Several flute teachers offer advice to students who are completing their college flute programs.
Adah Toland Jones
Adah Toland Jones, professor of flute at Texas State, is principal flute with the Austin Opera and the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra and plays frequently with Austin and San Antonio Symphonies. She holds BM. and M.M. degrees and a Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and a Doctor of Arts degree from Ball State University where she was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Citation. Former Texas State students have gone on to attend such prestigious graduate schools as University of North Texas, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, University of Illinois, Ball State University, University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory, and Texas Tech University. She is a Burkart artist.
At Texas State University I have had the opportunity to guide numerous students as they make plans for continuing their education after leaving my studio. Finding the right graduate school is an involved process and takes time and patience.
Start by being sure of your career choice before moving ahead with graduate school plans. As an undergraduate, seek your professor’s advice about attending masterclasses, flute events, and the NFA convention. This will help you immerse yourself in the flute world, make connections, and more clearly understand the rigors of the profession. From the first semester as an undergraduate, start building a résumé by keeping track of recital and concert programs, attendance or performance at masterclasses, honors and awards, and work and teaching experiences. By junior year, if you feel confident in your current program and future plans, start looking into the numerous choices for graduate school.
Many schools require pre-screening, usually by December of senior year, so you should start preparations in the spring of your junior year to have appropriate repertoire chosen and a clear plan of how to proceed. Design a chart of expenses that you will incur. There will be money spent on pianists, recording sessions, application fees and travel expenses to take auditions. Start saving as soon as possible to eliminate the stress of the financial considerations when the time comes.
Consult numerous resources. Publications such as Flute Talk and The Flutist Quarterly provide articles, interviews, masterclass listings and information about summer activities. Get advice and information from people who are currently working in the field that interests you. Start with your flute professor and with professors in other areas within your music program and also with contacts you have made in your outside endeavors. Go to the library and read college catalogs and search the Internet for pertinent information about your top school choices.
Get organized and make a journal of questions, ideas, and goals. Keep folders for paperwork and organize ideas in folders on your computer. Make lists or charts of various schools to keep track of requirements, audition materials, financial details and deadlines.
Devise a chart for repertoire requirements to see what kind of overlap there might be. This will assist you in streamlining your preparations. How many schools require a Mozart Concerto? What schools ask for a Bach Sonata? How many ask for orchestral excerpts and which ones? What are the technique requirements?
Throw out a large net. Try to find a balance between your dream schools and those that may be more realistic choices. Try to strike a balance between finding the right teacher and the quality of the college or university. Location considerations might include whether there will be opportunities to hear your professor perform, professional groups that perform in the area, teaching and performing opportunities for students. Research the programs thoroughly before you apply. Know whether there are good faculty members in multiple areas, high-caliber performing ensembles, chamber music, and so forth. Having enough choices to have a Plan A, B and even C will provide options you are comfortable with if you do not get into your first-choice school.
Be versatile and consider combining your interests to include more than just flute performance. Other areas to explore could include music theory, music history, research, ethnomusicology, world music ensembles, or jazz combos. The possibilities are endless. If you play another instrument, determine whether there are opportunities to pursue instruction on that instrument as well. Pianists might want to look at chances for accompanying. Look into programs that have entrepreneurship elements to their degree or community outreach programs. Courses in business or arts administration can be valuable.
You will need to get recommendations from several sources for your applications. Contacts that you have made while an undergraduate will have current knowledge of your work. You never know when people will change jobs or retire, so update recommendations regularly if you postpone graduate school. When possible, letters of recommendation that have been made confidentially carry more weight. If you have the choice, always waive your right to view recommendations. If available, develop a Placement File where letters can be submitted and kept on file.
Prepare thoroughly for auditions. Always be sure to prepare auditions with the support of your undergraduate applied teacher. Check audition requirements very carefully. These may vary considerably from school to school. If pre-screening is required, be sure to submit exactly what is required and send the highest quality recording possible. Allow plenty of time for recording sessions as this process can take several tries to get the best result. Put your best foot forward at the beginning of the CD or the audition committee may never listen to the rest.
Visiting prospective schools is highly recommended. Auditioning in person gives you a chance to experience the environment where you may be studying and lets you see if the teacher is someone with whom you would work well. Find out how you will fit into the program and if you like the location, the facilities and the overall atmosphere in the music school. Attend classes, talk to administrators and, most importantly, talk to students.
Prepare all other materials carefully. Have at least two people proofread all application materials. Be sure to make all deadlines. This is crucial and can affect not only admittance but also any scholarships, fellowships or teaching assistantships. Be proactive in following up on the application procedure. Keep in contact with the flute professor and graduate advisor to be sure everything moves forward smoothly.
Study for any tests that are required for admittance and then be prepared for any placement tests after you are admitted. A majority of schools require theory and history placement exams and require classes if you do not score in an acceptable range. This is not something to cause concern, but be aware that most of these remedial classes do not count toward your degree. On a positive note, they can be very helpful as review of important material and may lead to a better understanding in other classes that you will take.
Be sure to carefully research financial considerations. Keep track of tuition rates and other fees. Living expenses may vary greatly in different areas. This is an important consideration when mapping out your finances and making a final decision. Look into all scholarships and assistantship possibilities thoroughly.
The legwork that you do as an undergraduate will really pay off when the time comes to move on to graduate study. Find a place that speaks to you, provides the program and experiences that match your goals, and where you will feel motivated to excel.
Jennifer Amox is a lecturer at Henderson State University, where she teaches applied flute, music theory, and music education technology. Amox is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, where she studied with Diane Boyd-Schultz, and Henderson State University, where she studied with Shelley Martin. She is currently writing her dissertation to complete a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Flute Performance at the University of Memphis, where she studied with Elise Blatchford and Bruce Erskine.
The last lesson usually occurs in the same place where the first contact began. When potential college students first visit our campus, the flute studio students and I take them to the coffeehouse. The prospective students and I make small talk as I buy them a caffeinated beverage, and then I leave so that they are free to ask the studio members the real questions about campus life that they do not feel comfortable asking me.
We have visited this place several times over the course of their academic careers. It has become a place of solace away from the expectations of the studio with the flute in hand. We have dined with guest artists and planned repertoire for recitals and competitions here. We have mapped out graduate school audition plans and resumes for job searches. Sometimes emotional meetings have taken place here too. In this very booth, there are memories of tears cried into a coffee cup after a particular stressful week. There are echoes of not-so-gentle warnings that performance is slipping to a level below the expectations they have set for themselves. Scales and Bach sonatas happen in the studio, but personal growth happens here.
We return to this place – just the two of us – for the sake of nostalgia and to signify the transition from my role as teacher to facilitator. This event is not the last contact. It usually occurs after a culminating performance, such as a senior recital, long before graduation. Most of my college students are music education majors who have internships their last semester, thus the senior recital may be scheduled nine months or more before commencement. We will see each other several times after the “last lesson,” but this event signifies the termination of the syllabus contract we have entered together.
Before the student arrives, I remind him or her to bring any borrowed materials to this last meeting – sheet music, Pneumo Pro, recordings, etc. I rarely receive all of the borrowed items at this last lesson, but the message serves as a reminder to begin the searching process before vacating their dorm rooms and apartments for the final time. A stack of materials miraculously appears on my desk during finals week, usually with an apologetic note attached.
Sometime before this final lesson, a marathon duet-reading session occurs – Kuhlau interspersed with Schocker, Uebayashi, and Mower. Duets have always been viewed as a reward in the studio for effective preparation, so it seems fitting that our last musical moments would be spent playing together.
“Duets with you always felt like a mutual love and understanding for music and a desire to just have fun with it. It also led me to see reading music with other people as potential opportunities to share and create memorable sessions.”
– Corey Barta, BA, Henderson State
MM Texas Woman’s University
Videos of their studio class, convocation, and recital performances are compiled into an unlisted YouTube channel. We have revisited these performances over the years when self-doubt and frustration make progress seem impossible. We review them now as a celebration as we sip our coffee. There are giggles and gasps, but there is always a smile of pride at the end.
If I have done my job properly, the students have now come to see me as merely a resource in their own self-directed quest. The curriculum I set is replaced by their own as they begin to carve their own niche in the music world. In the years leading up to this moment, we have discussed their long-term goals and the steps needed to accomplish them. We take this opportunity to reflect upon those goals and to create new ones. We ask the hard questions:
• How can I help you become the person you want to be?
• What do you plan on giving to the world?
• How are you qualified to do so?
• If you are not qualified yet, what are the next steps you need to take in order to get there?
We have been asking these questions for years, but the students have not considered them as seriously as they do now that they are going to graduate. My role now is to write recommendation letters, sign graduation applications, and serve as a sounding board as they plan their future.
“The thing that I remember most about our meeting after my recital was sitting down and talking about what I wanted to do with my life, about things that would have to happen to get there, and hearing what some of the realities of working and getting jobs in music are. I am so thankful for that talk. You sent me out to go after whatever I wanted, but you gave me information that was not sugar-coated and full of false ideas that I would leave Henderson and that everything would magically fall into place all at once. Instead, you told me about the realities that I would face and gave me a few extra tools and ideas to help me along the way.”
– Nicole Jackson, B.M. Henderson State
M.M. University of Memphis
“I think the most valuable part of our last lesson was just encouragement. You made me feel like I was capable of making the right decision for my life and whatever I felt called to next was valid. That made me feel so validated and so much more confident that I had the ability to make the next incredibly scary decision. I knew that going forward, I had someone who actively believed in me and wanted to help me.”
– Claire Howard, B.M. Henderson State
M.M. commencing fall 2017 Texas Tech Univ.
Now the coffee cup is empty. We exchange hugs, and I watch them walk out the door as a professional ready to face the world.
Diane Boyd Schultz
Flutist and piccoloist Diane Boyd Schultz has given solo and chamber performances in the US, Canada, France, the UK, Russia, Romania, and Austria. She has performed as flutist and piccoloist of the Dallas Bach Society, Alabama Symphony, Terre Haute Symphony, Tuscaloosa Symphony, Shreveport Symphony, and Richardson Symphony Orchestras. She is a prizewinner of several national and international competitions, including the Mu Phi Epsilon International Competition and the National Federation of Music Clubs Orchestral Winds Competition. Schultz is professor of flute of the School of Music at The University of Alabama, where she is also a member of the Capstone Wind Quintet. Previously she was on the faculties of Stephen F. Austin and Eastern Illinois Universities. She is a Yamaha Performing Artist.
I cannot believe how quickly four years have passed. Ever since I met you at All-State Orchestra your senior year in high school, I knew you would be a fantastic music educator.
I was so pleased when you came to study with me, particularly after hearing from your high school private teacher how diligent you were in your musical endeavors. I have enjoyed watching your musical and personal maturation, though at times you tried to do too much in your quest to have new musical experiences. While your brief flirtations with tenor saxophone and trumpet were a bit detrimental to your flute embouchure, you gained valuable insight from playing in ensembles with those instruments.
I watched you at your first NFA Convention, where you worked with other musicians in the Collegiate Flute Choir, learned about practice strategies involving the entire musical score, and answered a question a year later related to the session I presented. You learned a great deal about tonal focus and variation at that first NFA experience, and you also explored a variety of repertoire, which you displayed at your junior recital.
What I will remember most, perhaps, is your enthusiasm for learning and your positive attitude, and these attributes will serve you well in your professional life. I knew I could count on you in studio class to provide insightful and constructive comments to your peers, to try new things with zest, and to retain a positive attitude. The younger students looked to you for guidance as they prepared for their first convocation performance, guest masterclass experience, or summer festival audition.
You did not always practice those DeLorenzo etudes enough or start the memorization process in a timely fashion, but you brought everything together by the end of your time at the university. You learned from your mistakes and eventually found a method for time management, so that by your senior recital, you were excited, prepared, and confident. You performed expressively and with solid technique and showed so many nuances. While I was so proud of you and your recital, I could not help but think how you had finally arrived at a wonderful musical place – just in time for graduation.
I have no doubt that you will be a successful music educator as you move to your new job and that you will bring a wealth of knowledge to your students. I will not say goodbye since I know you will be back on campus for events on occasion. Please stop by the studio and say hello. You have been an integral part of the School of Music’s life for four years, and you will be missed in so many ways. I look forward to seeing the trajectory of your professional life in the coming years. By now you know that I have a policy of “service after the sale,” and I will be happy to assist you after your graduation should you have questions or concerns or need help with your flute section.