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The Sensible Flutist

The Sensible Flutist: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cultivating Awareness

Earlier this year, I attended the Andover Educators’ Biennial Conference. It was a life changing experience. I am now proud to announce that I am an Andover Educator Trainee, and I am now studying towards becoming a licensed educator to teach What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body.

The basis of incorporating an accurate body map into one’s playing is with inclusive awareness. In my own study of Body Mapping since taking a course with Amy Likar in 2004, inclusive awareness well…escaped my awareness. Barbara Conable teaching the first hour of What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body cleared this up, and the conference then became an exploration of this awareness.

Since the conference, I have been processing and thinking about how to approach my flute with more mindful awareness. Where yoga helps me center my self and connect mind to body, inclusive awareness helps keep all the complex processes that go into playing an instrument in my periphery without losing awareness of the music or my body.

Before the conference, I was mindful about my playing but my mindfulness didn’t transcend my issues with performance anxiety. Although I intellectually knew negative words like “controlling” and “trying” are detrimental, those habits continued to manifest themselves in performances. No matter how often I perform, I still get the adrenaline rush. My heart pounds, my breath becomes shaky, and I become a tense shell of the musician that I am.

In the months since, my awareness has shifted to a mindfulness that doesn’t scan from one part of my body to another and then shifts to a tricky section in the music. It lets everything be without trying or controlling the result. When these moments of true inclusive awareness happen, my heart fills with joy. I get true fulfillment. I listen better, I play better, I embody the music better. Everything is just better.

I am a perfectionist. I’ve liked to deny that for years but the truth is, I am. I procrastinate because nothing I do can ever truly be good enough. Doing things at the last minute and getting less than stellar results means I can blame “being so busy” or “lack of time” for perceived failures.

When it comes to performance anxiety, I believe that inclusive awareness will help me get over the hurdles in ways that I haven’t been able to move past.

Shortly after the conference, I had a two gig day. I played for a church service in the morning and performed on the program of a friend’s studio recital in the afternoon. Playing in church has always been less nerve wracking for me than other scenarios. Perhaps it’s that the congregation is there to worship and I’m enhancing their experience, so not all the attention is on me.

There was a particular scripture read in the service that resonated with me. In Philippians 1:17, it talks about preaching with sincerity. How many of us perform with sincerity, or do we perform purely out of ambition?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hitting the wall

I practiced last night. I had several wonderful moments where I felt like I knew what I was doing.

But my practicing ended on an ugly, frustrated note. I spent most of my time on tone work so I could explore Body Mapping principles, using my ball, using my pneumo pro to incorporate some more work into my playing.

It backfired.

Music is the goal of everything I do. I ended up frustrated with myself because the exploration became a study in concentrating and scanning. Instead of freely playing, I began concerning myself with organizing my movement which is still a concept I'm struggling with. I'm still struggling with finding balance and trying to hold it because I'm scared I'll lose it.

The moments of absolute freedom and musicality make my journey worthwhile and exhilarating. But it's these moments of frustration that bring the fighter out in me. Already, I feel a desire to pull my flute back out and try again. I refuse to give up.

I'll bottle that desire up and try again tomorrow. We all feel like this. It's how we choose to deal with it that matters. Honestly, I sat down, put my face in my hands and cried a little. But I got over it. I'm not performing tomorrow. I'm simply giving myself the time I need to make changes in my playing that will let the music shine through. Explore and challenge yourself to grow.

I simply gave myself permission to fail. I wasn't successful last night but I'm one step closer.

*photo courtesy of

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