It’s that time of year again: school is in full swing, marching band is heating up, and busy is the norm. Add to that list the Idaho All-State music auditions. Once again, my students have risen to the challenge, and I am super proud of all three high school flutists that tried out this year. Sarah, Molly, and Isabelle prepared diligently and intelligently, and all of their hard work certainly paid off.
A huge congratulation goes to Sarah, whose audition tape was chosen for the All-State Band this year – WOW!
The preparation for these tapes included two main components. The first task was to get the chromatic scale accurate and up to tempo – not as easy as it sounds. We had to analyze constantly where the trouble notes/combinations occurred and come up with solutions to put those notes in their place. Some of the strategies we employed in our scale practice:
- Slow and even fingers with the metronome – both while playing and not playing. Sometimes it can be revealing to take the flute off your face and actually look at your fingers. Are they doing what you thought they were doing?
- Changing the pattern: instead of playing straight through the notes of the scale in order, try playing every other note in thirds, or play an octave at a time with a different starting note each time
- Changing the rhythm: play the scale in groups of two, three, four, five, or six notes per beat. Make yourself play against the metronome on offbeats.
- Changing the articulation: if you always practice your scale slurred, try tonguing instead – or double tonguing. Try a new pattern of slur two-tongue two or tongue one-slur three. Technique deficiencies will immediately become apparent.
Anything you can do to change up your scale practice will push you to think differently. It is all too common for students to get tired of scale practice and slowly let themselves get away from practicing them at all. I can never say this enough times: scales are the building blocks of music and can be found everywhere in all shapes and sizes. So when you engage your brain while playing scales, suddenly a new challenge makes everything more interesting and slightly more bearable…or dare I say, even exciting!
The other component of the audition tape was to master the first half of three different etudes: one lyrical, one technical, and one wild card. This year’s selections included the Sarabande and Bourrée Anglaise from the pinnacle solo work for flute J.S. Bach’s Partita in A minor as well as a tricky little etude in Bb minor by Heinze. There were so many great things to talk about in terms of phrasing, musicality, music theory, sequential patterns, and practice techniques. If nothing else, my students should all remember those “EL-e-phants” in the Bach!
Again, I could not be more proud of these girls for their dedication and practice. They all improved immensely through the preparation process, and that is the most important thing they can take away from this experience. Here’s to many more auditions and practice goals.