This past Monday, I had the pleasure of working with a talented group of young composers at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki. These young composers are current students of Dimitris Maronidis, Costas Tsougras, Kostas Siembis and Leontios Hadjileontiadis. I gave a demonstration of many extended techniques, shared some scores and talked about the performer's experience with learning new music. We then had a lovely discussion and I answered questions about the possibilities and even stumbled across a cool new sound in the workshop!
Thank you to the Fulbright Greece program for supporting my teaching and research as a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar.
Each student wrote a miniature for me, the pieces are lovely! They are so diverse and musical! I purposely did not practice the pieces, but instead sight-read each piece so they could have a glimpse into my working style and my experience (and struggle) with the unpacking and untangling of a new composition. I gave them some advice on how to make the pieces more "user friendly", having to do with readability issues and some solutions to the few line-in-the-sand limitations that I observed. The students will then send me their 2.0 versions; I encouraged them not to change the notes just because I made a mistake in sight-reading. I believe it is important to continue to push the limits of what is (im)possible and challenge the performer.
On June 16th at 9:00 pm at the State Conservatory, I will present a concert of the student's works. I am honored to give a priemere concert of so many fine works and humbled and grateful to have these young composers write for me. This is my last concert before returning home from Thessaloniki, and I couldn't ask for a better close to my Fulbright experience. To the student composers, thank you and I will see you in June!
This is the ultimate goal. Sometimes we get lost in the sea of technical exercises, etudes, tone studies and repertoire. We forget why we do this. Great art is honest, great art moves us in unexpected ways. Here are three simple ideas that can help guide you in your study.
1. Find your voice. Invent yourself and reinvent yourself daily.
2. Push your boundaries, challenge your own limitations.
3. Make a difference in people's lives.
Frustration.This is one of the most difficult things about playing an instrument. In order to improve, we have to push through the difficulty of learning. Sometimes when I am practicing a new skill or a difficult passage, I imagine the synapses firing in my brain, stretching and reaching so far to connect, yearning for understanding and fluency. One of the major hurdles to our own success is learning how to let go of frustration and to stay positive while learning. Here's a little secret: with the right approach, learning becomes much easier! I tell my students that if we begin with an optimistic and confident mindset, we will save countless hours of frustration. The question that students ask me more than anything is how.
Begin with optimism and confidence!Research shows that once we are in a negative feedback loop, it is much more difficult to break that loop. We must start fresh every day, our mindset outside of the practice room matters, and we must cultivate positivity in all aspects of life. How do you change entrenched thinking patterns? First, observe your own mind and recognize that these negative patterns are present. Acknowledge, and then let go. Our brains only like to keep a finite amount of information in our immediate grasp, so fill that space up with positivity. Keep a journal, either analogue or online (I love the colorful moleskins!) and write down three things that you are grateful for every morning. Think about it while brushing your teeth, and then just jot it down. This is the first step to rewiring your mind toward positivity.
Get Some Exercise!Walk, run, bike, chase your dog around, square dance...anything! Just get your blood circulating! This is so important because stress and negative thinking takes such a huge toll on the human body! Release some of the stale, old bad feelings through sweat...your body will thank you! Once you get those endorphins flowing, you will see things in a different light. Trust me, it works like a charm!
Keep a Journal of PositivityWrite down a list of positive things every day. This only needs to take a few minutes; you can do this while you are waiting for class to start, in between practice sessions, before bed, or any time! Gain some perspective on your life; the world is full of people who just can't let themselves enjoy the good that they have all around them. Learn to recognize the positive, remember that you are retraining your brain!
Stay in the Flow of Positivity while PracticingThe next step is the big one. You've cultivated all of these wonderful habits, now how do you apply them to the practice room? As I get out my instrument, I set my intentions. Here's an exercise that I use to set my intentions: I imagine my mind as a coin. One side of the coin has all the wonder, excitement, positivity, and creativity that makes up my human potential. What is on the other side? All of the negative, hate, and frustration? No. The other side is nothing. If I flip that coin over, there is nothing. I check in with my mind's coin often, and I know that it will always land with the sunny side up, because I my mind can't create nothing. There will always be something there, there will always be some presence, and that presence is good.
In order to keep yourself in the flow of positivity, keep this in mind:
flutist, writer, traveler, teacher