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The Sensible Flutist

The Sensible Flutist: September 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Can sports and the arts work together?

One of my favorite sports to watch is football, so naturally I was pretty psyched to attend a football school. Because of this affinity, I was excited to see Arizona Cardinals' player Larry Fitzgerald conduct the Phoenix Symphony on September 20. USA Today published this story.

In the baseball world, The Major League Baseball Players Association has issued a statement supporting the currently locked out musicians of the Atlanta Symphony. This statement and Mr. Fitzgerald's appearance highlight the similarities between professionals in sports and the orchestral world. Given the popularity of professional sports, the arts world would be smart to cultivate these connections.

It isn't uncommon to hear lots of disparaging remarks from both sides. As a private teacher, I know how difficult and frustrating it is to work around demanding sports schedules. To be honest, marching band can wreak as much havoc.
I tweeted the YouTube link immediately on twitter and I was surprised to note that this video has only picked up 310 views as of this writing. Why so few?

In the Phoenix Symphony clip, someone in attendance was wearing a Cardinals jersey. I loved it, and that is what inspired me to write this post. Perhaps it was a faithful concert goer who happens to be a Cards fan. Maybe not.

In my ideal world, I'd like to think that Mr. Fitzgerald got some people to show up that wouldn't have otherwise. I hope that the regular concert goers made these new audience members feel welcome.

I'd also like to note that no one else has really mentioned Fitzgerald's appearance or did I get any sort of response to my own tweet. I found out about this event because the announcers mentioned it (with video) during Sunday's Cardinals game.

Regardless of your preferences, one aspect of cultivating your audience is respecting what they want. The examples I've mentioned in this post relate directly to Gary Sandow's recent post of respecting the culture outside classical music, and the culture gap that exists. My take on this is don't minimize people because they enjoy football, pop music, or anything else you might deem "below" classical music.

I am thankful for those professional sports players that are helping bridge the gap to their fans, and helping those people access a world that can sometimes seem frightfully intimidating to outsiders.

Can sports and classical music coincide? What are your thoughts?

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Journaling to release the artist within

Do you journal? If so, what? Do you write down your personal happenings, your practice sessions or something else entirely? How has it benefited you?

By Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons
I think on some level, journaling has become a lost art. If you're active on social media, much of what one posts is screened through a self imposed lens for appropriateness.

This lens has a tendency to be left on and it can become more difficult to examine oneself and process life experiences. Our innermost emotions are veiled even to ourselves. Regular journaling can help you stay in touch with yourself.

I kept a paper journal from ages 12 to 18 then I switched to Livejournal for a period of 4 years. It was a personal journal, and I've downloaded those entries to save along with the ones on paper. Periodically, I enjoy taking a trip down memory lane to see what used to be important to me.

What if we were to keep a musical journal? One that recapped performances and pivotal moments in one's musical development? 

We can use journaling to our musical advantage, too. Recording practice sessions or even performances can help musicians access and pinpoint emotional highlights or practical discoveries that can enhance their artistry.

Since keeping a journal can keep one in touch with their authentic self, doing so with an eye towards the music can help you become a more passionate performer. If we truly know what it is we wish to express and we know ourselves to be capable of delivering with intensity, then a journal can only deepen this expression. We can connect to our audiences more.

In a way, this blog is my musical journal. My posts are often times very personal and revealing. Being able to record my thoughts in this manner not only helps people, but helps me make sense of the thoughts constantly swirling around in my head about music and my own journey.

When you have a solid grasp of your identity, you can express yourself even more powerfully through music. This is the kind of connection audiences crave and it'll make your music stand apart from the rest.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Current surveys ask for musicians' opinion on bullying and injuries

The injury rate for musicians is estimated to be somewhere around 75 percent (google "musician injury rate" and a wealth of information appears for you to research this yourself). This is a huge and very scary number. For any number of reasons, some musicians speak publicly about their injuries with colleagues and students while others remain silent.

I'm one of the injured, and I'm not afraid to talk about it. I'm also not afraid to talk about the other issues that commonly plague musicians like performance anxiety and gnawing periods of self doubt. It's a part of being human. With performing arts medicine and somatic disciplines such as Alexander Technique and Body Mapping helping performers return to their instruments pain and injury free, why are we still so secretive? Why does it seem that most musicians discover this information on their own when they need answers?

Performing arts medicine is a field that all musicians should make themselves familiar with. Injury is a deeply personal thing that can humiliate the musician especially if it seems that no one else around them can relate. With adequate awareness and education, music students should feel comfortable enough to discuss issues with their teachers so that accommodations can be made. Just like an athlete eases up on their training if they pull a muscle, musicians should listen to their bodies and ease up if something feels wrong. A support network of trusted individuals can help make this process easier.

There are two surveys currently making their rounds on the internet. The first is a study on bullying in the arts and contains sections regarding injury and asks musicians about their comfort level in discussing them. I'm very interested in seeing the results of this survey and I encourage you to complete it for yourself. You can find the survey here. It is being conducted by Robin Kish, MS, MFA.

The second is a more informal survey entitled The Healthy Musician. The nice thing about this survey is you can instantly see poll results. This website was created by someone named Molly. The survey seems legitimate and while I'm not sure what will be done with the data collected on this site, the ability to see instant poll results is catering to a present need and can help musicians feel less alone.

Take a look at the surveys, and I encourage you to contribute. These are two safe ways of sharing your opinions and experiences which will benefit us all.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Individuality of Change

Photo: Alex Barth
We're in the midst of some pretty big changes.

Multiple orchestras across the US are facing huge deficits and are putting the pressure on their musicians to make enormous sacrifices while hoping to preserve the artistic integrity of these organizations. It is not my intent to discuss or debate the current issues, but instead address how individual musicians may respond to these changes.

The future of classical music has been a breeding ground for infighting in the ranks. Gary Sandow's blog eloquently discusses these challenges and reading the comments to his blog posts have expanded my horizons since sometimes, the arguments are ones I haven't necessarily considered. It baffles me how some don't appear to believe that things are shifting, or they believe that we're merely in a chaotic part of the cycle and things will return to "normal" soon enough. I think the concept of normal is changing, and we're beginning to see shifts and artists who are no longer satisfied with what once was.

It's no secret that I've begun creating a new path for myself. I'm shunning the audition circuit and seeking creative freedom. I've never felt happier or more liberated. I'm now able to more easily deal with criticism. Rather than doing what everyone else is doing, I'm doing my own thing. Because I've done so much soul-searching and have arrived at a musical philosophy that works for me, I feel that I'm better able to look at these issues from a balanced mindset since I have no self-preserving interests in the matter. This is what works for me, and this is where the beauty of these changes lies. Musicians will be empowered to begin making individual choices about their careers, and I believe they will become more able to sustain careers while making a living.

Did I see the current lockouts coming? No. I'm not involved in the orchestral world; however, I am a trained musician. I'm aware of how music schools and conservatories place emphasis on orchestral training. When I think back to my college days, I think about all the time I spent working on excerpts. That training took precedence over the various chamber music experiences or solo performances. I trained to become an orchestral musician. I believed for many years that getting into an orchestra was the pinnacle of a serious music career (that, or making it as a soloist...the orchestral career seemed more likely).

Because I was so involved in this training, my ears were closed to pearls of wisdom that I may have received about doing things my own way. It's not like I wasn't interested in entrepreneurial ventures. I even researched taking some business classes, but I wasn't able to enroll in any due to various issues.

We had a "Business of Music" class that was offered for a few semesters but by the time my schedule allowed me to take the course, the person teaching it had moved on to a different school and no one replaced her since it was an elective. More and more schools are adding essential courses to their curriculum to expand students' skill sets, but the question still remains of, "What is academia emphasizing? Are students being encouraged to become free-thinking individuals with creative dreams or are they simply being trained in a system that better fits what used to be?"

I've instead spent my own time expanding my horizons. I knew what my options were and I faced reality. Every musician's circumstances are different; however, one thing remains the same. Every musician must take personal responsibility for their career. We're lucky, you know. We can and should be able to adapt as artists when something happens that knocks us off kilter.

The changes that are coming and that are currently happening will affect everyone individually. I am inclined to believe that funding will begin shifting to smaller groups and individuals. I believe that audiences want to be personally connected to artists and they want to know exactly where their money is going and for what project. Crowd funding successes through platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe confirm this. Audiences will have to be cultivated on an individual basis. No audience is the same.

Perhaps the orchestral audience is diminishing, but I don't believe the audience for the larger art form is diminishing. Be brave, be courageous and above all, find your audience. Be creative in your artistic endeavors, but also approach your art with an entrepreneurial mindset. If a concept or idea doesn't work, then try something else.

The shifting winds have the potential to either harm or help the parties involved. I want all the musicians to come through these storms unscathed, but I know that won't be the case.

I'm pretty excited about these changes. If you allow the changes to happen and forget what you thought you knew about classical music, then the future becomes a collective of individual change. Let's keep it going and support each other.

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