Head joint upgrades, Part 1!

Are you feeling like your flute is letting you down? Do you feel you are ready for an instrument that can do what you can imagine doing? Are you looking to upgrade to a much better instrument—and yet, you don't have the funds for a whole new flute?

We've all been in this position, and the very best advice I can give you is to UPGRADE YOUR HEAD JOINT! The head joint of a flute is like the bow for a violin or cello—and believe me, our string-player friends spend a lot of time searching for a better bow, since it is so much more affordable than a better fiddle!

As long as the body of your flute is working well—and if it isn't, you should send it to Luthier Tomás Miranda right away!—then you can definitely make a huge positive impact in your performance by upgrading to a better head joint.

Which brings me to Powell and Powell's famous head joints: famous since 1927 for their response, flexibility and projection! I have in stock a wide selection of head joints, both Signature (a more accessible line which is still totally handmade) and Custom, in materials ranging from classic Silver, Grenadilla, Aurumite and Gold. There's literally something for everyone.

If you are interested, just contact me for a no-obligation trial, or attend the 5th Summer Flute Academy, where there will be oodles of stock available to try and buy.

Gorgeous Powell head joints, waiting for you to find yours!

Gorgeous Powell head joints, waiting for you to find yours!

D E D I C A T I O N !!

Yesterday, on my way to rehearsal, I passed by a diplomatic ceremony in front of the Jerónimos Monastery. I was feeling grumpy because I'd had to get off a warm seat on the tram to walk past this "stoppage" and catch another tram on the other side.

Then I saw these colleagues, from the Portuguese Army Band, out on the street, playing at 9:15am, when the temperature—yes, in Lisbon!—was 4º Centigrade (that's 40º F). WOW, guys, that is great for skiing, but COOOOOLD for standing still, let alone playing. Yet there they were, and playing beautifully and somehow even in tune.

My hat's off to these musicians, that's for sure. I hope the diplomats had some appreciation.

We know all the years of practice and dedication it takes to reach professional level, but sometimes it just hits you in the face: you really have to be, and stay, DEDICATED!!

PS: No, Lisbon is not supposed to be this cold (but it is, sometimes)!! PPS: Yes, there were at least 4 flutists in the band—BRAVO!

The Portuguese Army Band, performing with class and distinction in 4ºC weather!

The Portuguese Army Band, performing with class and distinction in 4ºC weather!

CAROS COMPOSITORES: 4º Concurso de Composição está em curso!

Queridos e estimados compositores—queria também anunciar, agora em português, a 4ª Edição do Concurso de Composição para Flautas Transversais da Academia de Flauta de Verão! Temos duas categorias diferentes que achamos que vão vos inspirar:

1) OBRA A SOLO para uma das "low flutes": flauta em sol, flauta baixo, ou flauta contrabaixo.

2) QUINTETO para 5 flautistas com instrumentação flexível.

O nosso concurso está aberto à compositores de todas as idades e nacionalidades, e temos abertura para qualquer estilo de escrita. Estamos ansiosos para ver, tocar e ouvir o que vocês podem imaginar!

Obras que obtém um 1º Prémio terão estreia durante a 5ª Academia de Flauta de Verão em Julho de 2017 no Porto. Serão gravados em audio e vídeo, e serão publicado pelo notável Scherzo Editions, e há ainda um prémio monetário.

Nota-se que a Scherzo Editions já foi premiado pela National Flute Association em 2016, com um 1º Prémio para Obras Recém-Publicadas (Newly Published Music Competition)—BRAVO, Scherzo Editions, uma empresa 100% portuguesa!!

O Concurso conta com o apoio precioso da Powell Flutes, EUA e da Kingma Flutes da Holanda, da Scherzo Editions e ainda com a ajuda da ESMAE no Porto—OBRIGADA A TODOS!

O regulamento pode está no site da Academia de Flauta de Verão. A data limite é dia 20 de Março de 2017—por favor, ajudam a partilhar estas informações, obrigada!

Friday! At Queluz Palace - A Rare Chance to Hear a Classical-Period Flute!

How many times has you heard Mozart performed on the kind of flute that he actually wrote for? Not many, if you are like me! So this Friday, at 9.30pm you'll have a rare chance to hear his music, along with other galant and classical composers, performed by the Italian flutist Laura Pontecorvo, and her Helianthus Ensemble in the perfect setting at Queluz Palace, outside Lisbon.

Laura, a fantastic teacher and versatile performer of "early" flutes, will be performing on a copy of a Grenser flute that she found in the oddest way—read the story here! Kind of like finding a Stradivarius in your fire-wood pile…Such luck!! This flute has 5 keys, as opposed to the one-keyed baroque flute, and was a dominant instrument in the second half of the 18th Century.

In this concert, Laura will perform with her Helianthus colleagues Iskrena Yordanova, violin, Marco Ceccato, cello, and Guido Morini, harpsichord, in various formations from duo to quartet, and including music by Haydn and Danzi among others. So it is really a fantastic and rare opportunity to hear "Mozart's Flute" in its natural element, with other instruments of the same period, and performed by top-notch players! For more information on the program, click here!

After all, for all that we've heard about his not liking the flute, Mozart did not write a famous opera called "The Magic…Clarinet"!! 

Laura Pontecorvo, founder of the  Helianthus Ensemble

Laura Pontecorvo, founder of the Helianthus Ensemble

POWELL DAY in LISBON - A gigantic success!

A week has passed, and I'm finally "back in the saddle" here with some news! Sorry—busy time of year!

Our first-ever POWELL DAY was a gigantic success! For the flutists who came by, nonstop all day long, there was a "feast" of flutes, piccolos and head joints to try out, two rooms and three "specialist" ears to listen attentively. Everyone had, I do believe, a blast trying out all the gear, and exploring the differences that the various head joint cuts, metals, weights, and so forth DO, IN FACT, make to the resulting sound. This permits each person to find their perfect match—so that they can become their own dream flutist!

Meanwhile, the folks from Boston, Daniel Sharp and Rebecca Eckles, were quite taken aback by the fantastic level of the flutists coming by. Yup! We're a small country on the map, but flute-wise, we are getting pretty darn BIG! It's been an exciting time and things are only getting better and better. It's always cool when "outsiders" confirm what we here feel—the BUZZ!

So I thank everyone who came by, it was a blast! And anyone who would like a follow-up session, or couldn't make it on that day, just contact me to set up a trial—there are still plenty of flutes (piccs and head joints) to try out!  

The early risers on POWELL DAY, with Tiago Canto, Dina Hernandez, Vera Morais, Tomás Miranda, Daniel Sharp, Rebecca Eckles and a LOT of flutes!

The early risers on POWELL DAY, with Tiago Canto, Dina Hernandez, Vera Morais, Tomás Miranda, Daniel Sharp, Rebecca Eckles and a LOT of flutes!

Back in the saddle!

I've been enjoying the last gasp of Summer, before things really get rolling next week! Of course practicing anyway, but also had a short trip out of town to catch up with my European cousins and stock up on inspiration!

As we all get "back in the saddle" (Wild-West terminology still in the language!) here's some advice I even hope to follow myself: spend not too much time in the "comfort" zone, nor too much time in the "impossible, panic-inducing" zone, focussing instead on the "learning" zone in between these two extremes, where we push ourselves without causing panic (and extra tensions). Go steady, enjoy even the mistakes, and progress will come!

Here's a little angel to watch over us all, found on my travels:

Bas-relief by Eleonore Blount

Bas-relief by Eleonore Blount

Zen and the Art of Returning to Practice

It is September! A new season beckons, full of plans as well as many unscheduled surprises! The feeling of "back-to-school" permeates the air, and in spite of the implied work, it is somehow invigorating!

A rather Zen-style tactic that I find helpful after some rest is to focus not on the audible results of my playing straight away, but rather to disconnect from the goal and focus on the elements that will help me to arrive at that goal: good posture and body use, relaxed breathing, generous blowing, making corrections to any errors encountered with a low-stress attitude, and connecting to the pleasure of music-making through improvisation or sight-reading. Even while gradually adding in the "menu" of required exercises, studies or pieces, this Zen attitude can be encouraged and you may be surprised by…the results!

Here's a photo to remind us of the joy and wonder of making music!

"What is making that noise?"

"What is making that noise?"

Indulge! (It's August 31st…)

All of a sudden it is the last day of August—how did that happen? I would like to say that I did the European thing of taking the month off, but to be honest, musicians rarely take a month off without "paying for it". Do we all know the classic joke? Here goes:

"If you take one day off, you will notice. If you take two days off, your wife will notice. If you take three days off, the whole world will notice." 

So how about we split the difference, we hard-working musicians who appear (I emphasize the word "APPEAR") to just get up and play, and INDULGE ourselves in whatever counts in your book as an indulgence? It could even be a healthy indulgence (though I think that should count less, no?), but here's the remainder of my little indulgence for the day. Tomorrow is September, and I'm gonna need all the boost I can get!

It's amazing how good these still are…

It's amazing how good these still are…

The Sound of Silence

You might think, if you are not TOO TOO young, that I'm referring to the classic Simon and Garfunkel album, the one I grew up listing to endlessly, putting the needle back into the groove again and again. (This was way before vinyl was "vintage", it was just "a record"). What a fabulous album! Want to know how to balance or pace a program or a CD? Look no further. "Sounds of Silence", technically. 

But no, I'm actually talking about the SILENCE of having my cell phone in the shop!! THIS, folks, is real silence! No calls, no alerts, no beeps, no apps…and… no distractions! It is a drastic measure, and I don't recommend smashing the screen on your phone to experience it, but there's something magic, too! Time that is wider-open. Silence that you can sink into. (In short: I got a lot of tidying up done!).

As musicians, we concentrate on the SOUNDS we make, but the SILENCE in between is always important, too. The silence before a piece begins, the silence after—sometimes big, sometimes tiny. The silence of an empty strong beat (thanks again, Karl Kohn). The silence where the music breathes. Here's a visual representation of lots of silence and the punch of just a little bit of "sound"—

Central Park, New York City

Central Park, New York City