Friday, June 29, 2012

{ r e v e l a t i o n s } Friday, June 29th

What a week.

I worked all day today, and I still managed to happily practice for two (productive!) hours.

Better than that, my practice session involved several life-changing revelations!

Before I practiced, I came across a link shared by Amy Likar on facebook:  

Adam Cole was the Feldenkrais teacher at SummerFlute, and he blogged about each day at the class.
I wish I could’ve attended the class myself, after meeting Amy Likar and many other wonderful Body Mapping flutists at the Andover Educators conference last summer.

Adam graciously shared some gems from the masterclasses, and as a result, MY playing improved drastically in about 3 minutes today.

Thanks to Amy, Adam, and Liisa Ruoho, these are the top four things that I brought into my practice session today:

1. "Feel your toes."

This brought upon a lovely inclusive awareness, and allowed me to feel connected with the ground beneath my feet. Earlier this year, Dr. Jenni Cook helped me to discover that my tendency is to “pull up” from the ground and shift my weight as I breathe and begin to play. I had great success inhibiting that habit as I consciously brought each toe into my awareness. Magic.

2. "Air plays the flute, not the body." -- Liisa Ruoho

Karg-Elert Caprice #9 has made me to realize how difficult it is difficult to consciously maintain a constant stream of air. I try to practice fast, tongued passages slowly and all slurred, but this tends to be mindless and boring. I made it my intention to memorize the feeling of a continuous airstream today, and I made some decent progress. Having a great inclusive awareness reminder also made it easier to notice what my body was doing.

3. "Turn your ears back." -- Liisa Ruoho

If a teacher ever tells me that I need to "open my sound," I will immediately translate it to "turn your ears back." Adam also mentions "listening to the air behind your ears." This was pure magic. Less trying too hard. More wonderful inclusive awareness.

4. "Casually lean on a piano like you're at a party, and just play Bach."  -- Liisa Ruoho

It is SO DIFFICULT to just let go and stop trying to do. If ever I were to tattoo an important reminder on my forearm, it would say: "Just play. You don't have to do anything else."

There is nothing more encouraging that being able to say "I am a much better player than when I started" after a practice session.

To do this week: Encourage more revelations by re-reading masterclass notes and Body Mapping journals.

To do next summer: Go to SummerFlute:

Grateful to Adam Cole, Amy Likar & Liisa Ruoho for inspiring today's practice session.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Repertoire Lists: Making the Most of the Next 8 Weeks

I love summer. Fourteen weeks of beach trips, cookouts, sunburns and excessive napping. Ninety-eight days sans scholarly journal readings, discussion posts, analysis essays, listening assignments, lesson plans, daily rehearsals... Brilliant.
I am staying in the Hamptons with my lovely college roommate and her gracious family this summer, and I am spending most of my time working at a golf and tennis club. When I am not working, I am eating, sleeping, swimming, lounging at the beach, roaming around King Kullen (buying more Apple Cinnamon Chex and muenster cheese), or watching Veggie Tales (while stuffing my face with microwave s'mores) with an eight-year-old. And practicing. Sort of. Sometimes.
Fourteen weeks without flute lessons translates to fourteen weeks without the structured sense of impending doom that forces me to learn an etude every week. 

Every summer I feel an incredible sense of ambition to learn as much new repertoire as possible, and I always make clear goals to develop a richer tone, better intonation, a more sophisticated level of musicality, and a faster 'TKT KTK' triple tongue. (And I almost always tack 'learn how to circular breathe' onto the end of my to-do list..) 

On May 27th, I decided that this would finally be the summer that I conquer the Ibert Concerto and the excerpts from Prokofiev’s ‘Classical Symphony.’ Those were the goals. The plan was to keep my wishlist manageable so I could tack on whatever other pieces the spirit moved me to learn.

On June 13th, however, I received an e-mail from my new flute professor listing the required graduate studio fall repertoire and the repertoire for ensemble auditions.

Ibert very quickly returned to his home on the back-burner.

After choosing pieces from each category on her list, this is my new ‘to-do’ list:

Flute excerpts from... JS Bach: St. John Passion, Beethoven: Symphony No. 7, Bizet: Carmen, Debussy: Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun, Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis, Mozart: The Magic Flute, Ravel: Bolero, Smetana: The Bartered Bride Overture, Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier, & Stravinsky: Petrouchka

Piccolo excerpts from... Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kije, & Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Etudes: Karg-Elert Caprices (#4, 9, 20, 21, 23, & 30), Robert Dick Flying Lessons (#2, 5, & 6), Piazzolla Tango Etudes (#2 & 3), Bozza Arabasque Etudes (#3 & 7), & others

Pieces: CPE Bach: Concerto in D Minor: Mvmt. III, Karg-Elert: Sonata Appassionata, Karg-Elert: Impressions Exotiques, Bozza: Agrestide, Mendelssohn: Sonata in F Minor Op. 4, Vivaldi Concerto in G Minor "La Notte" Op. 10 #2
(and others that I'm not acknowledging for now, either because I've already learned them or they would've pushed my Flute World order beyond the limits of my checking account.)

My instinctual response to overload panic is to make a detailed calendar that painstakingly prescribes my daily practice sessions for the next 70 days. I have made dozens of these ‘calendars of destruction,’ and I always quit before day one is over.

So while sitting on my uncomfortable wooden stool at work (on a rainy Tuesday with no golfers wandering up to the desk asking for an Arnold Palmer), I decided to re-evaluate my previous system. 

I came up with a less daunting approach to make the most out of the next eight weeks:
First, I categorized. (I love charts.) Quite simply, One group is the pieces that will take more time to learn, and the other is the pieces that will take less time because I've already worked on them.

I decided to schedule ‘lessons’ to give myself a deadline for each group. I've given myself two weeks to polish the easier things and five weeks for the difficult pieces. The goal is to video-record myself performing each piece as I would in a lesson, then analyze each video and be my own Peggy Vagts. (I'm 98% sure that I won't come close to achieving the brilliance of Peggy Vagts.)

I've been recording myself anyway (using Photo Booth) to catch awkward movement habits, and I've found that my practice sessions have been much more efficient as a result.
I always find myself running through pieces at tempo when I 'practice,' so I've been avoiding performing (aka practicing mindlessly) after reading this genius article from the Bulletproof Musician:
Day one was a raging success. I actually worked on an excerpt. Impending doom is where it’s at.

How do you approach repertoire to-do lists?