This article was published in the August 2018 SEMFA Newsletter.
It is nearing the end of summer, which means that many of you are likely beginning to (or have already been working hard at) preparing for your fall orchestra placement auditions at school. It can be difficult to jump back into audition preparation mode after a (hopefully) relaxing summer vacation, and this transition can often feel overwhelming and stressful. I tend to place great importance on fall ensemble auditions, feeling pressured that it is an opportunity for me to show the improvements I made over summer vacation. Unfortunately, this pressure can quickly turn into negativity in my practice sessions, causing me to notice how much room I still have to grow rather than how much progress I have been making. I have recently started recording myself during my practice sessions again, and while this has been a very useful tool in teaching myself and improving, it has also caused me to be consumed by all of the flaws I hear while listening back to each take. While noticing these imperfections is an important step in learning how to improve during your practice sessions, it is easy to become so consumed by these flaws to the point where you never are truly able to enjoy listening to yourself play in recordings.
To give a specific example, the other day I was practicing the Leonore allegro excerpt in preparation of my first graduate school orchestra placement audition next month. I began by first recording a run-through of this excerpt, and then listening back. The first - and only - things I noticed when listening were that my tempo was inconsistent, I was losing sound in the upper register triplets towards the end, my pitch was poor throughout, my dynamic changes were not drastic enough, I did not match the style of each entrance, and I fell slightly short of the sustained "D" at the end. While noticing all of these things at once helped me to determine my next practicing steps in order to improve this excerpt, I began to feel very defeated and overwhelmed knowing that I had a limited amount of time to fix all of these flaws. I was desperate for a way to get the work done that I needed to while not making myself miserable in the process, so I began experimenting. I started by focusing on one element of my playing that I wished to improve on, and began focused practice work on that alone. After I felt like I made a substantial amount of progress working with a metronome and solidifying my technique in the fast runs, I recorded myself again and noticed a significant amount of improvement in my tempo consistency. Next, I wanted to focus on maintaining a full sound during the high-register triplets section, so I began to practice this at a slower tempo with a more consistent tone color throughout while also maintaining tempo consistency at this slower tempo. After I felt comfortable with my improvement in both areas, I recorded myself again and noticed a significant improvement in both my tempo consistency and tone quality. By focusing on one section that I wished to improve on at a time, I noticed that it became much easier to feel proud of the progress I was making and feel satisfied at the end of each of my practice sessions rather than feeling continuously overwhelmed and unhappy with myself. It also helped me to retain the work I put in over a longer period of time, keeping each of these elements in mind as I continued to play these excerpts through various mock auditions and in private lessons for my teachers.
Practicing and performing orchestral excerpts never truly go away over the course of many flutists' careers, so learning them really thoroughly and carefully the first time will be extremely beneficial as you continue to pull them back out for various orchestral auditions in the future. This can also help you to develop a positive relationship with orchestral excerpts and can help you learn how to practice and play them more confidently. I know many people, myself included, who sometimes carry a lot of baggage with specific standard excerpts. Sometimes freeing yourself of the anxiety and fear that can come along with learning these excerpts can be as simple as stripping down the layers of your practicing, focusing on one element at a time until your hard work turns into an orchestral masterpiece.
By: Francesca Leo
This article was submitted via email by Julie Morris, Life and Career Coach.
Are you looking for some new hobbies or skills that you can learn online or in a group? Looking to save money in the process? Picking up a new hobby can be a great way to moderate stress, but hobbies can also be expensive -- but they don’t have to be. Here are a few ways you can learn a new hobby or skill at any age without worrying about overwhelming your budget.
Enliven Your Exercise Routine
Exercise is essential for a healthy mind and body. But did you know exercise can be a healthy hobby as well? You can pick up a new sport as a healthy, enriching way to enhance your life. Golf, tennis, walking, and swimming are all hobbies you can practice alone or with a group of friends. You can learn to walk better online and then walk around a track, trail, or city tour with other people. There are even fun 5Ks to inspire you to stick to your new walking hobby.
Pick Up a New Instrument
Music touches so much of our lives. From our favorite songs to movies scores, we make music an essential part of the world. So why not learn how to make your own music? Learning an instrument has many benefits for people of all ages. You can increase your brain’s capacity to hold onto memories, improve team skills, and even make yourself happier. Once you choose your new instrument, you can look for classes and lessons locally. Experienced musicians often offer lessons to beginners to help them learn how to play instruments correctly. If you would rather learn how to play from the comfort of your home, you should be able to find online lessons, videos, and tutorials that can make your music dreams come true.
Get Your Body Moving
Do you find yourself dancing whenever your favorite tune starts playing? If you want to take that to the next level, consider signing up for dance classes. There, you can practice alongside like-minded people who are also interested in polishing their skills on the dance floor. It’s a great way to meet new people and get your body in shape. However, dance also has many proven benefits for those struggling with addiction and depression. What’s more, it also helps seniors be more active and social. According to Treehouse Rehab, “One of the best benefits of dancing is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home (provided you have the space) or in a classroom setting, which can help you socialize. It’s also a great way to get in shape and learn about your own body’s abilities and limits in a healthy way.”
Grow a Money Saving Garden
Another healthy hobby that is easy for anyone to learn is gardening. Planting, growing, and harvesting food is a proven stress reliever and can provide your household with fresh, healthy produce that can keep grocery costs down. If you have a spacious backyard, you can use online guides to plant your own edible garden and ensure the best results. Pick up plants from farmers markets or local nurseries to ensure you get vegetables and herbs that will grow in your area. Don’t have a big yard to work with? Try planting some container gardens on your patio or porch, or give back to your community by helping out in a community garden. A community garden can provide you with the opportunity to exercise your green thumb and connect with neighbors while producing healthy food for the local community.
Tackle Home Design Projects
If you love working with your hands and own your own home, why not spend some time tackling home improvement projects? Home improvement and design is a hobby that can help you relieve feelings of stress while making your house feel more like a home. There are all sorts of DIY projects online to give you inspiration and provide tips for successfully completing projects. Not a homeowner? Pick up some new skills for making over furniture and flea market finds in your spare time. You can create some amazing pieces, keep items out of landfills, and possibly even earn some extra cash by selling your finished projects to family, friends or online.
Learning a new skills doesn’t have to mean draining your savings. You can find free or low-cost online tutorials or classes for just about any interest. Start creating and start exploring new passions to find ways to bring more happiness and health to your life.
By: Julie Morris
Musicians and athletes possess many similarities. Both train or practice for hours on end to build endurance for a big game, a marathon, an audition or a competition, both require a degree of mental preparation in their training to help calm nerves on the big day, and both are at high risk for repetitive strain or motion injuries that increases if they are not taught how to prevent or treat them. Something I have discussed in previous articles regarding my research in the field of performing arts health is that as musicians, we hear all too often that the only solution or treatment to the pain we are experiencing is to take time off of playing our instruments. This advice can be unrealistic for many different types of people; taking extended amounts of time off of playing as a student can set back your educational progress if you are studying music performance, and taking extended amounts of time off at a professional level can drastically affect your sources of income if your career is based on freelancing and performing. As a budding activist in the performing arts health field, searching for resources to share with fellow musicians that provide adequate care for treating and preventing performance-based injuries has been the primary source of my work thus far.
I came across Angela McCuiston's business, Music Strong, online after sharing my website www.playingwithoutpain.com on a musician's health and wellness page. Music Strong is a Nashville-based business that provides personal training for musicians. What makes this business different than any personal training or fitness service is that Angela seeks to find the specific underlying cause of the pain the musician is experiencing - whether it be a result of overuse and trauma or simply a result of general muscle imbalances and weakness. Angela uses strength training and corrective exercises to address the weaknesses in the clients' muscles, and then incorporate them into whole body movements so that the client's body functions well as a whole, in balance. Music Strongfeatures individualized training programs tailored to the client's unique goals, health situations and with their lifestyles in mind. Music Strongoffers initial consultations and assessments, progressive and periodized training for individual clients, and is run by professional flutist and certified personal trainer, Angela McCuiston, who has suffered from performance-based injuries herself and chose to create a solution for all flutists and musicians experiencing a similar pain narrative. Although her business is based in Nashville, TN, Angela also offers online coaching and consultations over Skype and is available for travel and workshops to promote Music Strong and the importance of personalized muscle and fitness training for injured musicians. You can find Angela's work and more information about Music Strong by visiting her website, http://musicstrong.com/.
1. You run a business titled "Music Strong", providing personal training services to treat and prevent performance-based injuries in musicians. What initially got you started in the field of performing arts health and personal training? Were there specific events that occurred in your life that motivated you to create Music Strong?
I've always been interested in health and fitness, it kind of runs in my family, but I didn't put the two together until much, much later. I have had 3 separate injuries as a result of playing my instruments, and when they happened, all doctors would tell is "stop playing". Well that's not an option, as we know, and I decided that instead of being frustrated I couldn't find an answer, I would BE an answer. So right after I graduated from graduate school I decided to pursue fitness and just see what it was all about. I did some research and discovered that NASM has a movement assessment chart that starts every program, which intrigued me. From there I saw that they had a Corrective Exercise Specialization, which helps you identify and uncover possible muscle imbalances that can lead to injury and something in my head just clicked and I thought, that's it! My first injury was tendonitis in my wrist, from increasing my playing time in high school from a couple hours a day to 8 hours a day at Interlochen. I wasn't given any preparation for that type of volume and suffered an overuse injury because of it. My second injury was in graduate school where I was not only playing several hours a day, I was also strength training up to 6 days a week, with poor form, using pictures and workouts from magazines (I didn't know any better) and had no idea that 20+ years of playing the flute had created an imbalance in my left chest/shoulder/back area. I was in the gym doing an incline dumbbell bench press (with poor form, so a 1-2 punch of bad idea) and felt a sharp pain and then I couldn't move. Turns out I had torn my left rhomboid muscle - all caused from muscle imbalance and overuse. The third injury came after graduate school when I last minute learned of an audition I really wanted to take. There was a lot of repertoire I didn't know and so, against my better judgement, I crammed. I went from 0-2 to 3 hours a day of piccolo practice and not only did I cramp up my right bicep, I developed spasms in my back, neck and shoulder, headaches and a trigger point in my left pectoral major muscle. I went to see a doctor a week before the audition when I couldn't stand it anymore, and his exact words were this: "Well, you've got what we call a "knot" in your chest. Usually when they're this severe I would give you a cortisone shot right in the middle of it to release it and calm it down, but it's directly over your heart, and that might cause your heart to stop and kill you, and you don't want that, so why don't you stop playing?". I was astounded. THAT was his answer???? I told him that was not a solution, so he gave me a steroid cream and told me to rest, and I determined right then and there, enough was enough and I was going to be a solution.
2. What were some challenges you faced when creating your business, and how did you overcome them?
So many challenges. Having degrees in music performance did not really prepare me to be a full time entrepreneur, so I have had to teach myself everything about business. I had to create an identity and a name, which was really tricky, because what I do is such a niche, and so different, people just don't understand it. I wanted Music Strong to convey just that, strength, and balance through strength, without alienating anyone. I had to get a logo created, I've had to learn all about marketing, website design, taxes, networking, social media, you name it. None of that I learned in school and it has taken quite a while to get the hang of some of it. I read voraciously, everything I can get my hands on that has to do with business, entrepreneurialism and fitness. The fitness certification and specializations were just the beginning - continuing education is so crucial, so I do my best to not only read as much as I can from reputable sources, but to attend fitness conferences. The two I have attended have helped immensely and improved my training so much, and I'm again going to be attending the OPTIMA conference put on by NASM in Scottsdale, AZ, this coming October. Education should never stop,if it does, you're outdated.
Another challenge I've faced when creating Music Strong is that people just don't understand what I do. I tell them I'm a personal trainer for musicians and I constantly get asked "Does that mean you lift your flute for weight? Do you train with your instrument?" And then I get asked everything from "does that mean you can teach me guitar" to "is that like yoga?" See, people have preconceived notions of musicians and personal trainers, and they are different, when you put the two together, people get very confused. When I throw in corrective exercise (which is still a relatively new and unknown field to the general population) then I start getting asked if I'm a physical therapist. Oh no, definitely not. PT's and corrective exercise specialists are two separate jobs, though a lot of our exercises overlap and share. So learning to explain my business in a concise way that people understand has been a struggle. But when I tell people that I help musicians overcome and/or prevent pain from playing related muscle imbalances, through strength training, they get it.
3. What is the primary motivation behind pairing musicians with personal trainers, and how can working with a personal trainer help musicians to treat and prevent performance-based injuries?
The primary motivation comes through wanting musicians to not just be balanced and overcome their possible muscle imbalances but to also be strong and really understand their own bodies and how they move. When your self awareness is increased, it's easier to prevent postures and habits that can cause problems. Alexander Technique, Body Mapping and yoga are all good for this, but they do not address the fundamental issue which is muscle imbalance. You have to find the imbalance and release what's tight and overactive and then specifically activate and strengthen what is weak. Then, you need to integrate that new movement pattern into the body as a whole, or you will just go back to what you were doing before and be no better off. It's like athletes though, you know it's a matter of time before an athlete gets injured; it's the nature of what they do, doing one thing, all the time, and they have to actively train to prevent that. A pitcher in baseball works out doing squats and rows and various other things that to the untrained eye you would think "why bother? That's not his job"? But the body does not work in isolation, it works as a whole and you have to treat and train it as such. Personal trainers are in a unique situation to be able to address those specific muscle imbalances and guide musicians through those exercises safely, coaching them on correct form and regressing, or progressing them as need be. No two people are alike and I may have 5 people with the same muscle imbalance but I don't treat any of them the same, because while someone may be able to do or feel one thing, another has zero clue and it will take longer and you need to go a different route. Musicians are exactly the same way.
4. Do you have any success stories of customers you have worked with and trained through Music Strong? If so, would you mind sharing one and how they overcame performance-based pain or injury through personal training?
Oh for sure! My favorite story is an electric bass player named Zach. He was in college and came to see me because he was to the point that not only could he not play for more than two minutes without excruciating pain, his arms would start to go numb and tingly. He had tried everything, including rigging up a double strap, but nothing seemed to work. I gave him a movement assessment and he presented as having upper-crossed syndrome and possible shoulder impingement/Thoracic outlet syndrome. Not being a doctor or PT or having access to MRI or etc., I'm not allowed to make any kind of diagnosis, but going off his lack of range of motion, etc. I was able to create a plan for him that addressed the muscle imbalances he had, which were systemic. FIrst off, we had to release his tight muscles, so we did foam rolling of his thoracic spine and lats, and also he had the tightest forearms of anyone I'd ever seen, they were like rocks! We started out with balls on them to release, but he took it a step further and purchased something called an ArmAid, and used it every day. We did stretches to release those tight muscles and then strengthening exercises for his weak upper back and shoulders, neck and entire posterior chain, and also his core, it was so weak! And because the body does not function in isolation, we also worked on his balance and leg strength and we incorporated everything together.
We came up with a routine he could do and then he tweaked it himself, a mixture of heat, massage, stretching and post playing ice and between that and strength training, I'm happy to say that Zach is pain-free, and able to play for hours at a time. People like him are the reason I do what I do.
Interview by: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the June 2018 issue of the Flute View Magazine.
Results from a 2009 study conducted by Ackermann, Kenny and Fortune revealed that 95% of highly skilled flute students suffered performance-related musculoskeletal disorders. When I was sixteen years old, I was diagnosed with my first performance-related injury. After experiencing severe pain when I played my flute, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment and was diagnosed with tendonitis in both forearms. With the doctor’s limited knowledge of performance-related injury in musicians, the only advice I was given was to take a significant amount of time off of playing. Since the majority of my extra-curricular activities involved playing my flute, I chose to ignore the advice and continued to play through my pain, hoping it would disappear on its own. There were zero resources available to me about maintaining good musculoskeletal health, so I assumed the pain I was experiencing was normal and part of being a musician.
As I entered college as a music performance major, I experienced a stressful transitional period in my life, increased my amount of practicing, and my pain worsened exponentially. I continued to practice through my pain and still had limited access to resources about performance-based injury. I was also partially to blame for my lack of resources; I failed to tell anybody about this pain in fear that it would be seen as a weakness. That would not have been the case, since the community of musicians I worked with during my undergraduate degree was an extremely supportive group of people. However, it is easy as a young musician to transform your insecurities into competition against others.
My pain reached its worst the summer of my junior year, when I was attending an international summer festival and beginning to prepare for graduate school auditions. I could barely play my flute for ten minutes without experiencing excruciating pain in my forearms and shoulders. At that moment, I received a major wake-up call. I could continue to ignore the warning signs my body was shouting at me and risk ending my career at age 21, or I could finally begin to open up about my pain and seek help. I chose the latter and was soon diagnosed with both shoulder and forearm tendonitis. When my doctor mentioned the possibility of needing neck surgery if my condition worsened, I knew I had to put my health above everything else. I began to see a physical therapist twice a week, took Alexander Technique lessons, started prioritizing exercise, and began seeing a massage therapist. While all of these methods were helping, it became much too expensive and time consuming to continue this rigorous treatment cycle as a full-time student. I decided to conduct my own research and was awarded a grant to study performance-based injury in collegiate music students.
My primary motivation in applying for this grant was to provide access for students to injury treatment centers in their area and information about time and cost-efficient prevention methods. Through my research, I gained knowledge about my own injuries and also learned that I was not alone. Based on the results of a survey I conducted, over 80% of students at my institution were experiencing performance-based pain to the point that it affected their ability to play their instrument at the level to which they were accustomed. Additionally, over 50% of students did not know how to treat this pain they were experiencing or thought the only treatment option was to take time off of playing. For students, much of our grades come from our performance progress in our private lessons and ensembles. Taking time off could indicate a major setback in a students’ educational progress or result in a low grade in their performance classes.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of concentration on performing arts health in many public-school districts and universities across America. Schools do not have access to information about performing arts health, and this lack of resources contributes to the development of performance-based injury early in a students’ career. Educating students about performing arts health is essential as soon as a student begins playing. It is crucial as a teacher to constantly be examining your students’ postures, looking for signs of unnecessary tension and asking if they are experiencing pain when they are practicing. I have developed a web resource as a result of my research grant titled Playing Without Pain (www.playingwithoutpain.com). I plan to expand this website to every major city across America to connect collegiate musicians with the resources they need to prevent and treat performance-based injuries.
By: Francesca Leo
 Ackermann, B. J., Kenny, D. T., & Fortune, J. (2011). Incidence of injury and attitudes to injury management in skilled flute players. PubMed. doi:10.3233/WOR-2011-1227
 Leo, F. N. (2017, December 18). [Playing Without Pain]. Unpublished raw data.
This article was published in the May 2018 SEMFA newsletter.
I have recently released a website titled www.playingwithoutpain.com, an interactive web-based resource designed to connect collegiate musicians with resources to prevent and treat performance-based musculoskeletal injuries.This website is based on my own personal struggle with performance-based pain for much of my career, the process of sharing my story with others, and hoping to benefit others who share similar experiences with the resources I have provided on my website. It was difficult for me to share my story at first, because there can be a stigma about showing weakness in a competitive field, it often can lead to fear that others will view you differently. However, after sharing my story, many of my peers and colleagues dealing with similar musculoskeletal injuries began to approach me and share their stories as well, asking me about ways they could treat and prevent their own injuries. While I was very nervous about opening up initially, it turned out to be an extremely positive experience that started a discussion within the community at the College of Musical Arts at BGSU, revealing that performance-based pain is a very common issue. It allowed this community to initiate changes and promoted awareness about these issues in order to better help students cope with and treat their injuries.
Sharing vulnerability is not only beneficial to others who may be dealing with similar issues, but can also be beneficial in helping you open up as a musician in order to completely immerse yourself emotionally in your music. There is often a stigma about perfectionism in this field that makes it difficult to express any forms of weakness in fear that you may be viewed as less talented, less motivated, or less able to succeed than your peers. However, there is great strength that can be found in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Sharing your struggles and weaknesses can actually help you to overcome them. By opening up with others, you can allow yourself to be receptive of their help and you can begin to seek out help yourself. Once I admitted to the pain I had been struggling with for years and finally booked an appointment with a doctor, I received a proper diagnosis and steps I could take to begin treatment. My pain was reduced significantly, and I started to learn how to play my flute while maintaining a healthier posture and how to take better care of my injuries. Whether you are struggling with physical pain, your mental health and emotional well-being, it is important to be vocal about these struggles with your loved ones, close friends and mentors. Vocalizing your vulnerability can allow you to access the help you need in order to improve your mental and physical health and continue to pursue a successful career in music.
By: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the April 2018 edition of the SEMFA newsletter.
Lindsey Goodman, a versatile soloist, chamber collaborator, orchestral musician, recording artist, teacher, and clinician, recently performed a chamber music concert for the Southeast Michigan Flute Association with her quartet, PANdemonium4 as SEMFA's spring guest artist! Having met her in the past, I am inspired by her impressive work ethic, time management skills, and experience performing and commissioning contemporary music. In light of the upcoming release of her new album, returning to heights unseen: New Music for the Flute, I wanted to interview her about this project, what motivates her and keeps her going through her very busy schedule, and advice she has for young and ambitious flutists like herself who enjoy doing a little bit of everything. Below is a transcription of my recent phone interview with Lindsey Goodman. If you wish to pre-order her newest solo album, please click here.
1) What first got you started in performing electroacoustic works, and what is your favorite electroacoustic piece you have performed to date?
LG: "I was a student at the Manhattan School of Music in New York (I was getting an orchestral performance degree), when Patti Monson, who was on faculty and very involved in the New Music Ensemble and New Music Program, gave a solo recital that included many electroacoustic works. It was the first time I had ever heard anything like that, and I was simply blown away. There she was onstage with microphones and foot pedals and computers and speakers, and it was so cool! The next week, I went to the library, and I checked out every recording of electroacoustic flute and every score for electroacoustic flute. It was a done deal for me! It's always been interesting to me that our lives are so involved with technology. I have a total iPhone addiction, am sending e-mails all the time, and there's always technology in my life. As 21st-century artists, we want to connect with the sort of lives we lead, so, if we don't incorporate technology in some way, then we're being dishonest about the sort of people we are. To do electroacoustic works makes sense to me because it's a way of incorporating something that's such a big factor in our lives into our art-making. It's hard to name my favorite piece, because my favorite piece is the piece I'm playing! I try to live in the moment when it comes to music-making. Tonight in orchestra rehearsal, my favorite piece will be Sibelius 5, and, when I am performing my solo electroacoustic shows, I'll get to play my favorite piece eight times in a row as I move through the program! When you're performing new music, you can't expect everyone to love every piece, but you can expect that audience members will find something to love in a concert of electroacoustic music. For that reason, you have to play all of the pieces like they're your favorite, because they will be somebody's!"
2) How do you find balance between juggling teaching duties, ensemble rehearsals, orchestra rehearsals, and working on your own solo projects? What advice do you have for ambitious young flutists such as yourself in regards to time management and prioritizing responsibilities?
LG: "I'm definitely the sort of person who thrives on being busy. It can be a blessing and a curse, but I accomplish much more and I'm much happier when I'm an object in motion. A rolling stone that gathers no moss - that's definitely me! I'm not the sort of person who could ever have a 9-5 job in the same place; it doesn't work for the type of person I am. Having teaching, orchestral playing, chamber concerts, solo projects, and everything else helps me to develop different aspects of myself so that I have more to offer as an artist. If I just taught, I would become a boring teacher very quickly, if I just played orchestral repertoire, I'd become a boring orchestral player very quickly, and if I just played solo electroacoustic music, I'd also become a boring soloist very quickly. Everything you put into yourself comes out in your art, so the balance is intrinsic to making sure that I'm fed as a human and as an artist. My advice to young flutists about this is to become BFFs with your calendar (Google calendar app and I are really tight). I'm a big believer in scheduling almost everything, which includes taking care of myself so that I can provide my best to everyone. I avoid skimping on sleep, diet, and exercise (most of the time!), or on time to feed myself with new ideas by reading books, listening to podcasts, going to movies, and traveling. The more experiences I have and the healthier I am (and as a small muscle athlete, the better in shape I am), the better I'll be able to communicate to my audiences. Even though it sometimes seems like you have practice 24 hours a day, as a young flutist you need to sleep, eat well, exercise, and nurture your important relationships to make sure that you have the resources available for your audience when it comes time to make that giant personal withdrawal of energy and emotion in performance."
3) You are about to release a solo CD titled returning to heights unseen: New Music for the Flute. Would you mind discussing what inspired this project and your process in creating it? Did you have to overcome any obstacles?
LG: "The album comes out May 11th, and I'm super excited because I love all of the pieces on the album and hope that flutists will find something they love that they will want to play! I hope that flutists of all musical backgrounds will find something that speaks to them about the world outside their practice studio on this album. I released my first solo album of all commissioned works, reach through the sky, in April 2016, and, about the time I was releasing it, I realized that, since I had started working on that project, I had already commissioned enough works to fill another disc. I wanted to record those pieces, too, so I immediately started the project for returning to heights unseen. The inspiration for the album is the composers, the music they wrote me, and how inspiring it is to be able to share that music with the widest possible audience, beyond just live performance. The process was great because I had a wonderful team. I partnered with PARMA Recordings for the release, distribution, and mastering, and I partnered with Tuff Sound Recording in Pittsburgh for the recording and editing. I couldn't have asked for better people to work with to make the album successful! As a recording artist, I'm exceedingly hands-on, wanting my hands in every editing, marketing, and design decision, just as I'm hands-on with interpretive decisions in the music. I was really grateful to have wonderful people to work with for recording, in addition to wonderful composers to collaborate with on all of these new pieces! The process was intense across 2 years, but, when I listen to the finished album, I still love all of the pieces and the finished product! In terms of overcoming obstacles, the recording industry has changed over the past few generations. Long-gone are the days where anyone could expect to make a fortune from making an album, and the new model is pay-to-play. This was my first time producing an album in which I had to sponsor the entire financing myself. When I signed the contract to make the album, I saw the price tag and wondered where that would ever come from! All I knew was that I believed in the pieces, and that I wanted them to be recorded to further these composers' visions. The biggest obstacle was funding, and I remain so grateful that, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign in the fall of 2017, I've never felt so supported as an artist. Over six weeks, 137 people lovingly crowdfunded the entire project, raising all of the money needed and more to make it possible. If anyone asks 'does anybody care about new music?', I say 'they absolutely do, and they want more of it'! The thing that felt like the biggest obstacle at the beginning of the project - getting it funded - turned out to be the best thing about the project, - knowing that people absolutely want to hear more of this kind of music!"
4) What is a piece of advice you would have liked to give yourself while you were a music student during your collegiate studies?
LG: "My best advice isn't my own! My teacher Robert Langevin gave me this piece of advice when I was an undergraduate. He told me to practice as much as I could while I was in school. Even though I thought I was so busy then, he knew that I would never have more time to practice than I did as a student because, if I was lucky enough to work professionally, I would always wish that I'd spent more time practicing during college. I tell this same thing to my students all the time, and they have the same dumbfounded look on their faces that I had when Robert told me! I had screwed up my face like 'are you kidding me? What are you talking about?', but, now I know that, of course, he was right. I'm constantly thanking "past Lindsey" for learning music so well as a student because "present Lindsey" doesn't have to spend time relearning and fixing mistakes. I only wish I had spent even more time practicing when I was a student! Students, it's never too late and never too often to work on your fundamentals: tone, articulation, technique, scales. Commit to that every day, because that will pay you back when you are a professional out there working. Practice, practice, practice!"
By: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the March 2018 SEMFA newsletter.
Building confidence can be a very difficult thing. As a student, we are constantly being evaluated and are evaluating ourselves in order to improve. In order to truly learn and grow as much as possible, we have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open to criticism. So how do we find a balance between constantly evaluating ourselves in the practice room yet play with overt confidence in our performances and rehearsals? One thing I have been struggling with lately is learning to prevent myself from self-sabotage when I make a mistake in a public setting. Making mistakes in rehearsals during a solo passage used to be detrimental to my confidence. I would drive myself crazy worrying that everybody around me thought that I was a bad flutist every time that I made a mistake, and this mindset would negatively affect the rest of my playing during that rehearsal. The more I worried I was about what others thought of me, the more mistakes I made. This seems ironic, but the root of this problem was that I had not yet truly learned how to play confidently under pressure because I had not practiced doing so. I also had to learn that becoming more confident in my playing in general would allow me to grow and improve even more than I thought that I could.
Confidence in your playing can come from many different factors. Various successes from good performances, doing well in competitions and auditions, and receiving positive feedback from your teachers and colleagues can be major contributors. But what if you are in a period of your career where things have not been going so well? The spring of my junior year of college was a time much like this. I was overwhelmed by responsibilities, dealing with some personal self esteem issues, and on top of everything else, I was receiving rejection upon rejection letter from various festivals and competitions I had submitted recordings to all at once. Experiencing low points in your career like this is normal for everybody who wishes to find success in the music industry, and I believe that it makes you stronger and sets you up for greater successes in the future if you do not let it bring you down. Because I was not having much success in my career at this point in time, I had to do some soul-searching and learn how to build confidence from within. For me, this involved taking a few days off of playing completely to do things that I enjoyed. I began to explore music that I wanted to start learning for fun, I began looking into new competition and summer festival opportunities, and I was working on finding out the things that may have been holding me back so much from being successful. After going through all of this, I finally realized that the one thing that was holding me back so much from being successful was myself. My confidence level had gotten so low that I was actually making myself sound worse in fear that I would not live up to the expectations of others. To help fix this, I started playing things for my own enjoyment, playing the repertoire I was working on for close friends to gain positive feedback, and performing for the satisfaction of myself above the people that were in the audience. If I didn't enjoy my own playing, why should anybody else? Once I began to overcome these obstacles, everything that was holding me back in my practicing and playing began to dissipate. At the end of the spring semester of my junior year, I began to place in competitions and was being accepted into renowned summer festivals. Since then, I have found success again in my endeavors, and I now know that rejection letters are simply a part of the journey to building a career in music.
When you build confidence from within, you realize that you do not need constant validation to indicate whether or not you will be successful in the future. Developing your own musical persona, being ambitious and hard-working to achieve your goals, seeking out opportunities, and making connections with people are all forces that you can control in your own life to determine whether or not you will be successful. Do not let failure define you, let it be a learning process of things you may need to do differently in the future. Remain humble and receptive of the advice from others, but do not let criticism defeat you. Confidence and passion for your art will open many doors in your future. Be mindful of that, and do not let yourself stand in your own way of success.
By: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the February 2018 issue of the Southeast Michigan Flute Association Newsletter.
A 2009 study conducted by Brownwen Ackermann, Dianna Kenny and James Fortune concludes that 95% of highly skilled flute students suffered performance-related musculoskeletal disorders, and that 63% of these conditions were chronic and have been present for over 3 months. If you are a part of the majority and experience musculoskeletal pain while you are practicing or performing, your conditions should no longer be ignored. You may have heard phrases like "no pain, no gain", or "play through the pain", but this "no rest for the wicked" mentality can be detrimental to your career over time. I am currently studying performance-based pain in collegiate music students on a research grant through Bowling Green State University, and I have recently issued an electronic survey to all music majors in the College of Musical Arts at BGSU regarding the pain they experience while playing their instruments. The results of my study have proven that 84% of participants are experiencing performance-based pain, and that the majority of students cope with this pain by decreasing practicing, taking time off or changing their technique, but typically do not seek out professional treatment options and are unaware of methods to treat their injuries.
I have suffered from multiple bouts of tendonitis both in my forearms and my shoulders since I was sixteen years old. I have seen many medical doctors regarding my pain, receiving different answers and diagnoses from each one. I am one of the students who is experiencing moderate to severe pain, and do not know how to receive proper treatment for the pain I am experiencing during my playing. I had planned to continue to ignore this pain and to "play through it" until I received a pretty major wake-up call. I could either continue to play through my pain and worsen it to the point where I am jeopardizing my entire career in music performance, or I could start seeking out professional help in an attempt to prevent my injuries from worsening and save my career. My injuries were the forces that initially prompted me to pursue research in performance-based injury in collegiate music students, and through my research I have realized that I am not alone. I realize that it is unrealistic for most student and professional musicians to take time off to properly treat the pain they are experiencing while playing, so I have compiled a short list of various inexpensive actions you can take to relieve pain and improve your overall musculoskeletal health:
1) Take Breaks!
While this piece of information seems obvious, one can never be reminded enough that taking practice breaks is an absolute necessity in preventing and treating musculoskeletal injuries. If you frequently experience pain during your practice sessions, set a timer for the next one and stop it the first second you begin to feel a noticeable amount of pain. This is now your minimum amount of practice time you are allowed before you must take a break. The first time you do this, you may need to stop your timer at 5 minutes. This may be a blessing in disguise! Studies show that the attention span of an average person lasts about seven minutes, and these five-to-seven minutes of extremely focused practicing on a single orchestral excerpt (or passage in your Mozart Concerto) can sometimes be more beneficial than a half hour spent playing the same phrase over and over again. While you are taking your break, hang your arms down by your sides for at least 60 seconds. According to Janet Horvath's book titled Playing Less Hurt, dangling your arms at your sides for just one minute can help restore up to 80% of the fatigued muscles and can also help to relieve a significant amount of pain. Once you're feeling relaxed and rejuvenated again after your break, continue your next segment of practicing until you begin to feel pain again, rinse and repeat. These may be very short increments of time at first, so it is very helpful to create a list of things you would like to accomplish during your practice session to keep you on track.
2) Make Self-Care a Priority!
Elevated levels of stress can both contribute to and worsen performance-based pain. The study I have conducted has proven that a majority of students experience a significant increase of pain the week leading up to a major performance, competition or audition. With a proper preparation strategy, you should actually be playing slightly less the week before a major performance (see Sharon Sparrow's "Week One" chapter from her book titled Six Weeks to Finals!). Trust your preparation process and give yourself permission to take one hour out of each day to relax. With busy class and rehearsal schedules this can sometimes be difficult, but it is very important in maintaining your mental and physical health. This hour can be broken up throughout your daily schedule as well. Turning on a 3-minute meditation tape before you begin practicing (see the free app Headspace), doing a 30-minute yoga tape (see the Fightmaster Yoga channel on Youtube), taking a 30-minute hot bath and watching the next episode of your current Netflix binge in the evening can all constitute examples of making an effort to be more relaxed on a daily basis. We can also reduce our elevated heart rates during times of stress by simply just taking a few moments to take a few deep and centering breaths between tasks, or even sitting down to enjoy our meals. Make a to-do list for yourself, write down each task as it comes to you so that you do not forget, and give yourself permission to take a few moments of relaxation for yourself each day.
3) Stock Up on Tools!
I understand that it is financially unrealistic for most students to schedule regular professional massage appointments and physical therapy appointments to treat injuries, so I have compiled a list of many inexpensive "tools" that you can purchase to have on hand at home to help reduce and relieve pain. All of these items can be purchased at your local drug store or department store:
1) Electric Heating Pad: $18.99, Target
2) Body Back Buddy Trigger Point Therapy Self Massage Tool: $29.95, Walmart
3) Salonpas Pain Relieving Patch: $9.99, Target
4) Village Naturals Therapy Foaming Bath Oil Aches and Pains Relief: $4.97, Walmart
5) Foam Roller for Physical Therapy & Massage: $12.95, Walmart
If I am experiencing a significant amount of pain and still have a few rehearsals scheduled for the day, I like to put heat patches on the affected areas to help alleviate and prevent further injuries. In the mornings when I wake up and in the evenings before I go to bed, I use the back massager buddy to loosen up excess tension in my shoulders and upper back, and I sometimes put the foam roller in between my shoulders vertically or horizontally between my neck and shoulders and lie flat on the ground. The electric heating pad can come in handy to prop against your upper or lower back while you are doing homework, reading or resting for a short period of time, and the bath oil can provide aromatherapy for a relaxing evening indoors. Please be careful in using any massage tool, and be wary that any shooting or sharp pain you feel means that you must stop right away.
4) See A Doctor!
If your pain is consistent every time you play and is worsening, it is very important to seek professional medical assistance. Examples of moderate to severe warning signs of musculoskeletal injuries in musicians include pain that persists after you stop playing your instrument, tingling or burning sensations, and loss of grip or pain while gripping an object. If you have experienced any of these, you should contact a doctor to receive a proper diagnosis. Common injuries like tendonitis are treatable, but it is important to be aware of them in their early stages. More severe injuries such as carpal tunnel are also treatable, but can require different medical attention. It is also wise ask your doctor to run a blood test for any gluten or dairy allergies/intolerances if possible. According to the book Performance Without Pain by Kathryne Pirtle, dietary restrictions can be a huge contributor to musculoskeletal injuries and can often go overlooked by musculoskeletal and orthopedic doctors. It is best to explore these possibilities as well in case your personalized injury can be mostly cured by a shift in your diet.
5) Stay Active!
According to my physical therapist, Dr. Erik DeMeulemeester, "musicians should treat themselves as athletes and condition themselves as such". We often forget that our profession is physical, and that holding up our flutes to play for multiple hours each day requires us to exercise regularly so that we can maintain strength in our posture. Exercising regularly will not only help to prevent injuries (as long as you are always maintaining proper form), but it will also help to build endurance in your breath support so that you can flawlessly make the last breath in your Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt. For flutists dealing with and treating injuries, using elliptical machines at your local gym, walking or cycling for cardio is slightly easier on your muscles than running. Building core and leg strength by doing sit-ups, leg lifts, squats and planking is crucial in injury prevention and treatment, because maintaining a strong stance from the ground up while you are playing will help reduce tension in your neck, foreams, shoulders and upper back. A good way to give your body a friendly reminder to build support from the ground is to practice some long tones or scales while doing a wall-sit to engage your core and quads. While it is often unrealistic to begin a rigorous exercise regimen in your daily life, aiming to hit the gym or do a yoga tape just 3-4 times a week for a half hour minimum can already make a huge difference. However, if you begin feeling shooting or tingling pain at ANY point during your exercise, stop immediately.
It is so important to remember to take care of your body, and this can become difficult in times of stress. There are many habits you can change in your daily lifestyle that will render positive effects in reducing pain while you perform, and many of these all come down to being more mindful of your actions. Be mindful not to grip the steering wheel while you drive or your toothbrush while you are brushing your teeth. If you are in pain, take a break if possible and do not try and play through. Try to leave with an ample amount of travel time to each event you are attending so that you are not rushing, and take time to deeply breathe a few times each day. When you are feeling stressed or anxious, your breath can be the most stabilizing force available. Be sure to take proper care of your body so that you are able to lead a health and prosperous career in music performance.
By: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the January 2018 SEMFA newsletter.
Audition season is rapidly approaching and in preparation, I have been reading a lot of books and articles that contain various tips and tricks teaching you how to calm nerves and feel super prepared. The books "Audition Success" by Don Greene and "Six Weeks to Finals" by Sharon Sparrow have been especially helpful throughout this process. If you are anything like me, experiencing nervousness before auditions has the potential to drastically alter my performance. In an attempt to "cure" my own nerves and learn how to practice positively and mindfully, I have discovered some methods of preparation that work very well for me when preparing for auditions. I have compiled a short list of the 5 most effective audition preparation tips based on my readings and past audition experience.
I first learned about this technique by reading the book "Audition Success" by Don Greene, where he worked directly with clients auditioning for various major orchestras. An easy way to sum up the concept of centering is to first come up with "cue words" for each piece in your audition repertoire. These words or short phrases should capture the way you feel when you listen to this piece or excerpt, or the way you wish to feel (i.e. flowing and relaxed, light and bouncy). Before a run-through of a specific piece or excerpt, do something to get your heart rate up (jumping jacks, running in place, running up and down a flight of stairs, etc.), and then try to reduce your heart rate and "center" yourself within nine breaths. The first three breaths should focus on lowering your heart rate, the second three focused on relaxing all of your muscles, and the third to focus on your cue words for the excerpt you are about to perform. The goal is to eventually reduce the amount of breaths you take before you begin an excerpt, but it is beneficial to practice with nine at first.
2) Mock Auditions
Mock auditions are, in my opinion, perhaps the most important tool for audition preparation. In Sharon Sparrow's book titled "Six Weeks to Finals", she describes many different types of mock auditions that you should schedule before your audition. She discusses "visual" mock auditions, where you close your eyes with your flute in your hands and visualize yourself entering the audition room, acknowledging the panel if it is an open audition, playing through each of your pieces successfully, thanking the panel if appropriate, and exiting the stage. She also describes performing mock auditions in front of people that make you nervous, such as a professional flutist or friends you look up to. Have your put-together panel ask you as many realistic questions you could receive during the real audition, have them choose which pieces they would like you to play, and have them stop you in the middle of a piece as a panel may in a live audition. You could also try to find out what type of room you will be auditioning in (i.e. a large concert hall, a small recital hall, a classroom, etc.) and schedule a mock audition in a similar type of room at your current school or in your hometown to practice entering and exiting while visualizing that you are at the audition. "Six Weeks to Finals" contains a six-week audition preparation guide that has proven to be successful with many professional and pre-professional musicians.
An element that I typically add to my audition preparation process that has proven to be very beneficial is taking five minutes out of my day to meditate. beginning a few weeks before the audition. Taking this short amount of time to "center" myself and train my mind to set an intention for my practice session or my day overall has allowed me to hold a more positive mindset while in "training mode" for auditions. It is very easy to think negatively about yourself in times of stress, which can be harmful to your progress. Practicing to set a positive intention at the start of your day will translate into your practice sessions and eventually your audition, and positivity contributes to successful performances.
4) Have a Plan
I have recently signed up for Rob Knopper's auditionhacker newsletter, which included a downloadable PDF of an "audition cheat sheet". One of his tips on this cheat sheet is to mark your calendar with a plan for every practice session between now and the audition. In Sharon Sparrow's book "Six Weeks to Finals" and in the book "Audition Success" by Don Greene, they both discuss the importance of planning out each practice session in preparation for an audition as well. Something that has worked well with me in regards to planning out my practicing is to first create a list of the required repertoire, playing through each of them and ranking how comfortable I feel when playing each piece between a scale of 1-10. I then sort each piece into three categories: 1) very prepared, 2) moderately prepared, 3) work in progress. It is very important to keep each category labeled positively to ensure that the "category threes" do not trigger any negative practicing or "cramming". From there, I write a practice schedule and devote the most time towards my works in progress, devote slightly less time to my "category 2s", and be sure to get at least one run through of each of my most prepared pieces every session to keep them fresh. As my practicing progresses, it is possible for my most prepared pieces to now need more work. It is important to gauge your progress on your repertoire each week and note that the ranking may change based on the amount of work you have put into your pieces that needed it the most. Having a practicing plan can help keep you motivated and can be rewarding as you see yourself progress each week.
5) Be organized
If your auditions require travel, have your travel plans set weeks in advance. Have your flights and hotels booked, and be sure to refer to the travel recommendations page on the university or conservatory's website before booking. Sometimes local hotels offer discounts for auditioning students, and that information can be found on the travel recommendations page on the school's website as well. I like to print out any audition confirmation, information for auditioning students document, and even sometimes email confirmations from prospective teachers for any private lessons you may take with their rates included. I keep these in my "audition binder" along with copies of all of my music and a list of repertoire requirements for each school. Staying organized and filing all of your information as you receive it may save you some stress as you get closer to the audition itself so that you can focus on being prepared to the best of your ability!
Below are links to the resources I have cited in my article as well as many other sources for your reference regarding the audition preparation process:
Don Greene: Audition Success
Sharon Sparrow: Six Weeks to Finals
Rob Knopper: Audition Cheat Sheet
The Bulletproof Musician: 7 Preparation Tips for Successful Auditions
The Bulletproof Musician: Start Your Audition Off on the Right Foot!
By: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the January 2018 SEMFA newsletter.
In the Spring of 2018, Amy Porter will be releasing a new DVD, publication, and download cycle celebrating Philippe Gaubert's complete works for flute and piano. The DVD and download cycle will be titled "Gaubert Cycle: The Complete Works for Flute and Piano", and the Carl Fischer publication containing editions of each of these works will be titled "Gaubert's Treasures". Recordings of Amy Porter performing these works by Philippe Gaubert are available on equilibri.com for $9.99 or $19.99 and trailers for her recordings of all 16 works for flute and piano are available on youtube. I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Porter herself regarding her upcoming publications, and below are excerpts from our recent skype interview.
FL: "Would you like to talk a little bit about your upcoming publication titled 'Gaubert's Treasures'?"
AP: "Yes! Philippe Gaubert was literally discovered by Jules Taffanel (the father of Paul Taffanel) while he was walking down the street in a town outside of Paris. He heard a flutist playing and thought ' he's really good, and MY son Paul is really good too', so he took Gaubert to Paris at age 14, and taught him everything he knew. Gaubert eventually became an elite musical personality - I call him the 'Leonard Bernstein of Paris'. He was a flutist, flute professor, editor and conductor. They put him on the podium and said 'Philippe! Get up here and conduct!' and he became the conductor of the opera. At the time, he was conducting, teaching, and then he started composing. The "Nocturne and Allegro and Scherzando" is the second piece he wrote for flute and piano. That's really the one piece we know. Then we learn about "Madrigal", and if you're really good you know the Sonatas. And then if you're really good, you know that he wrote a "Romance", but did you know that he wrote two Romances? The more you look into it, you find that all of these different pieces by Gaubert start appearing and you say 'wow, these are so beautiful! Why aren't they in one place?'. I am an inquiring mind, constantly. I'm always circling things and using post-it notes, and when it all comes together as an idea I make it happen. That's what started to happen. I was playing with Tim Carey when he came to play for my class Anatomy of Sound and Tim Carey can play anything when it comes to flute and piano repertoire. So I decided if I could use Tim Carey, then I can record Gaubert's repertoire and I had a teaching assistant to help me. Merryl Neille got interlibrary loans and got all these different patchwork editions that were out of print or in print and public domain, and we compiled all of sixteen works for flute and piano. One of them, "Sicillienne" is actually for flute and orchestra and then it became a flute and piano piece later so I transcribed that,. Then there's another piece called "Divertissement Grec" for two flutes and piano, but it can also be played as one flute with the right hand piano playing the second flute part. I recorded with Tim Carey in Hill auditorium over a two-day period in 2016, and we filmed and recorded all 16 flute and piano works. It's on YouTube and see the trailers for them. Equilibri.com is where everything is being uploaded, and the recordings are downloadable for $9.99 and $19.99 for the longer works. Penelope Fischer (winner of the National Flute Association Service Award) wrote her doctoral thesis on Philippe Gaubert, from which a couple of books have been published citing her. I always have a historian on my DVDs so I thought it would be nice to put her on camera and for her to be the historian for this study guide. She agreed. So, a month later, we filmed for another two days. We have some amazing footage. Penny talks about Moyse and how Gaubert gave him the first prize for playing his Nocturne and Allegro Scherzando. Penny's eyes get all watery when she talks about Gaubert or Moyse and I just wanted to document that love that she has for them. The thesis was published in 1984, so I wanted to bring Penny's thesis back into our libraries. We feature the Gaubert oeuvre in 2 sections - pre-World War I and post-World War I. Gaubert served in World War I and he was given a medal of honor. He served in the battle of Verdun, and when he came back he plunged back into his art and did more than ever and wrote more flute pieces than ever. I am just thrilled to put them all in one place on film. Then, my publisher Carl Fischer said 'let's take your version of the performances, which probably have been edited', and I said 'yes, I break some slurs and I correct some dynamics', and he said 'let's do an edition'. I'm going to do the shorter pieces and I'm going to end with the "Suite". It's in four movements, and each one is dedicated to a different flute player. It's so beautiful! Every single piece he wrote has a dedication to a friend. It is incredible. On the study guide you will see a picture of the dedicatees, we talk about the piece, Penny explains the form, and then I perform it with Tim Carey in Hill Auditorium with two cameras. It's beautiful. The publication is being drafted now."
FL: "That's going to be a wonderful resource, I am really looking forward to that coming out! Thank you so much for your time, and I am looking forward to writing this article!"
Interview by: Francesca Leo