May ArtStart Reflection

Time is flying by, and I am now entering the final month of my time in England. While my overall blog has been a little quiet of late, I am happy that I’ve been making good progress with the ArtStart side of things. Here is what I’ve been up to:

I am now six weeks into my Practical Financial Management for Small Businesses course. We have covered a lot of ground, including financial forecasting, income statements and analysis of account. As the course has progressed we’ve had some classes that I feel are very relevant to what I’m hoping to do as a musician, and some that aren’t at the moment. The class on ratio analysis, for example, was interesting but not terribly relevant for managing chamber ensembles. It has, however, prompted me to be a little more daring with my use of MS Excel for designing spredsheets, which will help with organisation and budgeting no end.

My lessons with Carla Rees are continuing, with a double lesson extravaganza this week. We worked on Stravinsky and Boulez excerpts as well as one of the Jolivet Ascèses and a brand new piece written for me by Australian composer James Wade. I was utterly exhausted afterwards, but feel like I’m learning an awful lot. We spent a lot of time talking about differences between alto and C flute, especially in terms of colour. On C flute we aim for a homogeneity of colour across the registers, but on the alto we need to embrace the differences between high and low a little more, using the colours to our advantage. I need to remember to resonate rather than pushing the sound. Also, when I need to project the sound as in the Stravinsky excerpts, I need to think about how to achieve this with colour rather than taking the written dynamics too literally. The Boulez was a particular challenge, both technically and conceptually, and I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time on this piece.

It is now less than a month until the SoundSCAPE Festival, and I’m now knee deep in preparing repertoire for that. I’ve been allocated an interesting and highly varied selection of new commission pieces: C flute with lots of whistle tones, multiphonics and quartertones (with bassoon, percussion and piano); bass flute with quasi-theatrical indications and some interesting staging (with double bass and piano); C and alto flutes with soprano, guitar and percussion. I’m also playing duets with some friends from last year, giving a talk on contemporary music in Australia, and preparing some solo pieces. It is going to be a lot of work, but I’m already getting excited.

After SoundSCAPE, I’m flying back to Australia, and will be moving on to a few more of he ArtStart activities in the second half of the year. There is still a lot more on the cards, but looking through my breakdown of activities I feel more or less on track still.

Based on some outcomes from job applications in Australia (for better or worse), my trip to the U.S. is now very much back on the cards for mid-August. I’ll be starting off at the National Flute Association Convention in Washington D.C., then heading to New York City for about a week for some lessons. At the moment there feels like an awful lot to do in preparation for this, but I’m hoping to get that sorted in the coming weeks!

April ArtStart Reflection

A very belated ArtStart blog for April, as I have been off travelling then settling into my new place. That said, a lot has happened, and the next two months will tick a lot of things off the to-do list for this year. Here’s the digest:

I started my Practical Financial Management for Small Businesses course at City University London on April 28th, and have now completed two out of ten classes. Though not obviously the first thing I would spend arts development money on, I do think it’s probably one of the most important sets of skills I’ll be filing away from this year. A basic understanding of finance, I hope, will set me in good stead for managing chamber ensembles in the future, and presenting clear budgets for funding applications. That said, I’m definitely not the typical student in my class – most are starting out as small business entrepreneurs. So far we have covered double entry, income statements and balance sheets, The maths isn’t difficult, and I’m managing the concepts quite well. I’ve managed to get all my ‘homework’ done on the train home after class!

Now that I’m following my own plan with practice, I’ve had a bit more time to start working with the AirTurn foot pedal and my iPad. I’ve learned that I can’t just upload PDFs as they come because scrolling down a page with the foot pedal makes me loose my place. Instead, after reading this excellent blog by UK clarinetist Heather Roche on using an iPad in performance, I’ve been using MS powerpoint to do a bit of a cut and paste job. If possible, I’d still prefer to turn the page during rests, thought am finding that I’m getting used to the footpedal. Some scores are also really small, and so putting then into powerpoint allows me to blow them up a bit! The best thing I’m finding about this set-up is that I can change things quickly, and without having to worry about printing at all. However, it does mean that I need to make sure my iPad is charged before practice sessions!

This week I’m starting my lessons with UK alto and bass flautist extraordinaire Carla Rees, which I’m very excited about. Back in October I escaped up to Windsor for a day, and I’ve been revisiting the notes and advice from that lessons. We talked a lot about alto flute sound, and making sure that I was producing the biggest possible sound on the instrument. Carla suggested I play Bach, and so I’ve been playing quite a bit in the last week. Rather than return to flute music (I’m keen to play it, but with a little more distance from Trevor’s course), I found a transposed version of the 3rd violin partita for treble recorder, and have been particularly enjoying the Gavotte and Rondeau movement. The prelude is a great exercise for intervals, but not great for playing all the way through on flute – there really is nowhere to breathe!

In the coming lessons, I want to work both on alto flute fundamentals, and get my teeth into some good contemporary music. There is so much wonderful music out there that my wish list is probably already too long!

Things are also starting to look exciting for the SoundSCAPE Festival in July. As well as the commission pieces for ensembles that we work on there, I’m also working with some composers on solo flute pieces that I’m hoping to perform. Last year at the festival, I did some work on the method book The Vocalization of the Flute by US flautist Jane Rigler. It’s a good step-by-step guide to singing and playing, which gives lots of exercises and studies. Ordering it has been on my to-do list for the last nine months, and I’ve finally got round to that. I should have done it much earlier – in PDF form the book is only US$10! I’m hoping to prepare some of the trickier studies to work on at the festival.

As for my US trip…it’s still at the same stage it was last month, waiting on the results of things back in Australia. I’m trying not to get too frustrated by this, and rather to enjoy what I’m up to at the moment and get everything I can out of the experience!

March ArtStart Reflection

A slightly belated ArtStart post for March, what with everything finishing up at the Flute Studio course and now being on holiday for a few weeks. The last month of ArtStart-related activities has been something of a step backwards and a reconsidering of options, but I now feel more or less on track again. Here is what I’ve been up to:

The AirTurn PED for my iPad arrived, which is exciting. I waited a little longer to get the PED rather than the older BT-105, as the PED was both cheaper and lighter, and am really happy with it. I’ve been using it in the practice room with scores that are on my iPad, but haven’t had the chance to test it beyond that as Trevor wasn’t terribly into technology. I have the ForScore app on my iPad, and need to play around a bit with sorting out page turns still. At the moment, I loose my spot when the page scrolls down…

In the first week of March, I heard  back from Bang on a Can, and wasn’t accepted to the program this year. It was a bit of a disappointment, but I have no idea who else applied so shouldn’t be too hard on myself. The question then became how to redirect my ArtStart funds in a way that gives me a similar musical/education experience but coincides with other plans. Various friends and mentors suggested summer programs in both the U.S. and Europe, and I’ve spent quite a few hours looking through them all (and my diary) trying to work out the best options.

In the end, I’ve decided to return to SoundSCAPE for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I want to go to a festival where I can play chamber music with a broader range of instruments than just flutes. Much as I love the flute, I’m yearning for greater diversity in the music I play, and think that I would find a flute summer course a bit frustrating. I’ve had my six months at the Flute Studio – bring on something a bit different! And then, while there are some other courses on in June in the U.S., I’m still committed in England. Going back to SoundSCAPE will give me another opportunity to work closely with Lisa Cella, and I know the ropes so will be able to prepare some challenging pieces. I’m also going to be giving a talk on contemporary Australian music as part of the festival!

So where does that leave my U.S. trip? I’m still planning on going, at least for the NFA convention, but am also awaiting the results of some job applications in Australia. I hope to be able to fit in some lessons in NYC as well, but also need to look into the possibility of them happening during (or maybe directly following?) the NFA convention.

The end of March means I’m already a quarter of the way through my ArtStart year. While some things have been ticked of my list, and others are well on the way, I’m also learning that making a career in the arts is never a straight road. Things change, and where one door closes another hopefully opens. At the moment, it feels like I’ve thrown lots of juggling balls up in the air, and need to wait for some of them to land to decide exactly what happens next. Which order they fall in will be the difference in choosing one path or another, which at once feels like an exciting and terrifying way of deciding things! I now know I’m coming back to Australia in mid-July, but still need to plan out much of the path once I’m there.

February ArtStart Reflection

Not a huge amount of ArtStart activity has happened this month, mostly due to the flute studio course still being my top priority. Bits and pieces are coming along though:

– Having submitted my Bang on a Can application in January, I’ve spent this month patiently waiting on a response while trying not to get nervous! I should hear next week, and have fingers crossed that I’ll get in. If I’m accepted, I can start organising my U.S. trip, which would be incredibly exciting. I’ve also been having a look at some other summer festival options as a backup plan.

– The other big thing on my U.S. itinerary would be attending the National Flute Association conference in August. The NFA has a myriad of different competitions at the convention, and I decided to submit my thesis for the graduate research competition. The paperwork was all due mid-Feb, and I’m happy with my submission. Dad was a wonderful help printing off the thesis itself and posting it for me – it saved trying to organise printing here!

– Having sussed out my options, I booked my Practical Financial Management for Small Business course at City University London. It goes for ten weeks and starts at the end of April, and the reviews I’ve read are all quite positive. I decided that a physical classroom once a week is much better than trying to complete something online. Though this isn’t the most exciting part of my ArtStart plan, I know that the skills will be really useful…I just need to reacquaint myself with the maths side of my brain.

– I haven’t made any progress with Max 7 since January, I keep putting it off in favour of more pressing things (preparing studies). A few weeks ago, though, a friend suggested I should go and improvise in the wood near the Dairy. I think this will be a good catalyst for starting to play with Max – starting with something a little more imaginative will remind me of what I want to achieve with this software in the first place.

– I ordered an Airturn foot pedal so I can use my iPad to read scores. Now that I’ve paid the pesky customs fee, it’s due to arrive on Thursday.

– I’ve continued to work on my website, and am becoming quite please with it (do have a look around). As well as the things you see – blog, performances page with videos etc. – I now have some things up and running in the back end as well. I can look at how many people visit, how they happen upon the site, which country they’re from. However, I don’t like the idea of treating the website as properly ‘finished’ at any point. I hope it can continue to grow as I explore different avenues of creativity, with words as well as with music.

– Finally, I’ve used ArtsHub to find and apply for some jobs here in the UK. No success yet exactly, though a theatre company (they were looking for a musician/improviser for a production) said they would keep my name on file.

Actually, that’s not too bad a list!

January ArtStart Reflection

I think it’s a good idea to write a short reflection each month on what I’ve achieved with my 2015 ArtStart grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. While my main focus for the moment is the flute studio course, I’ve already started the ball rolling with a few other things as well:

– Most importantly, I submitted my application to the Bang on a Can Summer Festival on January 15th. A trip to the US in July/August to attend the festival, take some lessons and attend the National Flute Convention was a central element of my grant proposal. I was happy with the application, but can never know who else is applying. I find out whether I’m going in early March.

– I started work on my website, which is very exciting. So far, I’ve done most of the written content and had a bit of a play around with design. My lovely friend Matt has been doing some of the trickier bits. While we’ve managed to embed a twitter feed, we’re still working on getting this blog as part of the website, as well as sorting out bits and pieces of back end design. I also need to go back over my performance videos and recordings to decide which ones I really want to put up. Rather than just making the website about my flute playing, I’m keen for it to reflect the range of things I do in music, writing and radio.

– I joined ArtsHub for the year. I put this on my application both to look at the range of arts jobs available and to have access to various resources and articles on work in the arts industry. The jobs board hasn’t been amazing so far – more targeted towards arts admin jobs – but the articles have been interesting.

– I’ve downloaded Max 7, a program which allows me to generate electronics patches. Following the Blackbirdwhich was written for my final MMus recital by the lovely Andrew Aronowicz, used Max for the electronics component, and I’m keen to use it further in creative and collaborative projects. But firstly, I need to learn how to use it… cue tutorial videos!

– I’ve looked into the small business management course I want to do following my time here in Kent. Still need to book though.

– And finally, I’ve made trips up to London to attend masterclasses and concerts. Once my budget was all planned out, I had about $120 left over, and so decided that it could support travel up to London while I’m here. While my 16-25 railcard is a big help, trains in the UK are still expensive!

So far I feel like I’m on track to complete all my ArtStart grant activities, though there is a lot of work ahead. More importantly, though, there is a lot of artistic growth to look forward to.