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WANTED: Motivation to Practice (By Flute Teacher Kate Alusik)

flute lessons flemington flute student Doing something you know you love is easy.  For me, practicing is part of my daily routine…I don’t feel right if my day has started without some time on the flute.  It doesn’t have to be anything serious, just some long tones and scale exercises, and I feel like I can face anything.  It’s my yoga for the morning.  But it’s not like this for everyone, especially if you are pre-college and playing an instrument.  That’s ok, because I didn’t always need to practice either.  I did it because I had to; because I wanted that first chair; because I wanted to be in that chamber group.  The important thing to realize about practicing is that it’s okay if it’s not always the first thing that you add to your list for the day; it’s even okay if you don’t want to put it on that list, as long as it gets done at some point.

So how do you make yourself practice if it’s really not what you want to do? Find ways to motivate yourself.  Why did you get into music to begin with?  For me, I thought the flute looked pretty and I knew I could carry it; I watched my brother struggle carrying a baritone on the bus every day so I wanted to play something small.  But I also loved hearing “real” musicians play the flute.  The first time I knew I wanted music to play a key role in my life was when I won a trip to see Les Miserables in seventh grade.  The pit amazed me!  They sounded perfect; clear, precise and they added so much beauty to the show.  This might be something you need for yourself.  Go see a show! Go see a professional orchestra concert, or even a community ensemble play.  Hearing others perform after years of hard work can show you what is possible; just because you are stuck on a few difficult exercises that your teacher is making you suffer through doesn’t mean there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel. 

That brings in another point that is important.  Talk to your teacher. If you feel like something needs to change to get you picking up that instrument a few more times in the week, they need to know about it.  Ask them if there are any duets or fun pieces you can work on; duets are one way I love to end every lesson because it allows the student and teacher to work together.  Maybe your best friend plays an instrument and you can play duets together after school! Go to a music store and look for movie music; maybe your favorite movie has parts written out for your instrument.  Another great way to gain motivation and perspective can simply be to ask your teacher to play for you. Most likely they have a piece that they have been working on that they would be glad to play for you.  Sometimes you just need to see what can be to know why you are working so hard.

So, next time you sigh before taking your instrument, try to think really hard about why you began in the first place, and use your resources to help you.  Ask your parents to take you to a concert, or even use the internet to look up videos of professional ensembles.   Hearing the result of hard work can sometimes push you to continue your own hard work.   Making music is hard work but it should always be something you love.

 Kate Alusik, Flute Instructor at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts

How to Get into Intermediate and Senior Regions (By Seth Rosenthal)

So, you want to make Regions?

I get a lot of inquiries from students who want to make Regions. Here's some information and advice from my experience teaching students who have made Regions.

flute studentWhat is Regions?

Regions is sort of an Honors Band/Orchestra/Wind Ensemble and Chorus run by the New Jersey Music Educators Association through the schools in New Jersey.  There is an Intermediate Regions for middle school studens (grades 6-8) and a Senior Regions for high school students (grades 9-12).  The auditions are in December (Senior) and late January (Intermediate).  Repertoire is chosen by a committee within NJMEA and includes a standard solo, scales, and a sight-reading selection.  Those who make Regions are the best of the Central Jersey student population on their instruments. 

All-State audition invitations are offered exclusively to those who perform in Regions.  There are 3 Regions districts, Northern (Region I), Central (Region II) and Southern (Region III).  Note, you must be recommended to audition by your school music teacher.  To qualify, you must play in the school groups (it's not un-reasonable for a band teacher to hold Regions away from an
otherwise talented student who won't participate in school programs).  Your private teacher can only nominate you if you are home-schooled or have some other extenuating circumstance.

How do I get in?

Well, the answers here are pretty much what you'd expect.  I'll speak for flute (my instrument), but answers are probably pretty similar for all instruments.  First understand that competition is really tough, especially on flute.  There are just so many wonderful young players out there and lots of fine teachers helping them get better and better each year.  So what to do?
   1) Make sure you have a good teacher for your student.  Students with talent will always progress, but a good teacher keeps the direction of progress in the right direction, puts extra requirements on students, encourages them to work harder, and understands the instrument and its repertoire.
   2)  Have a good instrument.  That old rental flute you bought from the dealer is the minimum quality in the spectrum of flutes.  Flutes can be pretty expensive, but the best students gravitate to better student instruments just due to the competitive pressure (minimum $3500 for a better student flute).
   3)  "Pardon me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?"  The same answer.  Practice, practice, practice ....   There is no replacement for intelligent, dedicated work.  Practicing the last 3 months before the audition is not enough, it must be a regular routine throughout the year.  You are being judged by how much and well you practiced in your studies, that's what makes for a good audition.
   4)  Listen to great players perform your audition repertoire, and not just your teacher.   Rampal, Galway, Wm Bennett, and other great players have all recorded most of the flute repertoire.   These recordings are available for sale.
   5)  Take other auditions, compete in competitions, play in any performing group where you can get experience.  Its not how well you play in your home, its how well you play at an audition with an experienced judge listening to you and evaluating your playing.  That's considerable pressure, and students need to learn to play under pressure.  Local youth orchestras, local community groups, music teachers associations, etc.
    6)  Start working and studying early.  There's never any guarantee of success and each student is different.  What I can say, is that the odds of success are higher if you start working younger.  I have had 8th graders start taking lessons and by High School they make regions.  That's the exception, not the rule.  Most of the best students who have made Regions started in 4th and 5th grade, got motivated, practiced and by 7th grade were either making Regions or just missing.  By High School they were making it.

What if I don't make it?

I always find that the intense effort most students give to getting into Regions benefits them whether they make it or not.  The playing does get a boost from the trying.  Local school teachers will always respect a student who tries for Regions regardless of the results.  If you make Regions, they particularly like to see this since it also reflects well on your school's music program.  Not everyone can make it though, and some misses can be frustratingly close.   If you're not a High School Senior, you always have next year, so the best response is to work hard(er), listen to your teacher, and keep your attitude positive.

Seth Rosenthal, Flute Teacher at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts

Sign up for a free trial flute lesson with Seth Rosenthal!

I was hooked! (By Seth Rosenthal)

No, this isn't an admission of drug use, its a part of why I am a flutist.  And maybe, how to help a flute student start to love the playing too.

My father was a musician, and so naturally he played music in theman playing the flute house on our record player all the time.  I got to know the sounds of the New World Symphony, the Pastorale Symphony, La Mer and many other wonderful orchestra works.  When I picked the flute to play (because it was easy to carry) he started to buy records of Jean-Pierre Rampal. That golden gorgeous tone became a regular fixture in my head.

Then, I started taking lessons from my Junior High School teacher who was a flutist. He was a good teacher but I wasn't ready to start really practicing yet. I made Queens (NYC) All-boro band and orchestra,and they were fun, but in 9th grade two things happened.  First I was invited to play in the Queens College Orchestral Society, an adult amateur orchestra.  In spite of its being amateur, it was a very good group.  My father played in
the viola section and my flute teacher was principal flute (probably how I got in there).  That first concert playing
some of the works I had heard on the record player, but being in the middle of it, was the first "hook."

I loved it, I started to practice more, and then my father decided I needed a better teacher, and sent me to Harold Bennett, at the time the Principal Flutist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
He taught me how to practice, and despite some of his quirkiness I began to love it more and more, and appreciated both Harold and Jean-Pierre Rampal (who was really my flute idol) more and more.

Years later, I was working professionally in New York at a gala for the Lincoln Center Library, playing first flute in the orchestra.  And into the rehearsal walks Jean-Pierre Rampal.  He was to play a
concerto with the orchestra (no flute parts though)  and I got to meet him and talk to him a little.  I was in heaven!  Today I am only sorry I didn't tell him how much his recordings meant to me.
The lesson? I suppose not all of this applies to every student, but play music in the house, have your student listen to recordings of
great flutists, send them to teachers who help them learn
to work and enjoy it, and encourage them to play with bands or orchestras where they can experience music all around them.

Seth Rosenthal, Flute Instructor

Don’t Tell Me I Can’t! (By Kate Alusik, Flute Teacher)

I began taking flute lessons when I was in seventh grade, by the recommendation of one of my middle school band directors.  He was always very supportive, and told me it would be great for me.  I was very excited to start taking lessons, and practiced more than I ever have before.

I loved my new flute teacher.  She acted not only as ankate alusik, flute teacher inspiration for me musically, but she was a great role model.  I could talk to her about anything, and we always made time before or after the lesson to talk about things that were going on with both of us.  I started progressing with the flute and loved every minute of my playing.

One year later, I decided to audition for Region Band.  When I told the band director that suggested I take lessons, he was very excited, and told me I would do well. However, when I told the band director that lead the wind ensemble and gave me in-school lessons, he told me I should audition, not because I could make it, but because I needed to get used to failure as a musician.

This statement upset me more than he could know, even to this day.  I became very frustrated, and couldn’t understand why he would ever say something like that to me. Instead of letting it upset me, I continued to practice hard, and I made Region Band that year.  I also made Region Band and All-State Band in High-School, went to college for music education, and even studied flute performance in Boston with a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for one year after college.  I would love to go back to my band director and say, “Look what I did.”

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.  If you want something, whether it be to learn an instrument, perform on stage, learn a new language, or become a doctor, don’t let anyone stop you from that dream.  It is up to you to make it happen.  Work hard, practice, do what you love every single day… and never give up on your dreams.

Kate Alusik, Flute Instructor at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts

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