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I have been giving flute lessons via Skype for going on 3 years now.  I have found it an incredible asset and a great tool for teaching.

Biggest lessons:

Teaching via Skype is not best for beginners

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This article comes from my former flute professor, Dr. Roger Martin, the Professor of Flute at Tennessee Techonological Unviersity in Cookeville, Tennessee, where I got my Bachelor’s in Flute Performance. During my last few years there, we knew he had started to develop a strange problem – his fingers wouldn’t do what he “told” them to do. We knew he was immensely frustrated with this and I am so glad he has written about his experiences. Focal Dystonia is a mysterious and much misunderstood problem and I reprint his article here with his permission.  You can find out more about the TTU Flute Studio by going to their website: ttuflutestudio.yolasite.com

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Having just moved to a new area, I now have a studio of about 24 students and growing – come from an area where getting students was like pulling teeth, being inundated with this many students is not only wonderful but can also be a little overwhelming with trying to keep track of all the finances.   To any other music teacher who understands the frustration and confusion of having a large studio (or heck, of having a studio period) keeping track of student’s information, their payment status, who owes what when, who’s working on what, what school is out for fall or spring break at what time, etc. can be exhausting work.

I have found a lifesaving solution. Seriously,it’s taken the hassle out of running a studio and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a look over.  It even comes with a 30 day Free trial!  After one week I was sold, you just might be, too.
The site is called Music Teacher’s Helper.com

The site seriously does it all…

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The Quest for Identity

September 8, 2012

Identity.

Who Am I?  Who do I want to be? What do I want to be “when I grow up”?

Do I have to know?

It’s a tough thought and one I thought I had figured out.  Well, “pride comes before a fall” so says the Good Book, and while I wouldn’t say I’ve fallen, I could definitely say identity is something I”ve been struggling with as of late and could be in the considerable throes of “who am I” syndrome currently.

I don’t mean “who am I” in the hippie, new-agey,  be-one-with-the-universe type way  (though if you are, by all means, rock the identity quest!), but  more in the sense of defining my career, my life, giving myself a solid path, instead of feeling like I’m sliding on marbles going in a thousand directions.

This last year has been a year of upheaval, in a good way.  About February, we made the decision for me to move from Panama City, FL to Nashville, TN.  I have wanted to do this for so long and to keep from going into messy details, I’m thrilled it happened.  I have spent the past five years in PC with my hubby, trying to forge a music career and then a fitness career in a tourist city.

It failed.

Or did it?

Honestly, that’s a bit harsh, I DIDN’T fail.  In fact, I succeeded in the sense that I found out that even in areas where there isn’t a lot of culture, education or desire for healthy living, that I can succeed.  I succeeded in that I really learned the meaning of hard work, of entrepreneurship and in the struggles of trying to make ends meet, in a new city, with a new husband, with no family or friends nearby, in a tourist city where the most popular careers are bartender, restaurant owner, charterboat captain  or selling beach umbrellas to half-naked, completely drunk Spring Breakers, that I did what I could and I find an identity for myself.  Living there forced me to figure out what I wanted to do because performing in an area like that was not a viable option, the demand wasn’t there.  I succeeded by finding a way to merge a second passion into my first passion and create a career.

The road less traveled

When I graduated from grad school with my second degree in flute performance I really had no idea what I was going to do. In fact, I didn’t care.  I got married 6 days after graduation and I said “I’m going to take a break. I’m going to rest and be a housewife for awhile”.  I did.  I was also bored to death within 6 weeks.  Living in a tiny city with nothing to do and no friends, I had nothing to do and you can only clean an apartment so many times. Don’t get  me wrong, I LOVED being married and being domestic, but this girl was born to move, to work, to keep busy and I HAD to find some work.

Hubby was cool with it, but I guess he didn’t realize HOW bored I was, because within 6 months I was working two retail jobs.  The extra money allowed us to go on an anniversary cruise with my parents (1-year for us, 25 years or so for them) which was great, but it also meant I wasn’t getting enough sleep, the hubs and I barely saw each other and practicing? Why? Forget it, no time, and honestly, no reason.  I had joined the local community orchestra which, to give credit, is better than a normal community orchestra, but coming from one of the top 5 public music schools in the nation, it wouldn’t have mattered what I had done, I would have been bored, everything was too easy.  I was able to get a job teaching adjunct at the local college, and I thought “great, I can give a recital!” which I did, and it was nice to have a goal again.  However, when I went back to the dean to talk about doing another recital she told me “I don’t think you realize the level of work that’s involved.  Recitals have to be staffed.” I’m sorry, isn’t that your JOB?  Needless to say, another recital didn’t happen.

During all of this, I let my passion for fitness take over.  I started training much more frequently and doing a lot of research. I decided to get my first personal training certification. Things really came together at the Florida Flute Association convention. I gave my first presentation titled: “From the practice room to the weight room: weightlifting for flutists”.  I found that quite a few people were interested in what I had to say and one woman asked me “do you travel to teach your workshops?”  She was the one who inspired me to create a brochure, design more workshops and really get the ball rolling on fusing my loves of fitness and music together.

Music Strong was born.

Long story short, I’ve presented several more times at both the FFA conventions and at the National Flute Association Convention, each time people coming up to me amazed at what I’m doing, with questions, concerns and wanting information. I decided this WAS something I wanted to do and put more into so I got a better certification, this time through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.  At the same time, I just couldn’t get clients or students in Panama City.  I told the hubby enough was enough, we had to go where the money is, and where I had connections already, so we agreed that I would come up to Nashville after the NFA convention in Las Vegas.

 

I did, and now I am here, LOVING every minute of it, swathed in myriads of opportunities, and I find that I’m back in the same boat of identity confusion: what do I want to do? What direction to I want to go? What’s my ultimate goal?  Only now it’s different, because I’m attacking the subject of identity from a place of too many opportunities than of too few.

I’m so blessed now to have a growing flute studio, I’ve been asked to give my workshops at some universities across the state and in addition to that, I’ve been asked to be a part of a company called the “University of Change” – a program seeking to reach out to Nashville (and eventually nation-wide) office workers and the obese.  Those with poor posture, with weight problems, people who for one reason or another have not been able to change though they desperately want to, and Music Strong has been asked to be a part of this: speaking at seminars, training clients, leading foam rolling and beginner boot camps.  It’s wonderful, it really is!

Now, I’ve been here a grand total of three weeks and I’m covered in opportunities – here the chance to play a well-attended recital is numerous, I can record that piccolo CD I’ve always wanted to do! I could this, that, over there, that too….

Too much.

So the question for me comes up: what do I want to do? What’s my ultimate goal?

I started life as a musician knowing I had to play in order to be happy, and that’s still true.  But the time it takes to be incredibly good is so encompassing, so time consuming, to be on the level to be able to take auditions with confidence that I could get the job, while not out of reach, recent auditions have re-shown me just how much dedication to the music it takes to get to that level.  It’s a level that is good to maintain, great to be at and easy to let slide if you don’t have a superior outlet for which to continue honing it.

Am I ok with not playing at that level?  Am I ok with not being in an orchestra?

What about teaching, do I want to teach forever?

And what about my beloved company Music Strong? Now that I have all these students it would be so easy to stop investing time in it, but I find myself lighting up anytime a musician (or anyone for that matter) asks me a fitness related question.  No, I want it to grow, it’s too important, I can’t let it die.

So the question remains: what is my ultimate goal? I think when I figure this out, I will have my mission statement.

Yes, I want to perform, I want to teach and I want to train. Can I do it all, I think I can.  Can I do it at a very high level? Yes, I can.  Am I willing to pay the price it takes to get there?  The person in me who strives for excellence says “YES!” but thinking about it, how much time would I have to sacrifice away from my husband, my marriage, my friends and family because I have to practice, study, research, blog, train, etc. etc. etc?

The good news is there is no absolute right or wrong answer to this and each journey is unique. What is the right decision today might not be the right decision at a point in time later down the road.  You can change, your goals can change, and that’s ok.

My identity:

I think for now I’m content to say this: I am a musician, a flutist, a teacher, an encourager, a motivator, a trainer, a person of high integrity and moral values and a passionate person.  Job wise: I’m a musician, a trainer and a soldier.

That’s just fine for now.

 

 

Your identity:

The question comes to you: who are you? What do you want to be when you grow up? What is your ultimate goal? It’s ok to change it, but I can tell you this, when you have an ultimate goal and you can make your path clear, taking away distractions is that much easier. Knowing how to answer challenges in life is that much easier  Take some time to think about it.  Who are you now? Who will you always be?

 

Did you know musicians have the highest work injury rate of any profession?  According to William Dawson in “Fit As A Fiddle: The Musician’s Guide to Playing Healthy”, it’s something like 90%.  I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think that’s acceptable, and yet, the fact remains that most of us play in pain. Most of us develop pain or injuries as a result of our playing our beloved instruments.

 

The good news is it is largely preventable.  A warm-up should include more than just long tones. In fact, I would say that a physical warm-up could be just as important if not MORE important than your practicing warm-up!  Why am I so sure?  Well, first off, if you are in debilitating pain, it hurts every time you raise your arms, you can’t feel your fingers, have tendonitis, carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome, piriformis syndrome, etc. etc. etc. it really won’t matter how beautiful your soft high notes are, will it? You deserve to enjoy playing your instrument and when a physical warm-up takes just as much time if not less than a playing warm-up and will save you pain and a possible job in the future, why neglect it?  Your body is your first instrument, you and must learn to take care of it, so it will continue to take care of you.  I plan on writing some more detailed posts about specific stretching and warm-up routines for various areas of the body in the near future on my personal blog later, for today, I would like to talk about foam rolling.

 

Foam rolling is using what looks like a big, hard pool noodle to roll your body across and give yourself a self-massage.  The benefits are numerous. Besides feeling good, releasing endorphins and increasing blood flow, lymph flow and increasing circulation, foam rolling may help save your playing career!

 

Another name for foam rolling is self-myofasical release, or SMF.  Besides the above benefits, two of the best benefits are that it releases knots or adhesions in the fascia that surrounds your muscle tissue and improves your joints range of motion.  You’ve heard of knots, they’re the painful things massage therapists work on when you go see them. They get pressed on and what happens? It hurts! But then, ah….it feels so much better. While a therapist will always be your best and most thorough option, you just can’t afford to go every day, so let me introduce you to some inexpensive options that you can use on your own and will even fit into your flute bag!

 

A quick anatomy lesson; some of the upper back muscle that give flutists the most problem are: the rhomboids, levators and teres major and minor.  We are going to concern ourselves with the rhomboids.  The rhomboids bring the shoulder blades in towards the spine.  What happens on the left side of your body when you play your flute?  The rhomboids get stretched as your arm moves in front of your body…and then you hold it there.  This can lead to an imbalance between your right and left rhomboids and cause the left to be especially weak.  Besides strengthening the rhomboids (another article for another time) you can perform SMF on the “trigger points” on the rhomboid.  Trigger points are the points of most intense pain – the areas your massage therapist would concentrate on.  The exact reason for them is up for debate but here’s what you can do about them: find the most tender spot with your roller of choice and when you get right in the belly of the trigger point (aka: the most painful spot) hold the roller on that spot for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.  You may feel the muscle begin to spasm a little bit, but then it should release you will feel a wonderful feeling of release, increase in your range of motion and less pain.

 

A typical foam roller can be used for this, but as this is a smaller muscle and much deeper, I suggest a couple of smaller rollers.  You can use a lacrosse ball or even a golf ball if you really ambitious, but a tennis ball is the cheapest option.  But if you want to get something that will not disintegrate as fast as a tennis ball and is just as small, you have a few more options.

  • Spikey ball
  • Thera-roll

 

Spikey ball: Thera-Roll 

 

Both are small enough to keep in your flute bag with no issue.  I recommend using either before your practice sessions and sometimes after sessions or any time you experience pain.  Take either device and put it on the wall behind you.  Lean up against the wall and going about an inch at a time, roll the area until you find the most tender spot, and then hold for 20-30 seconds before going on to the next area.  If you do not feel anything the first pass, go over the area 2-3 times and you might find an area later.

Follow this up with some shoulder blade squeezes to get the rhomboids used to their proper regained range of motion and you are ready to play!

If you would like more information on what can be done to help you with your specific playing related pain, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’m here for you – happy playing!

When someone says to you “you need a strong core” or “you need to train your core”, does that leave you scratching your head in confusion?  I mean, what IS your core, anyway, and what on earth does it do? Is it your insides?  The middle of your body?  Your diaphragm?  Let me help you clear up all the confusion.

The core, in its simplest form, is actually the area of your body called the torso – therefore, not your arms, legs or head.  These aren’t just your abdominal muscles; there are LOTS of other muscles that make up the core.  In fact, some of the key players to core strength are in your back and lower back.

There are an awful lot of muscles in your core, and each one plays a role in how well you play your flute.  Yes, that’s right, your hip flexors, your back muscles, your abs; all those muscles have an impact on how you play.  How is that, you ask?  Well, the easy way to explain it is that all your muscles work together in any activity you do.

  • Standing uses your core muscles to keep you balanced and from falling over.
  • Driving uses more than your arms; your core is heavily involved. An indication of core weakness is pain in your hips or low back when you get out of the car.

The muscles in the front (your abs) serve to pull your body forward. These are the muscles with which you are probably most familiar, and as you know, spending most of our day in a bent over position works them plenty.  What this shows is that your back muscles may become weak from the forward-pulling motion of your abs. To have a strong core, this means that you must train your body to resist forward flexion and side to side twisting.

So how does this relate to playing your flute?  Like I mentioned before, you don’t just use your arms to play the flute.  Remember that old song “the head bone’s connected to the….neck bone” etc.?  It’s true.  Your body works as a whole.  It takes lots of different muscles to lift your arms, turn your head, hold up a flute and breathe to play.  And some of those muscles will get tired.  When this happens, other muscles take over.  If this goes on too long, you get what are called muscle compensations and imbalances, meaning that some muscles become weaker and allow other muscles to do their jobs for them.  This can lead to pain.

Each muscle is made to do a job whether that is its own job, the job of being a synergist (helping other muscles do their jobs) or an antagonist (the opposite of a muscle).  For example, your hip flexors are antagonists to your gluteus muscles.  If your hip flexors get too tight with too much sitting, your gluteus muscles become weak, eventually allowing other muscles (your hamstrings) to do the job of the glutes.  What happens then?  Your knees could hurt, or maybe your low back hurts from the stress of too much tightness in the front.  When your low back hurts because it is weak, this can translate to a weak upper back.  If your upper back is weak, it cannot support your arms which are doing a really hard job of holding up your flute, so when your arms tire, you’re just in pain everywhere, all because your hips are too tight, and guess what?  They’re part of the core!
So what to do?  I think by now we’ve established why you need a strong core to play.  When the body works well as a whole, you can play longer without compensating.  There are lots of good exercises to help with core strength.  My favorite exercise is the plank.

This can be progressed by lifting an arm or a leg, putting your feet on a bench or arms on a ball, or adding weight on your back, and can even be done on your side.  The goal is to keep your hips in line with your shoulders, so your body looks just like a plank; a board.  Even with the progressions: do not twist your hips or sag in the middle.  Hold for 30 seconds or longer, rest, and repeat.

Another of my favorite core exercises are 1) The Anti-Rotation Static Hold and its variation 2) Pallof Presses.  These are just fun, and it’s a great way to work your entire core without having to do a single crunch, or sit-up and if you have bad shoulders, these are an excellent choice without putting your shoulders into a compromising position.

To set up for both: 

Stand perpendicular to a cable station with a weight stack or a pole to which you’ve wrapped around a band.  Grasp the band or handle, pull it in front of you and then push it out in front of you, without twisting.  If you hold that position, that’s the static hold.  If you push it out and bring it back, those are Pallof Presses.  The goal with both of these is to avoid twisting (hence: anti-rotation) which you’ll feel all down the middle of your body. Make sure to choose a heavy enough weight so that the exercise is challenging.

This is a video of the Pallof Press:

http://youtu.be/JmcH0UsXRVw

If you hold the weight out without bringing it back, again, that is the Anti-Rotation Press.

If you are looking for a program of strength training that will train your core from every conceivable angle and get your entire body stronger in the process, I highly recommend a book called “The New Rules of Lifting for Abs” by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove.  I’ve done the whole program myself and not only was it fun, I saw my strength increase by leaps and bounds!  They actually have a brand new book out called the “The New Rules of Lifting For Life”.  I just got it today and intend to read through it soon, but the gyst of it is that it is geared for non 20-yr olds, more towards middle agers and people who want to learn how to program their own workouts.

If you would like more exercises and more information, I actually have a longer blog post I’ve written about it with videos here: http://fluteangel.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/3-exercises-1-for-core-strength-and-stability/

As always, I have spots available for long distance training where I can write you a program to strengthen your core, improve your endurance and help you learn to play without pain.  You can find me via my website: www.MusicStrong.com and I’m always around on Face book: www.facebook.com/MusicStrong.  Come by and say hello, or send me an email with your comments and questions to angela@musicstrong.com  I look forward to hearing from you!

Going through my Google reader this morning I came across this gem from Arts Enterprise:

I was thoroughly inspired by class and decided to research different fundraising and development styles. I came across this website from the Texas Commission on the Arts - Fundraising. It lists links to articles on the fundamentals of fundraising and development, the ten principles of fundraising, as well as links to sample donor letters, thank you letters, sample budgets and many other fantastic tools.

If you are looking for a good resource on fundraising and it aspects, this is a good place to start and bookmark!  Being someone who enjoys lists (and the satisfaction of checking things off that list) what I thoroughly enjoyed about this website are the Mistakes to Avoid, Basics, 10 Principles and ESPECIALLY the templates.  You can tell me something all day, but until I see it, it’s difficult for me to visualize.

The Fundraising Website is here.

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Set Your Goals, Set Your Life

February 21, 2012

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

– Robert Heinlein

I think this is a brilliant quote – so obvious and yet, how many of us get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day living saying we wish we could do this or that or go here or there or get this or that done, but it never happens?  Then we look around and suddenly 5 years have gone by?

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This is Your Brain on Music

February 17, 2012

I usually don’t pay attention to fitness magazines, but I flipped through this one the other day and came across some information I thought would be good to share.  This came from Self Magazine September 2011 and is copied verbatim.

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Today I bring you a post from Coach Nick Tuminello. He has written a whole series on the rhomboids, lower traps, and all those key areas that can be problem spots to musicians and desk jockeys alike. Whether you spend your day locked in a practice room or locked behind a desk and yearn to have strong shoulders and a pain-free back, this article is for you.

I can’t highly recommend this series enough. The rhomboids are a muscle that has become chronically stretched and weakened in our “bent over” society: when one bends over a steering wheel, table, computer or music stand the arms pull forward stretching the upper back muscles (and the rhomboids) forward when their main job is to contract and pull the shoulder blades BACK. This can cause weakness, pain and ultimately lead to injury.

The YTWL is a warm-up that I have been seeing and using for quite a long time, sadly, I hardly ever see anyone in the weight room using these movements and if I do, they do them incorrectly. Read and learn and if you want more detailed information he has a whole series on his blog, but he sums it up pretty nicely here.

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