Monday, December 17, 2012

When Do Notes Become Music?

Sandra Kipp
By Sandra Kipp

I think it is very important to teach our students that simply playing the correct notes and rhythms with some emotion doesn’t create “music.” Music is an art, not ink dots on a page. Music existed for centuries before anyone decided to write it down. Music was passed on and taught from teacher to student, professional to apprentice, parent to child, by listening and playing, not by handing each other a piece of paper. I see too many flutists move from one solo to another as soon as they have what I call the first four levels of music: notes, rhythms, articulations, and dynamics. But until a student gets to the fifth level – musicality, interpretation, and phrasing – it isn’t music and it isn’t finished!

I have used many analogies to help my students understand the importance of getting passed the first four levels of music to the level of true art. A good analogy may help this concept be more thoroughly understood by students, rather than a teacher simply saying, “You are not finished with this piece.” Here are two of my favorite analogies:

A “Recipe” for Musicality
Written music is not unlike a recipe in the culinary arts. A recipe is a piece of paper; a recipe is not a plate of lasagna, a slice of cake, or a bowl of soup. A recipe contains a list of all the necessary ingredients and instructions on how to create the culinary delight. But until a cook (or in my case, a person with a microwave) buys and combines the ingredients and follows the instructions, it is just a piece of paper with ink on it. Sheet music is not music; it is a piece of paper with ink on it. It has instructions of what notes to play, how long to play them, how fast or slow, how loud or soft, how accented or smooth, but it doesn’t contain the character, the emotion, or the art until a musician learns and combines all of the necessary ingredients and breathes life into. To whet the appetite of your audience and feel personally satisfied, you must present an artistic performance with all the character and emotion the composer intended us to present. Remember, the composer first conceived of the work in his heart and mind before writing down a recipe on paper for musicians to interpret. Don’t settle for being a fast food cook, be a musical culinary gourmet chef!!!!!

“The Theatrical Side of Music”
Anyone can pick up a script or play and read the words aloud. But just reading the correct words doesn’t make a person an actor. I do a humorous demonstration of a bad actor reading her lines and having no ability to create a feeling or mood, or even worse, creating a completely different emotion than what the writer intended. And I ask my students, “Does reading these words make me an actor?” Of course, the answer is “No!” Actors will often ask their directors, “What is my motivation in this scene?” The actor needs to know what feelings or emotions are intended. She needs to know what type of effect her character is intended to have on the audience. Great musicians are actors. We need to know what emotions or character the composer intended and within this framework be able to also add our own character. Just reading the words does not make a performer an actor. Just playing the correct notes does not make a performer a musician. The great news is that when we truly reach an artistic level with a piece, there is nothing as wonderfully satisfying for us as performers or for our audience! Making music truly makes us artists!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interview with Leone Buyse

Leone Buyse
Who was your most influential teacher?  Why?
It's really impossible to say who my most influential teacher was because each of my major teachers (David Berman, Joseph Mariano, Michel Debost, and Jean-Pierre Rampal) encouraged my musical development in his own unique and very inspiring way.  My one summer master class with Marcel Moyse in Boswil, Switzerland, was also pivotal in my growth, even though it was only three weeks.

Do you have any “pre-concert” preparations or traditions that you follow?
On the day of a concert I follow a fairly careful dietary regimen, avoiding caffeine and sugar. If my performance is in the evening I'll eat a fairly substantial meal in the early afternoon and then have scrambled eggs a couple of hours before playing. I also try to do a few minutes of yoga, and (if I have the time) to power walk and take a refreshing shower in the late afternoon.

Is there a concert or teaching experience that most stands out to you in your career? 
Being summoned from a Symphony Hall audience and asked to sub on piccolo during a Boston Symphony concert in February of 1995 was an unexpected highlight of my professional life.  
At the time I was teaching at the University of Michigan and visiting Boston after having just performed a concert and master class at the Hartt School. Leon Fleisher was soloist in a new Lukas Foss concerto that evening, and remembered the location of my comp "retiree" seat so that an usher could contact me while Ozawa was conducting a work for string orchestra. The repertoire that night also included Dukas' "Sorcerer's Apprentice" and Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe," and piccoloist Geralyn Coticone had been stricken with stomach flu at 7:20 PM.  Apparently every freelance flutist whom the personnel office contacted had declined the opportunity to perform those challenging works without rehearsal for a Symphony Hall audience, so I was the orchestra's last hope...

I had exactly 40 minutes to practice on a borrowed piccolo after changing from street clothes into the black suit Ozawa's personal assistant happened to be wearing.  (Fortunately we wore the same size!). When I arrived onstage during intermission Fenwick oriented me to various tempi and then Ozawa made his entrance. The concert ended with Daphnis, and I'm sure the audience wondered why Ozawa saved the final bow for the piccolo player, and also why the orchestra then began applauding wildly. I received a special review by Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe and a generous check from my former employer for helping out in an unexpected crisis. It was a delight to be back onstage with my friends playing such thrilling symphonic repertoire, and it was also proof that music learned really well can remain in one's fingers and retrieved at a moment's notice when necessary!

What piece of advice would you give flutists who are trying to establish a career in music?
Discover your own strengths and devise ways to share them and your passion for music. There is no one else with your unique contribution of attributes, and you must believe that that you can truly make a difference in our world.

What CD is in your CD player right now? (Or what playlist is your favorite on your iPod?)
This may sound strange, but I tend not to listen a lot to music on a regular basis.  Much of each day is spent hearing others play in lessons or masterclasses or listening to myself practice, and my ears need a break in order to stay fresh. I do listen to classical repertoire that I'm curious about, and my taste in music runs from classical to ethnic (Tuvan thorat singing, for example) to jazz and country (I live in Texas, after all!). I even enjoy some of my stepson's heavy metal and guitar virtuosos, such as Steve Vai.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Healing Powers with Royalton Music

Many local music retailers have had long-standing relationships with the school districts in their communities, but there is one particular retailer that has expanded its programs to fully serve the diversified populations in its community -- Royalton Music Center (RMC).  Located in North Royalton, Ohio, the store opened its doors 48 years ago and has remained a thriving, family-run business for three generations.  Owner and Chief Operating Officer, Lauren Haas Amanfoh, recalled that her grandfather, Richard Eleck, opened the store to serve the greater musical needs of the community.  Mr. Eleck was a band director at St. Albert’s Parish School and opened the store with the help of his wife, Ida.  Lauren is now the third-generation owner of the store and spoke to us in-depth about one program in particular that is very close to her personally – their music therapy program.

Lauren Haas Amanfoh at Royalton Music Center
Lauren’s mother, Sheri Eleck-Haas, began the music therapy program at RMC fifteen years ago.  At the time, Sheri was the second-generation owner of the family business and greatly believed in the value and proven benefits of music therapy programs.  She recognized that through music therapy and the application of musical methods, many clients with disabilities were able to achieve other life-changing goals as well.  For example, songs help Alzheimer’s patients recall memories.  Other participants who may have never spoken before utter their first words through singing.  Lauren emphasized that music therapy is so powerful because the goals are not just musical – the changes affect the lives of participants and their families – which Lauren witnessed first-hand recently.  In 2009, Lauren’s mother, Sheri, was fighting breast cancer and receiving inpatient treatment at the Cleveland Clinic, ultimately unable to sit-up or talk because of her condition.  She was in constant pain, for which she was connected to a pain pump machine to receive pain medication, and constant oxygen.  Lauren remembered coming into the room to visit her mother at the hospital one day, and she could not believe her eyes:  her mother was sitting with a music therapist – sitting up by herself in a chair – and singing Barbara Streisand songs.  Sheri always loved music, so music therapy was extremely beneficial to her personally, psychologically, and physically.  After this particular session, Lauren recalled that her mother was free of pain for 30 to 45 minutes.  Lauren said, “I always believed in music therapy, but seeing its effect with my own eyes, with my own mother, was unbelievable.”  She mentioned that she had seen the changes with other clients, but stated, “Seeing it work for my mother reaffirmed my beliefs and devotion to music therapy because it made a difference for my mother when nothing else did.  It really was life-changing.”

Sadly, Lauren’s mother passed away later that year on Christmas Day, but Lauren is grateful that her mother was able to personally benefit from a program that was so meaningful to her.  The music therapy program at Royalton Music began with one client, and the store’s program now serves about 35 to 40 clients per month.  RMC works with three music therapists: one for adults with brain trauma, and two for children with conditions such as Down Syndrome, Autism, and speech delay.  All three therapists are board certified and offer 30, 45, and 60-minute sessions.   Program sessions are offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and as Lauren shared, “the therapists get booked up pretty quickly!”  She says that the program is not heavily promoted, but rather has grown “organically” (by advertising on their website, in the store, and by word-of-mouth).  Participants also have the opportunity to cover costs through funding subsidized by the county – similar to flex spending offered by some medical insurance plans.

Participants in RMC’s music therapy program enjoy sessions in a dedicated music therapy room at the store.  This space is equipped with a piano and other traditional instruments as well as adaptive instruments (including guitars, keyboards, and percussion instruments).  Those in the program also have the opportunity to perform in recitals, much like students in Royalton’s private lesson program.  Recently, music therapy and private lesson students performed on integrated recitals, which Lauren said have been very well-received.  

Royalton Music Center’s music therapy program is one of several educational offerings at the store.  Lauren explained that there is “the educational side of the store and the retail side of the store.”  On the retail side, they have grown and expanded, offering sales, rentals, and displaying at trade shows throughout the country.  On the educational side, there are programs for everyone.  Royalton Music offers The Music Class for infants to 5-year-old children who attend with their parents.  This particular program is offered three times a week and is growing rapidly.  In addition to their private lesson program which is comprised of over 40 instructors who teach more than 500 students each week, Royalton Music also provides group lessons, summer music camps, and ensembles – including a jazz band, rock band, and a Montessori-based wind band.  We can only imagine how many lives have been enriched by their programs.  This remarkable family business will undoubtedly thrive as it continues to bring music into the lives of those who seek it – and those who may once have considered it only a dream, but never a reality.