter if you don’t use showmanship to communicate with your audience. Make eye contact, both with those close enough for you to see and to the camera for those of us far away. Learn where the cameras are, talk to the operators so you can do this effectively! Invite your audience to go on a musical journey with you by keeping open body language; this will depend on your instrument, but make sure not to turn your back or get lost in yourself. You’re on stage. It isn’t about you! It’s about all of us that bought tickets!!!!
Act like this is the first time. Yes, it isn’t, for you. But for your audience, it may be the first time! Roth kept saying “oh, I know this song” and “I didn’t bother to learn the playlist so it would be fresh.” First off, don’t lie to me. Second of all, of course you know the song, that’s what I’m paying for! Comments like this are really patronizing to your audience. We know you’ve probably done this line-up 100 times, but for us it’s the first time we’re hearing it. So don’t belittle the event for us by making stupid snarky comments.
And finally, when you are performing, remember that you chose to play with the people on stage with you and concentrate on what is good about being together. You may have issues, in the case of Van Halen a LOT of issues. But your audience isn’t here to see them. So concentrate on what is good. Focus your energy on creating a positive environment for that time on stage and hopefully that will translate into a better chemistry for the music.
Oh, one last thing. START ON TIME. Yes, you’re a super cool rockstar. But your ticket said a start time and I made sure to get here by then, so don’t waste my time and assume that you’re so important your time is worth more than mine.