Life-Changing Lessons

December 27th, 2013 Comments Off

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A few days ago, I had a lesson with one of my teachers, Christina Smith. I half jokingly mentioned on Twitter later that afternoon that it had “changed my life.” But after some reflection, maybe it did in a small way…

Since I am no longer in school, I have to grab lessons whenever my schedule allows and when I can be where the teacher is. What a drastic contrast to the days of luxury when I had a lesson every single week! I loved school, which is one reason why I’m a prof now; I loved the academic music classes except sight singing, at which I am truly abysmal; Oliver Sacks could explain a few things about my sight singing abilities, but I digress. But my weekly lesson, regardless of what day it was scheduled, was the beginning and ending of each week for me.

This means that when I have the opportunity for a lesson now, I soak up as much of it as possible. I don’t come to lessons waiting to having things explained to me. I know where I am as a musician and I try to come prepared to ask the questions that will draw out information that will help me develop. What a huge difference from my student days!

In my recent lesson, we worked on sound. My sound is generally pretty solid but it can always be improved. My teacher shared with me new thoughts about sound production. It was really interesting to see how *her* ideas about sound have changed since I first studied with her almost 15 years ago. I have completely integrated the ideas I learned from her then; as her ideas change (and result in improved sounds), my approach must also change.

I have plenty to work on now; it’s good to know that there is always room for improvement as a student and as a teacher. I can now share those same ideas with my students and feel free to change my approach as I encounter ideas that work better. And hopefully I can impress upon my students that regular lessons are a luxury, coming to lessons with an open mind and plenty of questions results in better progress, and the study of the flute is a lifelong process that never really ends.

2012 in Review

January 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment

IMG_0628[1]This is a little delayed, perhaps, but it’s time for a bit of perspective on the events of last year. As I went back and read through my summary of 2011, I can’t help but be reminded of how incredibly, insanely different this January is compared to last January.

Last January, I wrote my end-of-year summary while enjoying a vacation overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This January, I live over 1500 miles away from that beach and hope to see it again some time this year. Some of my goals last year were to get a full-time music gig, find a vintage Powell flute, present and perform at flute conventions, continue writing, and collaborate on more musical performances. I’m thrilled that so much of that was accomplished in 2012.

In my quest to obtain a full-time, tenure-track faculty position, I ended up going on two interviews last year. The second was successful, and I am quite happily the newest Assistant Professor of Music at South Dakota State University. My job is a blast. I’m happy to go to work every day, my colleagues are fun to be around, and I hit the lottery with my students. I’ve said this before, but the midwestern work ethic is alive and well in South Dakota.  My workload includes world music, woodwind pedagogy, music history, and applied flute. We’re starting a flute choir this semester, which I’m pretty excited about.

During the first half of last year, I was on faculty at University of South Carolina Aiken and Newberry College. There I was teaching Theory II, Theory IV, form and analysis, world music, applied flute, flute studio, and flute ensemble. It was a heavy load, but I really enjoyed being about to spend some time with theory. And it was sad to leave the flute students I had spent several years with but I know they will continue to work hard and do well.

I managed to attend and perform (or present) at several flute conventions last year, including the Kentucky Flute Festival, the Atlanta Flute Fair, the South Carolina Flute Society event, and the British Flute Society. I presented various workshops on efficient practice and the flute music of Joan Tower, performed with Ian Clarke and on a flute choir piece for the SCFS, and judged the adult amateur competition of the BFS. It was great to be able to see colleagues and friends and hear amazing players. Some performer highlights were Walfrid Kujala, Ian Clarke, Christina Smith, and so many amazing British flutists at the BFS event. I also attended some great masterclasses throughout the year with Keith Underwood, Patricia George, and the Imani Winds. Hearing players at this level is always a much-needed inspiration.

One of my goals last year was to be involved in more musical collaborations. I felt like that was something that I neglected to do in 2011, probably because my teaching schedule was too heavy. My first big collaboration of 2012 was a benefit concert for the March of Dimes. The music students at Newberry College put together a nice program, and we ended up raising over $700 for the local chapter. I hope to be able to make this an annual fundraising event. Other collaborations included several works with my new colleagues at SDSU, including Nate Jorgensen, Emily Toronto, and Mike Walsh. It was a great way to jump in and play some chamber music repertoire I haven’t played before. I was also invited to be guest artist by Heidi Alvarez at Western Kentucky University, where I joined several of the faculty members in performing music by my Twitter-friend Michael Kallstrom. Heidi is a great flutist and teacher, and I enjoyed working with her and her students.

Miscellaneous things: I recorded the soundtrack for a short animation at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta; bought a vintage Powell flute; enjoyed soaking up the country music culture in Nashville; moved across the country; got a quick introduction to Native American culture from an expert at SDSU, which I could use for my world music class; got to know the state of South Dakota through numerous recruiting trips; watched the marching band participate in the 100th Hobo Day parade at SDSU; and drove through an actual blizzard to play in a concert. This year included trips to (or through) twelve states and two countries. Good thing I like travelling!

So what’s the plan for 2013? Basically, keep going. Collaborate as much as possible, recruit amazing flute students, teach, write, travel. I’ve also found myself playing more and more new music as the years go by. I commissioned a work last year by Rob Cronin and had another dedicated to me by Rob Steadman, and I’m looking forward to performing those this year. Working with composers is pretty great, and I’m looking forward to more of that this year.

As always, I’m interested in collaborations. If you want to work together, contact me! Email or Twitter @TammyEvansYonce.

Kentucky Flute Festival recap

January 20th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

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!

2011 in Review

January 2nd, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s been a busy, full year. Usually, I assess what I’ve done (and haven’t managed to get done) at the end of the academic year; as a college professor, my concept of a “year” goes from August to May. However, it probably isn’t a bad idea to perform a mid-year check-up. While it’s easy to become frustrated as an ambitious, adjunct professor/classical musician, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job this year. I have several big projects in the works and will continue building on my experience, which will hopefully lead to a full-time professor gig in 2012.

Personally, there have been some tragic bumps in the road. My brother and sister-in-law had their first baby, Austin, in December 2010; she was premature. Baby number two, Cash, was born even more prematurely in September 2011. Both babies passed away this year. The March of Dimes has become my charity of choice, and I hope to be able to do some fundraising for them this year through music performance.

Professionally, things have been busy and varied. I spent a lot of time developing an online presence, finally biting the bullet and joining Twitter (@TammyEvansYonce) over the summer. I was reluctant to do so because I thought I was busy enough. However, I’ve met an entirely different group of people than I would ever meet through other avenues, and I’m able to interact with them regularly. It has definitely been worth it. I also redesigned my website this year, which I think makes it clearer and easier to navigate. I’ve also started adding blog posts to my site, with a primary focus on how to make practicing more effective and efficient. I’ve also written posts about teaching: my B-flat fingering rant is now in print, and there are posts about choosing a new instrument, how to prepare for a recital, and performance anxiety. I also started a new blogging site with the purpose of covering a wide variety of topics relating to a musician’s life: performance, music business, music education, and so forth. It has been growing by leaps and bounds, and we continue to add contributors. I’m really excited about this particular project and invite you to take a look at what we’ve done so far.

As far as performance, I’ve done less of this than I would have liked. I continued to perform as principal flute with the Ludwig Symphony Orchestra, which is based in the Atlanta area. That has been a great opportunity to play some of the real orchestral standards. I also continued playing in the Northwinds Symphonic Band, also based in the Atlanta area. I truly enjoy playing the band literature, and this is a fine group of colleagues. We also took a mini-tour through Georgia over the summer. When you play in south Georgia, they reward you with syrup! I had the opportunity to perform at Flute Festival Mid-South this spring, which was the perfect reason to take a little trip to Nashville. (Needed a new pair of boots, anyway…) Rhonda Larson was the guest artist, and I enjoyed taking part in the masterclass she led. I also participated in a concert of American music at University of South Carolina Aiken, where I’m on faculty. I never turn down an opportunity to play Charles Ives. My biggest performance was my Newberry College faculty recital at the end of the year, which included works by CPE Bach, Roussel, Jennifer Higdon, Muczynski, Enesco, and Jay Batzner. It was a heavy program but I prefer to go all out in solo recitals.

I was happy to return to my alma mater, the University of Georgia, to present at their Women’s Studies Research Symposium early in the year. I presented my dissertation research on the flute works of Joan Tower. I was also scheduled to present a workshop on effective practicing at the Carolina Flute Summit; however, the event was rescheduled for a date I was unavailable. Hopefully, I’ll be able to participate with the South Carolina Flute Society in the very near future.

I’ve continued researching the flute music of Joan Tower, and I’ve added the flute music of Jennifer Higdon as a primary research topic.

I increased my involvement with the Atlanta Flute Club when I was elected President in February. This group is a well-oiled machine, and I’m happy to be able to jump in and help brainstorm some new ideas within an already-successful group. Some of my specific goals are to increase our membership to include members of various ages and levels and to sponsor even more high-quality programs that give flutists in the Atlanta area access to teachers, performers, and information they otherwise wouldn’t have. This year we’ve instituted the brand new Junior Artist Competition for students through the 10th grade, which complements our well-established Young Artist Competition. We have several great events planned for 2012, so stay tuned!

Having an article published in the Journal of the British Flute Society was a particular highlight of the year. I was thrilled to have my research on Joan Tower, an American composer, published across the pond. It also gave me the chance, through this and Twitter, to meet some great British flutists.

My teaching responsibilities have increased this year, and I have eagerly embraced the opportunity. Being on faculty at two different colleges gives me the chance to perhaps teach a wider variety of courses than if I just taught at one place. (Of course, there are considerable pitfalls to being part-time at two colleges, but let’s focus on the positive.) This year, new teaching included: assisting with marching band, establishing a flute studio class, starting a flute ensemble, and an introduction to music literature class. I’ve also been busy preparing to fill in for the theory professor when he goes on sabbatical in January; I’ll be teaching two courses from the undergraduate theory sequence as well as form and analysis. I’m really looking forward to teaching these classes.

I’ve also done some of the other college stuff besides teaching classes. I’ve been doing quite a bit of recruiting for one college, which has included a lot of travelling and coordination with the admissions department. I’ve also been designated the chamber music coordinator, which means I schedule student performances throughout the community. Now that the big recruiting event for the year is finished, I’ll be focusing on this more in the first semester of 2012.

And the miscellaneous: I’ve got several big projects in the works for 2012. They’ve taken quite a bit of work this year and will be ready to go very soon. I was very excited to be able to judge the Newly Published Music competition of the National Flute Association. I’ve also started taking occasional lessons again with Christina Smith, principal flute of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I can’t say enough good stuff about her – what a fantastic musician!

So what’s in store for 2012? As a musician, who knows. I’ve learned that it’s an unpredictable gig, and you just have to do the best you can. Hopefully 2012 brings a full-time job as a music professor. Regardless, I’m going to introduce three big projects and continue writing blog posts. I’m also looking for a new flute – technically, a new “old” flute – a vintage Powell. I’ll be presenting at the Kentucky Flute Convention in January and the British Flute Convention in August; I’m also organizing the Atlanta Flute Club Flute Fair along with the rest of the board. I’m going to submit proposals to perform and present at as many flute conventions as possible, and I hope to also present at several universities over the course of 2012. I also have an article under consideration that I hope is published this year. My biggest plan for 2012 is to focus on musical collaboration. Several recitals are already in the works, but I want to be able to look back on 2012 and see that performing with other musicians has been my primary focus. It took me a while to learn but the collaborative aspect of music performance is really one of the best things about this profession.

What a year! What are your goals? Want to collaborate? Follow me here or on Twitter @TammyEvansYonce.

 

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