Rinsing the fear from my playing
Hello there. If you haven't heard of Dannielle Brown & her hunger strike in Pittsburgh, please read this article first. If it takes the time & mental energy you would have spent here, please read it instead.
This summer, I’ve needed to find solace & strength in the purely expressive, spontaneous elements of being a musician.
I've created a space for questions in my flute-playing. Practicing technique, on the other hand, is a matter of problem-solving, which I've recently found comforting in its objectivity.
However, a lot of fear lingers in my relationship with flute.
Part of me still believes there’s a “right” way to be a flutist & classical musician, which includes practicing technique obsessively.
It also includes a racial dynamic.
For most of my life, the only images I had of success in classical music were of wealthy, white-skinned bodies — people with enough capital to advance in this (dizzyingly costly) field, white-skinned people who practiced all the time, played perfectly, & won the right auditions and competitions.
Because of the ways I couldn't be like them, I constantly feared that I would never be good enough.
To be sure, many classical musicians of color aren’t fazed by this. They waltz into the culture of perfectionism, practice fervently, & build successful careers.
But for me, the world of classical music convinced me that I didn't have the "full package" to succeed: the right skin color, the right socioeconomic background, & an obsession with perfection.
The fear in my playing grew so intense, that simply starting a note in the presence of another human would fill me with dread. (There's no one to blame for this, only the field itself.) `
Since then, I’ve encountered amazing flutists who aren’t obsessed with perfection. Knowing these flutists, together with a summer of playing for fun, has begun the long process of rinsing fear from my playing.
If my videos help one brown girl to believe there’s a place for her in classical music — then that is everything I could ask for.
In response to stories like mine, people say Western classical music must become more inclusive, more innovative, maybe even dismantled.
For my part, I've started sharing videos of myself practicing. It's my way to diversify what it means to be a Western classical flutist. You can be brown-skinned, or less-than-perfect, or both.
If one brown girl sees my videos, and that helps her to believe there’s a place for her in classical music — then that is everything I could ask for.
Some notes on the video:
In college, "Volière" was one of those orchestral excerpts that would strike terror into my heart. I've been working on it on-and-off for the past 3 years. Now, I see it as a fun challenge that doesn't define my worth as a flutist.
"Image" has been one of my favorite pieces for many years. Transposing is a way to experiment & further explore the music.
(Earrings are from Tienda Teocintli :)