Flute: taking a break while clarifying my goals

This is my first blog post in over a week. I’ve been very busy, and therefore have had to recently say “no” to blogging while saying “yes” to many other activities.

Another thing I’ve said “no” to in the past three days has been playing the (modern) flute. In my last blog post I was worried about flute burnout and injury.

Here’s a flute status update.


I fixed some things in how I was handling my flute so that I would experience less stress on my left hand, so I believe I have for now avoided serious injury, although I am still planning to investigate buying a more suitably shaped flute.

Last Sunday’s orchestra rehearsal

I felt rather demoralized after CMU AUO rehearsal three days ago. I had had a really packed weekend and therefore was quite drained after rehearsal, which lasted from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM.

The orchestra was still struggling to get things in place. We do get better, but very slowly. Our director is visibly impatient, and rightly so. I have wondered whether to describe my own complaints, because I wish no harm and am still committed to doing my best to contribute to the concert on April 15. But I think that what I share here will probably not be very surprising.

Immaturity and dishonesty

The experience of being in this non-audition orchestra composed primarily of undergraduates reminds me a lot of my negative experiences in band when I was a pre-teen. There is a lot of disruptive chatting during rehearsal that is quite “unprofessional”; I take music seriously and given the huge investment of two and a half hours on a Sunday evening every week, would like to make the most of the time. I realize that these are not music major students, and therefore many treat this activity as a casual hobby.

It was demoralizing when the director had to confront the orchestra and note that every week, after the break halfway in the rehearsal, suddenly there are more empty seats, meaning that people have been leaving, after having checked in (there is a strict attendance policy). Also, I have noticed people regularly not showing up in the first half, and coming in only for the second half. Yes, it is true that sometimes a student may have some other commitment, but still, the absences affect our rehearsal.

Furthermore, the girl who is in charge of attendance sternly said after the rehearsal that she had done some counting and noticed that some instrument sections had more check marks than people she actually saw; in other words, people were signing in for friends who weren’t showing up.

Lack of passion

Another fundamental problem is the lack of passion many of the orchestra members have for the music. This Bernstein and Gershwin music we’re playing is good music: it’s very rhythmic, syncopated, and a lot of us are playing it in some kind of sleepy, tentative way. I find this lack of spirit extremely offensive, frankly. Why waste time playing music if you’re not going to breathe it and be moved by it? It boggles my mind. My attitude, whether running a 5K race or writing a computer program or cooking or playing music or dancing, is that my time and energy are precious, and if I’m going to do it, I want to give it my all, the moment that I’m doing it.

Summary of my orchestra experience

So as far as the atmosphere in the orchestra is concerned, I find it completely at odds with what I’m looking for in an ensemble. This is not much of a surprise, but it is disappointing anyway. However, I will continue to get and give all I can to our rehearsals and upcoming performance, for the experience, and then I don’t really expect to continue in the orchestra when the fall term arrives. I have many musical goals that I already have lined up for the summer and beyond; more on that in a later post, where I will also discuss why I don’t really fit in an orchestra, even if I played much better and everyone had a professional attitude toward rehearsal.

For now: off the modern flute to the Baroque flute

Next Sunday there is no orchestra rehearsal because of spring break. So the pressure to keep on trying to improve my play (I still have a lot of work to do, especially in the Gershwin because I have not practiced it much) is lessened.

Because of all the recent negative associations, I decided to take a short break from the modern flute altogether. For fun, I finally started getting serious about the Baroque flute.

Aulos Baroque flute A440

I’ve begun practicing the Baroque flute, starting with D major work and now adding G major also. The technique is rather different from that for the modern flute. I have to admit it is a frustrating instrument, but it has its own odd charm.

When I feel like it again (probably by next Monday), I’ll return to continuing practicing modern flute, getting prepared for the next orchestra rehearsal.


I’m having some musical rough spots, but I’m still very much in love with music and always find some outlet somehow.

(Update of 2012-03-12)

I ended up quitting the CMU AUO.

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