Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with Raffaele Trevisani - Part 2

Raffaele Trevisani
In this second installment of September Payne's interview with Raffaele Trevisani, Mr. Trevisani discusses his recommended studies and the successful application of these exercises.

September: What’s the most important advice you have for flute students?

Raffaele: Learn the Basics! They are the foundation to be able to express music. Without proper technique you can’t say what you want to say through your instrument.

September: What kinds of books or exercises do you recommend?

Raffaele: Marcel Moyse’s De la Sonorité is the only real book you need for tone, tone color, tone volume, embouchure flexibility and intonation.  Moyse’s idea about sound is: once you get one good centered sound, you connect the second sound with the same characteristics (centeredness, volume, richness, intonation). In addition, the sound must connect smoothly between the notes as you switch fingerings. Seems easy but it is not. Think about it-you only have one chance to make it right, the same, but you have 1,000 chances to make it wrong! It’s cerebral! However, I don’t mean meditating. Don’t zone out while playing these exercises like it’s some religious experience! You must be flexible and attentive to any change you may need to make-from one note to the other and not remain rigid. The embouchure is not the same from the top to the bottom of the registers and the air should be dynamic as one moves from note to note. Moyse wrote more than one book about flexibility! Flexibility was central to his teachings and life’s work. And, just because you own a Marcel Moyse tone book doesn’t mean you have Moyse tone.

Going back to my statement about Jimmy’s (Sir James) tone being more precise than Rampal’s,  means (for me) the sound is more active, alive, powerful, yet always beautiful. As a teacher Jimmy (Sir James) is always trying to get the best sound out of students. It’s like as you {September} know personally, Moyse’s was doing the same thing in his teaching, always demanding more precision and insisting on it when he would say “Again! Not enough, why do you play this way?  Go further with your tone, go deeper.  Express something”! MOYSE Sonorité is active sound.

When you practice the Sonorité book, start with the first page of semi tones, then move to 2nds, 3rds, and finish with the examples of intervals that go wider. Next, practice Moyse scales, slowly with attention to the sound on each note and the connection from one note to the next. Every scale is a piece of music, Sonorité!  Always play with nice focused sound and apply yourself. If you find your tone isn’t working in your pieces, come back playing Sonorité, slowing down the connection between notes.

Of course another important piece of the tone puzzle is the position of the lips. One can play one hour of Sonorité without a good embouchure position and you become tired. This is a dangerous way to practice. People tell me they don’t like playing Moyse scales because they are difficult and too tiring. If you are losing your embouchure after a few scales you are not flexible but tight and not doing it right! I often get asked how I can play all these virtuoso pieces for hours –so many notes from top to bottom with huge leaps and not miss the sound and hardly ever crack.  My advice is don’t squeeze the middle of the embouchure, don’t press so much with the lips. Relax, don’t be tight, and keep the corners of your lips down and no smiling embouchures! This is almost impossible to learn without a teacher because it needs constant adjustment in the beginning until you get it. It’s better to do less amounts but very well done than play all the scales with uneven sound. These are my ideas I learned by myself and following Jimmy (Sir James).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Interview with Flutist Raffaele Trevisani

Raffaele Trevisani
By September Payne, DMA; 
San Diego, California March 2011

September Payne recently sat down with Powell artist Raffaele Trevisani to discuss his training and tips for flute students.  We will post the interview in three sections, beginning with the first section below.  For more on Raffaele Trevisani, visit his Powell profile page at

September: Raffi, during Sir James Galway’s 1996 summer flute class in Weggis, we discovered how similar our ideas were in regards to tone, embouchure, Moyse and the French school. I had the opportunity to get to know your teaching and playing further as your invited assistant in your Milan Summer class and through hosting your San Diego master classes. Your developmental musical path was an interesting one.

Raffaele: Yes, my approach to the flute was unique, possibly unlike anyone else’s. Although there was music in the house and I played piano at a young age, I didn’t start the flute until 20 years old. I enrolled in a special school that offered a course for amateurs in Italy.  From that point, I began practicing all day because I wanted to be the best. My philosophy was: if you want to play the best, why not study from the best?

At the time, Jean-Pierre Rampal’s beautiful tone and his fantastic way of tonguing was the model. Then Jimmy (Sir James Galway) came on the scene. For me, he had something more precise. Of course, musically I liked Rampal’s playing very much. If you listen to his recordings, his phrasing is crazy incredible but I liked Jimmy’s (Sir James) tone the best. I found Julius Baker’s tone interesting too. For me, these are the great flute players and of course Marcel Moyse, but I did not hear him live as you did.

The first time I heard Jimmy (Sir James) perform was 1978. His musical presence and vibrant tone shocked me. As a lighter player, I realized I had to change embouchure to get this tone quality. The transition was not easy to impose on a developing career but I persevered and experimented to get it, which is why I can automatically identify the problems with student playing.

To learn more, I followed Jimmy (Sir James) across Europe, listened to his concerts and all the things he had to say about flute and life. Even now as a professional, I still go to his summer class each year to listen and play! Without a doubt I was (and still am) his biggest fan!

Even if you are a natural, this doesn’t mean everything. Jimmy (Sir James) is and Jean-Pierre Rampal was a natural with the shape of the lips and they know what to do with the sound. This was also Marcel Moyse’s philosophy. Talent by itself is nothing if you don’t apply yourself. If the sound is not right, even if you have very fast finger technique, this is not good enough. You have to hear all the notes clearly. One must develop the total package like Jimmy (Sir James); all the notes always in focus, all the time, in addition to very fast fingers.

In many ways, I  consider myself lucky because I was not trained by anyone else so I was free to do what I needed to embouchure-wise and to follow Jimmy (Sir James) around the world, as you did {September} with Marcel Moyse. Although I went to Maxence Larrieux’s Geneva class, I never studied repertoire in the way one does weekly, lesson after lesson. No! I trained myself on my own.

September: Some people say you sound like Sir James:  

Raffaele: I have my own style. Of course you can recognize the school of playing but I am proud to say I don’t imitate anyone. 

More to follow in the second installment of this three-part interview...

About September Payne: 

Dr. Payne is Adjunct Flute Professor/Assistant Lecturer of Music History, Emeritus at San Diego State University, Grossmont and Mesa Colleges. She is on the faculty at CICA International Summer Orchestral Music Festival in Arkansas and teaching assistant for Raffaele Trevisani Summer Course in Milan. Former positions include: the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Principal Flute Substitute, San Diego Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet, California Institute of Music, Director of Winds and Brass; San Diego’s Civic Youth Wind Ensemble, SDSU & Silver Whistles Flute Choir conductor. Dr. Payne founded "Music West, School” for young flutists, and co-founded “San Diego Coastal Flutes.” Ever committed to pedagogy, September served San Diego Flute Guild as President and belongs to many musical societies: Moyse Society, National Flute Association, The California Music Teachers Association, Mu Phi Epsilon and Kappa Phi.

Dr. Payne performed solo recitals throughout Canada, US & Europe and played with Colorado & Aspen, Banff Festival Orchestras, and the Boston Opera Co. Her education includes (MM) from Boston University and (DMA) from Rice University. Her mentors are the greatest artist of the 20th & 21st C, in both the French & American style of flute playing: Marcel Moyse, Jean- Pierre Rampal, Sir James Galway, Geoffrey Gilbert, Albert Tipton, Leone Buyse and Carol Wincenc. She is a specialist in Contemporary Canadian flute music, writing Canada’s 1st Catalogue of Contemporary Canadian Flute Music.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Great Teaching is a Creative Art

Customizing Teaching Techniques for Each Student
By Sandra Kipp

In a world of individuality, where we all strive to stand out among our peers, being able to customize our teaching techniques for our ever changing and diverse studios is more important than ever. Not only does it help to develop a reputation as an effective teacher, it also acknowledges that every student is different. The more creative we are in our teaching approach, the more quickly we will hear our student’s problems resolved, and we will inspire our students to think creatively on their own.
Sandra Kipp

Students may think differently, learn differently, and bring with them various experiences and learning approaches. Students are not made from a “cookie cutter” and neither should our teaching techniques. In fact, I love creating exercises on the spot that will help a student address their particular problems. In today’s society more so than any other time, young people are taught to be unique, to let their individuality shine, to stand out, and to not be afraid to be different. Many students will simply not respond to the same teaching and practice techniques that other students find effective.

I always tell my students that if your problem is not getting solved - if improvement isn’t noticeable quickly - you want to change your practice technique and try another approach. It can be very fun to create a practice technique to solve an issue, and so satisfying to then see the effect of the technique and the improvement. We all know that simple repetition of a difficult passage is often not enough to learn it thoroughly, and we all have our list of practice techniques to apply to tough passages. I think the greatest gift we can give our students, is the ability to diagnose problems and be creative in approaching them. If they know all of the techniques we use ourselves to fix musical problems, they will also understand the philosophy behind the techniques, and be able to create their own, not only helping themselves improve, but also preparing them to be effective teachers in the future.

Being a creative teacher is as important as being a creative performer!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What I Look for in a Prospective Student - Leone Buyse

© Leone Buyse, 2002 excerpted from remarks made on August
Leone Buyse
19, 2000 during a Pedagogy Panel presentation at the National Flute Association Convention in Columbus, Ohio.
  1. Innate musicality, which often manifests itself as a special “spark” that demonstrates musical imagination.
  2. A good ear. Of course an ear can be trained, but if a student is seeking chamber music or orchestral employment, naturally fine pitch recognition is a pre-requisite for first-rate ensemble playing.
  3. Excellent instrumental command for her or his age group. I currently have 2 DMAs, 2 second-year MMs, 2 first-year MMs, a senior, 2 sophomores, and a freshman. When they first auditioned I evaluated each on the basis of tone and vibrato production, finger technique, and articulation in comparison with their peers .
  4. A spirit that indicates drive, determination, and a passion for music and flute playing.
  5. Curiosity and flexibility. Over the years, I’ve found that the best students are those who genuinely want to try new ideas and give different viewpoints (whether a teacher’s or their peers’) a chance.
  6. Communication skills. These are so necessary in our profession, and can be taught to some extent, but some people have a better natural grasp of their importance. The world is a web–especially the music world– and a successful career is often dependent upon how well you can express yourself. An example of what gets my attention would be a letter, email, or phone call in which the inquiring student immediately identifies her or himself as being a student of so-and-so, briefly describes important successes to date, such as placing in a national competition, or attending a competitive summer festival, and explains how an interest in Rice developed. That approach gives me so much more to work from than the typical “Hello; I’d like to take a lesson sometime because I’m considering your school.”
  7. Good citizenship. In addition to honing fine communication skills, a musician needs to to understand the importance of being a supportive colleague. A music school is a world in its own right, and a studio is a microcosm within that world. When I am choosing potential new studio members, I imagine them as citizens of the Shepherd School flute community, people who will be asked to contribute not only in the orchestral program but also in weekly studio classes. There will always be prima donnas in our world, but I believe in encouraging and cultivating those students who have a unique musical message yet at the same time appreciate and celebrate the individual gifts of their peers.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Aldo Baerten - My Way to Music!

Aldo Baerten
As a small child, my parents, who both were amateur pianists (although my mother had also studied music, she became a history teacher) often took me to the children's concerts in Brussels which were then organized by the national orchestra with its most charismatic conductor. One day I must have heard and seen this shiny, bright, brilliant instrument in the middle of the orchestra and probably fell in love with it.  Who still REALLY remembers why he is playing an instrument? I loved the cello also very much, but as we did not have a cello teacher nearby, it became a bright and shiny flute.

As most of the kids in my country, I started out by just doing one full year of solfège (note-reading, singing, rhythms,...) without playing the instrument, but as the solfège teacher was very funny and hilarious, it was quite ok!  And then after one year, I could finally start the flute....which at first did not interest me more than any other kid. I would practice rather little to very little, and always got good grades, so I did not care too much and played a lot of tennis and read books.

What changed this whole way of being with music and flute playing, was my change of school!  At age 10, I moved to the European School in Brussels, which was originally a school for diplomat and EU-workers’ children, but they had a spot in their class, and I was accepted. It was a normal secondary school (with secondary school starting at age 11, but as I was a year early, I could already start my high school at age 10), with a particular point: it had loads of culture, going from music, over to theater, to chess club.

My great luck was to get into the musical course with an English teacher, himself a wonderful oboist who became a wonderful friend and supporter of mine -- Adrian Knott. This is the man who changed my life.  Not only were his music lessons interesting, full of passion, very active and most rewarding, but he was also the man behind all the musical activities in this school of 3500-students.  The school had a band, a school orchestra, a yearly operetta, a choir with parents and students, and lunchtime chamber music concerts.

So, very soon, he got me involved in most of these activities, which  I enjoyed very much, although he had to push me sometimes (as with any young kid) to not skip rehearsals. But what a joy, what an excitement to go on orchestra tours, to perform an operetta 3 evenings in a row, to play chamber music (often with himself playing the oboe), and to get possibilities to perform on my flute in recitals and even with orchestra! This was it !  But still, I had no idea I wanted to be a professional musican. I just had the joy of playing !!!!

By the end of my highschool however, around age 16, I was sure I was not going to be a musician at all, but rather a diplomat.  Being in a diplomat school showed me how interesting these lives could be, and I decided that I was (anyway) not good enough for the flute and would go to university to study political science.  But then hesitation came: could I live without this flute, without the music? And hesitation came even more when my future professor of the Brussels Conservatory told me I was talented and should pursue my path...what to do?

This question went on and on, even after I had passed my audition for the conservatory, and was accepted. In September I also applied for University in political science and was also accepted...and of course the decision became urgent...  I decided, one day before school would start to try music for a year and then, if it were not my path, I would switch. Music must be studied at a young age, and I could still become a diplomat later....but later became never !

After a very short stay at the Brussels Conservatory and graduation after only 2 years, I absolutely wanted to pursue my studies in another country.  I started to look around, applied for a few schools in Germany, and won a spot at the Hannover Musikhochschule (which I did not take) and at the Basel Academy of Music in Switzerland with my idol, the man with his unique tone and expressive, intelligent interpretations -- Prof. Peter-Lukas Graf! I still admire him today, and at age 83 he remains an example to me every day.

Four wonderful years were ahead of me, years of learning so much, sometimes struggling, but with incredible energy and passion guiding my path.  In those years I also won my first job (which I immediately left after a few weeks, because it conflicted too much with studying), played in the most marvellous youth orchestras (EUYO, SchleswigHolstein, WorldYouth Orchestra) under conductors I could only dream of such as Abbado and Haitink, and at the same time, I started teaching at a small music school nearby, going back and forth to Switzerland every week for my lessons at the Musikhochschule there.

After graduating with the Soloist Diploma, I was scared to death I would not be able to do anything with my flute ....I decided to  continue my studies with another of my idols, the principal flute of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Philippe Boucly, who I had heard in Brussels.  I admired his colourfoul playing, French and elegant, and his natural way of being with the flute and music!  I studied for another year with him in Munich, whilst I already won the audition and  began playing as Principal Flute in the Royal Flemish Philharmonic, now conducted by Maestro Edo de Waart.  Whilst playing there, I got in touch with my third idol and admired flute player, Jeanne Baxtresser, then the Principal Flute of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Every time she was in Europe, I would listen to her concerts, play for her, and learn from her! She is, was, and stays an example for me, with her gorgeous sound, her clear ideas, her wonderful warm playing and her humour.

A few years after I started playing in the orchestra, I became Professor at the Antwerp Conservatory, in the same city as my orchestra, and a few years later started simultaniously at the Utrecht University of Music, which is in Holland and where I usually go 2 days every two weeks.  My life now is divided by playing in the orchestra, which has 2 Principal Flute Players, and thus gives me time to do other things in life, such as chamber music, solo playing, lots of teaching, travelling with the flute around the world, swim and run, and occasionally relax, garden, cook, read and enjoy my great friends.

It is an overwhelming joy to share music and flute with many people around the world, with students coming from all different continents, to play with wonderful collegues and musicians, and above all, to enjoy this wonderful instrument which is the flute.  I am, till today, grateful for all those things which I've been able to learn from my wonderful teachers, my great collegues and music partners and the inspiring conductors of the different orchestras in which I’ve played.  Life is a never ending learning path...

And to make the circle round: a few months ago, I was staying at the Belgian Embassy in Canberra, Australia, where I was a Guest at the Australian Flute Festival.  The Ambassador and his wife love music, and their son plays the cello. After telling his Excellency about my « would-be diplomatic carreer » his answer was : it is never to late.....