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Six Strategies to Tackle Your Solo


I recently handed out solos to my students for the Solo and Ensemble Contest. Some took the music, excitement shining through their eyes at the upcoming challenge. Others pushed their chair back, afraid the music would hurt them somehow. “That’s a lot of notes,” they told me.

So what do you do to learn a new piece? There’s no doubt it can be an overwhelming task. Learning a new solo can be like putting a puzzle together. The box has a beautiful picture full of the promise of beauty and enjoyment. But when you open the box, there are hundreds of tiny squares, all shapes and colors and you wonder if it will ever look like that box. Where do we start?

Piece by Piece.

Strategy #1: Set Attainable Goals – If I know that I have three months to learn my solo, I need to set a goal of how much I should learn week by week in order to pace it out. Let your teacher help you set these goals if you’re not sure how to do this. Make sure your weekly goal is not too high. Otherwise, you may get frustrated if you don’t achieve it. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to learn half of my solo by Friday,” say “I’ll learn two lines of my solo by Friday.” For beginning flute players, this may be four measures by Friday.

Strategy #2: Mark Your Music – Always mark accidentals, key signatures, and counts for difficult rhythms straight into your music. You may even want to use highlighters to color code your dynamics or other markings that you are likely to miss during the actual performance. As you are learning the piece, if you miss a note, mark it.

Strategy #3: Break Solo into Learnable Chunks – I’ve found that if I break my solo into learnable chunks first, it’s not so overwhelming. This also includes the difficult passages. Work on them first. Many people procrastinate when it comes to learning the runs or technical passages because, let’s face it, they are the hardest parts. The problem with this approach is that runs take the longest to learn. So if you start them early on, your fingers will develop enough muscle memory to sustain you through the pressure of the actual performance.

After you learn all the pieces of your solo, then you’re ready to start piecing the chunks together. You might add two parts together, then three, etc., until you can play the entire length of your solo.

Strategy #4: Use a Metronome – Always learn your solo under tempo. As a general rule, I teach my students to start out at half speed, and then work the tempo up slowly. Once you can play the entire solo at the slower speed, including the runs and technical passages, then you are ready to move the metronome up to the next tempo setting.

Strategy #5: Polish Your Solo – Allow yourself a few weeks before the performance to polish the piece and perfect it. It’s during this stage that you can continue to build speed if your solo requires it, and enhance the musical elements such as style, dynamics and vibrato. This is where the musical magic takes place.

Strategy #6: Don’t Procrastinate – There’s nothing worse than putting an entire puzzle together, only to find the last piece is missing. If you wait until the week before your solo to learn it or work on the challenging elements, you’ll be nervous when you go into perform and won’t know what’s going to come out of your flute. That beautiful picture you wanted to create in the beginning will most likely be a blurred version of the original and the musical magic will not take place.

Whatever strategies you choose to learn a solo, we have to start piece by piece until that musical image comes into view. Best of luck to you as you put together the musical puzzle of your solo.

*Reposted by Rachelle Harp, RH Music Studio, LLC from 2011


Flute Talk – An Interview with Julee Kim Walker

I’m so thrilled to have Julee Kim Walker, flute professor at Texas A&M University – Commerce, as my guest on the blog today. An amazing musician and teacher, Julee shares her passion of music with young flutists everyday.


Flutist Julee Kim Walker remains an active performer and pedagogue in the DFW and Texoma regions. She is the newly appointed Instructor of Flute at Texas A&M University – Commerce starting Fall 2012. Prior to her appointment, she held teaching positions at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Grayson County College, Eastfield College, and the University of North Texas as a Teaching Fellow. Ms. Walker received her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her Master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Currently, she is a Doctoral Candidate (ABD) at the University of North Texas. Ms. Walker has served on the Board of Directors in the Texas Flute Society, and the Oklahoma Flute Society, and is the Director of the Texas Summer Flute Symposium.

Ms. Walker’s primary teachers include Terri Sundberg, Tim Day, Karl Kraber, Christina Jennings, September Payne, Helen Blackburn, and Elizabeth McNutt.

She resides in Rockwall with her husband, a trumpet professor, and 3 cats named Samson, Delilah, and Trouble.

What inspired you to play the flute?

I remember watching the TV show “Who’s the Boss” in 5th grade. There was an episode that featured actress Alyssa Milano playing the flute. I remember thinking it was shiny and had a beautiful sound, and that I was going to play flute in 6th grade!!

What are some of your favorite pieces to perform?

The Great Train Race by Ian Clarke is one of my most favorite pieces to perform. It requires high energy and is so fun to perform. The response from the audience is always overwhelming….it is definitely a crowd pleaser!!

I also enjoy performing the Hue Fantaisie. It explores a wide range of technique, lyricism, and tone color on the flute.

What about your students? Any favorites they seem to flock to?

My students seem to have an affinity towards Ian Clarke’s music. Specifically, many of them are interested in performing the piece Maya for Two Flutes and Piano this semester.

I also have students who really enjoy performing Francis Borne’s Carmen Fantasy – a familiar melody with lots of flash!

If a high schooler where expressing interest in studying music in college, what advice would you give them to prepare them?

Know that even though music is something you enjoy, it is hard work. It takes perseverance and dedication to be a successful musician. Know that being a music major requires extra responsibility.

Take advantage of any music theory courses offered in high school. A lot of times, freshman students come into college with no music theory background, and seem to feel lost the first semester of theory.

What are some practice tips that have helped you on flute over the years?

I’ve heard this tip many times – simple yet so true. SLOW PRACTICE! Oh and, use a metronome!

Here’s the one everyone asks me – how do you perform and not get so nervous? Any tips for kicking out the nerves at auditions or performances?

The best way to overcome performance anxiety, in my opinion, is to do it often. Our body’s natural defense mechanisms will kick in when we feel pressure when performing. You have to become familiar with yourself…how does your body react to that particular situation? How does it make you feel? Once you are able to identify these things, you understand yourself better, and you feel more in control. Don’t forget to take some deep breaths before playing, but most importantly, feel the music and let it take control.

Who are some of your favorite flute performers? Is there one that really inspired you more than others?

Emmanuel Pahud is my absolute favorite flute performer. I recently saw him perform live and was absolutely inspired by his level of musicianship, along with his flawless tone, technique and lyricism. His playing speaks to your soul!

What’s the most fun thing about being a musician and/or your job?

The great thing about being a musician is that, your job is never predictable. It keeps you on your toes, whether it be performing, gigging, teaching, or practicing!

If I were to turn on your iPod or radio, what would I most likely hear?

I enjoy Top 40 hits, but my favorite bands are the Punch Brothers, Muse, and Radiohead (all 3 of which I have seen perform live very recently!)

Tell me about the upcoming flute symposium. What can flutists expect the week to be like? Who are some of the performers/teachers this year?

The 3rd Annual Texas Summer Flute Symposium will be a week filled with recitals and masterclasses with Guest Artists from all over the US. It will also include flute choir, chamber music and electives, ranging from instrument repair to piccolo classes. We are very fortunate to have the following Guest Artists join us this year!

John Thorne is the new Professor of Flute from Northwestern University in Illinois. He was previously the Associate Principal Flutist of the Houston Symphony for 20 years.

Terri Sundberg from the University of North Texas will be joining us again this year! She is one of the most well-respected pedagogues not only in the state of Texas, all around the world!

Conor Nelson from Bowling Green State University will be gracing us with his presence…..he is full of energy and students will absolutely enjoy his teaching and playing.

And last but not least, Areon Flutes, a flute trio from California, will be joining us with their trendy, avant garde performances. Can’t be missed!!


12 Tips for a Successful Audition

Auditions for next year’s band placements are right around the corner. The key to a successful audition: preparation! Cramming for an audition never works, so start today and you may find you kill some of those annoying butterflies that keep hanging around.

  1. No procrastination. If you wait until the week of, you won’t be prepared.
  2. Set a practice schedule and stick to it. Try practicing the same time of day and on the same days of the week for best results.
  3. Practice difficult scales or portions of your music for a longer time frame. Try 5-10 repetitions for each difficult scale, or 5-10 extra minutes on that difficult passage.
  4. Turn the TV and cell phone off while you practice to limit your distractions. Texting can wait.
  5. Relax! Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Don’t demand perfection – allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and keep going. If you start dwelling on the bad stuff during the audition, you’ll wind up making more mistakes.
  6. Get a good night of rest the night before.
  7. On the day of the audition, take a walk beforehand. This will help get rid of some of the nervous energy and get the oxygen flowing.
  8. Eat a healthy breakfast and drink water. Avoid caffeine and sugary meals.
  9. Dress in comfortable clothes (professional if necessary) and bring a sweater.
  10. Allow yourself plenty of time to warm up before hand.
  11. Have fun and enjoy the music!
  12. Did I mention practice????

“Failing to prepare is like preparing to fail.” ~Sir James Galway

2014-15 Texas Flute All-State Music Announced

Check the TMEA website for official listings, errata, and performance guide.


Book: Flute Etudes Book by Mary Karen Clardy, published by Misc Corp. or Schott


Selection 1

Pages: 2-3

Key: C Major

Etude Title: Courante

Tempo: Quarter Note = 100-132

Play from Beginning to End (no repeats)



M. 44 – the 6th note should be a high F (not a G)

Change the articulation of m. 35 to match the articulation of m. 37 and 39 (the second beat should be slurred in groups of 2)

All slurs indicate with dashed lines (e.g. m. 4) should be slurred as usual.


Piccolo: Play low Cs one octave higher (8va) than printed. (m. 8 & m. 72)


Selection 2

Page: 58

Key: Bb Minor

Etude Title: Op. 107/28

Tempo: Dotted eighth note 50-72

Play from Beginning to End



Clarifications: All slurs that end with a staccato note under a slur should be slurred into and released as a short note.

Play the last notes of all slurs this way, with or without the staccato release.


m. 2 – 14th note should be B-flat

m. 2 – last note should be a sixteenth note

m. 4 – 11th note is A-flat (the accidental does not carry across the octave)

m. 6 – 21st note should be G-flat

m. 8 – 17th note should be C-natural

m. 12 – The third slur of this measure should begin one note earlier (on high E-flat) and continue to A-flat as written

m. 16 – The last note is B-flat

m. 16 – Add a sixteenth rest after the last note


Piccolo: play as written



Selection 3

Page: 36

Key: C# Minor

Etude Title: Op. 107/23

Tempo: Quarter note 38-46

Play from beginning to end



m. 9 – omit the dots from the eighth notes in beats 2 and 3. (The resulting rhythm will be an eighth note and four 32nd notes, NOT a dotted eighth not and four 64ths)

m. 11 – the second to last note should be  C-sharp



m. 3 and m. 12 – play the low C#s one octave higher (8va)

m. 15 – play the last 4 notes (G, F#, D, C#) one octave higher (8va)

m. 16 – play the 1st note (B#) one octave higher (8va)

m. 23, beat 3 – play the 1st 3 (D#, E, C#) notes one octave higher (8va)

m. 25 – play the last 12 notes (starting on the B-natural on the 2nd half of beat 2) one octave higher (8va)

m. 26 – play the C# one octave higher (8va)

Upcoming High School All-Region Masterclasses


4 Tips for Building Speed on the E minor “Elegie-Etude” by Donjon

The All-Region audition is getting closer. Here are some tips I’ve shown my students to help them build their speed on the “fast etude” for this year’s Texas All-State Auditions. I hope they help!

1. Chunk by Chunk

  • Practice small chunks at a time, say two or three lines. Gradually increase your speed.
  • Start with a comfortable metronome tempo. When you can play the entire section easily without flaws at this tempo, bump the metronome up one click (generally 3-4 beats per minute depending on your metronome). Repeat, gradually increasing your tempo over the next few weeks until you reach your goal tempo.
  • Try piecing the chunks together a few at a time near the end of each week.

2. Use Alternate Fingerings

  • For measures 26-33, use the alternate F# fingering for all F#s in this section.

  • For measures 18, 19 and 20, you can leave your third finger on the right hand down as you play the first two groups of 32nd notes of each measure. Look for other measure that might work like that for you!

3. Daily Repetitions

  • Building speed takes time. The more daily repetitions, the better. It will probably take you many weeks to reach reach goal tempo. So start today – don’t wait!

Procrastination + Fast, Unsure Fingers = Fall Apart at the Audition.

4. Three Points of Balance

  • Check your balance points as you play. Are you putting too much pressure on the right hand? Or too much on the left? In order to play fast and fluid, you need to have equal pressure and balance between each hand.

  • Exercise: Try holding your flute with only the three balance points. At first, the flute may roll backwards on you. That means your not putting enough pressure on one of these three points. Practice over a bed or couch (for your flute’s safety!). When you can keep the flute from rolling backwards using only these three points, you’ve got your flute balanced!

Good luck building your speed, and good luck at the audition!

2012 Region XXV Middle School All-Region Videos on YouTube

Here are links to Region XXV Middle School All-Region Etudes on YouTube that I found. These performers are awesome, so I hope you enjoy!

Etude 1, G Minor:

Performed by Lish Lindsey

Etude 2, C Minor:

Performed by OzFluteTunes (You’ll have to watch through YouTube to see this one!)