Wednesday, January 9, 2013


By Andrea Fisher aka Fluterscooter

Fluterscooter (Andrea Fisher)
I recently did a Skype clinic for the Southeastern Pa. Flute Festival from my apartment in Tokyo, speaking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the music world.  The term “flutrepreneur” was coined, and it can apply to my career and many flutists’ careers nowadays.  I recently performed my Japanese debut, where not only did I perform, I also acted as producer, arranger, booking agent, publicist, stylist, you name it!  Putting together a show from start to finish in a foreign city is no easy task, and it can be very frustrating at times.  As much as I wished I could just be practicing my music, I had to do the jobs of contacting press, designing flyers, advertising, finding local musicians, technology, scheduling, and arranging music.  However, in the end, I was proud that I did it all myself and that it was a success!

Goal: to build a concert program that will entertain people who have never listened to classical music and they won’t realize they’re listening to classical music.  Also to collaborate with other forms of art, such as visual art and dance.  “Fluterscooter presents: The Fast and the Fluterious: Tokyo Drift” was anything but a typical flute recital. 

When putting together this show, I first searched the web to find an eclectric group of  Tokyo-based artists.  I knew I wanted to work with live art so the concert-goers would have a visual experience as well.  I found a light painter, who actually used LED lights to paint pictures, live, while I played.  I had always wanted to play with a Taiko drummer, and I picked up the Japanese shinobue flute on my last visit to Japan.  We played an original piece for shinobue and Taiko.   I had met a beatboxer/“mouth musician” on my last trip as well, and we stayed in touch.  I arranged Flight of the Bumblebee and Paganini’s 24th Caprice for us to play in a hiphop style, also with a DJ scratching.  I also wanted to include music written by flutists, so I chose Greg Pattillo’s “1st Beat,” and Flutronix’ “Aware,” both written in the past year.  I wanted some minimalist classical to go with the art, so I arranged Arvo Part’s Fratres, originally for violin, for flute.  I also threw in some covers, opening with a tune from dubstep producer Skrillex and finishing the show with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” complete with backup dancers and choreography.

I wanted the concert program to be a fluid, flowing piece of art, with virtually no stopping between pieces.  All music was memorized to avoid any clunky music stands on stage.  I believe that a show must be both sonically and aesthetically pleasing.  I had a beginning “electronic” section, then a “hiphop/beatbox” one, then a minimalist interlude where audience members could actually play with the LED lights and draw while I played, and ended with pop music.   I like audience participation so the audience does not feel removed from the music and musicians.  This is one way to break down the traditional stereotype of classical music, which is that it is inaccessible to the public.  It’s like doing a concert in the format of a Lady Gaga show and tricking the audience so that they don’t realize they just saw a FLUTE show!

Incorporating technology is equally as important in today’s world when doing a show.  Since I was a student at Juilliard, I’ve been an advocate of using technology in performance.  For my graduation recital 8 years ago, I was already making videos to accompany me (I played Steve Reich’s “Vermont Counterpoint” with a background video showing all the flute parts I played in nature) and learning programs such as MAX and Ableton for live and Protools for producing background tracks.

Lets talk about arrangements.  We all know what music speaks to us, and sometimes it’s not always flute music!  There is great repertoire for string instruments, piano, pop music that can work really well with flute.  You just have to be creative.  I’ve always loved Michael Jackson’s music.  For “Thriller,” I bought the instrumental track from ITunes and played the vocal lines, and the flute actually sounds really great in that song.  Who knew?  Find some songs you love and make unique covers out of them.

Adding extra artistic elements to the performance such as live art and dance also adds to the value of the show.  I learned choreography and worked with backup dancers for the first time.  I actually played flute and danced at the same time; yes, it’s possible!  It definitely took a lot more rehearsal time, but if you want to achieve a certain look, it must be done.

After putting the music and performers together, it was time to do the “busy work,” aka the tedious stuff.  Working with Photoshop, IMovie, writing press releases, etc…

First, start with a title and logo.  Coming up with a catchy title and graphics to match, like “Fluterscooter presents:The Fast and the Fluterious,” gave potential concert-goers an idea of what to expect at the show.  Would as many have come or paid attention to it if I had named it “Andrea Fisher in recital?” with no graphics attached? I had a brief introduction to Photoshop in order to achieve the look I wanted for the online and physical flyers. After deciding on the title and graphics, it is important to write a good description of what the show is about, as well as who you are as a performer, especially in a new city.  Combining the description, a good photo, and show flyer is a press release.  Always keep it simple as possible.

The next step was something I actually learned from hiphop artists.  Many of them post “behind the scenes” videos on youtube to show fans their process for writing a song, rehearsing, and their day to day life.  I filmed 2 of my rehearsals as previews of what to expect at the show.  They showed myself  rehearsing and talking with the beatboxer and Taiko drummer.   By doing behind the scenes videos, it also makes fans feel that they know you better.  Of course, I had to learn IMovie for editing the footage! I then promoted them mostly through facebook, twitter, and blogs.

After the press release and videos are done, contact the press!  This was not easy at first, as most online newspapers, magazines, and radio do not include personal emails of the writers.  So I went to twitter and facebook to look them up.  After facebooking/tweeting them, asking where I can send my press release and video clips, they were happy to give me their email addresses.  My first interview was for a popular podcast called Tokyo Metpod.  After I had the footage from the podcast, I sent out to newspapers and magazines, and I ended up with features both in Time Out Tokyo and the Japan Times.

The importance of networking played a large role in the success of this show.  I had the Apple Store in Ginza as the venue.  Since I had played there before, I kept in touch with the event coordinator through Facebook, and when I told him I’d be interested in doing an event in Tokyo, he was more than welcome to book me.  I think it is always important to stay in touch with the event coordinators from any gig you may play on, because you never know when you will need a venue for your own show.

I made sure to have the show filmed by a videographer, and he then made a short documentary-style video from his footage that I can use to book future shows.  As far as future shows, I will produce them in the same vein as my debut, but on a bigger level each time.  With all the technology at our fingertips, there is so much we can learn and add to our art.  

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