Have you ever found yourself in a situation and thought, "Why didn't anyone prepare me for this?"
I'll give you an example: it wasn't until I moved to Cambridge, MA that I realized that, while I had learned how to parallel park years ago, no one had ever showed me how to do it on the left side of the street. Not exactly a devastating lack of knowledge, but still something that probably should have been addressed in driver's ed. Because I grew up in a fairly rural area that doesn't have a lot of narrow, one-way streets like Cambridge does, it just never came up when I was learning how to drive, but my teacher probably should have anticipated that some of us would have to drive in a city at some point.
I keep this in mind when I work with my flute students, and I do my best to get them ready for what's up ahead. I teach my middle school kids how to be high school section leaders. I teach my high schoolers how to be inquisitive college students. I don't just try to bring my students up to par with what's happening currently in their fledgling music careers, and I do my best not to limit them.
At the end of the day, I want for my students to walk into any situation, whether it be a rehearsal, an audition, or their own teaching studio, and for them to feel wholly prepared for the task at hand.
Did you ever have an experience that made you realize you didn't know as much as you thought you did? Ever have a teacher who really gave you the skills to make it? Share in the comments!
As many of my students can attest, I spend a lot of time in private lessons talking about hand position, particularly about how to have the most natural, ergonomic configuration of your hands, wrists, and arms while playing the flute.
I do this because it's easy to get in the habit of using a harmful hand position, and the damage isn't noticeable while it's happening. By the time carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, or an overuse injury makes itself evident by causing pain, the therapy and possible surgery needed to correct it is costly and time-consuming. It's much better to spend the time early on developing good habits.
This is why students deserve dedicated, vigilant teachers. When beginners start to learn an instrument, they don't usually know enough about it to be able to discern how the way they're holding it will affect their muscles ten years down the road. A great teacher will show by example and constructively correct a student's playing position so they can enjoy years of pain-free music-making.
So if you ever come to study at the Woburn Flute Studio, you'll hear a lot about posture. But you'll also have a teacher who will make sure you have the knowledge you need to play without pain.
If you're thinking about auditioning for music school in the fall, now is actually a great time to start working through the Conservatory Boot Camp Workbook. A lot of conservatories ask for pre-screening CDs and DVDs, which are usually due sometime in November or December. Some also simply have earlier audition dates to weed out the insincere. In any case, if you start using the 12-week workbook by the beginning of August or earlier, you'll be in excellent shape for college audition season.
Both editions of The Conservatory Boot Camp Workbook are on sale for 50% off now through the end of June. Choose from the stand-alone workbook or the DELUXE EDITION with personalized feedback and guidance. Get your digital copy today and give yourself the best possible opportunity to achieve your musical goals!
I have a couple students who will be entering high school this fall, and they got me thinking about what students (who play any instrument, not just flute) should know to be well prepared for high school band or orchestra programs.
1.) Be able to play all 2-octave major and minor scales from memory. District and allstate auditions usually require some version of this, so you'll be ahead of the curve if you already have your scales memorized.
2.) Know the difference between flat, sharp, and in tune, as well as how to tell if you're in tune and how to fix it if you aren't. A few minutes every day with a tuner will give you a much better awareness of whether you're playing in tune or not.
3.) Have good hand position. If you don't have a private teacher to help you figure out how to hold your instrument with a hand position that's as ergonomic as possible, look online for examples. Be watchful about the health of your wrists, arms, shoulders, and back; it's hard to undo damage from an overuse injury.
4.) Get in the habit of purchasing copies of the solo pieces you work on. Working from photocopies is questionably legal at best, and you can't always get a legible version from online sources. Also, walking into an audition with a photocopy is highly frowned upon unless the organization you're auditioning for specifically provided a photocopy for your use. Imslp.org is a great resource if you just want to check out a bunch of different public domain pieces while deciding on one to learn, but once you choose one, it's time to buy a hard copy.
Spend some time this summer developing these skills and habits, and you'll be the leader of the pack when high school starts in the fall!
If you're finishing up your sophomore or junior year of high school, you're probably looking forward to the start of summer vacation and all the fun and relaxation that comes along with it. Which you deserve! You work hard in school and summer is a great time to decompress and do the things that you like to do without the stress of homework or early wake-up times.
I encourage you to take some time to unwind and enjoy yourself, but I will say this: if you love playing music and think you might want to pursue it further after high school graduation, use this summer to your advantage. Try doing one or more of the following this summer:
...but you do need to keep striving to improve. As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good.
When I was in music school full-time, I remember being terrified to bring something into a lesson that wasn't performance-ready. I thought my teacher would get angry at me for not being able to play my music perfectly. This was more a reflection of the music school environment than of my teacher's actual stance; I remember him telling us repeatedly to bring in works in progress, not just finished products, but I never really believed him. I let my fear of not being perfect impede my ability to get feedback that would have made my playing better.
It's true that you should practice diligently and creatively throughout the week and do your best to make strides in your playing. Private lessons are useless if you don't do the work in between them.
However, I now find myself spending a lot of time encouraging my own students to take a chance and play something in their lesson that they're still working on, just like my teacher told me back in college. Assuming you did the work, your teacher is going to want to hear the progress you're making on the tough parts of your music. They aren't just there to hear the end result. They want to help you get there.