Intonation in Action at the Florida Flute Fair 2014

Yay! My proposal to present at the 2014 Florida Flute Fair has been accepted so I will be presenting a workshop on Intonation in Action. I will also conducting my flute choir, the Tampa Bay Flute Choir, at this year’s event, so I will be busy in January!

The workshop will involve audience members in demonstrations and techniques that I use to work on intonation in playing situations. This isn’t about being able to hit a target on a meter; it is about learning how to develop intonation awareness and develop the ability to respond to changing pitch contexts. Exercise and develop those intonation reflexes!!

More about this later. You know I can’t keep from talking about intonation stuff! Check out more about the Florida Flute Association and the yearly convention here:

Thoughts on Conducting a Flute Choir

I’m just recovering from the most recent performance of the flute choir that I conduct, (the Tampa Bay Flute Choir). It was a lovely performance in front of a large, enthusiastic audience. It could hardly have gone better!

I have to admit that I was VERY, nervous going into the performance, almost unreasonably so. I am a novice conductor and can really mess things up if I’m not on top of things. I also tend to take responsibility for every little bit of the performance, such as the degrees of dynamic change, the impact of accents, the expression in a melodic line, etc. When I get obssessive about these things, I have to remind myself that in performance what the flute choir needs most is a steady beat and a sense that everyone is where they are supposed to be at that particular moment. The time for micro-management is over. I’m a good ensemble coach, which is great for rehearsals, but during a concert the group needs a leader, fearless or not.

As a new conductor, I’ve learned that a great deal of personal preparation is needed in order to create a good performance. Conducting a musical performance can be very different from performing on an instrument. My prep isn’t that different from what I do to get ready to play in an ensemble, but instead of worrying about the technical issues of flute playing, I’m worrying about how to move the baton or my hands in order to guide the players through the music. Sometimes I think of the choir as a large, living musical instrument and I am its player. In reality it isn’t quite the same thing, but if the group dynamic is really good, it can be close! I love the coaching side of it, encouraging the players to play more musically than they thought possible and giving technical advice that will help them accomplish that (only when needed!)

The rehearsal theme this season (described in an earlier post) has been that we are weaving a musical tapestry with each player responsible for their own thread, sometimes bringing the thread to the surface so it can be heard, at other times taking it to the background so other threads can be heard. This concept has worked well, with players quoting the idea often.

We are already hard at work organizing and rehearsing for the next concert. I hope I can carry the successes of the last two performances (Christmas was good, too!) forward to the season finale so we end on a good note. I literally try to always end rehearsals on a good, beautiful, resonant chord so we leave feeling both like we accomplished something and looking forward to duplicating that experience next time. This last concert has had that effect on the group; I want to keep it going!!

Building the Flute Choir

I’ve been working on organizing and building a new flute choir, the Tampa Bay Flute Choir. Luckily I have a great partner in this venture, Judy. I would never attempt it alone! I’m directing and she’s managing and it has been a great adventure so far.

We’ve got a good start with music after taking advantage of the ALRY liquidation sale. Attracting high quality players is a challenge, need to be more active on that front. We don’t want to sound uppity or snobby, but we do want players who want to and can play challenging music. There are plenty of all-inclusive groups here, but we believe that there is room for a more elite group as well. As conductor, I also don’t want to be in teacher mode all the time, though it is hard not to be!

It really is quite the adventure. Today I found myself looking for books on conducting and wishing I had kept my texts from college. Who knew I would need them all this time later? Anyway I’m loving it and hope everyone else is, too. That is really what matters. I think we’ll put on a good debut concert and be off and running. Then who knows what the future will bring from there? Hopefully good flute music, at least!