- Saxophonist Ben Britton explores the connection between tone and intonation. He also gives a nice introduction to the desperately under-taught art of swing articulation.
- Woodwind doubler Ed Joffe compares “part” players and true musical artists.
- John Reeks examines the history surrounding the use of clarinets in the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four.”
- Oboist Stephen Caplan discusses staying comfortable and healthy while sitting for extended periods of playing music.
- Tammy Evans Yonce and Misty Theisen provide suggestions on planning a small flute festival or “flute day.”
- Jenny Maclay gives thorough advice on the clarinet’s altissimo register.
Tammy Evans Yonce
Interview: flutist Tammy Evans Yonce
Flutist Tammy Evans Yonce is an active recitalist, writer, clinician, speaker, contributor to various conferences and professional organizations, and professor at South Dakota State University (plus: she is my former classmate). Her thoughtful blog is a favorite of mine and my regular readers will recall that I have featured her posts on a number of occasions. Her debut CD will be released earlier next year—keep an eye on her website and Twitter for details.
I am always particularly amazed by her brutally busy performance schedule, and she kindly agreed to let me pick her brain about it.
How often do you perform?
I do an annual fall tour, which includes multiple performances and masterclasses. This year it was to Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Sometimes I choose these places because it’s a geographical area I want to explore or because I have friends and collaborators there. This year’s tour included collaborations with some really fantastic friends. I’ve been able to perform in 24 states so far, so that’s been fun.
I always give one on-campus recital each year but also frequently collaborate with colleagues on theirs.
Other performances include festivals, conventions, and such. I like giving 15–20 performances per year.
How do you maintain such a busy performance schedule, on top of teaching full time, having a family, etc.?
It mainly comes down to organization and clearly defined goals. And making consistent progress every day. I work in big six-month chunks, where I have goals listed in a variety of categories (performance, writing, recording, commissions, etc.). Those goals help me organize my day-to-day decisions, and they also allow me to stretch beyond what I think I’m capable of.
I have some general long-term goals but I think the nature of my work (music + academia) means that I can’t anticipate all opportunities that might arise, so I try not to be too rigid about those long-term plans. My upcoming fellowship to Israel came out of left field, for example, so I try to keep my eyes open.
I also have a really supportive husband who carries his share (plus some, probably) at home so I have some flexibility.
How does your performance schedule affect you? What benefits or drawbacks are there to a busy performance calendar?
I enjoy travel and find it invigorating. It helps me to break up my schedule, see new people and places, and be in a different environment, and it certainly helps my teaching. I enjoy collaborating with friends.
Performing frequently has effectively eliminated performance anxiety for me. There’s just not time to be nervous and I have a lot of hours banked actually on the stage. I’ve “practiced” performing so much that I can stay in the moment. Since creation and analysis are completely different processes, if I can stay in the moment I’m not worried about analyzing my performance as it happens.
Being busy might be considered a drawback for some but I feel like the things I do are a worthwhile use of my time. I don’t do things just to have something to do.
How do you maintain balance in your career and life?
I have a couple of trusted people who understand me and my goals that I check in with regularly. We make sure that we’re staying on track. Also, I don’t check work email after 5pm or on the weekends.
Do you have any self-care or stress-reduction practices?
I get regular massages. I used to see this as a luxurious indulgence but being a musician does take a physical toll. I like good food, I travel as much as I can, and I try to work with my friends whenever possible. Finally, I read a lot. I read at least 25 books a year.
You frequently commission new works. How do you connect with and select composers?
Sometimes I’m approached by composers who hear me play and have an idea of something they’d like to write. Other times there are composers I know I’d love to work with, and I approach them. Most of these connections happen either online (Twitter, usually) or at conferences and festivals. Even if I haven’t met a composer, it’s likely that I’ve seen them around online or have mutual friends, so there’s usually a connection.
Generally I work with the composer during the compositional process. We meet via Skype or FaceTime so I can try out their ideas or they send sketches as the piece progresses, so I have a good idea of what the piece is before it’s done. The composers I work with want things to work, so if something is awkward or impractical, we find a solution.
You have done some performing and commissioning with the Glissando Headjoint. How does this play into your career? Is it bringing you opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise? Does it cause you to be pigeonholed?
The Glissando Headjoint has been a lot of fun. I don’t think it has helped or hindered me. I see it as another item in the toolkit I can use to get the musical message across. Since there isn’t much repertoire for it, it has been fascinating to see how composers use it. They are really drawing from their own creativity instead of basing their musical decisions on existing repertoire.
When programming, how do you balance new repertoire with previously-performed works?
Big considerations are the audience, the logistics of the performing venue, and whether or not I have collaborators available.
My recitals have taken a big turn lately and are much more logistically complex. Last month’s recital featured dancers, lines of poetry projected in real time, a lithograph displayed during one piece, multiple collaborators, and a variety of equipment changes. While it was complex, I think it was effective.
I’m already planning next year’s recital, which will involve literature, readings, photographs and other visual art, and several new commissions. Once I get the plans in place, I’ll put more info on my website. I like the impact of a cohesive recital that involves more than just the ears.
Do you have any favorite flute-playing tips?
Practice. You can’t go wrong with lots of etudes and Taffanel and Gaubert.
Thanks, Tammy, for taking the time to answer some questions! Find her at:
Favorite blog posts, July 2017
- Check out posts by a small army of bloggers documenting ClarinetFest® 2017.
- David Wells is working on collecting the Paris Conservatoire bassoon contest pieces.
- Woodwind doubler Ed Joffe encourages continuing your musical studies beyond school
- Saxophonist Roxy Coss discusses women as an under-represented group in jazz music.
- David Mankin shares a fascinating story about oboists Robert Bloom and Engelbert Brenner in a remarkable recording session.
- Clarinetist Jeremy Wohletz explains the importance of aural training.
- Saxophonist Sam Newsome identifies some issues that lead to rhythm problems (particularly in improvised music).
- Flutist Tammy Evans Yonce explains how she approaches a new repertoire piece.
- Saxophonist Ben Britton catalogs some methods of dealing with sticky G-sharp keys.
- Eryn Oft outlines the history of Heckel bassoons.
- Nicole Riner offers suggestions on making first contact with a potential college flute teacher. (Applicable to other instruments, too.)
- Jenny Maclay dives deep on clarinet resonance fingerings.
Favorite blog posts, February 2017
Another month dominated by flute bloggers. Leave me a comment if there are excellent blogs by reed players that I should be reading.
- Jolene Harju shares a calendar of flute practice ideas. (It’s for February, but easily adaptable to other months.)
- Heather Roche continues her massive and thorough project documenting extended clarinet techniques with a chart of quarter-tone tremolo fingerings for bass clarinet.
- Flutist Nicole Riner shares resources for commissioning new music.
- Flutist Tammy Evans Yonce requires her woodwind pedagogy students to teach private mini-lessons.
- Flutist Rachel Taylor Geier offers suggestions on making a recording for a job application or audition.
- Cate Hummel explains playing the flute softly.
Favorite blog posts, November 2014
Here’s good stuff from the woodwind blogs in November. The flutists and bassoonists were especially busy this month.
- Barry Stees offers some suggestions on cleaning up bassoon articulation.
- Tammy Evans Yonce gives a brief review/introduction of the cool “Glissando Headjoint.”
- Meerenai Shim offers some do-it-yourself ergonomic flute customizations.
- Betsy Sturdevant learns something about bassoon reeds from Elvis. (Sort of.)
- Cate Hummel makes a suggestion on what to do with flute embouchure “corners.”
- The Flute Journal blog is rerunning some of Chris Vadala’s woodwind doubling columns from Saxophone Journal. This one’s title says “extended” flute techniques, but it’s really more of a basic flute articulation lesson for doublers.
- Trent Jacobs shares a proposal for amplifying the bassoon while maintaining its natural tone.
- Clarinetist Sherman Friedland shares some thoughts on testing instruments.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle finds a silver lining in a bad gig.
- The Powell Flutes Flute Builder blog gives us a peek at the engraving process.
Favorite blog posts, October 2013
Here are my picks from October. I strongly suggest that you read all of these, share them on your favorite social media outlets, leave thoughtful comments to the authors, and subscribe with your favorite blog-reading apparatus.
- A whole lot of clarinet bloggers have posted in the last couple of days about the Robert Marcellus masterclasses now available through Northwestern University’s website. I believe Chastine Hofmeister’s post was the first one to come to my attention.
- Saxophonist and Alexander Technique guru Bill Plake debunks woodwind players’ favorite finger-technique myth.
- David Wells blows the bassoon world’s minds with a video of eminent bassoonist Klaus Thunemann playing jazz(?!). And this isn’t a cute little novelty swing tune, either—it’s full-fledged, Mahavishnu-esque 1970’s fusion.
- Eric Seddon offers advice and encouragement to aspiring jazz clarinetists in school band programs. I’m already on record as not entirely agreeing with all the points Eric makes, but his side is definitely worth reading and considering.
- Flute professor Tammy Evans Yonce muses on the purposes of a woodwind pedagogy course. (You don’t have to compliment me by name to get picked as a “favorite blog post,” but let’s say it doesn’t hurt your chances. Worth a read in any case.)
- Reed player and composer Demetrius Spaneas explores themes of struggle, stress, and balancing artistic pursuit with the practicalities of life.
- Saxophonist Peter Spitzer encourages you to freshen up your set list with some freely-available lead sheets to some lovely and little-known Bossa Nova tunes by Roberto Menescal.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle had a tough month. She shares a frustrating rehearsal experience (no, Jennet, it’s not just you!) and characterizes her relationship with the instrument as, well, adversarial. (She does also offer some constructive tips for dealing with oboe-related struggles.)
- In a similar vein, bassoonist Cayla Bellamy offers three “ups” to help through practice-room plateaus.
- Saxopedia announces an influx of new (old) transcriptions by Danish saxophonist Thomas Høeg-Jensen, to add to an already-impressive listing [update: links dead].
- On the Powell Flutes Teach Flute blog, distinguished flute pedagogue Leone Buyse shares some thoughts about her own teacher David Berman, and makes a strong case for taking notes in your lessons.
- Dan Forshaw throws down the gauntlet to fellow saxophone enthusiasts: can you put the Mark VI tenors in chronological order based on video clips? (I can’t.) Nice playing, Dan!
- “Practicing Flutist” Deanna Mathews Kilbourne uses difference tones to tune her flute choir.
Great stuff, everybody, and I look forward to reading more in November.
Still more woodwind blogs you should be reading
In what is turning out to be an approximately biannual roundup, I present the third installment of woodwind-related blogs that I’m enjoying, and you will too. If you’re late to the party, check out episodes 1 and 2. (In each case I picked at least one excellent blog that shortly thereafter stopped publishing new content, so take a look at today’s picks and see if you can guess which is getting the “Bret Pimentel, woodwinds” curse. Bwahahahaha.)
Tammy Evans Yonce
Tammy is a former classmate of mine (go ‘Dawgs), and a flutist and educator to keep an eye on. Her blog, just a few months old, is outstandingly good: important topics, carefully thought out, and clearly and elegantly written. Tammy writes about flute performance and pedagogy, with a special interest in making practice time really effective. A must-read.
Also check out Tammy on Twitter, and at her other new blog, the collaborative Music Collective.