Summer class

I’ve been asked to teach a music appreciation/improvisation class this summer at a camp for gifted students. I can’t wait! This should be so much fun. The biggest challenge is that some of the students may know very little music, and some may be quite experienced already. Somehow, I’ll have to gear it so it is a good experience for everyone. Luckily, my husband Nathaniel Bean will be helping me out! I plan to incorporate a little bit of everything: some music theory, some choral singing, soundpainting, drum circles, composition, recording on audacity, songwriting, and group improvisation games.

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“The Improvising Flutist” Webinars

Hello everyone! Great news! I will soon be offering a series of free webinars about improving your technique, sound, musicality, and listening skills through incorporating improvisation in your practice routine. Especially geared for flutists, but definitely open to all instruments! If you are interested, send me a message and be sure to include what days and times would work for you! Before I plan it, I’m definitely open to input! Sign up for my newsletter to get updates, information about my upcoming CD and concerts, and tips on both flute technique and improvisation!

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MSU CMS Band Camp 2014

I taught musical improvisation to over 150 kids the week of July 14-18, 2014. It was a challenge teaching so many children, but it was a lot of fun! We worked on soundpainting, call and response, body percussion, rhythm, and soloing! The kids were split into 4 different groups, and it was great to see the ideas that the kids came up with. Whenever I asked anyone to solo, so many hands went up! It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm, and I hope they will be inspired to continue improvising at home!

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What’s Next?

Hello again!

So… I will be graduating in three weeks! This means that I am faced with the question: what do I do with myself?

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll have plenty to keep me busy with a new full-time summer job (teaching reading classes; can’t wait!), working on building a flute studio, and auditioning for regional orchestras. I also hope to find other professional musicians in my area who might be interested in creating a chamber music ensemble, as well as someone I can continue my studies with. I also hope to combine my love of writing/reading and teaching by continuing to tutor English.

That being said, this will literally be the first time since kindergarten that I will not have school waiting for me in the fall. I love learning and am so grateful for my education, but am genuinely looking forward to this new chapter in my life. My education has provided me with a good foundation, and now I want to USE it! So I’m faced with the question of: how?

I am starting to brainstorm ideas to put my love of creativity into practice. Ideas I have include teaching improvisation classes once again, finding colleagues who might be interested in improvisation, and lots of writing about musical creativity (including improv ideas and inspiration from composers/improvisers). I also want to create a video series with improvisation tips, how to incorporate it in pedagogy, and specific areas of musicality and technique that can be improved through the use of improvisation.

So what can you, my readers, expect? First of all, I will chronicle my creative journey, sharing my ideas and how they are put into practice. This is an exciting time in my life; I am full of ideas, and greatly hopeful that I will find success in at least some of them! You can be part of my experiences through this blog.

Secondly, this blog is meant to share ideas about how improvisation can help musicians and students to improve different aspects of technique and ensemble performance.

That being said, I think non-musicians can benefit from improvisation ideas as well. Much of improvisation involves an approach to thinking about and living out life. One thing that improvisation has taught me is a greater awareness of my surroundings and appreciation for the beauty that I find. Improvisation is all about connection; connection to ideas, connection to the choices that other people make, connection to your inner voice. I know this sounds vague; what I mean is, improvisation teaches people to be leaders in making decisions, to be great listeners and supportive of the musical choices that other people make, and to be strong in their own decision-making. These skills are very useful in every aspect of life, both in and outside of the musical realm.

If you haven’t tried improvisation, I hope that this blog might offer some encouragement and helpful advice for how to test it out. I think you’ll find that, besides being a lot of fun, it is very fulfilling because you have the opportunity to create something new that has your own personal stamp on it. Unlike composition, improvisation is ephemeral; that is, it only exists in the moment. There is something exciting about this; you have the opportunity to create something that was never made before, nor will be made again. If you are improvising with others, than you collectively create something that one of you would not have been able to construct on your own. You engage in a dialogue in which your voice is an important component.

If you have ideas for things you want addressed in this blog, let me know! I am looking forward to actively creating music, learning from other creative people (both in and out of music), and sharing my discoveries and experiences!

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I’ll be back soon!

Hey everyone! I’ve been away since grad school has been so busy! After I graduate next month, I will resume adding to this blog. I am very excited and have some fun ideas which include more interviews and videos. Stay tuned!

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New ideas for this blog…

Hey everyone!

I have a great idea for this blog that I think will really add to it… I want to start creating videos to post, such as solo improvisations and ensemble improvisations. I would love to create my own with fellow students, and would be very open to also accepting submissions. Other ideas might be interviews with student composers, for example. What do you think of this? Do you have other ideas? What would YOU like to see on this blog? I’d love to get feedback on this! 🙂

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Interview with Lisa Bost-Sandberg!

Hey everyone! I am pleased to have had the opportunity to get to know Lisa Bost-Sandberg, a flutist, improviser, educator, and composer who I met while a student at the University of Iowa. If you want to learn more about her, check out her website at

When and how did you start composing?

A few unrelated but aptly timed events convinced me to try my hand at composing, the most significant of which was the influence of Robert Dick.  During my masters degree studies at NYU I was putting together a solo recital program (Debussy’s Syrinx, Varese’s Density 21.5, Berio’s Sequenza I, Dick’s Afterlight, and a piece I was commissioning Evan Mazunik to write), and he said “there needs to be something on this program with your name on it.”  He welcomed me to improvise, arrange, or compose a piece.  I knew he was right, but at that time I think composition was the option furthest from my mind.  I originally thought I was going to arrange a piece for alto flute – but I often feel less compelled by arrangements (why not just stick with the original instrumentation and have something new for the alto flute?).  I considered improvising, but it just didn’t seem like the right choice at the time.  Finally I pulled out some staff paper and starting writing down and editing improvised phrases.  I brought about one minute of composed music to my next lesson with Robert Dick, and he said “keep going.”  I premiered Diandya on the recital a few months later and never looked back.  It instantly became an integral part of who I am as a musician.

I know you’ve also done some improvisation; can you say some about that?

Absolutely!  I began to improvise a couple of years before I began to compose, and improvisation is an equally integral part of who I am as a musician. Like composition, I came to improvisation through a few aptly timed events, and I am grateful to Evan Mazunik (the same one mentioned above!) for getting me to improvise for the first time.  He had been trying to convince me to join Gamut, his Soundpainting group at the University of Iowa, and I was slowly coming around but with some apprehension (okay, I’ll say it – fear!).  One day I was helping a mutual friend, a jazz saxophonist, pick out a new flute for doubling.  Evan walked into the room with a world flute of some variety and basically said, “okay – let’s play.”  I grabbed one of the trial flutes, and we did.  I was hooked.  He provided a simple opportunity that opened the door for me to realize that part of my musical voice, and I told him I would be at the next Gamut rehearsal.  I also enrolled in an introduction to jazz improvisation class the following semester.  When I moved to New York, improvisation threw numerous opportunities my way.  On several occasions I was paid to improvise with my colleagues – what is better than that?!  I also got some real on-the-ground introductory experience into world music styles via improvisation – an amazing experience!

Has composing affected how you perform the flute?

I sense music differently and can understand it more clearly – I can see and hear “through” it more easily rather than looking at it.  It becomes easier to imagine the music through the composer’s ears, which is crucial to ethical interpretation.  Often I feel I have a clearer view of what they are getting at, which the notation may or may not always make clear.

Does the fact that you are a composer affect how you listen to music, and if so how?

There are so many different levels of listening to music – I teach a world music class at the University of Texas at Dallas, and I love it when I see students realize what they can hear in the music when they learn how to listen differently or have different aspects of the music brought to their attention.  I still have my “background” listening mode when I just let it float around me, and I still have my “thoughtful” listening mode where I am much more absorbed.  I would say that being a composer has affected how I hear and understand music much as it has affected how I perform.  However, perhaps even more importantly, it has instilled a stronger-than-ever desire to hear and experience so much music – there is so much extraordinary music that has been created and that is currently being created.  My scope of this has been tremendously widened by conversing with composers (which, granted, I did a lot before I was a composer, too!), studying with wonderful composers (many thanks to my teachers Andrew May, Christopher Trebue Moore, Lawrence Fritts, and Robert Dick), attending new music festivals (often as a performer), and just being more strongly involved in compositional circles.  It provides tremendous inspiration and satisfaction to be part of this community.

How do you think that musicians can benefit from being creative?

I think that, as a musician, it is essential to be creative.  Also, as a person it is highly beneficial to be creative!  I take pleasure in little, everyday things that I manage or adapt in creative ways – while there is nothing particularly extraordinary in this, I like the idea that the practical aspects of life can be managed and made more efficient or entertaining through creative solutions!  While that is very different than my creative work as a composer, improviser, or interpreter (performer), practicing creativity isn’t something that needs to be turned on and off as a big dramatic gesture (“now I shall compose great music…” vs. “now I will deal with the mundane aspects of my life…”).  As a musician, creativity should be our trusty side-kick in problem-solving, in technical development, in sonic exploration, in teaching, in interpreting music new and old, in deciphering tricky or atypical scores, in presenting music to the world, and so on.  It gets us out of our tunnel vision and into a much more fluid process, one that has potential for flexibility and growth.  And – the end product will reflect this.

Do you have any advice for aspiring composers?

Listen.  Discovering music that is new to your ears – whether you like it or not – is of tremendous importance to anyone in music.

Work with performers every opportunity you can, especially great performers.  That collaboration is an important expansion on any instrumentation studies.

Be fearless.  I was lucky – I never believed I couldn’t be a composer, I just hadn’t realized that I could until I started.  We need to remember that we can do whatever we want to do, we just make guiding choices along the way.  It is important to know your own voice and choose to follow it – however, it is also important to choose to be a perpetual learner and to be inspired.

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When I took the Intro to Jazz Improv class with Brent Sandy at the University of Iowa, we were constantly improvising on Gershwin’s “Summertime” (from Porgy and Bess) in all 12 keys. It was interesting to hear it on many different instruments, played with different styles, so I thought it would be fun to search for random videos  of people of VERY different backgrounds improvising on this very song. I think these are really fun to listen to!

Ray Brown Trio:

Ray Brown was an American Jazz double bassist who collaborated with many famous jazz artists of his time, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The soloist is Gene Harris on piano; he played in the Three Sounds Trio from 1956 until 1970. Jeff Hamilton is on drums; he can also be found as a member of the Jeff Hamilton Trio.

John Coltrane, Soprano and Tenor Saxophone:

Coltrane died at the age of 40 in 1967; during his lifetime, he performed with groups such as Dizzy Gillespie’s band and the Miles Davis Quintet, as well as  producing several renowned records.

Miles Davis, Trumpet:

Miles Davis was an innovator and famous jazz musician. Read more about him here.

Itzhak Perlman and Modern Jazz Quartet in 1987:

Itzhak Perlman is a virtuoso classical violinist; the Modern Jazz Quartet was founded in 1952, and it’s last recording was issued in 1993.

Billy Preston  (in the course of the video he does a “J.S. Bach” version and a “Ray Charles” version):

Billy Preston was a renowned keyboardist who collaborated with bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

What are your thoughts? What did you like or not like, and why? 🙂 Any favorites (including other versions not included in this post)?

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The Powerful Duo

In improvisation class today, we played in duets the whole time. It was so much fun; the feeling of becoming so engrossed in the sound you are creating is incredible, because the sound you build with the other person is like nothing you could generate on your own. There is something very unique, very special about a duet; I think of it as almost being a solo, but one that is created by two voices rather than one. To me, the dynamic changes completely once you add a third voice; it becomes more of a team, where each person has a very distinct role at any given time, whether it is as soloist, accompaniment, or just being silent. I think the duet has a strength that no other combination does because there is greater equality at any given time. In an ensemble, each individual contributes to the communal sound; only occasionally are there solos, and these are not consistent from piece to piece. It would get awfully boring if, for example, the piccolo always had a solo, and the trumpet never did. (and trust me, as a piccoloist solos are very exciting because they are quite rare!) However, in a duet, both solo equally; there are so many texture possibilities! There is call and response; counterpoint; solo and accompaniment; and plenty of just being silent and listening to the other. The nature of the relationship can be so many things; it could be tug of war, which can certainly be effective in certain contexts, or a dance; but the way I think of it almost as a marriage of two different harmonies. Though close listening, two styles become one; each musician changes their sound to fit inside the other. It’s incredible how this creates a new, distinctive sonority; the two timbres blend and become one, yet complement and balance one another. Once this sound is established, the musicians can play around with mood and meaning. I challenge my musician friends to find a friend and just improvise some duets, listening very closely, matching each other, reacting to each other, creating contrast and unity, silence and density; together you can explore with new colors, painting the strength of a mountain or the gentleness of a breeze, the depth of a vast ocean or the simple complexity of a paradox. Just try it, have fun exploring, and see what you uncover!

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Improvisors you should listen to!

I am discovering many great current improvisors through the improvisation class I am currently taking!

Here are a few you should check out! These are real experimenters; they are really great musicians and inspiring to listen to!

Freddy Studer, percussionist

Fred Frith, composer, song-writer, improvisor

Lauren Newton, vocalist

Saadet Türköz, vocalist

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