So how is flute going?
This morning, I put on a lot of makeup and used the portrait mode of my phone's camera to take new head shots with my flute.
Since my previous ones in January, I've changed my hair. But I also did this to celebrate how I’ve grown since graduating in May.
For the first time, I’ve been completely in charge of my growth as a flutist. I've used this independence to preserve — and slowly build upon — the beautiful foundation I left with from my undergraduate, studying with Alberto Almarza at Carnegie Mellon University.
At the same time, I’ve never had to fight so hard for my identity as a flutist. The plain truth is, I spend most of my energy bagging bread and pastries for (mostly white, wealthy) customers at a local bakeshop in Point Breeze. (Next year, I plan to shift more towards teaching. For now, I’ve become one of those college graduates whose fancy degrees weren't conducive to generating income, so they resort to customer service to pay off rent and student loans. It isn't glamorous. But many of my coworkers are also classical musicians & lovely people.)
Every time I practice despite how draining customer service is (if you know, you know), I consider a victory worth celebrating. Sometimes, I'm not practicing so much as playing for fun, experimenting with whatever sounds and feels good. But even this is a small victory.
I began reflecting on growth after watching an interview by Dancers of New York with a dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, Remy Young. She says,
“I’ve gotten to know myself outside of my career, my work, which I think inevitably defines us all... It’s an important thing for any artist to experience, because it humanizes you in a way that working on technique... can’t. At the end of the day, that’s what we have to bring to the stage... in order for our art to be transcendental and to connect to the audience. And just go to a different place... But it’s a scary thing. It requires a lot of trust in yourself and surrendering to what may come.”
When it comes to being onstage, this is partly why I was so proud of my performances in November. I felt I had succeeded in being truly present to the people around me.
When it comes to self-knowledge as an artist, I spent the months after graduation drifting from a technical routine, towards trusting myself. I played mostly by memory & for fun.
Now, I've reached a middle-ground of playing for fun, but reestablishing a technical routine. As a flutist, healthy technique & fundamentals communicate respect towards my art.
Partly because I'm not taking auditions or lessons, my technique hasn't been consistent since graduating. In the lulls between recording projects & gigs, I've taken more extended breaks from practicing than ever.
Strangely, I'm okay with this. Each time I've gotten back into shape has been grueling but straightforward. Knowing what it takes to sound my best — even if I don't always have the time or energy to stay there — is empowering.
I'm also solidifying a musical identity outside of flute. However trite, singing to myself has kept my expressiveness, my sense of phrasing, alive & growing.
A week ago, I recorded some Frank Sinatra for my music group's virtual residency at a senior home. I consider this video more musically thoughtful than many of my performances throughout college (simply because it hadn't "clicked" for me yet):
Beyond practicing, another challenge has been to define growth. I've decided it means preserving strong fundamentals & technique, while learning new music & taking ownership of my interpretations. I'm still working on how to bridge a compelling interpretation with a strong technical framework (especially rhythm), within an overall sense of contour & flow.
Growth also means exploring diverse opportunities to perform, collaborate, & connect through music. After a surprisingly busy fall, I am deeply grateful and hopeful about this area of growth.
I'm experiencing how growth as a musician takes other forms than practicing all the time — a lifelong, isolated pursuit of perfection.
While I marvel at the level of mastery & depth this leads to, I'm drawn to building a career upon a slightly different set of values. What gives me life as an artist is sharing what I've worked on with others, and the possibilities for introspection & dialogue.
Or, if it's not performing, I find nourishment in "sound doodles," playing purely for fun.
I started recording sound doodles back in May. During quarantine, they offered me a way to share music with the world "out there," without consequences if the recordings were unpolished (since I lacked the time & motivation to produce something polished).
Now, I see sound doodles as a window into that space between practicing & performing, where all that matters is creating something fun & beautiful without any pressure.
To close, here's a sound doodle based off my memory of Philippe Gaubert's "Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando." This piece is very dear to me. I performed it in my last jury, played it in a lesson for Marianne Gedigian (exactly a year ago!), and would have performed it in my senior recital:
And lastly, here is a quick video from practicing "Bit of Everything" by Allison Loggins-Hull, a piece with electronics that I performed in Ears Engaged's virtual concert last week: