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