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Summerflute Thoughts, Part Two

The Sensible Flutist: Summerflute Thoughts, Part Two

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summerflute Thoughts, Part Two

Liisa Ruoho and Me
I arrived at Summerflute on Monday and jumped right in. I had a private Body Mapping lesson with Amy Likar, who is my sponsoring teacher as I undertake the Andover Educator training. Since she is also a certified Alexander Technique teacher, we did some table work. This put me on the path for greater learning for several reasons.

After having only gotten around 3 hours of sleep the night before and since I had just spent the morning travelling to Georgia from Pennsylvania, my playing was quite disembodied which didn't surprise me at all. I was still carrying an incredible amount of tension in my neck from carrying both laptop and duffel bags. I also had an enormous amount of personal stress to contend with as well, which happened to come spilling out during the lesson. This clearing helped me feel less like 2 persons, and more like myself and ready for the week ahead.

The lesson centered around basic Alexander principles with Amy encouraging my tactile awareness as I laid on the table. She encouraged me to accept what I was feeling and thinking, while tying it to my freedom of choice (inhibition). At the end of the lesson, I played the portion of the Allemande of the Bach Partita again and this time, it felt freer and more like myself.

I feel it's worth mentioning here that since seriously undertaking this work in the past year, I have gone through transition periods where I lose my sound and lose how it feels to play. It's an odd (and sometimes tear inducing) feeling that I have to patiently work through. I was very hopeful that the week would help me return to a new and better place.

Later in the evening, I got my first opportunity to perform in the first masterclass with Liisa Ruoho. I eagerly volunteered to play first since I had gotten such little sleep. I played all of the Allemande for her, and what I noticed most was how small I felt in relation to the hall. The Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University has beautiful performance spaces. Legacy Hall was no exception.

In addition to feeling small, I also felt disconnected from those sitting in the hall. Because I have never performed the Bach and I'm still figuring out what I want to do with it musically, my inclusive awareness was narrowed. I missed several notes because each time I wanted to connect with the audience through visual contact, I would lose my place in the music.

Liisa offered suggestions that provided immediate results. She first had me play the first note of the movement, which is an E2 asking me to play in the space around myself with more space in the mouth and thinking of the space in my nasal cavities to increase resonance with less effort. Listening behind me also helped open up my sound, and I produced a more musical and resonant sound that filled the hall.

From here, she asked me to play leaning against the piano as if I were having a beer and talking with a friend. This time, I really played the Bach like I wanted and was quite surprised. Shifting away from "good flute player" stance and into a relaxed position helped me access the music much easier. Since then, I've returned to this position in practice and while I always return to my regular position, I find that it's easier to access what I want. I like to think of it as a modified monkey (please comment if you don't know what monkey is and would like additional explanation).

Liisa encouraged several of us performers through the week to play with the composer as a partner. This mindset makes something as intimidating as the Bach Partita much more enjoyable to play. Although I wasn't looking forward to playing on the first day knowing how tired I would be, the lesson with Amy and performance for Liisa went hand in hand.

No matter what we're dealing with in our lives, professionally or personally, accepting ourselves and the baggage we carry is essential to performing with freedom and joy. At this point, I'm happily and slowly making my way and I'm happy for the downtime I have as I figure the next level out for myself. While performing is incredibly important to me, I feel that I have nothing to prove to anyone. Was the Monday night performance my best ever? Not in any way, but that was the best I could offer at that moment in time and I accept that.

Even though I didn't feel secure in my initial performance of the Bach, Liisa's teaching instantly inspired and motivated me to jump into the practice room to figure out a solution. My mood lifted as my motivation returned and even though I didn't have much time to practice during the week, I was able to explore enough on my own to keep making discoveries through the week.

In my next post, I'll talk about my second masterclass performance and what the fourth movement of the Reinecke Sonata brought to the surface.

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