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Amateur Musicians: Sharing a Love of Music

Jennifer Oliver | October 2016

    There are many talented professional performers and teachers in the flute world. There are also many opportunities for amateur flutists to continue their enjoyment of music. For students who may not want to pursue music professionally or adults looking to re-start their flute playing again, I strongly encourage them to take advantage of one of the great outlets available to them – such as a community band, orchestra, or flute choir.
    I played flute from age 12 and was actively involved in performing groups throughout high school and college. Although I loved music, I chose to pursue an engineering degree instead. When I finished college and first started working, I had little time to dedicate to music.
    After a few years of playing my flute a little here and there at home, I started missing playing in a musical group. Since I was new to the area, I started asking around and found that in the San Francisco Bay Area there were lots of amateur groups. I was a little hesitant, but I contacted the local community band and arranged to sit in for a rehearsal. I was heartily welcomed, and it felt so good to be part of a group again. I quickly joined that local band and enjoyed it so much that after a couple of years I joined another community band in a nearby town as well. Since then I have played in several local community bands and orchestras here in the Bay Area and have made many wonderful friends.

Benefits of Playing
    Besides enjoying the music and the people you meet, there are other driving reasons to continue with music after school ends. 
    Team Comradery. There is nothing like feeling part of the team in a musical ensemble. When you and your team all pull together and put on a successful concert, there is definitely a sense of pride.
    Sense of Accomplishment and Continued Improvement. My level of performance and skill continues to grow even after many years, and I continue to challenge myself by playing harder music. I also find that with performance experience comes confidence – fewer nerves in general and being able to perform as a soloist. I cannot say enough about how much I learn from playing alongside better players than myself, not to mention from knowledgeable conductors.
    Stress Relief. It is medically proven that listening to music relieves stress and promotes relaxation. I have found this be true of playing music as well. It is cathartic to pick up my flute and concentrate solely on the music after a stressful day.
    Sharing Music with Others. I find this is the most rewarding benefit of all. I enjoy sharing music with friends and family who attend the concerts or giving back to the community or charity at a local event. Recently, I had my first chance to teach beginning flute students. It was so rewarding to share my experiences and watch them learn.

    People are often reluctant to take up playing again due to some common myths and misconceptions.
Myth 1: I am not good enough to play in a band or orchestra.
    There are amateur groups for every level of player – from beginning to semi-professional levels. If you are not familiar with a particular group, see if they have any video clips online, attend one of their concerts, or ask to sit in on a rehearsal. A good resource for pointing you in the direction of an appropriate music group is a local music store.
Myth 2: You have to audition to join an ensemble.
    Many amateur groups do not require auditions. Ask up front when inquiring about the group. If an audition is required, keep in mind that there are many forms of auditions. Some are only to make sure that you fit within a general level of playing – so that you will not feel uncomfortable later. They are often not high-pressure situations at all. If you have to audition, prepare,  take a deep breath, and relax. You will do just fine.
Myth 3: If you stop playing for years, you can’t start again.
    I find that these are often the musicians who are the most enjoyable to play music with. After not playing the flute for many years, they pick it up with a new zeal for music that is contagious and enjoyable to be around.
    Whether you are a current student who does not plan to pursue a professional music career or an adult returning to the instrument after years away, I encourage you to find a local concert band, orchestra or flute choir to join. There are so many ways to enjoy and share a love of music.