One Day in the Flute Studio with Molly

My Intern wrote this little essay “One Day in the Flute Studio with Molly” as I was teaching in my studio on Wednesday. This is just a smattering of what I do every day, (6 days a week!) as I am constantly developing new ways to teach every student, from the 4 year olds to the retirees! I have so many ideas that pop into my head to adapt to each student’s needs and musical interests, and it was so nice to have InternMichele Arnold observe and write this little essay to explain a bit about how I teach! Of course, there are lots more ways that I teach each person, and I am always trying to adapt activities to fit each and every personality and ability level. I find my career to be so interesting and an absolute joy (most of the time!).

One day in the Flute studio with Molly…

…I played a super fun ice-cream game!
At Molly’s studio we play a game that consists of trying to stack an ice cream cone with as many scoops of ice cream as possible. When it gets to high and the ice cream falls, Molly picks out a corresponding number of rhythm cards for the student to clap, say, and then play. Whoever knocks the ice-cream over has to give the other person the cards after playing them, to counts as points. This is an innovative and creative game that gets students excited to play more challenging rhythms.

…I won m&ms in the five note pattern challenge!
In Molly’s studio, specifically for the younger and intermediate students, we begin learning all 12 of our five note patterns, which are the foundation for playing many different pieces. When the student comes in the room they are asked to play a certain five note pattern and for every pattern they get correct they will receive m&ms in a baggie. At the end of the challenge period the student with the most m&ms wins and of course they get to eat all of their hard work in the form of m&ms!!!

…I played my song and there were lots of blips!
Never fear…Molly’s metronome is here! When students are having trouble with smoothly transitioning from note to note we call this a blip. When this occurs in the studio we first identify what is causing the problem (tension, finger coordination, mental focus, etc). Then we practice the transition correctly with the metronome (at a slow speed). Once we achieve our goal at the slow tempo we speed up the tempo (ad nauseum). The notes that are causing trouble are recorded on the students special blip page called “Baffling Blips That Drive You Bonkers”, and that page goes in their binder to take home and practice.

…I just could not play a hard passage correctly…
Never fear… Molly’s awesome learning techniques are here! When this occurs in the studio Molly will have the student practice the passage with a learning technique. Some techniques that we do are chunking, syncopating, playing at different speeds, slurring/tonguing everything, saying the rhythms, playing a passage backwards and repetition with the metronome.

…We played warmups!
Some awesome warmups we do are galaxy/space notes in which we play a low note and over blow to get an overtone out… This dynamic warmup prepares and works the student’s embouchure to play notes in the correct register!

…We danced!
Today in the studio to try and encourage a student to put more energy and soul into their playing we danced around to get a feel for the music. Molly and Miss Michele were both waltzing around the studio with excitement and thus the student showed more enthusiasm. Music is fun, which is easy to forget when your mind is wrapped around trying to get the rhythms and notes correct but it’s important to remember to have fun and love what you’re doing!28872068_1809757242389744_7415522707426508800_n.jpg


A Trip to the Symphony

A wonderful way to encourage your child to learn more about their instrument and hear it played by professionals is to take advantage of the reduced prices for tickets to concerts of area orchestras.  Your child’s teacher will quite often have comp (free) tickets to the orchestra’s they perform in as well.  High school musicals are happening now – take advantage of high quality, inexpensive productions!

Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra

20% off individual prices (25 years old and younger)

York Symphony Orchestra

$5 tickets for children for any concert (except family programs).

Saturdays Family Concerts (next one is Harry Potter – June 9th at 4:00 pm).

FREE open Dress Rehearsals on the day of the concert

Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

Free open rehearsals (comes with voucher for buy one children’s ticket and bring one adult for free to a concert)

Maryland Symphony Orchestra

Free tickets for students in K-12, children under 5 as well as $5 college student tickets.

3 Types of Goals

27654940_1659960884069359_5986149454272245414_n.jpgOn a whiteboard in my flute studio, I ask my students one question a month.  January’s was:  “What is your New Year’s Flutalution?”  (resolution in flute language!)

It was  clear that most students had things that they wished to work on in their flute-playing.  It did not matter the age of the student, or how long they have played, but from beginners to advanced, they had ideas and knew what they were aspects of their playing they wished to improve.  Here are some of the answers:

*Head up, feet solid, not slam my fingers (6 year old)

*Practice more often (5th grader)

*Learn my high trills (11th grader)

*Not clipping my notes (7th grader)

*Change Embouchure to get a better sound (7th grader)

*Keep Pinky Down on most notes (6 year old)

*Long Tones for a better sound (adult)

*Use my Tongue (7th grader)

*Fuller sound (beginner)

*Get 3 songs ready for every lesson (a student who has been playing for 4 years)

*Tension free playing (student who has played almost 2 years)

*Try to ace my college audition (senior in HS)

*Learn more high notes (10 year old, and yes, she has achieved this and learned most of the upper register in a month!)

*Memorize all 5-note patterns (7 year old)

*Improve Rhythm (8th grader)

*Get my plugs out and get in symphonic winds (Junior)

*Stop hanging my fingers over the keys (10 year old)

*Practice at least 3 days a week (Beginner)

*Learn to play a lot quieter (Junior with a great big, full sound)

*Memorize all my 5-note patterns (4th grader)

*Follow Miss Molly’s advise and listen better, also, get fingers closer to keys (10 year old)

*Practice with a journal while getting ready for college auditions (senior)

*Work extensively on a new Natural/melodic/harmonic minor scale each day (Senior who just got accepted into the Marine Band!)


Now that you have read the list of goals that students wrote down, try to think about each one and if it fits into one of the following categories:  Long-term, Medium-term or Short-term goals.

1. Long-term, missional based goals:  These goals are based on your core values.  In terms of flute playing, it may mean that you would be setting a goal based on how long you wish to play throughout your life.  You may wish to play just through high school, or make flute your career, or you simply wish to experience the day-to-day pleasure of playing as an amateur. Perhaps you find some healthful benefits to playing, and you wish to keep playing on a regular basis due the stress release it provides, or breathing benefits.

You may ask yourself, how does playing your instrument fulfill your perceived purpose in life?  Some goals may center on this.  For instance, if you say “I am making a goal to have fun while I make music”, then you are filling a very needed purpose to add some joy to your life.  Or, you may decide that your were given talents to help others experience beauty in life and perhaps turn their eyes from sorrow,  so your goal may be to continue playing so that you can help others.

I do not see any answers from my students on the whiteboard to suggest that the students are thinking long term, but I do know that many of them are thinking long term.  Apparently, they tend to think automatically about short term or medium term goals to improve their playing.  Asking them about their long term goals may be another question that I would like to explore with my students in the studio in the near future.

2. Medium term, strategic goals:  I would consider most of the above of my students goals to be medium term goals.  Once you come up with something you need to fix in your playing, you then will set yourself a time limit to focus very hard on one aspect for a month to perhaps 3 months.  You might not work on this exact goal every time you play, but you may decide something like this:

“I will focus on not slamming down my fingers while doing my scales for the next 2 months”

“I will look in a mirror and improvise music while relaxing my embouchure as completely as I can for 1 month”.

3. Immediate, tactile goals:  Some of the goals written down by my students were more immediate in nature.  These are more organizational centered goals, where a student decides that they will try to practice more, or they will try to play 2 more songs well in each lesson than they usually do. Focusing on a to-do list will help you achieve smaller objectives that you desire to work on in your playing, but also you may find that writing down a small to-do list for each day for your practice session can help you organize your thoughts and larger goals.

Obviously, we often have to change focus to learn music quickly for a concert or audition.  When this happens, we need to set aside some of the long-term and medium-term goals we have so that we can focus on achieving the immediate needs of the audition or concert. This would be another example of a short-term goal.

As an end note, take time to write down all of your goals that you can think of into the three categories.  This can help you jump-start your practice sessions by organizing and prioritizing your daily life so that it meets your flute goals.  I would also take time to ask yourself which goals were given to you by a teacher or another person, versus the goals that you came up with yourself.  This could also be another meaningful exercise, and perhaps a whole other blog post!





10 Tips on How to Prevent Practice and Performance-Related Injuries

10 Tips on How to Prevent Practice and Performance-Related Injuries

  1. DO arm up (take a walk, stretch, begin slowly and easily on your instrument)
  2. DO take breaks (10 minutes per hour, minimum)
  3. DO sit/stand with good posture (shoulders down and back straight, feet flat on floor)
  4. DO increase your practice load gradually and vary your repertoire
  5. DO stress-reducing relaxation activities and exercise (yoga, massage, swimming, bicycling, for example)
  6. DO take one day off a week.
  7. Do be easier on yourself when you are under duress or when you are overtired.
  8. Do move (sitting very still can build up tension – wiggle and stretch and avoid being static in one position).
  9. DO breathe deeply.
  10. DO practice AWAY from your instrument (listen to recordings, study scores, mental preparation and visualizing performing well).

Reference:  “Playing (Less) Hurt” by Janet Horvath

The BumbleBlog

Would you give The Flight of the Bumblebee to a 6th grade student, still in the beginning stages of learning their instrument? I recently said YES, and gave it to a student who:

  1. Went from practicing 1-day-a-week to EVERY DAY, several hours at a time (and actually now has trouble putting her flute down)
  2. Recently started to come to her lessons  more well prepared than ever with material from her 1st lesson book
  3. Started listening to YouTube videos of flute pieces and famous flutists
  4. Has clearly developed a passion for playing her flute
  5. Recently exhibited much more comfort in the balancing of her instrument and has demonstrated a much stronger sound
  6. The Flight of the BumbleBee is mostly chromatic scales, with a few surprise leaps, so it is rich with note-learning and finger-change possibilities, that can only enhance the flutist’s learning experience
  7. She looked at me (wide-eyed) and asked me if she could please play the Flight of the Bumblebee!!!

I do not have issues with giving her this piece, for many reasons. If a student develops a passion for their instrument, it is my job to nurture that passion, because when a fire is first lit, it can go out easily. But, I must proceed with caution and  not damage the passion by giving her an assignment that is way to hard for her.  So, I decided to make the piece all about finger, tonguing and tone exercises. I simply handed it to her and gave her 2 measures to learn.  I told her to do the two measures in manageable ways:

  1. Turn the measures into a long tone exercise, playing each note so slowly that you make each note big and beautiful, full and rich
  2. Play each note in each measure 8x each, on a breath attack, so she could work on the quality of her sound while slowly learning the notes
  3. Play each note 8x as a slow double tongue passage,  so that while learning the notes, she could start to work on her double tonguing.
  4. Since the piece is pretty much all 16th notes, I was able to teach her about how to work on difficult pieces by chunking, the lingering method, syncopating, etc.  These tools are invaluable for learning difficult music, but she would be able to do this in one week, because, after all, it is only 2 measures of the piece!

Here are the measures I gave her last week, which she actually learned very well and played at a fairly quick piece this week : IMG_6016.JPG

During this week’s lesson, she played the above passages for me, and we worked on lightening up her fingers, keeping her fingers closer to the keys and how to listen for un-evenness in the passages. I showed her how I would sound if my fingers were far off the keys, as a beginner tends to play.  Then I showed her how the piece was so much easier with my fingers close to the keys, and I played it delicately and fast.  I sent her home with the assignment to work on those aspects of playing well. I also gave her a few more measures.  She then asked me to teach her the very beginning of the piece (students ALWAYS want to start at the beginning, even when I do not want them to as much) At the beginning the flute music starts up high and moves down quickly in a chromatic passage.  Even though she was not playing those high notes yet in her lesson book, I decided that she probably could start playing that notes based on the quality of her sound production. I gave her the fingerings and sent her home with just the beginning 5 notes of the piece to learn.  For the record, we continued to work in her 1st lesson book, so that we do not miss any important progressive flute-learning steps along the way!IMG_6017.JPG





Homeschool classes for the younger set

We have added 2 new homeschool classes for younger children. Music for Little Mozarts is for children ages 4-6, and The Singing Spot is for ages 4-7.  In Music for Little Mozarts, we go on a Musical Adventure with Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear as we learn how to play the piano.  We also dance, sing, color in our workbooks and just have fun with music! MFLM runs for 15 weeks and a parent or guardian must accompany the child to the class.  Tuition is $12.50 per class, payable by the month, or $175 if you pay the entire tuition up front.  Level 1 starts on March 1, so there is no time to lose to sign up!

The Singing Spot is a voice class for ages 4-7, and again the tuition is $12.50 per class, payable by the month.  In The Singing Spot, we will learn how to sing using the Do Re Mi syllables and proper technique.  We will sing a variety of fun songs.  Other activities will include games, dances and playing simple instruments. Class starts March 1 and runs for 8 weeks.  Come one, come all and sign up for The Singing Spot.

The Singing Spot is 2-3 on Thursdays and MFLM is 3-3:45 on Thursdays.  You can register on our website,  Hope to see you there!

Piano Classes for Adults and Teens

We have just started a new beginner class, which is held on Saturday afternoon from 2-3.  Our later beginner class runs on Saturday morning from 10-11. The later beginners are just about to go into the Faber Adult Book 2.  There are spaces still available in both classes, and the tuition of $120 for 8 weeks will be prorated.  Please visit our website for more information or to register.  We have fun in our classes, learning music of different styles.  Come one, come all and join us!