Sitting in in a band or orchestra for the very first time--In the flute section, nonetheless.
Situations like these can be tricky to navigate, especially if the director of your ensemble doesn't have much experience dealing with flute players.
Because, in case you haven't already figured it out...flutists are a species all their own. Usually of the feline type, if you catch my drift..
If you aren't careful, the dynamics of the section can get screwed up in a hurry and before you know it, you'll be in the middle of your own worst nightmare. Unless, of course, you thrive on drama...in which case I'm not sure I can be of any help to you:)
When you find yourself in a section with other flutists (or really any musical section in a band or orchestra), there is a protocol--often unspoken--that needs to be followed in order for peace to preside. If the flute section is peaceful--life is much better for everyone else. Trust me. :)
This is by no means an exhausted list, but rather a round-up of tips I've learned (mostly the hard way...) in my performance journey from 5th grade band to the pro-orchestral scene.
Ten Tips for a Thriving Flute Section
- Accept where you have been placed. You more than likely auditioned for your seat--and whether or not you think you deserve it--that's where you are. Figure out how to operate successfully in your position and do it to the best of your ability. It isn't about you and your feelings--it's about the larger group making beautiful and moving music.
- Know how your part fits with the rest of the section, and respectively, where that fits into the grander scheme of the large ensemble.
- You are not a soloist, unless you have the word "solo" written in your part. Your goal as a section member is to collaborate with the other flutists to sound like one flute collectively. If you need to be a diva and add ridiculous amounts of vibrato and your own unconventional interpretations of the music--quit band and start your own performing career. :)
- If you aren't in the principal seat/first chair, your job is to fit your sound and tuning "inside" the sound/tuning of the flutist sitting to your left. Be sure you can always hear them and don't play out above them.
- If you are in the principal seat: In addition to leading your section, your job is to fit your sound into the rest of the larger group, namely the other principal players. Be sure you are in tune and making smart stylistic choices.
- Steer clear of negativity--playing in an ensemble should be FUN! Please don't ruin it by complaining to your peers. If you have a legitimate conflict or concern, go directly to that person and try to calmly resolve it between the two of you. If that doesn't work, approach the director if it's absolutely necessary. But don't, I repeat DO NOT gossip about others, it never ends well. Also worthy of mentioning is the tendency many of us have to be negative about our own playing. If you make a mistake or are unhappy with your sound, articulation, etc, just make a note of it and move on. Don't exclaim to your neighbor how crappy you sound. They probably think you sound great--and hearing you get negative about yourself makes them wonder how crappy you think they sound.
- Keep your eyes on YOUR OWN music or the CONDUCTOR while the group is playing. Nothing is more nerve-wracking as a musician than to have the eyes of your peers staring at you while you are trying to get through your solo.
- Unless you are sitting in first chair/principal, it is never your job to tell others in your section what to do. Chances are if they missed a note, they will notice it themselves--or a person in authority might point it out if it becomes a problem. Don't take it upon yourself to become your colleague's teacher. They probably already have one, and it isn't you! :)
- If you have a question about your part--ask the principal flutist or others in your section for advice before approaching the conductor. He or She will be so glad you did.
- Never underestimate the power of being social with your fellow flutists. Even if you wouldn't normally hang out together, you might be surprised how much fun you can have together eating pizza and watching a movie on a random Friday night. Be the instigator--invite your section to a flute party! Who knows--you might end up actually liking them... :)
Did any of the tips ring a bell for you? Have additional tips? Please comment here or on Facebook to share your opinion!
Thanks for reading!