I gave my students the month of August off to relax, recharge, and enjoy sleeping in on Saturdays before the new school year starts, and they return to the studio on Saturday. I'm very excited to welcome them back, and it amazes me that some of them have been working with me for four years now!
It's especially exciting because a lot of my students are transitioning from middle school to high school this year, and I look forward to seeing them grow and mature as they find themselves around bandmates who are older and more experienced than them.
I hope to have lots of good stories about teaching in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
With the start of the school year comes the preparation period for districts festival auditions! Districts are a great opportunity to become a more mature, well-rounded musician. Here are six ways districts will make you the star of your band program:
1.) You'll get to meet kids from other schools.
People who are a little more removed from your band program and circle of peers at school might have been exposed to instrument brands, private teachers, and performance techniques that you haven't learned yet. It's a two-way street, too; you might have something new and useful to share with the kids you meet at the festival, and it feels good to be someone's guru.
2.) You'll work with different conductors.
Each person who leads an ensemble has a different way of conducting. You'll begin to see that the conductor isn't just standing in front of the band to show everyone the beat; they're also there to interpret the music and communicate that interpretation to the entire ensemble so that the music can be played cohesively.
3.) You'll play alongside skilled peers.
We tend to rise or sink to the level of the people around us, and when you play in a group made up of the most motivated students from many area band programs, you'll find yourself watching the conductor more, listening more inclusively to the ensemble around you, and counting your rests more carefully. In short, you play at your own highest level.
4.) You'll get to play more interesting music.
School band programs need to be accessible to everyone, which means that the music isn't always the most challenging. Area music festivals, on the other hand, usually require an audition, which means that the conductor can choose more complicated music for the concert program because he or she knows the ensemble is skilled enough to do it justice.
5.) You'll gain valuable audition experience.
The only way to get comfortable in the audition setting is to spend as much time as you can auditioning for things. Districts are a low-stakes way to increase the number of auditions you take in any given school year, which you will be very glad you did if you decide later on that you want to audition for a college music program. Just like with any other skill, auditioning gets easier every time you do it.
6.) You'll add to your personal repertoire.
Districts audition pieces are usually very well-known; each time you prepare for an audition, you're also adding a staple of your instrument's repertoire to your own knowledge. These aren't pieces that you'll play just once in your life; they'll come back again and again, and it's better to start learning them sooner rather than later.
So consider auditioning for districts this year, especially if you're new to the experience. You'll be happy you did it.
Are you an incoming college freshman getting ready to head off to music school? You've probably done your best to make sure you have all the accessories and supplies you'll need to make your first year a good one.
By the end of freshman year, though, you'll find that a lot of the stuff you thought was necessary really isn't essential. A super high-tech Dr. Beat metronome is extremely cool, for example, but Korg metronomes and tuners are cheaper, more portable, and just as effective.
Here's a list of all the things I would keep in my flute bag by the time I graduated from college:
The moral of the story is: your gig bag doesn't have to be stuffed to the gills in order for people to take you seriously. Don't let your gadgets and toys define you; instead, let your skill do the talking.
So let's say you had a really awesome summer. You did a lot of fun stuff, relaxed, and enjoyed the sunny weather.
But wait! You let your practice routine slide!
Don't sweat it. Now is the time to renew your practice schedule so you'll be in fighting shape for back-to-school placement auditions.
Keep your routine simple to start, especially if you've been traveling a lot and haven't spent a lot of time working with your instrument. Give your muscles a chance to regain their strength and fluidity of motion.
I like to use scales and slow, melodic long tone exercises when I first come back to my flute after some time away. Any slow passage from your music will do; all that matters is that it has long note values and doesn't contain too many extreme register changes. I like to have a separate long-tone melody in my warmup for each register (low, middle, and high) so that I can really focus on the challenges of each of those registers.
Reviewing your major and minor scales will be invaluable to you, especially if your back-to-school band placements involve sight reading or scales. A high comfort level with those finger patterns will help you to do your best in auditions, even if you haven't spent the whole summer diligently practicing.
So don't worry too much if you haven't had the most productive summer, practice-wise. If you start reviewing now in a calm, organized manner, you'll be ready to sound your best for the new school year.
It's been almost a year since I started this blog! Challenging myself to write something twice a week has been enormously enriching, especially in the weeks when I didn't feel like I had much to say. Trying to find something new and relevant to write about each week strengthened my introspective skills and boosted my ability to explore topics that I might not have otherwise given a lot of thought. Because of this, I'm better able to ask my students follow-up questions that help me pinpoint what they're struggling with or thinking about.
So far, this blog has been extremely helpful to me as a teacher and musician, and I hope it's been a little bit helpful to you, too. I look forward to the next year of writing, learning, and exploring together!
I went to my local Target yesterday, and I was floored at the array of dorm stuff they had set up throughout the store. Now that I'm no longer in school myself, the beginning of the school year tends to creep up on me unexpectedly, rather than causing the growing sense of anticipation that it used to for the month or so leading up to the first day of school.
This cavalcade of college supplies reminded me of my first dorm room and all the other new experiences my first year of college brought.
Coming to music school felt simultaneously like a dream and like finally waking up after a long hibernation; I had never been in a place where I could truly be myself and be around so many other people my age who loved what I loved. It was incredibly validating.
So my advice to incoming college freshmen is this: appreciate every second of your time in music school. Be grateful even for the sight-singing tests, the inscrutable theory assignments, and the constant struggle to find a practice room. You're in a special place.
I'm about a week and a half into my month-long break from teaching, so I thought I'd post an update about how I've been using my free time.
It's been very nice to get to sleep in on Saturdays; since I commute 45 minutes to my studio and my first student arrives at 10:00am, I have a fairly early start to my day. Combine this with a late night working my restaurant job on Friday, as well as another serving shift on Saturday night after teaching, and it makes for a pretty sleepy day. I never mind it, though, because I enjoy teaching so much.
I think that having this month off to rest up and relax will help me to bring a high level of energy during Saturday morning lessons; if you walk in excited for what the day will bring, your students will feed off of that energy and be more engaged. Similarly, if you bring a downtrodden, exhausted element into your studio, you'll find yourself struggling to keep your students engaged.
I remember being relieved as a student when my teacher would take the week off from teaching, because it meant I would have two weeks of progress to bring in the next time we met. Seeing how much my playing improved between those two lessons was always really encouraging, and I want my students to have a chance to feel that sense of accomplishment, especially as the new year starts and as two of my students enter high school, a transition which is sure to be challenging for them.
Short version: so far, this break has been helpful, although I miss seeing my students every week and watching them make breakthroughs in their playing.
Have you ever taken a voluntary break from teaching? Share your experience in the comments below!
Music, like all the other creative arts, comes from a deeply personal place. In order to produce something authentic and moving for your audience, you have to reach down inside yourself and be vulnerable.
It takes a special personality type to be able to do this sort of emotional revelation for a living; if you're working in the music field as a mercenary, rather than because you love it, that's fine. But if the hardship and criticism that come with a music career cause you pain, you should reconsider whether you want it to be your livelihood in addition to being your love.
If you're considering making music your career, you should ask yourself the following three questions:
And if you come to realize at the end of your introspection that music might not be such a hospitable environment for you to work in after all, guess what?
The world needs people who love music but don't want it to be their job. The world needs patrons of the arts just as much as it needs artists. However you fit into the music scene, whether that's as a musician, stage crew member, or appreciative listener, you're welcome here.
I find that most of my students start working with me in September and October; they've had time to start learning flute in school band and want to have a more personal lesson experience than they get from group lessons in band.
Since the school year will be here before we know it, enjoy this classic post about how to choose the right private teacher for you or your child. Click here to read!