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
This article was published in the January 2018 SEMFA newsletter.
Performing a concerto with an orchestra is a very unique process. While we all possess individualized pre-performance regimens, performing a concerto with orchestra requires not just a collaboration between yourself and your pianist, but a collaboration with yourself, an entire orchestra and a conductor. I have been interested in learning more about the concerto preparation processes of artists who have spent much of their lives performing them. I wanted to reach out to an incredible artist who has performed as a concerto soloist with many orchestras around the world. I recently had the opportunity to interview Amy Porter, Professor of Flute at the University of Michigan, regarding her preparation process for performing concerti. I wanted to know about the things she does in preparation of her concerto performances, and any advice she may have to flutists who are just beginning their journey of performing with orchestras. Below you will find excerpts from our recent Skype interview.
Amy Porter will be performing Trail of Tears by Michael Daugherty on Saturday, February 17th with the Flint Symphony Orchestra at 7:30pm at The Whiting. Tickets are available for purchase here.
FL: "What has been your favorite concerto performance to date, and why?"
AP: "I'll never forget it, actually. Oh, it makes me cry! I had a broken hand."
FL: "And you still played?"
AP: "Yes. Here's the backstory. It was 2012. You can't blame your dog when they pull you on the leash and you're not ready to react. I had turned around to say something to my niece who was walking with me, and I said the word 'okay', and that created a pull on my dog who had seen a squirrel and 'okay' means she can run. So the dog chased the squirrel with me holding the leash and pulled my finger out. I fell. The first time she pulled, the doctor said 'don't hurt yourself again!', so of course, I was running with her and we got close to home, I started to sprint. She took off towards the house and pulled me a little too hard and I rolled and fell on the same hand. The lesson I learned is that on the dog walk, you have to pay attention to your dog completely. Now, I walk two 88 pound dogs and I'm not fearful of hurting my hands because I'm better about my grip and this has been a big lesson. So, I now walk the dog's walk and not Amy's run. So- I fell two weeks before a major flute festival in Taiwan, where I was to play the Liebermann Concerto with orchestra. I called my doctor and I got right in. Three surgeons came into the room and looked at my hand and decided it wasn't necessary to operate, it was just a metacarpal bone break on the side of the left hand which would heal. So the remaining doctor asked me what was next in my career on the flute. I answered, 'I have to get on an airplane to Taipei and play with an orchestra in two weeks. And I will do it.' Then he asked me a very interesting question. He didn't forecast my doom and gloom and he didn't tell me what was going to happen, he just asked me this question. 'Well, how many notes do you have to play?' Well, that's a great question, because the first nine pages is the first movement. This piece has a lot of notes! He said 'can you play fewer notes?', and then he said 'can you take a week off?' and I said 'Sure! I could get back to it after a week, I'm pretty stable on the flute', so I showed him what I did physically with the flute and he said I would have to wear a brace for 2 weeks and go into physical therapy, but I could definitely go to Taiwan. Then I had to call my manager and try to change the repertoire, and she had a wonderful outlook as well. This was during Hurricane Sandy! She was there in New York City, trapped in her apartment. I called and she said immediately upon answering, 'I'm fine!', and I said 'I'm so happy you're safe! So now I have a story for you. I fell and broke my hand and I have to go to Taiwan. I'd like to not play this concerto specifically' and she said 'well what do you want to play?', and I said 'the Trail of Tears by Michael Daugherty, because I could there are fewer notes and I could double tongue a lot of those notes and I have it ready to go'. She had to sell the repertoire change and she did it successfully.
There's a video of that actual performance on YouTube. "The Trail of Tears" with the Evergreen Philharmonic - two weeks after I broke my hand - and it was the best performance of my life so far, that I can remember vividly. When I woke up the next day, I wrote an email to six of the closest people in my life and thanked them for believing that I could do this. It doesn't just take one person to be a touring artist, It takes a staff of people because you have to keep on top of your game, playing in front of 1100 people. That might be a small audience to some but to me it's pretty big! I think my game has to be at its best, so the people behind me supporting me, my team, are my family and dear friends and doctors and managers - and so it really helped me get through the worry. I wrote them a thank you note at the end of that performance. And I am thrilled that it's on YouTube."
FL: "That's such an amazing story! My next question is: What are some tips you have for flutists who experience stage fright before major performances, and what helps calm your nerves before performing concerti?"
AP: "You must use the air stream to slow down your heart rate. It is a physical phenomenon. When the psoas muscle starts to tighten, we stop breathing. Fight or flight - so we fight. But we need to detach from the mind. So - a runner or a person who exercises will tell you that you can control your mind and heart rate when you run and while you exercise. Its pacing. You want to slow down your heart rate. When I am doing my makeup before I even leave to go to the hall, I feel a feeling I call a 'flutter-by', which is the nervous butterfly that flutters by , and I say to my mind, 'there's the flutter-by!' So, I breathe in and then I breathe out the syllable 'fff' or 'shhh'. That is a known way to slow down the heart rate. Why? Because, with the resistance, your exhalation is twice as long, if not four times as long, as your inhalation. The heart muscle will slow down, and the psoas muscle will release and you will feel like yourself again. So it is all about the breath. Using the breath for stage fright can be calming when the mind is letting you down. Now, practicing to perform is also important. You have to create a 'Circle of Excellence', and composer Michael Colgrass talks about that. It's also an ancient American Indian belief where a circle of light comes and shines down upon you in that circle. And in this circle is your life, your best performance you ever had, your favorite nature spot, your favorite childhood memory, your belief system in yourself, your confidence, and that circle has so much power inside, that you can't step into it with negativity. Lucky for me, Michael Colgrass taught me about the Circle of Excellence in my home. He stayed here seven times in our home while he was in residence at Michigan because I am the closest faculty member to the School of Music and I have a guest room and I'm a Colgrass fan. He unfolded a piece of yarn into a big circle in my parlor and it was green (because my eyes are green.) He said, 'step outside the circle and look inside the circle'. 'Put all of those things of your life inside the circle.' He said that I could practice inside the circle, but the moment I started doubting myself or talking to myself negatively I had to step out of the circle. The circle was super spiritual and personal, like an eggshell (Don Green calls it an eggshell, or some people talk about putting yourself within this bubble and not letting other people in). This circle, he says, starts to increase as you practice using it as your circle of excellence. So then the circle becomes as wide as my room, as wide as my practice parlor. And then my Circle of Excellence encompasses the house. And then guess what? The Circle of Excellence can encompass the city and the stage and the arena and the world! So your Circle of Excellence can go with you wherever you go... but not if you practice to perform within that place of fear."
FL: "That's wonderful advice, I've never thought about that!"
AP: " My Lessons with Kumi is the name of the book. It has changed a lot of people to be able to perform. The sports psychologist Don Greene teaches at Juilliard and he talks a lot about being the driver in your performance, and not the passenger. So if you are going to have a lot of fear and fall victim to the fear, you'll fail. Fear is actually a much more comfortable feeling to have if you're used to it. It's taking that chance and getting up and talking, playing or conducting in front of people that's scary but where the growth happens. Here's the thing about me, I am much more powerful with the flute in my hands. It took me awhile in my 30s and 40s to develop myself as a person without the flute in my hands. A lot of people are stronger with the flute in their hands, some people are stronger without the flute in their hands. I think the Circle of Excellence is a great teacher to achieve sustained excellence.
FL: "Thank you so much, that is a perfect answer! I have two more questions. The next question is: What are the most important aspects to focus on in situations where you have very limited rehearsal time with an orchestra before your performance?"
AP: "Know their part as well as your own part. In the first rehearsal I face the orchestra to let them see me play. The front of me is very different than the back of me, so sometimes the orchestra can miss all of the wonderful aspects of my personal journey with the music. So if they can see me, I teach it to them through my musicality and my relationship with my partner, the conductor. I place trust in the conductor to get us through that rehearsal process. One of the tools of etiquette that I would promote is not speaking directly to the orchestra, keep your mouth shut! Any question you have, for example if you think that the violas should be louder or you need to hear the beat of the timpani, then at a respectful moment, pause and ask the conductor 'if I could hear the timpani more, that would be lovely', 'the ensemble with the trumpet could be better', and that would then be negotiated through the conductor. Too many times I have seen a flute player start talking to the orchestra about what they want, and it makes the conductor powerless. It's the conductor who is running the show, not the soloist. So, given that the conductor has an accompanying role, he or she is my collaborator. I would whole-heartedly say - stay out of it if you have less time, and make sure that you are well-rehearsed with the conductor and you know the part of the orchestra better than your own.
FL: "My last question is: When faced with performing multiple concerti in a short amount of time, what is the most efficient way of practicing each to keep them fresh? How early do you begin to prepare each concerto on average before you perform it?"
AP: "3-4 months. One important thing to me is making sure that if I'm getting manuscripts from a composer and I have to print it out in single sheets, that I tape them together in a single form of music. The page turns and getting the relationship with the score is important. I'm not playing from a tablet yet, I might some day, but for now I love the music and I love it being in a score form. I have the "Silver Linings" Concerto by Frank Ticheli on my stand right now. Trail of Tears is in my head and I will start running that soon - but right now it's Ticheli, Ticheli, Ticheli."
Interview by: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the December 2017 SEMFA Newsletter.
As I approach my graduation date this coming spring at Bowling Green State University, I have found myself searching for unique musical opportunities that push boundaries of many classical traditions of flute playing. Having been surrounded by so much contemporary music during my time at BGSU, I developed a great appreciation for this genre and a great passion for performing it. This exposure to many different types of contemporary instrumental performances that utilize unique instrumentations, extended techniques, and cross genres with various different art forms has taught me that truly anything is possible within the music industry. I am interested in learning more about the journeys of professional flutists who have built careers outside of the orchestral industry, and I have taken a particular interest to the field of interdisciplinary performance.
This past summer, I served an internship with the National Flute Association at their annual convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Some of the perks of my internship included being able to watch dress rehearsals of the gala concerts, featuring performances by some of my idols. I first encountered Zara Lawler as I was monitoring the door for her dress rehearsal before the Sunday afternoon Gala Concert, the closing concert of the 2017 NFA Convention. She was running through her choreographed performance of Berio's Sequenza, which included acrobatic movements throughout a rolling metal frame, traveling across the stage while playing her flute.
I was completely in awe of how powerful and unique this performance was, and it was something I did not even realize was a possibility for flutists. Since the convention, I have thought about that performance frequently and wanted to find out more about Ms. Lawler's career and how she got her start in the field of interdisciplinary performance. Zara Lawler was gracious to answer a few interview questions from myself for this article, and her answers greatly impacted me in a very positive way as a performer. I will definitely be trying out her suggestions to incorporate movement in my playing in my next practice session! If you are interested in learning more about Zara Lawler and her upcoming performances, please visit her website at zaralawler.com.
1. What first inspired you to begin incorporating choreography and acting into your flute playing, and what are some of your favorite interdisciplinary performances you have given so far?
ZL: I have always loved spectacle. In music school, I LOVED when we would do operas and ballets, because it was so great to feel like we were part of something bigger. I never had the idea that I would actually move while playing until I asked my cousin, who was studying dance, if she would like to do a project with me sometime. She said yes, but she would expect me to move too. At first I balked! "What? Dance and play at the same time?" Then the next day in my practice room, I danced a bit while doing my scales and I was immediately hooked, and convinced it was a viable way to perform. Ironically, the collaboration with my cousin never happened, but that was the seed of the idea!
It's hard to nail down a few favorite performances. Directing the US premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino's Il Cerchio Tagliato Dei Suoni at the Guggenheim, was pretty amazing! It was so fun because it involved the whole NYC flute community--kids as young as six, college students, top freelancers, and a few stars like Carol Wincenc, not to mention our stellar soloists Claire Chase, Eric Lamb, Jayn Rosenfeld and Kelli Kathman...and it was a group effort of all involved to realize the composer's vision in a way that worked in the beautiful rotunda of the Guggenheim.
I also am really in love with TimeFrame, the choreography for Berio's Sequenza created in collaboration with Neil Parsons, my long-time choreographer/collaborator. It is SO fun and challenging, and compelling for the audience. And I get to stand on my head while playing the flute!
2. Did you always have a vision of incorporating interdisciplinary performance into your musical career, or has it been a passion that you have developed over time?
ZL: It's funny, my first performance on the flute was in fifth grade, for an event at my elementary school that was about the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge (over the Hudson River), and the various buildings that were torn down or moved to make that happen. I played London Bridge Is Falling Down while people paraded by with hand painted representations of Victorian houses...so my interest in multidisciplinary community-based performances comes from the very first days of my flute playing!!!
That said, it has developed over time...and it took me a long time to really get deeply into it. Even though I did little projects here and there over a number of years after I graduated from Juilliard, it wasn't until I joined Tales & Scales, a group that specialized in combining music performance with dance and theater for young audiences, that I realized this was my real calling, my life's work. It was also in Tales & Scales where I met Neil who has choreographed so many pieces for me, and Paul Fadoul, my percussion partner.
3. How did the incorporation of movement and choreography benefit your flute playing and what are some exercises that interested flutists could try at home as beginners to introduce acting and movement into their own performances?
ZL: Playing while moving requires that your airstream be very strong...I feel like it is a great demonstration of the primacy of the airstream. It has also made me be very creative about where and when I breathe--I often have to take two or three times as many breaths as I would if I were just standing and playing. Another great benefit is that I don't worry much about tiny things, like my fingers. I find that many of the technical hang-ups and difficulties that I have when I am playing without moving evaporate when I start thinking about my big muscles (ie my legs, back, etc) instead of my small ones (ie my fingers and lips!)!
To get started, try dancing around while you play your scales. I like to just do something repetitive, like a grapevine step, or a fake Charleston, while I do my chromatic scales. Then, when I'm doing Taffanel Gaubert No. 4, I alternate standing still for one key (and its minor) and then standing in a yoga pose for the next key. It's kind of fun, and a little challenging, but not super hard. If you know some standing yoga poses (tree, warrior, goddess...), try it. If you don't know yoga poses, you can just make some up by putting your body into an interesting shape and staying there while you play your scales.
Then, think about a project you'd like to try...if you have an idea you have for a piece or performance, go for it! Make the moves up yourself, for find your friendly neighborhood choreographer and enlist him or her! Don't let lack of experience stop you...just give it a try. It doesn't have to be super fancy to be a good place to start. It also doesn't have to be long, or be the whole show. It's lovely to include an interdisciplinary piece on a more "standard" recital.
4. What is some advice you have for flutists looking to pursue a career in interdisciplinary performance, or a similar concept involving unique performance art?
ZL: How to cover that topic in a few sentences?! I think that interdisciplinary performance is definitely becoming a thing, though I think it still needs an official name. "Interdisciplinary performance" seems too broad, and too academic...but I don't have a better suggestion at the moment.
Nonetheless, I think it's important to work to realize one's artistic vision. It's always a good idea to enlist an outside eye--a theater director, a choreographer, another artist. You can't see what you are doing, and you can't really know if your vision is coming to life unless someone reflects back to you what they are experiencing.
I also thing funding is hugely important. Learn to raise money, either by grants or just asking your network to support the art. Pay your collaborators. Pay yourself. The challenge with such a new approach to work is that you can't just get a gig doing it...so you need to raise funds to make it sustainable.
And know that doing work that includes other disciplines takes WAY MORE TIME than doing a regular concert. Memorization takes time, creating movement or theater takes time, setting up in the performance space takes time, etc. But it's worth it!!
By: Francesca Leo
This article was published in the November 2017 issue of the Southeast Michigan Flute Association newsletter.
Suffering a bad case of the mid-semester blues? You're not alone. November usually means "crunch-time". Students are preparing for annual concerto competitions, final projects, exams and juries, and recording prescreenings and submitting applications when applicable. It can take some serious time management skills and an incredible level of focus and motivation to push through and keep your passion alive. Through a series of trial and error from years past, I have found some tips and tricks to keep myself from burning out during the heat of the fall semester.
1) Take time (or make time) for yourself!
While we are maintaining extremely busy and demanding schedules, it is very important to build in some self-care during this time of the year for both your physical and emotional well-being. Self care can be anything from making time for a few good workout sessions or yoga classes each week, sitting down and enjoying your meals without being preoccupied by a million different tasks, watching one episode of your favorite TV show or reading a chapter of a good book before you go to sleep, meeting with a friend for coffee once a week, or going for a walk in nature. Studies have even shown that watching a short, funny YouTube video during a ten minute practice break can help clear your mind and make you more focused when you begin to practice again. Allowing yourself time to breath and unwind, even if it is just for a short amount of time, can help you be more focused and productive when you come back to working and practicing later in the day.
2) Sight-read duets with friends!
Making music with your friends is a foolproof way of lifting your spirits while also spending time with people you enjoy being around. During a practice break, find a friend and sight-read some easy duets for fun! It will help improve your sight-reading skills and give your mind a crucial break from practicing your Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt a thousand different ways. It will allow you to focus on the art of music making and maybe even give you some inspiration to apply to your practicing later on!
3) Find a mentor, talk to them!
Find somebody you admire and trust. This could be a private teacher, an ensemble coach, an advisor, even an older friend who has been through what you are going through now before. Start a dialogue with them, ask them for advice and ask them about their musical path as well. Tell them about the struggles you are going through, and ask them if they have ever experienced anything like that before. This person should not become your therapist, but asking them genuine questions about how they got to where they are now and what obstacles they may have had to overcome in their careers can be very beneficial and can help you get to know them better. It is helpful to know people who have gone through it all before and who want to watch you succeed. In turn, you will likely become someone else's mentor later down the road :)
While it is easy to become burnt out and lose motivation, try as best as you can to remind yourself daily why you are pursuing music and why you cannot live without it. Be grateful of this pressure you are under, because "pressure is a privilege"! Always try to be optimistic and have faith in yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to in this world - your potential is limitless!
By: Francesca Leo