Showing Up

September 28, 2011

By Ariel Friedman, guest blogger

This post was originally published at NEC’s entrepreneurial musicianship alumni blog on 9/28/2011, and is reposted here with permission from the author. IPAP thanks Ariel Friedman for sharing this post.

Now that school has started again and I’m not there, I’ve been thinking about how to commit to continued creative growth without the container of school.  I am a classical cellist gone folk cellist gone aspiring jazz cellist, pianist, singer, and songwriter and now that I’ve graduated, one might think I’d have all the time in the world to hone these skills. On the contrary, my days are filled with errands, gigs to play, lessons to teach, and a seemingly endless flow of email-answering and planning.  I feel grateful for my active touring and teaching schedule, but I continue to come up against this question: how can I make my own music and wellbeing a priority?

I think it is the constant striving for creation that propels us forward in this world. No matter how many times I practice a new standard or Popper etude, nothing compares to the satisfaction of writing a piece of music, or adding a new verse to a song in progress. It is this act of tapping into something “beyond the margins of the self,” as Mary Oliver puts it, that I am after—this elusive quality, combining concentration with subconscious, and the time and energy it takes to access it—and what continues to fall to the bottom of my to-do list.

For most of my life, I have struggled with feelings of powerful guilt if I do not somehow improve myself in a given day. It’s only been within the last three years that I’ve begun to access the part of me that creates music, and now there is a new level of commitment at stake. Practicing is still something I check off the list. But songwriting? The creation of new, deeply personal and relevant art? Do these things have a place on my checklist?

Yes.Yes yes yes.

And that’s because it is about showing up. It is about waking up in the morning, doing yoga, eating breakfast, and writing.  If I do not show up to my work, to that higher self beyond my own margins, then that self will disappoint me. Writing, in whatever form, is not about waiting for inspiration to strike.  In the opening line of my favorite essay by Mary Oliver, she writes, “If Romeo and Juliet had made appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet—one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere—there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them.” Writing takes place when I show up, whether or not I am inspired, day after day after day.

We are a culture who shows up: for our jobs, for our students, our teachers, our families, our partners, our friends. We show up at the registry of motor vehicles when our license has expired. We show up at the grocery store when we’re out of bread. But how often do we show up for ourselves?

I don’t think this answer will come to me in the bright flash of revelation. By now, it is slowly dawning on me that there will never be a day when I say, “Now I am done practicing. Now I have arrived.” If I did arrive (wherever that is), life would be awfully boring. Instead, I am in pursuit of pursuit. For the rest of my life I will be navigating how to write “Show Up For Self” on the top of my daily list, just as I will be negotiating what it means and how to approach the process of creating meaningful music (while, ever-hopeful, simultaneously practicing all of my instruments and genres).  The first, and hardest, thing I have learned is that patience must be involved: patience with the writing process and patience with myself, for the myriad of days when I just don’t show up.

In this monthly blog post, I hope to continue to reflect on my feelings about this issue in relation to my current experiences outside the walls of any institution.

You can read more from Ariel and other authors writing about Entrepreneurial Musicianship at http://necentrepreneur.posterous.com/

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Hanging Elbows

September 24, 2011

I recently worked with a flute student who was playing with a nice sound which changed into a fuzzy unfocused sound as she continued.  As I observed her playing I noticed that she raised her left elbow away from her body as the music became more demanding. The location of the elbows as you play is a one indication of how much effort is going into playing.

What is your habit?

Investigate by watching yourself in a mirror or by watching a short video recording of your playing.  Moving the elbows away from the body as you play does not need to be part of your playing.  In order for the elbows to move away from the body, muscles in the torso and arms engage which causes tension that will affect the other muscles that you need to play.  If the elbow(s) is held chronically higher, the muscular effort not only limits rib movement which affects the breath but causes discomfort which can lead to habits that aren’t in line with how the body is designed to move.

I think of the elbows as hanging from the arm/shoulderblade joint on one end and from the hands on the other.  This is a good way to invite the arm muscles to release.  One image I suggest is to imagine that light weights hang from the tips of the elbows to remind you to simple let the elbows and arms hang.

What to do?

First find out if you move your elbows out farther when the technical, sound or endurance demands of the music increase.  If you do, it is time to map the movements you need to play the passage.  Any change in how the elbows hang could be a sign of compensation for limitation in other aspect of your playing.  Two of my favorite Body Mapping resources on arms are Lea Pearson’s “Body Mapping for Flutists” (GIA), and David Vining’s “What Every Trombonist Needs to Know About the Body” (Kagrice Brass Editions).

Start planning for next summer, attend the Chapel Hill Chamber Music Workshop, a performing workshop for adults

Have a great idea for the flute convention for next year?  The deadline is October 1, 2011. Members can submit the online application here.

Heading into the studio?  Here are some tips from Musician’s Way

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Listen to Renee Fleming talk about legato singing with Antonio Pappano

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and then power your productivity, and remember you never stop learning

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And read some rules for the practice room and get some great tips on practicing

And ask yourself:  What if the focus of our performance could be on creating magical moments?

Peruse some free jazz resources from Jamey Abersold (free as in no cost…)

Some tips on time management and building a portfolio, part 3 and overcoming your fears

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Read the latest on declining SAT scores and what it means

And look at a school that works to bring out the best in its students


Note: After a long hiatus, I’m happy to announce that I’ll be updating this blog regularly on a monthly basis from September through May, with a few Special Edition posts along the way!

I’ve recently been exploring concepts of audience participation. Specifically, I’m trying to demystify the ubiquitous slogans (how many times have you seen “interactive musical events” slapped on to concert programs lately?) that are too-often misinterpreted or misused, and in doing so discovering ways to design events that engage all stakeholders and add long-term value.

Read the rest of this entry »

NFA Recap

September 15, 2011

So I’ve been back from the convention for a few weeks already, and I haven’t found the time to be able to write anything!  My head has been swimming with thoughts and ideas, but, fortunately for me, business has picked up in a big way and, well, I had a lot to catch up on.  You see, the last day of the convention, an article about me and my boot camp class was run in the Sunday paper.  A full page full color spread in the Lifestyle section!  I’ve seen an increase in personal training clients from that, so I’ve been up to my eye balls in writing plans, training clients, running my boot camp classes and responding to the emails and questions I got from NFA.  I have put out a newsletter since then, which gave a big update on the convention, and if you aren’t signed up for my mailing list, you can do so in the bar to your right where it says “sign up for our newsletter” and I will send you the latest one!

Oh yes, and if you want more information about my boot camp classes (the one to the right was taken at our beach location) you can check out the new website! It’s at www.PCBeachBootCamp.com  I’d love it if you left a comment and can give me your feedback.

So what happened at the NFA?
Presentations!!!!
As stated in previous blog posts, I was very blessed to have been able to give two presentations.  The first was on Friday at 5 PM and was a panel discussion titled “Injury Prevention and Pain Management”.  My fellow panel members, Dr. Susan Fain, Karen Lonsdale and Lea Pearson along with myself all spoke on different topics relating to playing the flute and some suggestions on overcoming the special health challenges it presented.  Lea talked about breathing and body mapping, Karen talked about the ergonomics of the flute and how to set up for practicing be it solo or in a band setting and Susan talked about some common injuries and solutions to them with posture and stretching.  I, of course, gave a quick overview on the benefits of strength training for flutists.  I had so much to say and sadly, I ran out of time – 10 minutes just isn’t long enough!

We had a really wonderful turnout and I did not have enough handouts for everyone to get one, so if you would like a copy of my handout for this presentation and did not receive one, you can download it here:

Using Strength Training to Prevent Injury and Improve Pain

My second presentation was just me and it was on Sunday at 8 AM.  I went far more into depth about the benefits of strength training for flutists, and then demonstrated proper weight lifting form (which we all did together), did a little body mapping in finding where our hips are (here’s a hint, it’s not the bone that sticks out) and then we did some sample stretches and some activation exercises.  It was a lot of fun, and again, I ran out of time.
The easiest way to for me to remedy my problem is for flute clubs and associations to hire me to come out for a day or a weekend to give a workshop and then we can really go  in-depth about how things work, and do some exercises together!  In fact, I had a few people approach me about doing that very thing so be on the lookout to see me coming to your area and if you would like me to come to your area, you can get in touch with me by emailing me at angela@musicstrong.com or via the contact link on my website: www.musicstrong.com

Again I had a great turn out and ran out of handouts so if you would like a handout and didn’t get one, you can download it here:

Lift, Play, Love : Basic Weight Lifting for Efficient Flute Playing

I also had a “muscle man” image that I used that went along with both handouts. You can get him here:

Career Development Workshop

I am very grateful to have been selected as a participant in the 2nd Annual Career and Artistic Development Committee’s Career Development Workshop.  The room was not nearly big enough to hold all the people and we had people spilling out into the hallway trying to get in!  We learned a lot of things: from how to write a mission statement, to a bio, to a cover letter, to how to take a good publicity photo and what NOT to do.

In addition, I and two other people got to present our business ideas to the group and ask for help on certain parts of our projects.  I presented my business Music Strong, and while it is not exactly in its fledgling stages and I have a lot of the work done, my biggest problem is in reaching my audience.  I needed help finding out how to go to where the flutists are and where the people who need me are.

I got a LOT of positive feedback from people who heard me; compliments on the business concept, comments on how excited people were that I was doing this and overall enthusiasm for my business.  I also got asked to come give a presentation in Texas, so be on the lookout for information there!

Other wonderful happenings

I had a lot of great things happen at the convention.  Besides my name getting out there and being recognized, I was also asked to help man the Performance Health Committee’s booth.  I was more than happy to do so – not only for the opportunity to socialize and network with my fellow health professionals, but to answer questions and help the myriad of people who came by with health questions.  It is so rewarding to be able to look at someone, listen to their problems and even if you cannot diagnose or fix their problems, you can give them HOPE and that is super exciting.

I made a lot of new connections, new friends and got a lot of great music I hope to be performing soon.  The convention was a success in every way and I’m very blessed to be able to have been a part of it. Now I’m working on presentation proposals for next year for Vegas!

If you went to the convention, if you got the chance to come to these presentations, workshops or even if you didn’t, I’d love to hear your comments about it and if you have suggestions on future articles or presentations, I am welcome to those as well.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the convention.  I hope you enjoy!

See you in Vegas!

Learn how to Partner with non-profits, from the musicians way

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Check out some El Sistema Jobs:

Allentown Symphony’s newly formed El Sistema Lehigh Valley program announces two job opportunities:
http://www.allentownsymphony.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=NT-eQi5vuII%3d&tabid=146

Waterbury Symphony Orchestra continues the search for a Program Director to lead the El Sistema-inspired “Bravo Waterbury” program: http://www.waterburysymphony.org/education/elsistema/index.shtml

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And to finish, the revenge of the bassoonists!

The IPAP Weekly Digest is back in action now after a busy summer as well as a last-minute move to Rochester, NY which we are so happy to call our new home.  See you next week!

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