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NFA Convention 2021 | Kathleen Herb

Sunday, August 15, 2021 5:00 PM | Sorcha Barr-Deneen

NFA Conference, Day 1!

The NFA Conference has always been to me, as an amateur adult player, a place to get inspired, whether it’s learning a new warmup, listening to some of the fabulous players, or playing along with one of the flute choirs.  This year it is virtual, but it still has a lot of great offerings.  The first day started with the Flute Orchestra, which included a rehearsal Wednesday night.  Of course it was virtual, but a lot of fun!  (There’s definite benefit to playing along on mute, you can play out as much as you want!).

The next session I watched was Movement Matters, which was body mapping.  I definitely benefited from the work she did about head balance being the cause of shoulder pain, because that’s definitely me, head shoved tensely forward as I squint at the music, and very stiff in the right shoulder! They’re having a second session tomorrow which I definitely want to attend.

200 Years of Historical Flutes was an absolutely wonderful presentation, especially if you’re a Baroque fan like me. The concert introduced baroque composers like Atys, D’Hervelois, of course Quantz, Anna Bon, and finished with a Rossini piece from Tancredi, arranged by Tulou and Carulli.  All the players are on period flutes, plus there is a gorgeous 12 string lute! 

After that, I went to an Irish flute reading session, which was a lot of fun, followed by a low flutes reading session.  Then I took a break, but will be back for the late-night Big Band concert!

Here’s a link to the NFA page which has a little preview video.

Till tomorrow! 

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Day 2

Thursday night the wonderful Jazz Big Band concert included pieces by John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie, and “Sail Away” arranged by Mike Wofford, with Ali Ryerson as guest soloist.  A lot of us know now how hard it is to put together a virtual flute choir concert, and this was outstanding!  Today included warmups, several excellent concerts, including “The Peace and Healing” concert for those lost during the year, and the second flute choir reading session.  I also attended the Baroque master class, with Sandra Miller, who was one of the founders of the Juilliard Historical Performance program.  I loved the work she did on the four movements of the Bach Partita.  I studied the Partita this year at State, and know I barely scratched the surface, so I got a lot from it.

My favorite performance today was the Jazz Artist Competition final round.  I heard a great set by flutist  Dominique Gagne (and it’s not just because she’s got a wooden flute!)  She has a lot of postings on YouTube; you might want to listen for yourself!   

The second performer, Lukasz Jankowski, used a Robert Dick glissando headjoint to excellent effect “On Green Dolphin Street.” He finished with “Corcovado” and “Oleo.” Here is the combo’s website, illustrating another great thing about virtual conferences, as this group is in Poland!  

The final combo, with Joseph Melnicove, was also great, here’s a YouTube video of his combo performing in a club.

At the end, all I can say is I’m so glad I don’t have to be a judge for something like this, I’d have to insist on a three way tie for first place!  Now for an early night; I volunteered to play in the Adult Masterclass at 7 in the morning tomorrow! (Gulp!)

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Day 3

My day started with an adult masterclass, and I got to play the Bach e minor, mvt.1, at 7:00 in the morning!  (Yikes!). John Bailey was the master teacher, and he gave me so many good ideas, especially about choosing your breathing according to parallel structure.  He really was a perfect person for an adult amateur class, as he’s both very supportive and gives very specific ideas.

From there I went to a great Baroque workshop divided up into four parts;  Why you should use the Urtext, Choosing a Baroque flute, then two great sessions on ornamentation and articulations.

From there I watched the Baroque competition finalists, and was especially impressed by French flutist Gabrielle Rubio of La Chapelle Harmonique.

After lunch there was the flute choir reading session.  That’s another great benefit of the convention, you can play through an incredible amount of music. 

Finally I watched a session by the principal flute of the Krakow Philharmonic that gave a very clear introduction for circular breathing! For the first time, I understood HOW people do it (of course I haven’t a hope of actually learning it!) Her website is https://www.fluteinfinity.com. 

One excellent element of the conference is that NFA has really committed to diversity.  Today included sessions devoted to Black, Latinx, and AAPI flutists; and several sessions devoted to the LGBTQ community; it’s just really nice to see the focus on inclusivity.  Off to watch a jazz concert!  Till tomorrow!

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Day 4

The conference finished with a “youth flute day,” and focused on workshops that were especially good for younger students.  I went to two workshops that were focused on young people, which had excellent ideas for everyone; one was called “Between the Beats,” and was about training yourself to be more grounded in the beat, including mixed rhythms, hemiolas, etc.  Another was about electronic looping, which looks like it’s fun!  Apparently it’s become more popular during the pandemic, as you can do it alone.

There was an adult flute choir session, and they played one of my favorite pieces, the “Dancing Dessert Suite,” by Paige Dashner Long.  It has three movements, including the Chocolate Truffle Tango, The Sacher Torte Waltz, and the Lemon Meringue Pie—just a really fun piece.  The day ended, of course, with an excellent concert and the traditional playing of the Bach Air in D.  Let’s hope we can all go in person next year!

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