On May 24, 2012 Shiri Sivan, principal flutist of the Bremer Philharmoniker (Bremen Philharmonic) gave a masterclass for Helen Bledsoe’s flute studio at the conservatory in Bremen. Read up on Sivan’s tips on mental preparation and technique, surely of interest to all musicians.

Shiri Sivan Masterclass

The Savvy Musician’s latest post offers alternative models to traditional ones in arts higher education and is well worth the read.

Re-Imagining Arts Higher Education

Follow some latest discussions or posts about the state of classical music:

Cheers and Claps at Classical Performances

A Roman Candle

Building a Young Audience

The Great Change

Doing It

The idea of cultivating good habits or dumping bad ones and having control of it all is a buzz topic thanks to Charles Duhigg’s recent book, The Power of Habit. Here are some recent posts of interest on the subject of habits, some related to music, others more general:

Getting Kids to Practice Music Without Tears or Tantrums

Want to Improve Your Playing? Stop Trying

An Important Thing To Keep in Mind When Changing Your Habits

The Mind Reviews The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit

How You Can Harness the Power of Habit

The Tiny Guide to Creating the Flossing Habit

Three Little Habits to Find Focus

Weekly Digest

June 20, 2012

Weekly Digest for June 20, 2012

We’ve all been there:

 “There were two people walking down the street. One was a musician. The other guy didn’t have any money either.”

– Your Buddy who Majored in Business (or Law) (or Medicine)

I’m sure you’ve heard that joke at some point. It’s a common understanding that you don’t major in music for the dough that you’ll be rolling in post-graduation. So what is the Value of a Music Degree? This post is lovingly dedicated to anyone whose friends or family questioned their dreams of going to music school.

Stuff we like to hear:

Louisiana reaps the benefits of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s grants for music education.

Money Going to Music Education (for a change)

About the changing faces of nationally reknowned orchestra conductors:

Hey, who’s that kid in front of the orchestra? Who let him conduct? Wait a sec, he’s actually not half-bad… A look at the emerging trend of younger conductors and what it means to be a Maestro.

Kids these days:
“Imagine a culture where the average citizen received a public education in music that made it possible for them to go out as an adult and in their spare time create original music. That world is already taking shape – with or without our current public education system.” – Thomas J. West

So much controversy surrounds Amanda Palmer (Palmer is one half of the Boston-based piano and drums duo Dresden Dolls), but no matter whether you love her or hate her, there’s a lesson in her story for music educators everywhere: It’s time to provide more for the members of your ensemble than the standard three-concerts-a-year.

Beatles forever:

As one of my music professors once said, “The Beatles are the only rock n’ roll worth listening to. They should be required listening for all music students.”

So why is this? We know why they’re popular, but why are they SO popular? As August 22 approaches (marking the 50th anniversary of the first concert consisting of the lineup of John, Paul, George, and Ringo), here’s an examination of what keeps a mere 7-year career alive for 50 years.

It’s time for me to come out…I am a Cultural Creative. Perhaps you are too?

The term Cultural Creative, drawn from research and population surveys conducted over the past few decades, refers to a growing subculture of people whose values and world views are quite distinct from those that most often dominates our politics, media and many cultural norms.  Though still not universally known, the term gained popularity when sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson’s published their 2000 book, The Cultural Creatives. You can read an updated report based on 2008 research here.

Cultural Creatives are actively creating cultural and social change and tend to have a more unifying world view–embracing ecological sustainability, social responsibility, diverse cultures, creative expression and psycho-spiritual growth–and are more willing to challenge the status quo of materialism, cynicism, and, yes, even capitalism.  While less than 5% of the population in 1960, they have now become approximately a third of the American population.

This general area of research and discussion–how we are changing as a culture and as humans–is quite complex, a bit tricky and rarely addressed directly so I can only begin to touch on some key points in this blog entry.  Come join me for a live program in Chicago on Sunday, June 24th when I’ll be leading a town hall-like discussion, sponsored by our local chapter of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

According to Ray’s research (with similar findings in Europe and Japan), Cultural Creatives have only emerged as a significant subculture since the 1960s, joining the two existing subcultures who’ve been in America for a while, Moderns and Traditionals. Moderns generally rule our culture and media–they value skepticism, scientific expertise, individuality, material success and efficiency. They have long engaged in a culture war with Traditionals, with their conservative, nostalgic, usually religious values. Traditionals believe their way is the right way and that we should go back to a better time, while Moderns strongly resent any infringement on their individual freedom and rights (and usually rights of others) to achieve success.

Cultural Creatives don’t subscribe either to the Every-Man-for-Himself or Us-vs.-Them philosophies of the Moderns and Traditionals. They have a different–and some would say more evolved–ecological, spiritual and global consciousness. They believe that humans are one people, that the earth is our home and must be taken care of, and that we have the power and imagination to invent a better future where the planet and everyone in it can thrive.  Check out the latest published population distribution (chart, left) based on Ray’s 2008 survey. While Moderns are still the largest group with about 40% of the population, Cultural Creatives are catching up, and Traditionals are slowly diminishing in number (“Transitionals” refer to Traditionals whose green, planetary values are moving them toward Cultural Creatives).

“Core” Cultural Creatives at about 16% tend to be the leading change agents, and include artists, writers, thinkers, spiritual- and alternative health-seekers, who combine a focus on inner life and authenticity with a strong passion for altruism, activism and social responsibility.  The “Green” Cultural Creatives tend to be a bit more secular or conventionally religious, but still embrace more eco-conscious, social justice values.  While it’s appealing to put Cultural Creatives in a political category, Ray points out that neither party accurately reflects Cultural Creative values and most often surveys reflect a deep dissatisfaction with both parties.

Despite their size, Cultural Creatives have yet to fully be identified, even by themselves, and because their values tend to be disdained by the dominant culture as too idealistic, most of us are still in a closet that we may or may not be aware of.  More to say about this and Cultural Creatives in my next blog entry on my regular Innovation on my Mind blog.

Finally, surveys in different countries have shown that Cultural Creatives have more in common with each other across cultures and countries.  Some Europeans have taken on the Cultural Creative mantle, with Cultural Creatives online TV and a film, called Cultural Creatives 1.0: The Revolution, which you watch by clicking here.

On his blog, Dan Pink has plugged Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, and shares an interview with the author:


Also, subscribers to Pink’s blog get a manifesto from Pink for free, an 84 page PDF titled The Flip Manifesto, 16 Counterintuitive Ideas About Motivation, Innovation and Leadership. It explains, among other things:

  • Why trying to find your passion is a really bad idea
  • Why you need a second, much weirder, list to accompany your to-do list
  • Why the secret to leadership may be etched on your forehead
  • Why doubting yourself may be more effective than believing in yourself.

Thanks to Gerald at the Musician’s Way for this link.

A year ago I began this blog after returning from Europe, living eight years in a new country, wearing different and new hats as a young mother, expatriate, music and flute teacher in an international school, sometimes feeling successful in some cases and in other cases, not so much.  Living in another country, especially in a part of that country that pushes your comfort zones, is a fantastic experience, but it also challenges in unexpected ways all around.

Upon coming back to the US I felt both overwhelmed and energized by the buzz of opportunity as a musician and teacher compared to Italy, and I ran with it.  I undertook flute studies again and learned more about body awareness, performance anxiety and the entrepreneur side of being a musician and really felt I made up for some gaps in my own undergraduate and graduate studies here in the US during that time.  I was amazed by all the varied chamber ensembles and the new paths they were creating for future musicians.  I loved the air of possibility here in the US which I missed so very much and really felt at home again.  This air of possibility feels sometimes full of naivete, and is definitely connected to that American idea that the individual can rise up and do what he/she feels, given the individual’s spirit to go at it in the right way. It’s a combination of being talented, having the right support, and taking some smart decisions in your life to let you get to where you want to be.  Here there are many opportunities, albeit many are for little or no pay, but it’s possible at least to do the thing you dream of if you’ve got all the right ingredients in your court, or if you are willing to settle for less pay and maybe a less glamorous lifestyle too (depending on how you define glamour, of course).

Being a free-lance musician has its tolls and doesn’t (at least for me) always mesh well with family life.  There’s no health insurance.  There are rehearsals in the evening.  The pay is sometimes little or non-existent.  Many musicians do land orchestra jobs and good college positions and they don’t live life on the edge as freelancers.  We’ve talked over and over about how these are few and far between and so the need to create a niche, do your own thing, be innovative…this is where we come full circle to talk about how being innovative can help you to make a living.

OK so the economy stinks and competition is tough, and in particular for flutists we are all so awesome that it’s hard to stand out.  Many of us love to teach and we can make a decent living from that (aside from the health insurance) and play in a local chamber group or orchestra and feel that we’re contributing to the community and still feeding our art and passion.  I’ve been inspired by many musicians going down the administrative side of things and, from my time in Rome where I was able to tap into the administrative side of being a musician, I have been trying to navigate my career in that direction over the past two years since coming back.  However at the same time there’s always been a part of me that has been nervous to go down this path.  It seemed standard, boring, maybe even a sign that I failed as a musician?

I’ve just accepted an administrative position with a highly respected music school in the US. The pay isn’t fantastic but I accepted it considering opportunities into the future, the benefits, and networking possibilities.  I have been questioning the whole innovation thing though.  I mean, am I settling into something that is in fact standard and about as uninnovative as it gets? Yes, in some ways maybe.  At the same time being innovative can also mean exploring new ways for yourself, and going down unexpected paths that seem to help balance out all different aspects of the life, from being a parent to an artist to a teacher to a human being.  Having another source of steady income and health insurance lets us breathe easier, and lets us plan more into the future. I will finish early, still have time for teaching and playing and for being with my family, time for exercise, and I will be a part of a fantastic community of musicians and people who support this community of musicians.  I’m sure that by going down a new path that provides me with security and a growing network of people who love music that it can’t be bad, and for sure by doing this new thing I’m being innovative for myself and my family and what’s right for us at this moment.  And so I’m going to wear that new floppy hat for now and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Weekly Digest

June 6, 2012

Weekly Digest for June 6, 2012

Hello IPAPers and welcome back to our newly revitalized weekly digest series.  Beginning this week, weekly digest duties will rotate between the various authors here at the blog.

File Under File Sharing
I’d like to start out with a lengthy, incredibly interesting piece by David Lowery based on an address he recently gave to the SF Music Tech Conference.  Ostensibly, the article addresses issues of artist compensation in the era of digital distribution, but it’s really so much more.

Meet the New Boss, Worse Than the Old Boss


Concerto for Ipad and Orchestra

Phile Under Philly
After so much BAD news, it’s nice to finally hear something optimistic about the Philadelphia Orchestra. Not only should they be out of bankruptcy by the end of the summer, but they are also embarking on a tour of China.

News about the bankruptcy

News about the tour

Thoughts on the bankruptcy from our friends at the San Francisco Classical Voice

Flute Fun with Fluterscooter
Reminiscent of an instrumental Janice Whaley

Laurie Anderson is 65

Laurie Anderson is 65

Have Cello Will Travel
The Billfold.com features an interview with a young cellist that explores the financial and artistic situation of being a young instrumentalist in New York City.

The Hustle of a Cellist in New York


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!

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