Kentucky Flute Festival recap

I recently returned from the Flute Society of Kentucky‘s 2012 Festival, which as held at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. It was really a top-notch event with interesting workshops and performances. It was very well-organized by the Festival chair, Dr. Heidi Alvarez, who is the flute professor at WKU. What a class act, and one of the most hospitable flutists I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.

While it was impossible to attend every single event at the Festival, I thought it would be worthwhile to give a summary of what I did see there and perhaps introduce you to some new ideas.

On Friday, 13 January, I caught the end of a workshop on intonation by Dr. Elizabeth Goode, professor of flute at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, GA. This presentation was based on an article she has published in Flute Talk entitled “Good Vibrations: A Practical Approach to Intonation.” It was nice to see a compilation of flute intonation tendencies in one place, and I also enjoyed hearing about the intonation tendencies of other instruments. (Yes, I guess we have to play with instruments other than flute, right?) She also reminded me of the value of incorporating resultant tones into my practice and teaching.

I gave a lecture about ways to make practicing more effective and efficient. The basics can be found here: Practicing Difficult Sections and here: Practice Tips.

I then heard a presentation about performance injuries. The presenter, Adam Pettry, has been through several injuries which required him to take a long break from performance. He went over specific products that can be used to help alleviate symptoms and hopefully prevent injury. I find this to be an interesting topic because my background includes influential teachers who do not play with extra “gadgets,” and I fear that adding things to the instrument might affect resonance and overall tone quality. I posed the question on Twitter and received a variety of responses, but I think it boiled down to “do what you have to do.” Not sure about this one.

I then enjoyed a lecture from Atlanta’s own Tony Watson, who has recently relocated to Louisville, Kentucky and is establishing a Suzuki program at the University of Louisville. It was great to spend some time with someone from my neck of the woods, and I enjoyed learning about the Suzuki method of instruction. The most striking was the realization that I (and many others, I suspect) incorporate Suzuki ideas into my teaching, even though I don’t have any background in the method. As Tony explained, “Good teaching is just good teaching,” and ideas can freely flow between different methods of instruction.

The next presentation I saw was given by Melissa Keeling, who is a graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University. She demonstrated how to incorporate microphones, amplification, and effects to the regular ol’ flute. She uses it to write her own music (even though she shies away from calling herself a “composer”) and says that she hasn’t found music that incorporates this technology. I wonder if there is any out there. It’s a really neat idea and something I can see myself embracing but I have little interest in writing the music myself.

I then gave a lecture on my dissertation stuff: several works involving flute by the Grammy-winning Joan Tower.

That evening, we were treated to a recital by the Guest Artist, Mr. Walfrid Kujala. He performed a movement from JS Bach’s F Major Organ Sonata, the Beethoven Serenade in D arranged for flute and piano, Katherine Hoover’s Three Sketches for Piccolo and Piano, and Otar Gordeli’s Flute Concerto, Op. 8. I particularly enjoyed the piccolo piece. (Am I really saying I enjoyed piccolo? Why, yes!)

That ended day one of the Festival. I wasn’t prepared for how cold it was there even though I brought a good coat. The thermometer in the rental car read 25 degrees F. I was also slightly jet-lagged, so I called it a night.

Saturday, 14 January was another jam-packed day of flute goodness. I spent a lot of time at the exhibits that morning. Even though I’m not officially in the market for a flute, I like to see what’s available. I especially like to try as many intermediate-level models and brands as possible, so I can better help my students when they’re ready to buy step-up instruments. I spent a lot of time with Flute Specialists (Clawson, MI) and Carolyn Nussbaum Music Company (Plano, TX) and had lovely chats. I also bought a stack of music I was needing (no pesky shipping charges!). A couple of notable instruments/gear: I found a delicious vintage Powell piccolo, which is currently out of my price range, and I tried a Robert Dick glissando headjoint. (More about that later.)

My attention naturally gravitated towards the recital of chamber music of the 20th and 21st centuries, since that’s primarily what I focus on. I had some Twitter folks ask me specifically what was on the program, so let me list it here:

The Piper Calls for Flute and Guitar by Frederick Speck
In the Clear Blue for Two Flutes and Piano (World Premiere) by Michael Kallstrom
Spindrift for Piccolo and Piano by Ken Benshoof
Mountain Songs for Flute and Guitar by Robert Beaser
Interior States for Flute and Cello by Jonathan McNair
Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp by Claude Debussy

It was really a varied program, and I found several works that I would like to incorporate into my repertoire. Surprisingly, one of them was the piccolo piece. (I’m not usually a piccolo gal; can you tell?) This recital ran a bit long, so I was late to the beatbox workshop but caught enough of it to learn the basics. This was presented by Denis Santos, a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky. In case you haven’t heard of beatboxing flute yet, check this out: http://www.pattillostyle.com/Beatbox_Flute/Home.html

The next recital was given by the interdisciplinary group The Fourth Wall, which incorporates dance and acting into their musical performances. They were quite good at engaging the audience, and it was an unusual experience.

The closing concert of the festival also featured a lot of new music, which made it really interesting to me. In case you’re wondering, it included:

The Falling Cinders of Time for Solo Flute by Michael Kallstrom
Reflections by Maggi Payne
Three Beats for Beatbox Flute by Greg Pattillo

and a recital by Michele Gori, an Italian flutist who plays all the flute family and mixes them up with a looper and electronics. Some of the works he played were from our standard repertoire, such as Honegger’s Danse de la chevre. Others were his own compositions. It was really interesting to hear the standards in such a new context.

All in all, what a full event! I especially liked the emphasis on the new – new technology, new trends, new music. Maybe these trends will stick, and maybe they won’t but showing what is at the forefront of the flute community is a great way to inspire people and keep these festivals fresh.

If next year’s Festival of the Flute Society of Kentucky is anything like this year’s, I’ll plan to be there. I recommend that you do the same!

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