Whole Musician retreats

I had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Megan Lanz this week. Megan is a flutist based in Las Vegas, Nevada; she and I met over Twitter, where so many good connections are made. Megan and several friends have recently organized themselves in a group called Whole Musician and have just wrapped up hosting their first flute retreat. We chatted about their goals for the retreat, what makes it different from other masterclasses, and their future plans.

Some of the members of Whole Musician have known each other for a while and others have only recently been acquainted. While at the most recent Canadian flute convention, the future Whole Musician faculty — Meg Griffith, Megan Lanz, Christopher Lee, Rik Noyce, and Niall O’Riordan — quickly realized that they shared the same philosophy in regards to a holistic type of flute pedagogy.

Their first class was held in Big Bear, CA earlier this month. They wanted to avoid a “cookie cutter” type of experience. In addition to traditional instruction in flute, such as masterclasses, recitals, and orchestral excerpts, they also incorporated classes such as yoga, fitness, personal training, Feldenkrais, mindfulness, life coaching, and effective learning. These classes vary depending on the goals of the participant. Therefore, each retreat takes a slightly different shape and is entirely flexible. Participants indicate areas they would like to work on when they submit their applications, and the faculty customizes classes to ensure the participants’ challenges are addressed.

The faculty as well as the participants found the recent event to be quite a bonding experience. They feel that including classes which address musicians’ issues slightly differently cuts down on unhealthy competition. It is the hope of the faculty that attending this retreat will help flutists rediscover the reason they started playing flute in the first place.

Future plans for Whole Musician include an August retreat in London on the heels of the British Flute Society convention. Three of their faculty members — Niall, Meg, and Chris — will be teaching this time. For future workshops, they hope to be able to accommodate all musicians, not just flutists. They feel that their offerings address challenges common to all musicians, regardless of specialization. They have recently been named finalists in the National Flute Association‘s Arts Venture competition, which recognizes new thinking and viable, innovative ideas; winners will be announced at the upcoming NFA convention in Chicago in early August.

If you’re interested in a summer flute experience that goes beyond the traditional, this might be what you’re looking for. For more information about Whole Musician and their retreats, check out their website at www.wholemusician.net.


New Piece

IMG_0769[1]I’m really looking forward to performing a brand new work for glissando flute and piano by John Griffin. We first met at the National Flute Association Convention in New Orleans in 2013, where I performed another work using the glissando headjoint. We got the details for a new work ironed out, tweaked it a bit when we saw each other at the regional College Music Society conference in Fargo in 2014, and now it’s ready to be practiced. It was great to work with John, and I’m looking forward to giving the premiere of this work during the fall of this year.

The Glissando Headjoint

Dreary spring day at SDSU.
Dreary spring day at SDSU.

I recently purchased a Glissando headjoint, which is a relatively new piece of flute “gear” invented by Robert Dick. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s one of the preeminent performers of contemporary music. He’s active as a performer, a composer, and a teacher. This headjoint slides out from its home position to create a true glissando and can therefore make either subtle or extreme adjustments to pitch. It can also be played as a standard headjoint.

Here’s a fantastic demonstration of how it works:

Glissando Headjoint Demonstration (video)

My first performance on this headjoint will be this August at the National Flute Association Annual Convention in New Orleans, where I’ll be giving the premiere of a new work by Jay Batzner. The title of the work will be Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice for glissando headjoint and electronics, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of sounds can be coaxed out of this new setup.

If there are any flutists out there who own one of these and want to collaborate, or if there are any composers who are interested in writing for this headjoint, contact me!

Beatboxing and Such

So I entered the realm of beatboxing a while back and figured it was time to write about it. I can’t remember exactly when I started experimenting with it, but it couldn’t have been much earlier than this past spring. The name to know in flute beatboxing circles is Greg Pattillo, who is a performer and composer. He also performs with the PROJECT Trio. I think it’s important to note that Pattillo comes from a fairly typical classical upbringing – started music in school, went to college for music study, etc. He even lists Beethoven as one of his main musical influences. (The other he cites is Ian Anderson.) But then he took inspiration from beat boxing, which is a type of vocal percussion performed by hip-hop artists. This style is combined with flute sounds to create something entirely unique. And this is where my interest was piqued. I’m in love with the framing of sounds – all kinds of sounds – and this is a new sound to experiment with. I think it’s also a good idea for me to learn these new techniques because it absolutely stretches me as a performer. Part of my obligation is to keep up with new developments, and it’s also a great reminder of how difficult new things can be to learn. When my students are approaching something new that I take for granted at this point, and they’re having trouble with it, these types of things remind me what they are experiencing.

In 2011, the National Flute Association commissioned Pattillo to write “Three Beats for Beatbox Flute” for their High School Competition, which is a pretty strong indication that this style is fairly well accepted. Whether it will become mainstream or will die away as a passing fad remains to be seen. I don’t know how often it is taught by flute teachers at any level, but my students find it interesting and I certainly don’t discourage them from practicing it. (Are you a flute instructor who teaches this? Let me know!)

For further reading, check out this New York Times article. And check out his Youtube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/freedomworksfilms.

The videos are really helpful to learn the technique, and that’s what I’ve relied on. I’m currently working on the first part of his “Three Beats,” and who knows. Maybe it’ll end up on a faculty recital one of these days … ?

Atlanta Flute Fair

The Atlanta Flute Fair was held on Saturday, 25 February 2012 at Georgia Perimeter College in metropolitan Atlanta. We were fortunate enough to have Ian Clarke as our guest artist; he had just come from the Mid-Atlantic Flute Fair the week before. I knew some of his music after Zoom Tube was used by the National Flute Association for the 2006 Young Artist Competition but had never heard him play.

New to the Atlanta Flute Fair this year was a series of workshops. We had three great presentations this year on various editions of Mozart, alternate and sensitive fingerings, and career development. Next year, I hope to expand this portion of the event to include more workshops. (Keep an eye out for our Call for Proposals for 2013!)

We had a large number of vendors in the exhibit hall this year, and we were also treated to a short concert by the New York-based flute duo Flutronix in the hall. Unfortunately, I had to do a bunch of running around and couldn’t spend as much time in the exhibit hall as I would have liked, but it was good to see a lot of familiar faces there.

There were a number of performances this year. The annual Young Artist Competition featured three excellent finalists: Brittney Balkcom, Daniela Volkovinsky, and Thomas Wible. We also heard a recital given by last year’s Young Artist winner, David Graham. Our new competition, the Junior Artist, included a short recital as its prize, so we heard a very nice performance by Claire Della Mahon. The main performance of the day was given by Ian Clarke. His program consisted of his works with the exception of one Stockhausen piece, Xi. The program was quite varied, including older and newer works. There was also a contrast in the mood of the works, which ranged from serious to light. The entire program:

The Great Train Race
Orange Dawn
Xi – Karlheinz Stockhausen
Hatching Aliens (II. Alien Chill Out/Blue Alien)
Touching the Ether
The Mad Hatter
One of the highlights of the day was the workshop led by Ian Clarke. He took us through a very quick introduction to various extended techniques that are called for in his works. This included alternate fingerings, microtones, percussive articulation, singing and playing, jet whistle, and multiphonics. The most important idea that struck me was how he approached ideas that may be new or intimidating. Instead of reacting  with anxiety, he reacted by saying, “Good!” and by getting excited. He explained that it is an opportunity to learn something new and it might not be something you will master immediately, but the idea has been introduced and can grow from there. The more difficult or advanced the technique was, the more “exciting” is was. I think this is a fundamentally different way to look at technical difficulties, and what a paradigm shift it is! I frequently encounter extended techniques but still felt a noticeable difference in my approach to reading complex musical notation during the workshop when I thought of it as an opportunity instead of a challenge.

Ian Clarke also gave a masterclass, and two of the participants played Orange Dawn, which is another of his compositions. Since I’m unfamiliar with the work, it was particularly useful to get some perspective from the composer himself.

The next day, I enjoyed a nice chat with Ian as I drove him to the Atlanta airport. (My daughter compared his accent to those she has heard on one of her favorite shows, Keeping Up Appearances.) We have a teacher in common, Kate Lukas, so that was a fun connection to make. And I was left with a book recommendation: The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist.

Overall, it was an excellent day. It was great to make some new flute friends and meet up with colleagues. And I can’t say enough good stuff about Ian Clarke. He’s a class act – very genuine, a fantastic player, a composer with a distinct voice, and an effective teacher. He’s quite an asset to the flute community, and I encourage you to check him out if you aren’t already familiar with his work.

2011 in Review

It’s been a busy, full year. Usually, I assess what I’ve done (and haven’t managed to get done) at the end of the academic year; as a college professor, my concept of a “year” goes from August to May. However, it probably isn’t a bad idea to perform a mid-year check-up. While it’s easy to become frustrated as an ambitious, adjunct professor/classical musician, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job this year. I have several big projects in the works and will continue building on my experience, which will hopefully lead to a full-time professor gig in 2012.

Personally, there have been some tragic bumps in the road. My brother and sister-in-law had their first baby, Austin, in December 2010; she was premature. Baby number two, Cash, was born even more prematurely in September 2011. Both babies passed away this year. The March of Dimes has become my charity of choice, and I hope to be able to do some fundraising for them this year through music performance.

Professionally, things have been busy and varied. I spent a lot of time developing an online presence, finally biting the bullet and joining Twitter (@TammyEvansYonce) over the summer. I was reluctant to do so because I thought I was busy enough. However, I’ve met an entirely different group of people than I would ever meet through other avenues, and I’m able to interact with them regularly. It has definitely been worth it. I also redesigned my website this year, which I think makes it clearer and easier to navigate. I’ve also started adding blog posts to my site, with a primary focus on how to make practicing more effective and efficient. I’ve also written posts about teaching: my B-flat fingering rant is now in print, and there are posts about choosing a new instrument, how to prepare for a recital, and performance anxiety. I also started a new blogging site with the purpose of covering a wide variety of topics relating to a musician’s life: performance, music business, music education, and so forth. It has been growing by leaps and bounds, and we continue to add contributors. I’m really excited about this particular project and invite you to take a look at what we’ve done so far.

As far as performance, I’ve done less of this than I would have liked. I continued to perform as principal flute with the Ludwig Symphony Orchestra, which is based in the Atlanta area. That has been a great opportunity to play some of the real orchestral standards. I also continued playing in the Northwinds Symphonic Band, also based in the Atlanta area. I truly enjoy playing the band literature, and this is a fine group of colleagues. We also took a mini-tour through Georgia over the summer. When you play in south Georgia, they reward you with syrup! I had the opportunity to perform at Flute Festival Mid-South this spring, which was the perfect reason to take a little trip to Nashville. (Needed a new pair of boots, anyway…) Rhonda Larson was the guest artist, and I enjoyed taking part in the masterclass she led. I also participated in a concert of American music at University of South Carolina Aiken, where I’m on faculty. I never turn down an opportunity to play Charles Ives. My biggest performance was my Newberry College faculty recital at the end of the year, which included works by CPE Bach, Roussel, Jennifer Higdon, Muczynski, Enesco, and Jay Batzner. It was a heavy program but I prefer to go all out in solo recitals.

I was happy to return to my alma mater, the University of Georgia, to present at their Women’s Studies Research Symposium early in the year. I presented my dissertation research on the flute works of Joan Tower. I was also scheduled to present a workshop on effective practicing at the Carolina Flute Summit; however, the event was rescheduled for a date I was unavailable. Hopefully, I’ll be able to participate with the South Carolina Flute Society in the very near future.

I’ve continued researching the flute music of Joan Tower, and I’ve added the flute music of Jennifer Higdon as a primary research topic.

I increased my involvement with the Atlanta Flute Club when I was elected President in February. This group is a well-oiled machine, and I’m happy to be able to jump in and help brainstorm some new ideas within an already-successful group. Some of my specific goals are to increase our membership to include members of various ages and levels and to sponsor even more high-quality programs that give flutists in the Atlanta area access to teachers, performers, and information they otherwise wouldn’t have. This year we’ve instituted the brand new Junior Artist Competition for students through the 10th grade, which complements our well-established Young Artist Competition. We have several great events planned for 2012, so stay tuned!

Having an article published in the Journal of the British Flute Society was a particular highlight of the year. I was thrilled to have my research on Joan Tower, an American composer, published across the pond. It also gave me the chance, through this and Twitter, to meet some great British flutists.

My teaching responsibilities have increased this year, and I have eagerly embraced the opportunity. Being on faculty at two different colleges gives me the chance to perhaps teach a wider variety of courses than if I just taught at one place. (Of course, there are considerable pitfalls to being part-time at two colleges, but let’s focus on the positive.) This year, new teaching included: assisting with marching band, establishing a flute studio class, starting a flute ensemble, and an introduction to music literature class. I’ve also been busy preparing to fill in for the theory professor when he goes on sabbatical in January; I’ll be teaching two courses from the undergraduate theory sequence as well as form and analysis. I’m really looking forward to teaching these classes.

I’ve also done some of the other college stuff besides teaching classes. I’ve been doing quite a bit of recruiting for one college, which has included a lot of travelling and coordination with the admissions department. I’ve also been designated the chamber music coordinator, which means I schedule student performances throughout the community. Now that the big recruiting event for the year is finished, I’ll be focusing on this more in the first semester of 2012.

And the miscellaneous: I’ve got several big projects in the works for 2012. They’ve taken quite a bit of work this year and will be ready to go very soon. I was very excited to be able to judge the Newly Published Music competition of the National Flute Association. I’ve also started taking occasional lessons again with Christina Smith, principal flute of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I can’t say enough good stuff about her – what a fantastic musician!

So what’s in store for 2012? As a musician, who knows. I’ve learned that it’s an unpredictable gig, and you just have to do the best you can. Hopefully 2012 brings a full-time job as a music professor. Regardless, I’m going to introduce three big projects and continue writing blog posts. I’m also looking for a new flute – technically, a new “old” flute – a vintage Powell. I’ll be presenting at the Kentucky Flute Convention in January and the British Flute Convention in August; I’m also organizing the Atlanta Flute Club Flute Fair along with the rest of the board. I’m going to submit proposals to perform and present at as many flute conventions as possible, and I hope to also present at several universities over the course of 2012. I also have an article under consideration that I hope is published this year. My biggest plan for 2012 is to focus on musical collaboration. Several recitals are already in the works, but I want to be able to look back on 2012 and see that performing with other musicians has been my primary focus. It took me a while to learn but the collaborative aspect of music performance is really one of the best things about this profession.

What a year! What are your goals? Want to collaborate? Follow me here or on Twitter @TammyEvansYonce.


Samuel Baron

I recently ran across this great little interview with the well-known flutist Samuel Baron (1925 – 1997). He was very active in New York as a performer, teacher, and conductor. He served as President of the National Flute Association from 1977 – 1978. He left behind a very long, impressive list of students; he studied with Georges Barrère, whose pedagogical lineage goes back to Paul Taffanel and Joseph Henri Altès. Baron also was involved with the Bach Aria Group, an ensemble made up of vocalists and instrumentalists who came together to perform the music of J.S. Bach. He first was associated with the group as a performer and later took over leadership after the original founder stepped down.

The entire interview is absolutely worth reading, but here are a few specific highlights that really spoke to me:

– The differences between playing in the orchestra (“You’re playing, really, the heart of classical music, and you must be, from the technical point of view, absolutely impeccable…”), as a soloist (“To be a soloist is really to be up there on a mountain peak…”), and in chamber groups (“The chamber music player lies between these two poles of the orchestra player and soloist… deeply involved in the study of the whole work, in the interpretation.”).

– “[J.S. Bach] sets very, very high goals, and we have to achieve them.”

– Bruce Duffie: “There seems to be a strange connection between Bach and contemporary music, leaving a big hole in the middle.”
Samuel Baron: “That’s correct. All flute players recognize that… Bach is always contemporary.”

– “… I have always been interested in new music… I have found that it’s the most vital and exciting part of being a musician.”

Check out the entire interview between Samuel Baron and broadcaster Bruce Duffie here: 



Flute ensemble thoughts

I recently had the opportunity to be on the committee that judged the flute choir portion of the National Flute Association’s Newly Published Music Competition. This competition includes several categories: solo flute, flute and keyboard, flute and guitar, flute and tape, flute choir, and flute plus one to three non-keyboard instruments. It also includes pedagogical works. The only requirements are that the works are published in the past year. It is primarily a competition for the actual publisher (not the composer); to that end, we consider things such as the overall layout of the score, whether page turns are placed reasonably, and the legibility of the score, as well as “music stuff,” such as the way parts are divided and balanced.

It was an interesting experience, and I’m glad I got to take part in it. It’s not every day that you see a score calling for sub-contrabass flute! It also helped me get into the flute choir frame of mind. I will be starting a flute ensemble in the fall, and I’m already searching for music that will work. (Kuhlau, anyone?) I plan to include a lot of traditional, standard ensemble literature but will supplement liberally with new sounds. It will also be a great opportunity for the students to get in some more performance practice!