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Posted on

December 2016

6 Weeks to Finals

by Sharon Sparrow

 

“Wow, that was the best I’ve ever played!”

Those are the best 8 words strung together I can think of to define what success really means! So, after you’ve repeated them at least twice, let’s get to work and learn how to turn those words into your next audition or performance reality!

Preparation! No one, not even Yo-Yo Ma, could say those words with real belief without having put in the preparation time and steps necessary. Preparation begins with organization. When is your event? Does it involve a pianist? What music is required? Is memorization required? Once you have organized yourself, you can formulate a “success timeline”. Realistically give yourself enough time to feel completely secure and confident about a week before the actual event! Do NOT wait until the night before to feel completely ready. Preparing for a performance is like cooking a stew, after all the ingredients are in place, it needs a good deal of simmer time to taste it’s absolute best. 

I believe that total preparation is like a triangle with 3 equal sides to it. The side we are all most familiar with is the “Practice” side. We must put ample time into practicing for our event, which means concentrated time in our practice room, solidifying technique (by practicing slowly!), tone, intonation (using the tuner!), rhythm (using the metronome!) and putting our piece together musically. But don’t be fooled by thinking this is the ONLY side… you still have 2 sides of your triangle left to perform your best.

The second side is Mental Training, or getting your head in the right frame of mind to perform your best. There are several books available to help you with this, many found in the sports sections, as top athletes equally train their minds along with their bodies! Also, for this side, Positive talk is HUGE!  Every word you say, every thought, every post on Facebook must reflect your positive attitude about your audition. Discard saying things such as “Oh, I’m so nervous about this”. “This is going to be terrible”. “I always screw up that passage”. Replace those words and thoughts with “I’m so excited to share my piece with everyone.”  “I’ve worked really hard and know I’m going to play my best.”  “I really love playing this piece”. Believe it or not, your brain is like a recording device, and will remember, store, and spit back out at you all it has heard when it comes to crunch time. Which of those statements above do you want your brain telling you at your performance?!

The third side of the triangle involves Training for the Actual Event. We call this “mock auditioning”. Create several situations that mimic or are as similar as the event you are going to perform in. Gather up people to listen to you (friends, parents, peers, teddy bears, etc.) so that you have an “audience”. Set up your recording device, and then proceed as if it’s the actual event, from standing backstage or outside the room, to walking in, to tuning, to performing without stopping, to bowing (if applicable), to leaving the room. Keep a journal and jot down notes after each of your mocks, including your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts that ran through your head, etc. Each and every time you do this, you will improve significantly! By the time your actual event comes around, you will be a pro at this!! 

So, let’s talk about the word “success” for a moment. For me, playing my best certainly defines success. This is a “Performance Goal” rather than an “Outcome Goal”. Try to define the difference, and each time you play and even practice, devise a list of Performance Goals for yourself that are attainable. For example, “I’m going to enjoy this performance” is a Performance Goal. “I’m going to win this competition” is an “Outcome goal”.  “I’m going to give this performance 100 percent of my energy”. “I’m going to get a rating of 1 on this”. See the difference? Make your OWN list, and start repeating these to yourself before you play!

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for putting in the time and effort to completely prepare. IT TAKES TIME! It is worth the effort. Use your completed Triangle and you will be very happy with the results. It’s going to feel great to be able to say “Wow, that was the best I’ve ever played!” 

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Sharon Sparrow’s book “6 Weeks to Finals!” is a delightful and essential book on preparation and organization for any musical performance! Her tried and true methods have helped several musicians achieve goals they have spent years striving for. It is available at Flute Specialists, through Theodore Presser co., and also on Amazon. 

 

   Sharon Sparrow is the Assistant Principal Flute of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She earned a Bachelor’s degree at The Juilliard School and a Master’s degree at Mannes College of Music. She has given master classes all over the world and locally is the Instructor of Flute at Oakland University and Wayne State University.

Sharon Sparrow is a hands-on advocate for music education at all ages, and has hosted and written children’s shows for both the Detroit Symphony and the CutTime Players, based in Michigan. Sharon has been a concerto soloist and has held Principal positions with the Memphis Symphony, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. 

Posted on

November 2016

Perceptive Flutist, Master Teacher

by Sharon Sparrow

 

The student stands at the front of the room, playing a Bach sonata. 

 

The teacher stands several yards away, eyes closed, listening intently. 

 

“You’re holding your ribs,” the teacher says. “Try allowing your ribs to release before 
you start the note.”

 

The student thinks for a moment and tries again. The sound she makes is 
instantly bigger, freer, rounder. 

 

The setting is the serene Holy Cross Monastery on the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie,
New York. The student is one of many who come to the master class to learn 
from this incredibly perceptive flutist and master teacher. And the teacher 
is none other than Gary Schocker.

Known by many as the world’s most-published living composer of flute music, with more than 200 titles in print, and as a gifted flutist, having won many honors and performed  when he was fifteen with both the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra,  Mr. Schocker is also an exceptional teacher who is able to transform the playing of those lucky enough to study with him.

 

When asked how he can diagnose a problem just by listening, he replies, “When you have played your instrument for a long time, you can hear certain patterns. You know, for example, that if someone’s knees are tight, their back is going to be tight, and it’s going to affect their sound in a certain way.” When asked how he decides what to work on first with a new student, he says, “Well, I look at their hands. One of the major problems of flute playing is balancing the instrument without gripping it too tightly. The hands and arms have to be easy. If they aren’t, they will negatively affect the ribs and the breath. Everything has to work together. When a student first comes to me I listen. I listen for a spark there; is there a real musical personality? I usually start a lesson by playing a duet because a musically talented person will instinctively try to make music with the other person. Some inexperienced sightreaders will get stiff and start to count with their body, stopping the musical flow. Anybody can learn how to make a good sound and play fluidly, getting their fingers to move. The part that can’t really be taught is playing expressively. Music is a language and a thought process, which not everybody understands. You have to get beyond the rudiments of music to learn how to express yourself. Music comes straight from who you are and becomes sound. The body has to get out of the way.”

 

Years of studying the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method, and other body awareness disciplines, have given Schocker insight into ways to help people learn to let their bodies get out of the way of their playing. “People misunderstand breathing, how to get resonance out of their instrument. How their mask (the muscles of the face) works. People think they are getting volume by hitting their fingers hard on the keys, or by squeezing or lifting their ribs, when they take a breath. And when they blow, they start pushing the air forcibly from their gut, closing the ribs down, so they think incorrectly that they don’t have enough air. I look for ways to get people to be easier in their bodies. All of the instructors I’ve worked with have shown me certain physical habits of mine that were getting in the way of my playing. So even though I’m not an Alexander teacher or a Feldenkrais expert, I use all of the things I’ve learned, in conjunction with using my ears, to intuit problems that people have.” 

 

His awareness of how people’s physical habits affect their playing has enabled him to help players of different abilities, including some with serious problems. “I’ve had a couple of students come to me suffering from focal dystonia, who couldn’t play at all, and I got them playing again. One person was seeing a psychiatrist who said that all of their problems would go away if they stopped playing flute. But this person really wanted to play! The flute’s a pretty sensitive instrument, and the harder you try to play it, the more difficult it becomes. If you can get people to take a step back from what they are working so hard at, you can get them to play more easily.”

 

Mr. Schocker has a collection of vintage flutes, mostly made by William S. Haynes and Louis Lot, and he says he has learned a great deal from learning how to play each one. “They all demand certain concessions,” he notes. “I love the old French flutes. I have five Lots, and they make the most spectacular sound. I have the flute that Jean-Pierre Rampal’s father Joseph owned. I find it thrilling, just knowing this was the sound that Jean-Pierre grew up hearing, and being able to make that sound. I have a recording of father and son playing a duet and there it is, you can hear the flute, and yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like. I think the sound of those old flutes was much clearer, cleaner, and purer than modern flutes, but not as easy to play. They demand attention. You can’t bear down on them.”

 

Many students who attend the monastery classes come back annually. Over time they make progress, and others are able to hear the changes. Some are also flute teachers, and they are able to learn new ways of working with their own students from observing Mr. Schocker’s approach with each flutist. He encourages them to get their students to sightread, and to listen to as many different recordings and live performances as they can. “They need to know how the music sounds with all the parts, not just the flute part,” he says. “If you only know the flute part, it’s like trying to copy a painting and only copying the purple part. Or like learning your lines in a play but not knowing what the other actors are saying in between. Maybe this is the fault of the society we live in, which places such emphasis on perfection. It creates an atmosphere of fear. We should emphasize musical enjoyment more. It’s supposed to feel good to make music, to connect with good feelings when we play.”

 

Schocker is constantly discovering new things about his own playing, and finding new ways to explain concepts of breathing, technique, and musicianship to his students. His fascination with the flute, and his pursuit of making the most expressive sound possible while keeping the body relaxed, means that there will always be something new to learn, by him and by the flutists who come to the monastery to work with him.

 

In addition to the retreats at Holy Cross Monastery, which are held twice a year, Gary Schocker teaches in his homes in New York City and in Easton, PA. For more information, visit garyschocker.com.

 

Gary Schocker Headshot

 
Flutist-composer-pianist Gary Schocker is an accomplished musician of outstanding versatility. At age 15, he made his professional debut when he performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has won numerous competitions including the Young Concert Artists, the National Flute Association, the NY Flute Club and the East-West Artists. Often, he concertizes in duo with guitarist Jason Vieaux. Internationally, he has toured and taught in Colombia, Panama, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.

 

Schocker has composed sonatas and chamber music for most instruments of the orchestra. He also has written several musicals, including Far From the Madding Crowd and The Awakening, which can be heard on Original Cast Recordings. Both shows were winners of the Global Search for New Musicals in the UK and were performed in Cardiff and at the Edinburgh Festival, as well as in New Zealand. In New York, they were winners of the ASCAP music theatre awards.

Schocker has won the International Clarinet Association’s annual composition competition twice and the National Flute Association’s annual Newly Published Music Award numerous times. Among artists who have played his compositions, James Galway gave the American premier of Green Places with the New Jersey Symphony.

In 2008 Schocker was commissioned to write the required piece “Biwako Wind” for the International Flute Competition in Biwako, Japan for which he also served as judge.

Gary has private flute studios in NYC and Easton, PA where he dually resides. He is on the faculty at NYU. He performs on Haynes and Louis Lot flutes.

Posted on

October 2016

Flute Choir: Beyond the Basics

by Gail Green

 

You might be thinking, how do I start a flute choir or how to transition being the new director of an established flute choir.  It starts with 3 basic guidelines:  

  1. Plan
  2. Communicate
  3. Responsiveness 

 

Plan – Organized planning before the first rehearsal will help with team building and trust.

  • Listen to other flute choirs and get inspired and gather ideas.  Flute festivals and Youtube are great resources.
  • Name the flute choir.  
  • Find a place to rehearse.  Churches are nice places.  
  • List concert venue possibilities. A few concert ideas can be at churches, libraries, museums, performing arts centers or clubs, nursing homes, hospital lobbies.
  • I like to set the performance dates and work backwards to set the rehearsal schedule. If you are transitioning to an established flute choir, perhaps not change was has worked in the past.  It is good to keep traditions and then add a few of your own ideas as time progresses.  
  • Decide if you want to have a membership fee to purchase music. 

Suggestion: Set up a bank account to deposit money and debit card for purchases.  Have a joint bank account with a member of the flute choir to be accountable to each other.  

  • Compose an email invitation for the upcoming season with all information that includes rehearsals, concerts, membership fee (if you decide). I have found that if people know up front your vision for the season before they commit, they appreciate it and can plan accordingly.  Some flute choirs rehearse all year and some have certain times of the year.  We have 2 seasons.  One in the fall and one in the spring.  It works for us.  
  • Send your Invitation letter of your upcoming season in emails to prospective members.  Target your invitations to the caliber of your group.  If anyone can join, then realize that there will be a span of abilities and choose music accordingly.  If you have an elite group then you might have auditions or by invitation only.  An idea would that the director would give the interested person a flute choir part, they rehearse on their own and submit a recording by a certain date via email.  It saves time and takes off a little pressure on the individual.  
  • Keep a list of committed members with their emails for that season.  
  • Choose music that fits the group, also assess your audience and what they would find interesting and educational.  If you only have C flutes and no alto flutes or bass flutes, then start with trio’s or quartets and double up on parts.   Start simple. 
  • Assign and get parts to members.  They practice and come prepared.
  • Pre-Plan the warm up, tuning, seating arrangement and music schedule for the rehearsal.   

  

  • Initial invitation of the season to prospective members of the flute choir.
  • Email reminder of the rehearsal dates to committed members of the time and place, bring music if you have permission to scan parts so members can print and practice, bring music stands if needed.
  • Email what to prepare for the rehearsal and links of other groups performing the pieces you are playing. 
  • Advertise concerts through social media, local music shops, schools, churches, and your local flute association, if you have one.  
  • Create a website with information about your flute choir and information to join.  Our is michiganfluteorchestra.com
  • Create a Facebook page
  • Order flute choir business cards, flyers with your flute choir photo with contact information

 

Responsiveness   

  • It is very important to return emails and phone calls in a timely manner. 
  • It builds relationships, trust and rapport
  • As you respond, be flexible, people have families and schedules that sometimes conflict. Don’t take it personal, enjoy who is there.  

 

In closing, 

Have fun, be confident, stay the course. Planning and Conducting like anything else takes time, practice and consistency.  As we experience and grow and learn from each season, it is exciting to evaluate and plan for the next season. And, how fun to cultivate new friendships along the way.  

Any questions, please feel free to contact me, Gail Green, gailgreenstudio@gmail.com. Or michiganfluteorchestra@gmail.com or our through our website: michiganfluteorchestra.com

 

  

The Michigan Flute Orchestra to Perform at Detroit Institute of Arts and Madonna College

The Michigan Flute Orchestra has an exciting upcoming season.  The Orchestra will be performing at the 

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) on Friday, October 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in Rivera Court at 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI and Madonna University on Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. in Kresge Hall at 36600 Schoolcraft Road, Livonia, MI.

 

The Michigan Flute Orchestra is an ensemble of dedicated and accomplished flutists from the southern Michigan area.  The instrumentation consists of the entire spectrum of the flute family:

Piccolo, C Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Contra Bass Flute.    

The Orchestra has a great program that will include Catherine Sherwin and Carol Marcus who will perform a duet from Ervin Monroe’s arrangement of “The Royal March from the Sonata in F Major” by Georg Telemann.  In addition, Miranda Browne will perform on piccolo two movements from the “Concerto in C for Piccolo” by Vivaldi, arranged by Nancy Nourse and Robyn Myers will perform “Prayer from a Jewish Life, No. 1” by Ernest Bloch, arranged by Francine Ross Pancost.

Mark your calendars for engaging performances this fall!

 

Gail Green

 

MFO is under the direction of Gail Green.  Gail received her Bachelor’s Degree in K-12 Instrumental and Vocal Music Education from Central Michigan University.  She taught music in several public schools throughout Michigan and has performed in several community orchestras and bands, pit orchestras, flute choirs and a variety of chamber groups in Michigan and Canada. Gail is currently a member of Trio Dolce and the flutist with the Dexter Chamber Strings. She also serves on the board with the Southeast Michigan Flute Association, and adjudicates Solo & Ensemble Festivals. She lives in Brighton, Michigan where she has a private flute studio.