Saturday, December 3, 2011

Another semester has passed

We have one more week of lessons this semester, and the schedule is going to be different due to the 7th and 8th grade concert on Thursday. Please bear with me as I try to create a new and different schedule this week to accomodate everyone. Those that have paid through the end of the semester will have priority, but it looks like I will have enough room for everyone who wants to attend the last lesson.

I have calculated everyone's stickers. The amounts are as follows, in no particular order.

Amaya: 5
Harshita: 3
Kelly: 5
Shruthi: 6
Claire: 9
Sophia: 5
Dita: 4
Lauren: 10

Congratulations to everyone for a great semester! To earn up to five (5) more stickers, click on the link under the "Earn More Stickers" button on the side. Follow the instructions on the page.

Good luck!

Mrs. Keen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet

I had the great fortune of being able to hear BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet perform and perform back up with them in the Rapides Symphony Orchestra. Although I was born and raised in Louisiana, I have never been very interested in listening to cajun music. However, this music, this band and this concert spoke to my soul! I absolutely loved hearing this music.

Of course you can't beat a live performance of this music. There is no wonder that this music spoke to me the way it did as this band had been lauded as "The best cajun band in the world," and that they play music that is "honest to the bone." I believe that is the best way I can think of to describe the music-honest to the bone.

The Rapides Symphony Orchestra has been playing with great groups for the Season Opener Pops Concerts for years! I feel as if these are my favorite concerts because they expose me to such talented musicians in other genres besides classical music. I love learning about music that is not your typical classical music. It makes me feel so educated. I feel like a more well-rounded musician when I can listen and try to allow other types of music to influence my approach to my flute playing. I am not sure how I will be able to incorporate Zydeco in my playing, but I have no regrets at all at attending this concert.

To my students:

Here is your first sticker earning opportunity. Remember, you want to earn as many stickers as possible. The one with the most stickers at the end of the semester gets a prize!

On a separate piece of paper, answer the following questions.

1. Watch the above video. In 3-5 complete sentences, describe your reaction to this music.

2. Visit the BeauSoleil website. List 3 awards this group has received with the year in which they received it.

3. What instrument(s) does/do Michael Doucet play? Hint: Voice counts as an instrument.

4. When is the next performance of BeauSoliel in Houston? Where will they perform?

Please give the answers to these questions to me in email by midnight (12am) December 7, 2011 to earn up to 5 extra stickers.

Good luck!

Friday, August 26, 2011

New School Year 2011-2012

Dear Parents and Students,

It's that time again! The new school year has begun, which means it is time to schedule your flute lesson!!! Many of you have already been in touch with me, and your scheduling is in the works. At this time, those students who attend Dulles Middle School (and a few high school students) will have your lessons in the new band hall on Wednesdays and Thursdays. What a wonderful new facility you have! This will be an exciting year!

A note regarding scheduling: Parents, when you attended the 7th and 8th grade registration, you were only signing up to take lessons. This was not the time to schedule. You should have received an email from Mr. Roberts explaining this. You should also have received an email from me recently regarding the scheduling of lessons. Please choose your top THREE spots. I will do my very best to accommodate your wishes, however, there are many students interested in lessons. As always, first come first served. I greatly appreciate your flexibility and patience regarding this matter.

Lessons will begin September 7th (Wednesday lessons) and September 8th (Thursday lessons). Please check the lesson policies and purchase the supplies listed if you have not already done so.

I look forward to working with all of you this coming school year! Best of luck!

Mrs. Keen

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's always the flutes!

I performed in an educational concert this weekend with the Rapides Symphony, in which we mentored and performed with young student musicians. Area students auditioned for a spot playing side by side symphony musicians. What a fabulous opportunity for young people! The RSO not the New York Philharmonic or anything, but it's still great for kids who live in a tiny town full of cows and hay bales.

Older students have special opportunities as well. The conducting assistant is a Master's student from LSU who auditioned and won the position. 

While the assistant was rehearsing the group, Maestro Zona asked him to check the intonation in the woodwinds. Immediately the young conductor blames the flutes! Of COURSE it's the flutes! Who else could it be?

Chuckling a little Maestro Zona used his try-it-again tone and told him to have everyone but the flutes play. Still out of tune. Okay. 

No oboes. Still out of tune. 

Just clarinets. Ah! There you go! 

Then we played it all together. Nice.

I leaned over and told our student, "If you learn nothing else, learn this. The flutes always get the blame!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How to teach vibrato

When I was in the sixth grade, my band director taught our flute class how to use vibrato. We were all very good at pulsing eighth notes in our music by the end of the school year. After that year, we never learned more about vibrato in band.

I started taking private lessons in the seventh grade. She would always have to ask me if I knew vibrato. Of course I knew vibrato! Why didn't I use it? Because I was embarrassed!

Using vibrato embarrassed me. Why? Because I knew I wasn't quite doing it the right way and it made me feel self conscious. I knew I sounded different than my band director, who was a flutist, and I did not know why. I loved the way she played! I spent MANY years trying to produce the "ideal tone" based on what I remember her tone sounding like. Update: I have YET to produce the ideal tone.

One day, after planning vibrato pulses and now pulsing in tempo with sixteenth notes, my band director told me, "You shouldn't measure your vibrato anymore. Just play it." Well, it worked! However, it would not have worked had I not had her and my private flute teacher teaching me how to produce vibrato by planning the pulses in my music.

Fast forward several years, and it is my turn to teach young flutists how to use vibrato. I have had to help all students with vibrato somehow, whether it is to slow down "chipmunk vibrato" or to help them produce vibrato in the first place.

Because this is not a post about where vibrato comes from, or even how to produce vibrato, I'll leave that explanation up to the teacher or for a later post.

The first activity is compliments of my previous teacher, Aralee Dorough. I saw her use this with fellow flutists in masterclasses and she used it with me as a warm up activity during our 8am lessons. I like to use this as an activity to help students to visualize the kind of vibrato I want them to use, which is a very deliberate sounding vibrato with wide amplitude and moderate speed.

The advantage of this activity is I can use it with my older students whose vibrato may be taking a life of its own. I can also practice octaves with this activity.

Next I move on to teaching students how to practice playing vibrato with a metronome. This is probably a very common method of teaching vibrato that even other instrumentalists use.

Finally, students need to learn how to use vibrato in their music. I like to use the Moyse 24 Little Melodic Studies to help with this. I still have them measure vibrato and use a metronome at this point.

After they have learned how to feel very comfortable producing vibrato with a wide, obnoxious sounding amplitude, it is time to take the metronome away and tone down the amplitude. I find that playing for them and having them listen to other flutists whose vibrato I like helps them to learn how to produce a beautiful tone at all times.

Good luck!