I’m very excited to announce that my school will be hosting a brand new flute festival this June 7-9. This is a new festival this year, and it will be an annual event going forward. It’s called the Southern Flute Festival, and I hope you’ll take a moment to follow the link and look it over. The web site has full details for the entire event. There are 3 days filled with masterclasses, recitals, workshops, and several concerts that are going to be fantastic. 

Please take note of the competitions. There are two categories – high school, and then age 32 and under. There are significant cash prizes for the winners, and I think this is an especially great opportunity for students to gain experience in auditioning. Also note that the winners will be featured on the finale concert. 

Also please take a look at the fee structure for this festival. The pricing is extremely reasonable for what you are getting. In addition, it’s also very inexpensive to find lodging and food in this area, so you can come here for three days, learn a lot, and not spend your life savings on it!   

Lastly, let me point out that the Southern Flute Festival is occurring at the same time as another local arts event called Festival South. (Here is a link directly to their Eventspage.) There are a lot of great music events going on during Festival South, so you might even want to hang around the area and enjoy some of those events too.

If you’re a flutist, I hope you’ll give some thought to attending the new Southern Flute Festival‘s inaugural festival. It will be great fun, listening and learning. I hope to see you there!

(Update: I see now there is a Facebook Page for this flute festival.)

I was just practicing flute a few minutes ago, and had a real revelation about tension and awareness during that session. 

Just as I was about to start my warm up, I decided I was tired of wearing my glasses, so I took them off. I’m near sighted – not that badly – but if I take my glasses off, anything that’s not within about 18 inches of my face becomes blurry. Well I realized right away that I wasn’t going to be able to see my music, but I often do different kinds of warm ups anyway, so I decided to just make one up. One of the things I noticed was that as soon as I took off my glasses, things kind of folded in on me, and my mental focus really changed noticeably. Instead of focusing on the music stand, I instantly became more aware of how the flute felt in my hand, and also, my breathing, and when I put the flute to my lips, the feeling of the edge of the tone hole, and the pressure against my lips, and also, the inside of my mouth – tongue position, jaw opening, and also the very center of the lips where the air escapes.  

So I did a short warm up of mostly long tones, starting on G above the staff, and gradually working my way upward and downward from there. I was amazed at how much better I was aware of my body during that warm up. I could feel the tension immediately every time it tried to work its way into my body – whether that was hands/arms, neck, lips, or shoulders. This happened several times, and it was really obvious to me every time. I also felt very aware of my tone, and was able to make instant conclusions about exactly what changes I had made that produced those changes in tone. 

So then I went on to practice some of my upcoming recital pieces. I have them mostly memorized at this point, so with my glasses still off, I just started practicing the trouble spots – you know, the places where tension is most likely to creep in. Once again I could feel how the tension would creep in, and I could instantly hear how it affected my tone, articulation, or finger technique. I discovered several things I’m doing wrong (left hand position, and some lip motion during upward leaps that is causing notes to crack). So I began to think about this. I’ve been practicing this music for a long time, so I have actually associated some of that bad tension with the notes on the page. That is exactly what we don’t want to be doing as wind players! 

Not all tension is bad. You use tension to close your fingers and form an embouchure, and hold your horn up in the right position, and set your posture. That is certainly part of practicing music – to associate those elements of tension so they happen at exactly the right times and in the right ways. But in doing this work, we have to work extremely hard to root out the bad tension in our bodies. 

So it seems to me anything that can help increase our awareness of tension is a good thing, and anything we can do to decrease that external focus and divert it inward will be helpful in doing this. So here are some ideas I’m going to try in the future:

  • Memorize the warm up (or make one up) and/or my music (especially trouble spots), so I can play away from the music stand.
  • Play with my eyes closed, or in a dark room.
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing while practicing.
  • Take a few minutes at the beginning of the practice session to calm my mind and think about what my goals are for that practice session. 

There are plenty of other ways to turn the focus inward and reduce tension. I would love to hear how everyone else does it, so let me know what works for you. If you already do some of these things (or decide to try them out) let me know how they have worked for you. Happy fluting!