- 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.
- Flutist Jolene Madewell improves her articulation with understanding of how the tongue moves.
- Patty Mitchell discusses the oboe and getting into college.
- David Pierce gives brief summaries of some books on bassoon reedmaking.
- Saxophonist James Barger explains a method of vibrato development using a mobile app.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay is organizing a Kroepsch studies boot camp for June.
- Nicole Riner gives piccolo advice.
The flute bloggers were especially busy in April.
- Flutist Nicole Riner shares some research-based recommendations (from 2004) about gender stereotypes and school band programs.
- Jolene Harju Madewell prioritizes aspects of flute tone production.
- Michelle Barraclough discusses orchestra pit playing for flutists.
- Roderick Seed gives tips on improving flute resonance.
- Flutist Rachel Taylor Geier offers advice on recital preparation.
- Bassoonist Betsy Sturdevant continues her series of orchestral excerpt blog-masterclasses with the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.
- Woodwind player Larry Weintraub explores musical careers on cruise ships and in European publicly-funded ensembles.
- Jolene Harju lists some favorite flute recordings.
- Woodwind player Larry Weintraub shares information on careers in military bands.
- Bassoonist Anna Norris is writing a series of posts on playing John Williams’s Five Sacred Trees.
- Flutist Roderick Seed explores issues surrounding cheek puffing and chin pressure.
- Clarinetist James Zimmermann discusses the relationship between the clarinet and bassoon cadenzas in Scheherezade.
- Flutist Nicole Riner assigns her students repertoire that reinforces skill development (a re-“print” from the 2012 A Flutist’s Handbook: Pedagogy Anthology Vol. 2).
- Oboist Stephen Caplan reconsiders concentration in performance.
- Bassoonist Barry Stees shares a simple but revealing way to test reeds.
- Flutist Jessica Dunnavant discusses her complicated relationship with university teaching.
- David Pierce considers a pedagogical order for the Vivaldi bassoon concertos (a re-“print” from a 1987 article in the Journal of the International Double Reed Society).
- Oboist Jennet Ingle figures out how to give a good tuning A every time.
- Saxophonist Helen Kahlke avoids germs on the gig.
A few months ago I wrote a review of So You Want to Play in Shows…?, a book of woodwind doubling etudes by Paul Saunders. Recently Paul sent me Double Troubles, a new collection of etudes. Like So You Want, the new volume includes a piano part plus access to downloadable backing tracks. As I said in the previous review:
This is an elegant solution to one of the problems of woodwind doubling etudes: how do you enforce quick instrument switches? … Saunders’s book, used with the recordings, provides a simple way to work out quick switches alone in a practice room.
Like in the previous book, these etudes are musically interesting and in styles typical of contemporary musical theater. Double Troubles is overall somewhat more challenging, including some saxophone altissimo and flute third octave up to C (though most of the extreme high register playing on both instruments is marked as optional—Paul clarified to me that the upper register is preferable, and the optional 8vbs are to make the etudes more approachable if needed). The book also incorporates soprano and tenor saxophones on some etudes, in addition to the flute/clarinet/alto used in the first book.
I had fun playing through these, and recommend Paul’s doubling etude books as one of the best sources of practice material for the flute/clarinet/saxophone doubler.
- Betsy Sturdevant brainstorms some (tongue-in-cheek) reasons not to sharpen her bassoon reed profiler blade.
- Woodwind doubler Ed Joffe shares some practical advice about subbing on gigs.
- Flutist Nicole Riner explores some lessons about focus learned during an artist retreat.
- Joan Martí-Frasquier lists some repertoire for baritone saxophone.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle considers some ideas about motivation and doing difficult things.
- Clarinetist Michael Dean offers some small but useful performing tips.
- Flutist Jessica Quiñones shares some ways to build a private studio.
- Saxophonist Larry Weintraub recalls a day spent with Michael Brecker.
- Khara Wolf suggests solutions for oboe reeds with too-wide tip openings.
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.
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:
- Flutist Nicole Riner lists extended techniques with some sample repertoire and practice tips.
- Saxophone mouthpiece reviewer extraordinaire Steve Neff explains how to test a mouthpiece thoroughly.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell offers a somber reminder that sexual harassment is an issue in the music world, too.
- Clarinetist Liz Aleksander outlines a methodical approach to tuning.
- Bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson gives some perspective on teachers and teaching.
- The “Curious Clarinetist” tells a satirical tale of new instruments.
- Cynthia Ellis and Cate Hummel provide tips on playing the piccolo.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay shares ideas for mastering a new repertoire piece besides just practicing.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle discusses the importance of choosing the right reed for a performance (and which factors are most important).
- Ariel Detwiler discusses some of the issues of choosing which students are good prospective bassoonists.