2017 in Review

2017 brought some very rewarding projects, some happy surprises, and a generous handful of disappointment. Continued from last year was the constant adjustment to tripling the number of children in my house (with now-toddler twins). For next year, my plans are on a larger scale and more geographically diverse.

In terms of teaching, highlights included working with some very talented flute students in my studio at South Dakota State University. I enjoyed giving a workshop with my woodwind colleagues for band directors at our middle school All-State. I was happy to give a “Women in Music” talk for SDSU’s chapter of Tau Beta Sigma.

Finally, designing a colloquium for the SDSU Honors College was incredibly rewarding. We took an interdisciplinary look at music in the context of neurology, therapy, technology, politics, the arts, and global studies. We had some fantastic guest speakers, including Dr. Jay Batzner and Dr. Michael Hall. Fortunately, I will have the opportunity to facilitate this class again next year.

My annual Flute Day was in its third year, and we increased the attendance to over 80 young flutists from around the region. We were fortunate to have Dr. Christine Erlander Beard as our guest artist from University of Nebraska Omaha.


I continued my work on the New Music Advisory committee of the National Flute Association, which is one of my favorite service activities. I recently joined the Flute New Music Consortium and am looking forward to seeing the new compositions that come out of that group. I reviewed recordings for The Flute View and published a couple of articles: “A Summer Practice Plan” for The Flute View and “Janice Misurell-Mitchell: Commissioned Works” on behalf of the New Music Advisory committee for The Flutist Quarterly. I was also grateful to be able to contribute to Shaya Bendix Lyon’s article about the use of technology in music education for Chamber Music Magazine, “Pixels and Pencils.” In early December, former classmate and woodwind doubler (quintupler?) extraordinaire Bret Pimentel interviewed me.

Performing was good this year. (Check out my performance map here.) March marked the end of my maternity hiatus from travel, when I was guest artist (along with Dr. Catherine Ramirez) at the Montana Flute Festival in Billings.

Photo Credit: Montana Flute Association

I performed at three conferences: the soul-satisfying and energizing family reunion that is New Music Gathering, the annual bonanza at the National Flute Association, and the smaller but friendly conference of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, where I performed with my clarinet colleague, Dr. Michael Walsh.

with Andrew Rodriguez
with Michael Hall and Jay Batzner
with Clare Shore
with Alan Theisen
with Andrew Rodriguez and Andy Hudson
with Andy Lee





On the campus of SDSU, I collaborated with colleagues on their faculty recitals; my own recital was more involved than usual and introduced a new dimension to my performances. I incorporated dance, text, visual arts, and musical collaboration.

I also performed Kennan’s Night Soliloquy with the SDSU Concert Band. My annual fall tour included the southeast this year and featured collaborations with friends and colleagues at Mars Hill University, Brevard College, Emory & Henry College, and East Tennessee State University. These fall performances included four world premieres (by Aaron Jay Myers, Daniel Walzer, Alan Theisen, and Wes Flinn) and one preview performance (by Clare Shore).

My last solo performance of the year was on R. Andrew Lee’s Invisible Rail concert series, and can be heard on YouTube. I also appeared on South Dakota Public Broadcasting about my upcoming fellowship to Israel.

The beginning of 2018 brings editing the tracks for my upcoming debut CD, which features works for flute and Glissando Headjoint. I’ll be ringing in the new year from Israel. Hopefully the contacts made from this fellowship will result in plenty of collaboration carrying into the new year.

On to 2018: new music, travel, and collaboration!





Fall 2017 Tour

This fall’s tour was a whirlwind few days of friends, collaborations, and satisfying musical experiences. One big takeaway: performing multiple times within an intensely-compressed time period is really effective in keeping one on one’s toes, performance-wise. There’s no time for nervousness and no time for mistakes. The program has to be clearly thought through, and all preparation has to be done in advance.

The weekend began on Thursday, 21 September. After teaching my 8am class and leaving the 10am class’s exam with a colleague to proctor, I headed toward Asheville, NC via the Sioux Falls, SD airport. It was a full day of travel but I managed to get a proposal written while enjoying the rocking chairs during a layover at the Charlotte airport. I arrived in Asheville and made it to my hosts’ house on the north side close to midnight.

Friday, 22 September was dedicated to activities at Mars Hill University. My hosts, Dr. Alan Theisen and Misty Theisen, are on faculty there. Misty and I rehearsed several works we had programmed on that evening’s recital. We discovered that we sound great together (hooray for a new flute sistah!) and the rehearsal with pianist Brad Curtioff went well. I taught a masterclass that afternoon, and our recital was that evening. The program included a couple of world premieres and some older favorites. Afterwards, I had a great time talking with some of the most polite students I have ever encountered. It was a fantastic day.

Saturday, 23 September was a little lighter. There was some time for relaxation, and I also drove up just past the Virginia state line for a rehearsal for Sunday evening’s recital. That was going to be another world premiere, and I collaborated with my dear friend, trombonist Dr. Art Haecker. Thai food in Asheville with the Theisens rounded out Saturday.

Sunday, 24 September was an intense day. I left the Theisens’ home early and headed to Brevard, NC. At Brevard College I met with my host, Dr. Eric Peterson, as well as with their sound person; I also ran through my program. I taught a masterclass early in the afternoon and then gave my recital. It was well attended, and I was happy to get a report of the outcome of the UGA football game by someone who came backstage afterwards. After the recital, I headed directly to Emory & Henry College in Emory, VA. I arrived there about an hour before the performance, so there was definitely some anxiety about the short window of time before this second recital. It went well, including the world premiere, and the audience was particularly engaged. This day felt like a huge accomplishment.

Monday, 25 September marked the end of my fall tour. I left my hosts (Drs. Art and Allyss Haecker) early and headed to East Tennessee State University, where Art is on faculty. There I gave a masterclass/performance for the flute and low brass studios and faculty. I performed two works for Glissando Headjoint and then Art and I gave another performance of our commissioned piece for Glissando Headjoint and trombone. I gave a talk about the Glissando Headjoint and Art and I discussed commissioning. There were some really great questions from the students there. After lunch, where Art and I discussed some future plans with his new publishing company (Polymnia Music), I headed back to the Asheville airport. I arrived back home by midnight. My Tuesday 8am class wasn’t going to teach itself!

These tours are always invigorating to me. I feel like I top up on creative energy and enjoy the stimulation of travel, friends, and collaboration. I’m able to take the works I’ve commissioned to a broader audience, and it’s fulfilling to see them enjoying these new works. I’m toying with the idea of a spring tour, even though logistics are more difficult during that semester. It’s something to keep in mind, at any rate.

On to the rest of the semester!


Reading a New Piece

Where to start when taking a look at a piece for the first time? Obviously there are as many approaches as there are musicians, and different pieces call for different attention. For an example, let’s take a look at the Duos for Flute and Clarinet by Robert Muczynski. (I’ll be performing this with my clarinetist colleague in October.)

First, I do a quick flip through the score. I look for really big picture things like how many movements it has, the general tempo markings, whether each movement tends to look more lyrical or more technical, and so forth. This gives me an idea of the overall road map and usually alerts me to sections that will require more work than others. (Sometimes I’m wrong but I have to start somewhere.)

I focus on rhythm first. In my mind, I have a much stronger grasp on the piece if I have the rhythm scaffolding established, and then I can go back and fill in pitches. If I focus on pitches instead, it takes me much longer to get a piece worked up. It is true that I can’t always separate the pitches out but my main focus is the rhythm. To learn the rhythm, I count, tap it out, sing a syllable, conduct while counting or singing, or a combination of these. I usually am not playing my flute at this point. I go ahead and mark the spots where I am not able to immediately count it accurately. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to avoid practicing mistakes.) I’ll focus in on those spots, incorporate them back into the larger context, and continue my rhythm work. I look for the patterns, which saves a lot of mental energy; I can just apply those already-learned rhythms when they reappear. I continue this analysis until I feel like the scaffolding of the piece is there.

Then, while still not playing flute, I take a look at the dynamic shaping, the phrases, the range, and whether those things coordinate or work against each other in some way. Often, when I’m a little further in the learning process, I will create a dynamic chart, where I map out the dynamics alone to see the big picture. This is especially helpful when working on the pacing of a piece.

After all of that is done, I pick up a flute and start playing pitches. I was never strong in ear training class, so I can’t always hear pitches in my head with complete accuracy; doing so isn’t efficient for me, so I use the flute to create those pitches. If I’ve gotten the rhythm relatively stable, the only things that might trip me up as I play through are awkward fingerings. If that’s the case, I work on those in tiny groupings until the unevenness is worked out. (I’m sure I have a blog post about that somewhere...) However, I am generally free to work on just pitches because I’ve established the rhythm already.

If I tried to work on everything all at once and move measure by measure, I would make very little progress. For me, dividing out the musical elements allows me to work efficiently and learn more music in less time.


Indonesia, Etc.

In the World Music class I teach at South Dakota State University, my students are required to write a research paper. The topic they have to explore is the country of Indonesia, and they have to look beyond the musical traditions. It’s a good opportunity for them to learn about a country they usually have very little knowledge of and determine how the music fits into a broader cultural context. Because I’m always trying to increase my own knowledge of these World Music topics, I picked up this book:

Besides being a fantastically-interesting adventure story, it also highlighted the fact that Indonesia, while existing as one country, really comprises many different cultural practices and values. It is difficult, if not impossible, to talk about something as being “Indonesian” and applying to the entire country. After traveling for over a year and several thousand miles, hopping from island to island, Elizabeth Pisani takes the reader off the beaten track and gives what seems to be a good sense of both urban and rural Indonesia.

There are mentions of the music culture of Indonesia but not enough for me to assign the entire book to my World Music class, as we cover many other music cultures over the course of a short semester. However, it is available in our library and will be a good resource for them as they research Indonesia. There is also an excellent list of resources for further exploration at the end.

Rhythmic Studies

As an undergrad, we used Rhythmic Training by Robert Starer in our theory classes. Honestly, I’m a little fuzzy on which theory classes used it (edited to add: after consulting the label on the back of my book, it was used in MUSI 1111, which corresponds to Aural Skills I at Kennesaw State University). I kept almost all my textbooks (with the exception of my least-favorite sight singing book!), and as I moved further along in my applied teaching, reached for this one when I had students who could benefit from some isolated rhythm practice.

The book begins with what students frequently think are insultingly-easy exercises: counting quarter, half, dotted-half, and whole notes. The layout is such that the steady pulse is printed at the bottom of the staff, and the rhythm under consideration is printed at the top of the staff. There are a few pages of “Preliminary Exercises” (the “easy” ones), and then it moves into twelve chapters. I caution students about taking these exercises for granted based on the beginning material because they increase in difficulty at a swift pace. After treating both common and lesser-seen time signatures, there is a section in Chapter 1 on changing meters. Chapter 2 introduces subdivision in a variety of time signatures. Chapters 3 and 4 introduce more complex subdivisions. By the time we reach Chapter 5, the exercises mix the types of subdivisions (eighth notes, triplets, sixteenths, etc.). Increasingly small subdivisions is the subject through Chapter 9. Chapter 10 changes the rate of pulse; Chapter 11 is a review, and Chapter 12 pits two rhythms against each other.

Often I will use this book with students with limited experience with applied lessons. Sometimes students are very comfortable playing in a large ensemble where there is a conductor and relatively steady pace. When this pulse has to come from the student himself, problems can present themselves.

Practically, I will usually include one or two pages per week. The student is free to work through these however he or she would like, but we always “perform” them the same way in lessons. If they feel comfortable with the material, I turn on a metronome click and off they go, playing the rhythm printed at the top of the staff. If they aren’t comfortable with the material, I have them talk through, analyze, and clap the rhythm in question. We continue to work on smaller and smaller sections to zoom in on the trouble spots. Once we practice it (much in the same way we would practice an excerpt from their etudes or repertoire), they play through it on the flute.

In my experience, working through these exercises results in significant improvement. Even working through approximately half of the book sets student flutists up for success in most rhythms they will encounter in the standard repertoire. Lesson time is at a premium (especially when underclassmen have a 30-minute lesson each week) but this book is worth fitting in. The fundamental skills gleaned from it pay off dividends when learning the vast majority of our repertoire.

Applied Teaching in Woodwind Pedagogy

I teach woodwind pedagogy at South Dakota State University each fall, and it is always a juggling act. I like the text I use (Teaching Woodwinds, Mountain Peak Music) and I’m confident that my students will be able to employ it later as a helpful resource when they are in the trenches. However, it is difficult to juggle the presentation of brand new material about five different instruments and provide them with enough playing in-class playing time during the semester in a class that meets for only 50 minutes twice a week. Some of the material in the text is obviously best left for when the students actually need it (such as repertoire guides and the like) but some needs to be addressed in class. And while the performance bar is “fifth grade proficiency,” I think providing them with a beginning band in-class performance experience is valuable for many reasons. I also think it’s important for them to have the opportunity to do some teaching during the course of the class. I tweak the syllabus every year but I generally include the following components: going over the most basic, essential information on each of the five woodwinds; playing in a simulated band class frequently; and having them give mini lessons to classmates on one woodwind instrument they’ve had some experience with. This last component is what I’ll focus on for the rest of this post.

Each student is required to give one mini-lesson during the course of the semester. There are a lot of factors that go into the timing of these lessons; some students have had previous woodwind experience and others have not. To even the playing field (and to get the pace of the course well-established), I don’t schedule these until after the students have been tested on their first woodwind. This is approximately one-third of the way through the semester, and I can assume that every student in the class has some basic skills on at least one woodwind instrument at that point. I usually stagger these throughout the remainder of the semester so entire class periods aren’t full of nothing but lessons.

During the lesson, the teaching student is required to cover material that would be appropriate for a “first lesson.” In South Dakota, it is common for band directors to also give a one-on-one lesson to each student during the week. Therefore, these are skills that really will be likely components in their jobs. In my class, the teaching student will explain how to sit properly, open the case, and assemble the instrument. Depending on how quickly they are able to proceed, the student might try getting a sound out of the instrument (or perhaps just the head joint, mouthpiece, or reed). The teaching student demonstrates disassembly and proper placement of the parts in the case. Cleaning the instrument is also addressed. As these lessons take place, there are often snags – the student might have difficulty lining up the parts appropriately during assembly or might have trouble getting a sound. The teaching student is then tested and must use troubleshooting skills to work through the challenge. Most of the time, it goes well; even if it doesn’t, it’s a great simulation of the kind of situation they will be in once they are in a teaching job.

These lessons are conducted in a masterclass format. The rest of the class watches and is generally very supportive. They are tasked with taking notes, indicating portions of the lesson they thought worked well and opportunities for the teaching student to improve. Some of this feedback is discussed directly after the lesson, and I compile all comments and send them to the teaching student afterwards.

In addition to helping the teaching student get a little bit of real-world experience, these lessons serve another purpose. They really help to reinforce (for everyone) basic fundamentals. Ideas of healthy posture, proper hand placement, accurate instrument assembly, cleaning procedures, and many other “givens” are reinforced over and over throughout the semester. While it isn’t explicitly stated during each lesson, the repetition serves to make these ideas second nature, so when the student teacher becomes Teacher, they will hopefully impart the ideas to their students automatically. (It will also help their own playing, if they have developed any inefficient habits in these areas!) I also use in-class playing time to reinforce musical fundamentals, but that is a subject for another post…

Etude Project, Continued

I decided to revive the etude project, which I first began in the summer of 2014. At that time, it was my goal to play through as many etudes as possible in the hopes that it would provide me a wider variety of options when assigning exercises to my students. I obviously had a good handle on the etudes I was assigned during my formal studies, and I had a handful of standards I always gravitated to with my younger students but I knew that there were a lot that I was missing. That initial project resulted in me playing through over 1000 etudes and developing a list of collections that would work well for my students of various skill levels. Over the past year and a half, I have incorporated some of these new-to-me studies into my lessons, and they have worked well.

The goal for this second round is to continue identifying studies that would work well for my students. They currently range from absolute beginners to talented seniors in college. Therefore, I’m not focusing just on advanced works; I’m really looking at everything, since I have to keep in mind my younger students.

As always, I’m happy to receive suggestions of titles I may have missed!

19 November 2015 – First Book of Practical Studies for Flute – Guenther – these feature preliminary exercises: scales, scale exercises, thirds, chords, chromatic scales, in the keys of F, B-flat, E-flat, C, G, and D. The etudes that follow each preliminary exercise are primarily melodic, slow or andante, and feature a lot of slurs.

Vester – 125 Easy Classical Studies for Flute – Vester – Played through 1 – 72.

23 November 2015 – Finished up Vester. This is a compilation of etudes by various composers. It includes Kohler, Nicholson, Popp, Soussman, Tromlitz, Devienne, Drouet, Furstenay, Gariboldi, Hugot, and Wunderlich. They are progressive and represent a good variety of keys. Very traditional style, of course, but works well.

30 November 2015 – Selected Studies (in three volumes) – Bantai-Kovacs – I played through number 41 of volume 1.

1 December 2015 – Bantai-Kovacs 42 – 58 of volume 1.

2 December 2015 – Bantai-Kovacs – finished volume 1.

4 December 2015 – Bantai-Kovacs – 1 – 15 of volume 2.

7 December 2015 – Bantai-Kovacs – through 43 of volume 2.

8 December 2015 – Bantai-Kovacs – finished volume 2.

60 Rambles for Flute – Lester – Played through page 19 of these. So far, I have found them to be rather strange.

9 December 2015 – Finished the Rambles.

15 December 2015 – Supplementary Studies for Flute – Endressen – These work well for younger players. They remind me of the Rubank layout. They are clearly presented. Content-wise, they feature simple and compound meters, “easy” key signatures, and appealing melodies. They are sectional with key signature changes. There are a variety of scale patterns, including chromatic movement.

20 December 2015 – Original Melodious and Progressive Studies for the Beginning Flutist – Cavally – These work for students who are true beginners. The first few exercises are made up of whole notes. There are a lot of instructions included on each exercise at the beginning of the book. They are definitely progressive but move rather quickly, considering they begin with whole note exercises. Grace notes and trills are introduced early and the range has extended to high G by exercise #15. The key signatures stay within three sharps or flats. Eventually the range is extended to high B-flat and low C-sharp. This book is the prelude to the more advanced Melodious and Progressive Studies.

New Flute!

The flute trials are over. Recently, I bit the bullet and bought a silver handmade Powell flute, and I paired it with a Ruby Aurumite soloist cut headjoint.

Once I decided that I wanted a silver inline handmade Powell, I spent a lot of time trying out different headjoints. I found this to be a time-consuming process because there were aspects of each headjoint that I liked, so I had to be patient until I could get my hands on one that had each of those desirable qualities in the same headjoint. The soloist cut works best for me. Eventually, I narrowed my choices down to a silver, a 9k Aurumite, and the Ruby Aurumite. I played them in different rooms and on various repertoire over a period of time. I recorded myself playing each of them; besides listening to the recordings myself, I sent them to a friend for his opinion. The richness of the Ruby Aurumite sound was what finally won me over, and I decided on that one.

Shortly after making my decision, I performed at the Canadian Flute Convention, and I found that very little transition was necessary from my old flute to the new one. The scale seems to be slightly different, which will take some adjustment, but the mechanism is solid and the tone color potential with the headjoint is exciting.