Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Iron Vivi"

By Viviana Cumplido Wilson

So I’ve been asked to write about my “athletic” side and I can’t help but giggle a little because if you’d asked my parents to describe me growing up, anything even remotely sounding like “athlete” (even mathlete) never would’ve made the list. When I ran my first half marathon in 2007, my mom was super worried that I might suffer a heart attack and die during the race, despite my being a perfectly healthy 26 year old. As you may have guessed, the Cumplidos are not an athletic people. So, how’d this happen? Not gonna lie, part of my attraction to running and eventually triathlons was the fact that it was SO unexpected of me, but the more I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Having the discipline to train for a race is very similar to the discipline required to practice and excel at a musical instrument. This is a skill that we as musicians have known most of our lives so applying it to new field required little to no translation. 
Races are also a competitive event and guess who loves competitions? This girl! However, let’s be real, as an amateur runner/triathlete, I’m not winning *anything*, it’s more so a competition of personal improvement- not unlike our respective musical journeys. Let’s face it, music is not something you really win at. Yes you can win a competition or win an audition but you’re being evaluated on subjective criteria and we’ve all had the experience when you feel like you did everything “right” and played your best and yet, you still didn’t get the win. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I find great personal and professional satisfaction from a successful performance. But…every once in a while, I need a clear cut win and that’s where racing comes in. It’s objective, scientific, and plays to my competitive heartstrings. If you follow a training plan (and stay healthy/injury free) you will most likely achieve your goal. Granted, my race goals are usually just to finish with a smile on my face but my competitive spirit will often kick in. I'll then make more ambitious goals; a faster time, a longer distance. I started running in 2006 when I joined The Phoenix Symphony and I quickly made friends with several runners in the orchestra. They showed me the ropes and before I knew it I was signed up for a 5k, 10k, and half marathon! Since then I’ve completed 5 marathons, 2 half Ironman triathlons, several half marathons, Olympic distance triathlons and countless shorter distance races. Do I love racing more than music? Absolutely not. I just find it to be the perfect complement to my artistic career resulting in a very healthy and much needed balance. Last November I reached my greatest athletic achievement and completed Ironman Arizona (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) with a finish time of 14 hours 19 minutes and 37 seconds but most importantly, with a giant smile on my face. WIN.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Keep it Positive

By Cynthia Ellis

When teaching, tell students what TO do as opposed to what NOT to do.  I constantly hear teachers telling students negative commands: Don't tongue sloppy, Don't breathe there. How much easier is it to learn when a student hears: "Try tonguing like this" (and then show an aural example and explain what you are doing) or "Consider breathing here because the phrase is longer, if you need a catch breath, try this spot instead." Another positive comment about breathing might be "consider playing softer so you can make the long phrase and as you get confidence, play a little louder."  Notice the difference in your own reaction to reading a negative command based statement versus a positive solution based statement.  Good teaching is positive and supportive, and does not break down the student. There are times to 'wake up' a recalcitrant student, but again, keeping it positive and kind is always the best choice.

*Note - This article first appeared on the "Teaching Tips" section of Cindy Ellis's website.

For more on Cindy, visit her Powell artist profile page, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Making of Flute N Float

By Andrea (Fluterscooter) Fisher

(edited from “The Making of Hologram Fluterscooter,” originally published by The Flute View. August 2014.)

I had just finished performing my debut show at The Apple Store in Tokyo when I heard about the infamous 2Pac hologram at the Coachella Music Festival. After watching the YouTube video several times, and coming off an amazing performance where I involved a live light painter to create still and moving visuals as I played, I had an idea to take this performance to the next level: create a hologram of myself! and be able to play with and against a virtual version(s) of myself! What did that mean exactly? I didn’t know at the time how, where, when, who I’d be working with, but I was determined to make it happen!

Last fall, I finally decided it was the time to start working on this project. Now living back in the states, I started my online research about how holograms work. With all the buzz circulating about the 2Pac hologram, it was not difficult to find out what specific tech was used and how it was projected. It was also not difficult to find out how expensive it was to project a hologram for just 3 minutes. As an independent artist, finding $30,000 for a 3 minute performance didn’t seem worth it, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I began contacting all distributors of the Musion “Eyeliner” Technology (the technology that is needed to create the hologram effect) from New York to Los Angeles to their headquarters in London with a short description of my ideas as well as some sample pieces and my visions of how they would being performed. The London office was the most receptive and encouraging to me, recognizing the creativity in my project. Unfortunately the American companies just wanted money and weren’t interested…that was actually no surprise to me.

I was about to go to London and start meeting with the company to figure how to make my idea a reality, when I suddenly was called back to Japan for a month’s worth of concerts and teaching. They referred me to the sister company in Tokyo, StudioTED, and I showed them the press on my Apple Store show, and they were immediately interested in meeting with me while I was in Japan. I was so excited to start this project, even if it had to be in Tokyo!

My full show idea was over an hour long, where the visuals from each piece would melt into the next piece, creating a seamless visual and musical performance. Some music would be more traditional and contemporary flute music, and some would be commissioned by composers to write specifically for the event. After many meetings discussing how we could realistically put this show together, we decided to cut it to 20 minutes (4 pieces) and perform as a showcase in the studio showroom to attract sponsors and investors to book a larger show. Of course I wanted to do the full show, but the cost would have been very high for the company to put together and get a proper venue.

Fast forward to this past spring: I was back in Japan for more concerts (yes, I do most of my performing in Japan!) For the showcase, we chose Saint-Saens’ Aquarium which I arranged for 3 flutes, Robert Aitken’s Icicle, Debussy’s Syrinx (arranged for 3 flutes), and finishing with the first half of Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint. Did I mention everyone in the company reads music and one is even a composer? That definitely helps with the process! Not all the pieces would be with hologram, but holographic content would be used for background visuals. We drafted up a visual storyboard of how and where the holograms would be placed on the stage.

We booked 2 days for a video shoot in their showroom, where I would record each hologram separately for each piece. I had to choose costumes for each one, too, so I also had to wear the stylist hat, too! My Syrinx costumes were obviously Syrinx and Pan, and one of the women on the team even made me handmade goat horns for the Pan costume.  Since it’s a visual performance more than anything, costumes, makeup, hair are of equal importance as the music. And since I don’t do my own hair, one of the team members happened to do hair, so I lucked out there too!

Now that the video shoot was done, we kept exchanging emails and having Skype sessions about next steps. Getting a solid invite list was the next step as well as starting rehearsals, so I booked another trip to Japan late this July (and just returned a few days ago) to have some meetings regarding invite lists and rehearsals. What most people don’t realize about the hologram effect is that when the live performer is on stage, they do not actually see the hologram; it is like looking into water and seeing reflections. I am doing some minimal choreography to interact with the other holograms, so getting used to looking down rather than across was a challenge!

One more trip to Tokyo was left, and this time it was showtime!  A few weeks prior to the show, I hired a project manager (and translator between StudioTED and myself) in Tokyo to bring some key people to the event, people that could potentially sponsor a bigger full show in a larger space.  The turn out was great, and without the project manager, it would have been difficult for me to get the proper people in the audience.

On September 25, 2014, I presented 2 showcases of Flute N Float as a private event in the StudioTED showroom in Tokyo.   I only arrived in Tokyo on September 23, and the 24th was a full tech rehearsal day.  We did everything from sound, interacting with the holograms (knowing their placement on stage in relation to myself), costuming, and cueing music.  It was difficult to do in such a short amount of time, especially to memorize where the holograms are on stage AND having to memorize the music.  On the 25th, we had dress rehearsals all day, and then presented the shows in the evening.  It was so much fun, and I’m honestly surprised it was pulled off without a hitch!

I recently had a conversation with Juilliard’s Entrepreneurship director about this show and the steps I had to take to finally make it happen…about doing whatever it takes to transform an idea into a reality, even if it means trips back and forth to Tokyo. As performing artists these days, we can use all of the world as our platform, our audience, and our collaborators. There are no limits!

The video of the full live show has been done, and it will be available for download on in November 2014.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Christina Jennings -- the History of Her Powell Flutes

Christina Jennings
We recently asked Powell artist Christina Jennings to tell us more about the Powell flutes she plays -- the options and specs, how she chose them, and a bit about their history.  Ms. Jennings shared the following about her two very special Powells...
Serial Number: 4682
Completion Date:
Sterling silver, soldered tone holes, .014" tubing, Cooper Scale, A-440, French cups, B foot with gizmo, in-line G, D# roller
Handmade Custom Metal Flute

Serial Number: 11367
Completion Date:
Sterling silver, soldered tone holes, .018" tubing, Modern Powell Scale, A-442, French cups, B foot with gizmo, offset G, split-E, C# trill, D# roller
Handmade Custom Metal Flute

I am the guardian of two special Powell flutes: number 4682 and 11367. Each flute came to me with a beautiful tone, an easy feel, and also an inherited legacy.

When I was thirteen, I came home from school to find that a complete stranger had bequeathed to me a 1976 Powell. The generosity of such a gift has continued to amaze me. This flute belonged to Evelyn Hansen Hurd, a resident of Hanover, NH, close to by hometown of Norwich, VT. Mrs. Hurd, a reference librarian at Baker Library at Dartmouth College, was also active in this thriving musical scene. She attended a performance of the Upper Valley Flute Choir in which I played the solo part to La Primavera, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Shortly after this performance, Mrs. Hurd, who had been battling cancer, was hospitalized and died. The memory I have of her funeral was of a cold spring day, and the beauty of this flute as it sang out the mournful Siciliana from the Bach E-Flat Major flute sonata.

With this spectacular instrument I played my Juilliard audition, performed aboard the QE2, debuted a solo recital at Carnegie Hall, and recorded my first CD Winter Spirits. This remarkable gift truly helped me find voice as a flutist.

Some fifteen years later, I became interested in exploring flutes with a deeper more expansive sound and with the addition of a C# trill key, off set G, and split E. I found such a flute in 2003 through Anne Pollack. The deeper sound, fluidity of the scale, and the power of the low register were among the aspects that impressed me. Anne explained that the flute belonged to a Boston doctor who purchased it shortly after his terminal diagnoses of cancer. This man was, Howard Blume, M.D, P.H.D chief of the Neurosurgery at Beth Israel/Deconess Hospital in Boston, on a clinical appointment with Harvard Medical School, and a dedicated physician and surgeon. Howard was also an accomplished flutist whose love of music began when he first picked up a flute as a young boy. During the last six weeks of his life, the flute became everything to Howard, and he dropped all other professional work and consumed himself in the research, purchase, and study of the flute. His widow Betty told me “I don't know how to say how important that flute was to him in the months of his illness.  It was an expression of his continuing hope -- his continuing insistence on making sense - of creating challenge for himself -- in the face of that terrible diagnosis.”

The spirits of Mrs. Hurd and Dr. Blume are alive in these wonderful instruments I am privileged to play.
*To learn more about Christina Jennings, click here to visit her website and here for her Powell Artist Profile Page.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Coreisa's Conservatory

Coreisa trying her new Powell Conservatory. Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal/ "The Meredith Vieira Show."

Last Friday, Coreisa Janelle Lee experienced many surprises -- including the gift of a new flute -- on national television!  Ms. Lee is a sophomore at the Manhattan School of Music and had dreamed of owning a Powell Handmade Conservatory Aurumite® 9k flute.  Coreisa had been playing the same student flute since the 8th grade, and ownership of a Powell seemed like a mere dream given her economic circumstances.

Luckily, Ms. Lee shared her dream with The Meredith Vieira Show and the show's producers contacted us here at Powell.  We agreed to help Coreisa with the gift of a Powell
Conservatory built to her exact specifications.  It was a bit tricky to get the specs from her without spoiling the surprise, but with the help of the show's producers who were in contact with Coreisa, we got them!  The flute was made and hand-carried to the show's producers at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center just a few days before the taping.

The day the show aired, September 26th, we gathered around to watch the clip here in the office and were thrilled for Coreisa.  If you missed the clip, follow this link to view it.  Amidst all the excitement, we were anxious to get in touch with Coreisa and find out how she liked her new flute!  In the section below, she described some of the qualities she enjoys about it the most -- and the story behind its name...
My new Powell Aurumite Conservatory Flute, which I have yet to name - some say name it Meredith, some say name it Ferrari because my last flute was named Mercedes. I'm not sure. - it's one of a kind. I have tried many flutes but never felt as natural as I feel when I'm playing the one that I received from Powell on the Meredith Vieira Show. I can not seem to stop playing on it. It just makes me so very happy!
On October 6th, I will be performing at the Harmonie Club here in New York City. For that performance I will be playing Benjamin Godard's "Valse" from his Suite of Three Pieces. In this piece there are moments where I have to play scalar runs starting from the low register all the way to the high third register. When ever I get to these moments, I get this sense of soaring. It really feels as if I'm playing on two flutes - feeling the warmth of a gold flute, while having the brilliance of a silver flute - this flute is amazing! The low register is very warm and so well spoken, while the high register makes me feel as if I am Anna Netrebko beautifully/brilliantly singing my high notes. Gosh, it's just a wonderful flute!
You know, I think I will name my flute Cadence because a cadence is a very important/special moment in a classical piece of music. It is the most highlighted part of a phrase as well as the most important because it establishes the key. This makes me think of how I acquired my new flute. Being surprised by coming on The Meredith Vieira Show and receiving an amazing flute will forever be a special moment in my life. It will also be the most important moment because I feel unstoppable. I just established myself as an aspiring professional musician and that is what I will be! Every time I play "Cadence" I will be filled with so much joy! Thank you so much Powell for working alongside Meredith Vieira and giving me the flute of my dreams!