Like many other flutists, I was wowed by Greg Patillo’s beatboxing on YouTube, and when I found out that he had written a piece for the NFA High School Artist Competition, Three Beats for Beatbox Flute, I was determined to learn it. Because I had already played a lot of contemporary music that used extended flute techniques and was used to making percussive sounds with my mouth, I thought that this was not going to be too difficult for me. Was I wrong!!! I bought the piece last summer and thought it would be nice to include at least some of it on my faculty recital at LSU in Sept. As I started working on it, I recorded myself, but when I listened back, what I was doing wasn’t anything like the sounds made by Patillo on YouTube or even 15-year-old Annie Wu, the girl who won the NFA High School Competition in 2011. So, I decided I needed to start in a more basic way. I went to Patillo’s Beatboxing 101 video on YouTube and learned some basic beatbox sounds and starting practicing them as I was walking around the house. This was very annoying for my husband. “Must you do that?” he would ask, to which I replied, “I must”. I also watched other people’s videos of plain beatboxing without a flute. Eventually, I came back to the piece itself, but this time, I used a metronome at a ridiculously slow subdivided tempo and I slogged through it. Once I started doing that, it got a bit better, and I slowly increased the tempo. In an article I read, Patillo suggests playing small parts of the piece in a loop until you get it.
I performed the first movement of the piece at the end of my faculty recital on Sept. 9th. It did not go so well, but the audience really liked it. I kept practicing and did it again at the University of Michigan when Amy Porter invited me to do a recital and class there in mid-September. It went much better. Encouraged, I started working on the third movement, and was able to add that one when I performed at Mount Holyoke College in early November. I performed that movement again at another concert in Baton Rouge in January of this year. I am now working on the second movement, which I think is the most difficult because one must add a little singing to the mix. I have done a lot of singing and playing, but playing one note and singing another while beatboxing seems to be very difficult for me.
Once I learn the entire piece, I want to go to New York sometime to have a lesson with Patillo. I am sure that I am still doing things wrong. I tend to slow down, get hyperventilated, and I cannot use a microphone because my beatbox sounds are too loud!! But I am having a lot of fun with this and so glad to be able to do it at all. I encourage others to give it a go.