In September I wrote about the college transition and settling in with a new teacher for the next phase in your educational life. Now that some time has passed, I ask you, “How’s it going?” Is college all you hoped it would be? Are you happy at your new school? What have you learned so far?
It is time to evaluate where you are and set some goals for the future. Serious students at all levels, graduate as well as undergraduate, could benefit from evaluating their progress in a similar manner. We cannot improve if we can’t see our development accurately. So give it a try. Take a minute to rate your progress by writing an assessment; be sure to date it. Write it in your flute journal if you have one started. If you haven’t begun one yet, you should do so. Across the top of the page note the date and make two columns labeled Before and After. Down the left side of the page make categories, such as Tone, Technique, Articulation, Phrasing, Vibrato, Intonation, etc. This will help you be more specific about where you were when you entered school and where you think you are now. Be brutally honest with yourself; nobody is going to see this but you. You can’t improve if you don’t acknowledge your deficiencies.
When you have completed this exercise, start a new page called Goals, and date that also. This is where you plan for the next two months. You have to know where you are in order to determine where you want to go. Relying upon the Before and After assessments, set some goals in each category that will take you into 2015 and note how you are going to achieve them.
Think about how you and your teacher are getting along. Have you given his or her suggestions an honest try, or are you pushing back, not wanting to change? During a 40-year teaching career I had only two students who refused to accept my suggestions. One went so far as to haul her parents into the Dean’s office in an attempt to get me fired. Yes, it was pretty intense. My crime was failing to tell her how wonderful she was at every opportunity. (I always thought I was hired to improve students, not praise them.) In fact, the dissatisfied student had a lot of potential and should have blossomed; however, she refused to try anything new. Luckily for me, the Dean backed me up; both students eventually left to attend other schools, a decision that I welcomed. Remember, the purpose of a higher education is to refine, enhance, and develop into the best musician you can be. If you already know everything, why would you go to college? When you resist instruction, you impede the process.
Thinking towards the future it is also time to plan for next summer’s musical activities. Working your fingers to the bone for nine months during the school year and then taking a three-month break makes no sense. You lose ground that way. November is the perfect time to explore your Summer 2015 options. Hundreds of masterclasses and seminars abound throughout the U.S. and abroad, and various publications, Flute Talk included, publish lists of these events. Flute Talk even cross-references them by teacher, month, and location. You can find flute events that last anywhere from three days to several weeks.
The advantages of summer study are numerous and include exposure to new ideas and students from vastly different geographical locations, exchange of ideas with those students, and networking. Masterclasses can recharge creative batteries and motivate you to new heights. Folks you meet and work with during the summer may end up being in a position to help you down the road. Fellow students I met during summer music studies included Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, former contrabassoonist with the Chicago Symphony Burl Lane, Los Angeles flutist David Shostac, and pianist Ralph Votapek, to name just a few. They were students at that time but they were on their way to great careers. Part of my appeal to the publisher before I was employed at Flute Talk was my wide-ranging contacts within the musical community, many of which occurred within summer study venues.
So start researching summer opportunities now, start a nest egg to pay for them, and on the practice side, keep your energy going. With your lists of progress and subsequent goals and a summer plan you should be motivated and excited about your path into the future.