Advice/Inspiration

Celebrating the Continuum

(Las Vegas, 10 August 2012)

Excerpt:

Thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. For years I’ve seen this event listed in our convention programs and I think it’s a great idea to gather for a meal in celebration of our shared passion—the flute!

Everyone attending this convention obviously loves the flute. If each of us were to describe how we became a flute fanatic we would soon discover that our stories contain a common thread—inspiration from someone who aroused our interest and then nurtured that spark. In most cases that person would surely be a teacher, a musician who passed on to us in turn what she or he had received from influential teachers. For that reason I’d like to speak today on “Celebrating the Continuum”—the continuum we enjoy as we gratefully acknowledge those who came before us, and as we ourselves strive to pass on what they have so generously given us.

The bond shared by music students and their teachers is an intense one. We are practitioners of an art that portrays human emotion, and learning how to communicate our humanity through a musical instrument requires a lengthy period of apprenticeship.  Acquiring that skill also requires developing confidence and trust—both in our teachers and in ourselves.

In this country our art is honed primarily in private lessons, rather than in the French Conservatory model of master classes. For anything to be accomplished in a lesson, both parties must be actively engaged and focused on the work at hand. A teacher’s job is very difficult if a student is uninterested in learning and unwilling to practice. An hour, or even just half an hour, can seem an eternity to the beleaguered teacher, whose recalcitrant student may be feeling exactly the same way! The opposite situation occurs when a student really wants to improve, and here is where the element of trust enters into the equation.

When I think of the teachers who passed along to me the knowledge and musical heritage they had received from their own mentors I remember very vividly the trust I pleased in each of them—as flutists, musicians, and human beings.  I remember equally well the strong support that each of those teachers gave me, support that helped me to develop as a performer and person. In the next few minutes I’d like to offer brief sketches of seven musicians who contributed in deeply meaningful ways to my education and evolution.

First would have to come my mother, Ione Hinman Buyse, a pianist who studied at the Eastman School of Music and received her Master’s degree in theory from Eastman after writing a thesis on ornamentation in the harpsichord works of François Couperin.  She heard me singing and picking out melodies at the piano when I was about three, and attempted to start piano lessons when I was four. I say “attempted” because she soon discovered that I wasn’t reading the notes she put in front of me, but simply mimicking what she demonstrated at the keyboard. Believing that I should be able to read music, she abandoned the piano and arranged for me to begin the violin at age five.  However, neither she or my very musical father could stand the sounds that emanated from my little instrument, and to make matters worse, I frequently missed weekly Saturday morning lessons because of bouts with tonsillitis. Soon she decided that the violin was not going to be my instrument…So much for my career as a string player!

During the next year or two my mother taught me musical notation using a pair of staves—one in treble clef and the other in bass clef—on a laminated white piece of cardboard with a plastic quarter note that could be moved up and down by turning a little knob on the back. We soon began piano lessons again and she was a patient, thorough, and perfectionistic teacher. When I expressed interest in the flute at age nine she encouraged me to take beginning lessons at a summer day camp.  Even though I couldn’t make a sound for the first two weeks while my two classmates had caught on immediately, she supported my efforts and I rose to the top of the class. My crowning achievement that summer was a solo performance of “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” on the recital at the end of camp. It was a proud moment for the Buyse family.

Both of my parents understood the value of private lessons, and arranged for good teachers as soon as it became clear that I was serious about the flute and had an aptitude for the instrument. When I was 12 my mother asked David Berman, then professor of flute at Ithaca College, to hear me play, and he subsequently became my teacher for the next six years. For the gift of excellent early training I owe my mother, and also my father, an enormous debt of gratitude.

Dave Berman, who has been retired from his position at Ithaca College and living in Sarasota, Florida since 1989, was really my first major teacher. His ability to teach both technique and musicianship gave me a solid foundation that informs my own teaching and playing to this day. On my website is a tribute that I wrote when he celebrated his 80th birthday, and which describes the teaching he received from Carol Solfronk Vacha and Ernest Liegel as a young student in Chicago during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Both flutists had studied with Barrere; Liegel was the principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony and Solfronk Vacha principal flutist of the Women’s Orchestra of Chicago. Because he had taken some summer lessons with Joseph Mariano, it was Mr. Berman who suggested that I apply to the Eastman School of Music, where I studied for the next four years.

Joseph Mariano had studied at the Curtis Institute with the great William Kincaid, longtime principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and a former pupil of Georges Barrere. Mariano was an inspirational artist who taught through the use of poetic imagery, demonstration, and playing duets in lessons. His sound was unique—naturally large, warm, and dark—and when he used a heavy vibrato it seemed totally appropriate. His cheeks were very relaxed, and as a result expanded and contracted when he vibrated We students felt privileged to hear him regularly as principal flutist of Rochester Philharmonic.  He was far too busy as a full time professor at Eastman with at least 20 students to add chamber music performances or recitals to his overly committed days, but we learned so much about color and working within in an orchestral woodwind section each time we heard him play.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years I traveled to Europe for the first time to attend Rampal’s master classes in Nice on the French Riviera.  I remember Mariano seeming a bit confused when I mentioned my summer plans, and looking back now I can understand how strange my action must have seemed to him.  The model for his generation was to study with one teacher for many years, and working with someone else during that same time was generally considered a demonstration of disloyalty.

Fortunately, Mariano knew how much I revered him as an artist teacher, especially since I spent a great deal of additional time in his studio as piano accompanist, playing lessons and juries for my friends. He seemed genuinely excited for me when I returned from my first experience in France enthused about all that I had learned while attending master classes for the first time and hearing flutists from around the world play for Rampal. In the mid 1960s American music schools had not yet incorporated a master class model into the curriculum in the form of regular studio classes, and I had quickly realized that this method of teaching was a powerful tool for learning.

It would be at least five more years before Mariano and Rampal would meet, when Rampal made his first solo appearance with the Rochester Philharmonic. By that time I had studied in Paris for two years after graduating from Eastman, spent two more summers in Nice, returned to the States, and won a position in the Rochester Philharmonic. It was a joy for me to watch two of my mentors finally meet in Rochester and enjoy each other so much. And it was a wonderful feeling to know that I had been able to synthesize what each had given me as a teacher into my own unique style.

Rampal’s teaching style was straightforward and intuitive. He lived life to the fullest and his playing, always filled with a true joie de vivre, reflected that philosophy. He used air so naturally that watching him breathe was awe-inspiring. And his energy was boundless.  He would think nothing of playing a concert, inviting all of us students for a meal at a favorite restaurant afterward, partying until 4 AM and then appearing fresh and rested for class the next morning at 9 AM.

Rampal became professor of flute at the Paris Conservatory during my second year in Paris and generously invited me to attend classes even though at that time foreign students weren’t allowed to audition for the regular class. When I told him that I wanted to attend his master classes in Nice for a third summer but needed financial assistance he arranged for me to receive a scholarship in exchange for serving as an official accompanist. He played a lot when teaching, and I learned an enormous amount playing piano with him whenever he picked up his flute. Performing the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Gluck’s Orfeo together in class once was such an extraordinary experience that it remains to this day one of my most cherished musical memories.

My first year in Paris was Gaston Crunelle’s last year as professor of flute at the Paris Conservatory and I had the privilege of playing for him in private lessons as a foreign student. You may recognize his name since he was the dedicatee of numerous morceau de concours, the final examination pieces written for the annual public concours or competitive exam in which each student from the class played the same newly-composed work.  Two of the most famous examples of works dedicated to Crunelle are the Dutilleux Sonatine and the Sancan Sonatine.

Crunelle was a quintessential French gentleman who enlivened lessons with stories of his career, and I was utterly fascinated to hear him describe Debussy, whom he saw when he was just beginning his playing career and Debussy was nearing the end of his life. Crunelle beat time very energetically whenever we worked on Taffanel Gaubert scales, and was absolutely horrified when he discovered that I was using double tonguing syllables to triple tongue my scales, something that Mariano had suggested I practice. Crunelle also couldn’t understand why I would suddenly attempt to belt out low register notes, which of course came from my having heard Mariano’s remarkable low register.

Between my first and second years in Paris I attended Marcel Moyse’s master classes in the tiny, picturesque Swiss German village of Boswil, near Zurich. I was 22 that summer and among the big shot flutists also studying were Trevor Wye and my birthday-mate, William “Wibb” Bennett—both more than a decade older than I.  We celebrated Moyse’s 80th birthday with a big dinner that famous flutists from all over Europe attended. It was a heady atmosphere for students, because we were all acutely aware of Moyse’s power as a teacher, and of his direct link to his teacher, Taffanel whom he idolized.

When Moyse taught he was dogged in his pursuit of a musical concept. He would speak colorfully, for example reminding us that a flea possesses as much life as a horse! This was a useful comparison when 32nd or 64th notes in Doppler’s Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy were lacking in clarity or conviction. He focused on the beauty of a phrase and the necessity to sing what we felt with our flutes. One evening during a thunderstorm he worked with me for over an hour and a half on the last movement of the Mozart G major Concerto, and I remember being so impressed by his focus and ability to insist until he was satisfied that I understood. I also was very affected by the images he used, for example suggesting that the first etude of Anderson, Opus 15 should be thought of as a church bell with many overtones. Since we had classes in a small chapel with a bell tower this idea was especially effective. We could actually envision ringing the bell by pulling the rope, and then savoring all the glorious overtones that would result.

The constant throughout my two years of study in France were lessons in Paris with Michel Debost, who had studied with Crunelle at the Paris Conservatory, was principal flutist of l’Orchestre de Paris and also a very active soloist and chamber musician around town and abroad. We worked on opening up my sound and on deepening my understanding of style—all styles really, but especially Baroque and Classical.  Michel’s intellectual curiosity was very stimulating and I loved the way he used sound. He was able to explain very well what I needed to do and how to do it, and had an immense influence on my development. Like Rampal, his close friend and the godfather of his son Charles, he projected an electrifying presence onstage as a performer and total commitment as a musician.

I feel incredibly lucky that at this moment in my life I can still communicate with and thank three of my most influential teachers: Michel Debost, David Berman, and my 96-year-old mother. I also feel very grateful that many of my former students have become dear friends, colleagues, and a real inspiration to me as each contributes to our world in her or his own, unique way. Watching each new generation of musicians develop has become a never-ending source of joy to me, and as I work each summer with eager young flutists in South America I’m acutely aware of the power of music to connect us all and of the continuum’s challenge for us to do our best as teachers in a wide variety of environments.

In closing I’d like to mention the obvious: Those who came before us—names we revere—were human, and a part of the continuum to which we all belong. One of my Rice colleagues and her elderly neighbor live only four blocks from my home in Houston. The neighbor’s last name is Boehm. A relative of Theobald?  Yes, a living, breathing great great great nephew, I believe—a man whom I most recently greeted in the grocery store at Thanksgiving.

My late father-in-law, the pianist Beveridge Webster, studied and lived in France for 13 years and later taught at Juillard for four decades.  Once while visiting us in Boston he heard me listening to a flute sonata. He asked the name of the composer, and when I replied “Philippe Gaubert” he recalled that he had accompanied Gaubert in recitals and played concertos under his baton. You could have knocked me over with a feather at that moment. Suddenly I saw my father-in-law as directly linked to the tradition that had been so extraordinarily important in my own training and formation as a musician. It was an historically illuminating experience to recognize Gaubert as a musical partner of my husband’s father rather than simply a very famous name in our profession.

Teaching, performing publicly, playing for our own pleasure, or listening appreciatively are all ways that we celebrate the continuum. What a gift we’ve received as members of a global flute community and of the NFA—the gift of friendship, support, and opportunities for personal growth. Here’s to the NFA’s next 40 years, and here’s to the continuum!  Thank you.

[hr]

 

NFA Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

(Anaheim, 14 August 2010)

Excerpt:

When Leonard called me more than a year ago to invite me to accept this award he said, “I hope that this doesn’t make you feel old!”  I didn’t feel old at that moment (and certainly don’t feel old today), but I did immediately start thinking of all the things I still would like to learn and accomplish before I can feel that I truly merit a lifetime achievement award. This great honor from all of you—my friends and colleagues—is a huge encouragement to continue exploring and growing, and I’m deeply grateful for this gift….

Thank you so much, Jonathan—and everyone.

When Leonard called me more than a year ago to invite me to accept this award he said, “I hope that this doesn’t make you feel old!”  I didn’t feel old at that moment (and certainly don’t feel old today), but I did immediately start thinking of all the things I still would like to learn and accomplish before I can feel that I truly merit a lifetime achievement award. This great honor from all of you—my friends and colleagues—is a huge encouragement to continue exploring and growing, and I’m deeply grateful for this gift.

The Japanese American architect Isamu Noguchi wrote in his Essays and Conversations “We are a landscape of all we have seen.” As I look around this room I see so many people who have had an immense influence on my life, and whose spirits shape and redefine my own landscape.  The NFA has enabled these professional contacts and deep friendships to flower in ways I never could have imagined when I first joined our organization in the early 1970s.  (Incidentally, Wally Kujala sent me a note of thanks after receiving my initial membership dues, and as a 20-something-year-old I was awestruck to receive a hand written message from such an icon in our profession!)

Who have been some of the most strongly influential forces on my landscape?  My teachers, of course.  I owe and immeasurable debt of gratitude to David Berman, Joseph Mariano, Michel Debost, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Marcel Moyse, and Gaston Crunelle.   And I owe a tremendous amount to my students. I am absolutely convinced that they are largely responsible for making me the person I have become, and that they will play a vital role in my personal evolution during the years ahead.  The legendary French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger said

The teacher is but the humus in the soil.  It is the product that counts. The more you teach, the more you keep in contact with life and its positive results. All things considered, I wonder if the teacher is not the real student and the beneficiary.

I couldn’t agree more, and remain thankful daily for the privilege of teaching.

Another extremely influential force in my life is Fenwick, and I am so delighted to be receiving this honor with such a close friend. Everyone knows that we were students of Joseph Mariano at Eastman during the same era and colleagues for a decade in the Boston Symphony. Together we performed and recorded chamber music, organized the Greater Boston Flute Association in preparation for the 1993 NFA convention, videotaped interviews with Mariano at his Cape Cod home, and organized Mariano’s 90th birthday celebration and Dallas NFA tribute in 2001—perhaps our best collaboration ever! And I might add that Fenwick played Bach – beautifully – just before I walked down the aisle to marry Michael 23 years ago.   But what you might not realize is how much I’ve learned from Fenwick.

When Fenwick was building his home near Tanglewood  25 years ago I worked a bit at the construction site and learned how to lay a vapor barrier. When we played together in the orchestra I observed how the best second flutist imaginable consistently supported his colleagues.  In professional meetings and social situations I learned from Fenwick the value of speaking only when it’s appropriate, and then choosing only the words necessary to make one’s point.  And from Fenwick I’ve learned the importance of accepting and dealing gracefully with life’s challenges. Thank you, Fenwick.

Our former NFA president Kathy Borst Jones has influenced and inspired me through the decades by her unswerving commitment to both the NFA and her students. Throughout her current health challenge she has remained a major inspiration to all who know her, and I would like to share with you a paragraph she wrote in the spring. Her words serve as a powerful mantra to me, daily.

Carpe Diem.  Live in the moment.  Appreciate the little things. Throw away the bad and the stuff you can’t change.  Do work on the things you can change, and don’t wait until tomorrow. Each and every day is a unique gift and can never be repeated. Laugh. Cry. Be merry. Say you love someone.  Tell people what they mean to you, now. Don’t wait.

On that note a few words to my husband:
Michael, you have seen me at my best and also at my worst. Throughout the ups and downs of our years together you have been a calming force, and an exceptional helpmate, musical collaborator, recording producer, and life partner. Your remarkable gifts as a transcriberhave allowed me to participate in expanding the chamber music repertoire for our two instruments, and that ongoing project has brought me great joy.  Thank you for your constant love and support.

I’d like to conclude with a quote that a student shared in a thank-you last May.  The author is psychologist and educator Lawrence LeShan.

Don’t worry about what the world wants from you, worry about what makes you come more alive.  Because what the world really needs are people who are more alive.

Thank you all for making me feel more alive.

[hr]

Honoring David Berman

A tribute to my first major teacher

Excerpt:

While growing up in Ithaca, New York I was vaguely aware that my hometown is unique.  Nestled at the base of glacially-formed Cayuga Lake in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Central New York, it offers hills, spectacular waterfalls and gorges, rural charm, and the energy, sophistication, and cultural advantages of a college town.  As a child I began attending Cornell University’s artist series concerts, hearing such world renowned soloists as violinist Nathan Milstein, pianist Gina Bachauer, tenor Jussi Bjoerling, guitarist Andres Segovia, and Julius Baker with the Bach Aria Group.  In seventh grade, after having played the flute for two years, I began studying privately with the flute professor at Ithaca College—the man who is the focus of this tribute.

While growing up in Ithaca, New York I was vaguely aware that my hometown is unique.  Nestled at the base of glacially-formed Cayuga Lake in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Central New York, it offers hills, spectacular waterfalls and gorges, rural charm, and the energy, sophistication, and cultural advantages of a college town.  As a child I began attending Cornell University’s artist series concerts, hearing such world renowned soloists as violinist Nathan Milstein, pianist Gina Bachauer, tenor Jussi Bjoerling, guitarist Andres Segovia, and Julius Baker with the Bach Aria Group.  In seventh grade, after having played the flute for two years, I began studying privately with the flute professor at Ithaca College—the man who is the focus of this tribute.

David Berman was my teacher from 1959 until the fall of 1964, when I matriculated at the Eastman School of Music, 90 miles to the northwest.  Through the past several decades, my perspectives on pedagogy and admiration for my first major teacher have continued to grow and evolve.  What Dave Berman gave me was a gift of inestimable value: a solid technical and musical foundation that well equipped me for advanced study and, ultimately, for entrance into the professional world.

Who is David Berman?  His career profile is straightforward: a one-year replacement position at Michigan State University (1954-55), followed by employment as a faculty member at Ithaca College from September 1955 until his retirement to Sarasota, Florida in August 1989.  More convoluted, and quite fascinating, is the story of his journey to a career as a professional musician.  While teaching at the Sarasota Music Festival in June I was fortunate to spend a relaxed evening with my teacher, and seized that opportunity to ask many questions about his early life and training.

Born on August 20, 1927 to Jewish immigrants, Berman was the son of a Ukrainian mother and a White Russian father who lived in a Chicago working-class neighborhood.  Music was highly valued in the Berman family, and at an early age young Dave took piano lessons for several years.  His sister was the more diligent piano student, and a limited budget for music study caused his parents to discontinue Dave’s piano lessons.  At age 12 he began to study the flute and play in a neighborhood band. (He had hoped to play the drums, but when interested students were given a chance to choose their instruments someone else took percussion and Dave found himself with the instrument no one wanted.)  When the band’s conductor, a man from the Wurlitzer Company, noticed that the young flute player had talent, he sent Dave downtown for lessons at Wurlitzer, where he was given his first Boehm system flute.

Berman’s next teachers were Joseph Sverov, principal flutist of the Illinois Symphony (a WPA orchestra conducted by Izler Solomon, who later conducted the Columbus Symphony from 1941-1949 and the Indianapolis Symphony from 1956-1976), and Carol Solfronk (later Vacha), who had studied with Barrère and was principal flutist of the Women’s Orchestra of Chicago under conductor Nikolai Malko, who in 1926 had led the premiere performance of Shostakovich’s First Symphony with the Leningrad Philharmonic. WPA orchestras were among the many jobs created by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (later Work Projects Administration, 1935-1943) to help the United States recover economically from the Great Depression.  The existence of a Women’s Orchestra of Chicago reflects the fact that there were virtually no women playing in major American orchestras during the first half of the twentieth century.

Between the ages of 15 and 18 Berman studied with Ernest Liegl, principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who coincidentally was also the teacher of Doriot Anthony Dwyer.  Liegl had studied with Barrère and Leonardo de Lorenzo and was playing a closed-hole Haynes in the earlier years of Berman’s studies.  Liegl’s home was in Evanston, near Northwestern’s football stadium, and Berman remembers having to take a streetcar, bus, subway, and finally the elevated train to his Sunday morning lessons.  He also remembers having to walk a good distance in the extremely cold wind blowing off Lake Michigan—a memory that Doriot Dwyer has also recounted.

As a high school student in an era when most flutists were men, Berman was fortunate to have the opportunity to play in many community orchestras because it was wartime and older male flutists were being drafted. After graduating from high school in January 1945 he enrolled in a junior college and, facing the compulsory draft, also volunteered for the Navy. While in training at the Great Lakes Naval Base he played in a recruit band, and shortly after World War II ended was sent to Pearl Harbor for a six-month tour of duty on a destroyer. Discharged after 11 months of service, he attended DePaul University on the G.I. Bill, studying with Chicago Symphony piccoloist Emil Eck.  Robert Muczynski was one of his classmates, and Berman still owns manuscript copies of the Sonata for flute and piano and the Three Preludes for solo flute.

While pursuing graduate studies at DePaul Berman was drafted for the Korean War, to which he was politically opposed. At the recruiting station no one in his group was willing to volunteer for the Marines, so the young men were ordered to count off in threes. When everyone had a number those with ones were sent to the Marines and Berman, a two, was assigned to the Army and sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where infantrymen and combat engineers were trained.  During his audition for the post’s Sixth Armored Division Band he was asked to “sight read” the complete solo arrangement of Debussy’s Faun, which luckily he knew well.  He was accepted immediately into the band, and remains convinced today that his years of intensive practice literally saved his life: every other member of his training company was sent to fight in Korea.

Recognizing his talent, the Army sent Berman to the Army detachment of the Navy School of Music in Washington, where he was able to take lessons with National Symphony principal flutist Wallace Mann. It was Mann who first introduced Berman to the concept of whistle tones as a very useful warm up routine. After his discharge from the Army he returned to Chicago to complete his master’s degree, substitute teach, play in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (the Chicago Symphony’s training orchestra), and resume singing in and conducting the Jewish Peoples Choral Society of Chicago, a Yiddish chorus with which he had sung while in high school and college. There he met Alice Becker, the younger sister of his sister’s close friend, and they were married in December of 1953.  Alice typed his master’s thesis, “Teaching Yiddish Folk Music in a Secular Jewish Day School,” and moved with him to Lansing, Michigan for his first job—a one-year replacement flute position at Michigan State University, where he learned and performed much chamber music and also began switching to an open-hole instrument.  The Bermans moved one year later to Ithaca, which would be their home for the next 34 years.

When asked about important influences in his development Berman mentioned that Liegl taught him to listen, and that hearing concerts by the Chicago Symphony was a wonderful education in and of itself. Violinist and pianist Paul Stassevich, who had served as assistant to the Hungarian-born violin pedagogue Leopold Auer (for half a century the major teacher in St. Petersburg and subsequently at Curtis and in New York), was on the faculty at DePaul during Berman’s years there and as Berman’s conducting teacher taught him a tremendous amount about musical expression and the importance of shaping and directing a musical phrase. Another important mentor at DePaul whose intellect greatly inspired Berman was Leon Stein, a composer, violinist, and conductor under whom Berman performed and studied theory, counterpoint, and history.

Berman enjoyed having the opportunity to study with Albert Tipton and play in the Aspen Festival Orchestra during the second summer of the festival’s existence. Early in his career at Ithaca College he attended summer school at Eastman, taking a course in contemporary analysis with composer Wayne Barlow and lessons with Joseph Mariano.  Those lessons were memorable for the chance to hear Mariano demonstrate and especially for Mariano’s emphasis on concentration and imagination. Often he would ask Berman to play a passage again a different way and then once again, yet another way. At the end of the summer session, when Berman asked about taking lessons the following summer, Mariano responded, “You’re old enough now that you can and should be your own teacher.”  Those were empowering words that Berman took to heart.

Berman stresses that he is a member of the first generation that had the chance to hear great musicians play on recordings; he learned a great deal from listening to recordings of Barrère, Moyse, Kincaid, Laurent, Baker, and Rampal. Equally important, he learned much from the recordings of such great artists as singer Alexander Kipnis and violinist Jascha Heifetz.  No previous generation had been able to hear an abundance of outstanding performances in the comfort of their living rooms—a circumstance we take for granted today.

David Berman had taught at Ithaca College for only three years when I met him as a 12-year-old flute student.  In the three decades that followed he made immense contributions to the Ithaca College School of Music and also to the greater Ithaca community through his annual solo recitals and numerous faculty chamber music concerts each year.  He played in the Ithaca Chamber Orchestra and the Ithaca Woodwind Quintet, and was both a conductor and member of the Ithaca Opera Orchestra. At Ithaca College he built a vital flute studio and while teaching flute, music theory, and music history mentored untold numbers of students who now serve our profession as performers and teachers.  As a faculty leader he developed and headed the chamber music program and chaired the committee that instigated such major changes in the music curriculum as making chamber music a requirement, requiring diction classes for all singers, and offering a 4.5-year program that combines music education and performance.  In addition, during the three years that Berman served as Assistant Dean he instituted many improvements to the physical plant of the music school. He justifiably takes pride in those accomplishments, but above all, he is most proud of all his students, saying, “Students are your teachers.”  How true!

How exactly did Dave Berman’s teaching make such a difference to me and the many students whom he mentored during the course of his professional life?  In re-reading notebooks that contain his comments from lessons more than four decades ago, I’m continually struck by the life wisdom that was shared in those hours—lessons that always included a balanced diet of scales, etudes, solos, and assigned duets.  As an example, here’s my entry for July 24, 1962:

Start competing with unseen competitors. 
Aim for Carnegie Hall. 
The USA is only one country in a huge world…
Plan to practice 3-4 hours daily. 
Budget your time.

Immediately following those motivational words comes the practical, technical advice that I clearly must have needed:

While playing Taffanel Gaubert exercises, stop on a note and listen to your tone.
Try to maintain brilliance in the upper middle register when going down.
Don’t make the embouchure hole too wide for your lowest notes because too much air will escape.
Try to get a good low tone before vibrating; vibrato is a camouflage.

Here are just a few other sample comments from other lesson entries:

Practice without stopping before hard passages in an etude.
Don’t think about your teacher’s possible reaction—Just play!
View criticisms in proportion.
Point the tongue for a clear staccato.
Practicing whistle tones requires a relaxed embouchure and good support.  This will help develop tonal placement and embouchure strength.
In exploring tone and articulation there are never-ending complexities, deeper and deeper shades and details.

These quotes offer only a small glimpse of the spirit that made David Berman’s pedagogy so meaningful.  He was demanding and he was honest; he was able to get to the heart of a technical or musical problem and help a student improve.  How often he tried to help me achieve a sense of musical freedom, especially in music that had an ethnic quality, such as Bartok.  At those times he would often ask me to sing, which I dreaded. (Not any more—I now sing all the time while teaching!) Most important, he possessed a well-honed sense of how and when to push or encourage, and he understood how each student’s background might affect his or her ability to approach and solve an issue.  He was intuitive, kind, and effective—a winning combination of attributes for anyone in the teaching profession.

Perhaps the mark of a great teacher is that person’s ability to keep influencing students throughout their own professional lives.  During my visits to Sarasota over the past eight summers I’ve been able to re-connect with Dave and Alice Berman several times, and during each reunion I am buoyed by their energy and sense of humor.  Family has always been their top priority, and they relish visits from their three grown sons and eight grandchildren.  They also enjoy traveling, and in July spent almost two weeks in Hawaii.

Despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Dave continues to remain very active, playing tennis three times each week.  Although now unable to play the flute, he conducts the Humanaires, a non-professional chorus that he founded nine years ago at the Congregation For Humanistic Judaism in Sarasota.  The group has expanded from a small ensemble of seven singers to a chorus of 38 members—slightly over ten percent of the congregation’s total membership–and performs a broad range of Jewish music in the various languages of the Jewish people:  Yiddish, Hebrew, English, Ladino, and Aramaic.  Recently Dave sent me a DVD of the Humanaires’ March concert that took place at Sarasota’s Flanzer Jewish Community Center.  Entitled “Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust,” the concert was truly remarkable, and an excellent example of how a fine musician can stir non-professionals to produce a wonderful musical product.  Alice Berman’s touching and beautiful alto solo in Tsvey Taybelech (Two Little Doves) is a case in point.

Through his dedicated teaching and his love of music David Berman has brought inspiration and meaning to the lives of countless students, colleagues, and friends.  The example he has set throughout his life—being a devoted husband and father, working with complete commitment to his profession and community, and retaining an infectious joie de vivre despite recent health challenges–is a huge inspiration to all who are fortunate enough to know him. As he enters his ninth decade Dave Berman has my heartfelt gratitude and many wishes for continued happiness and fulfillment. I could ask for no finer a role model in music, or in life.

[hr]

Journey of an Artist

Introduction:

At the 2008 National Flute Association convention in Kansas City I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion moderated by Jan Vinci, senior artist-in-residence at Skidmore College.  Other panelists were Tadeu Coelho, artist professor of flute at the North Carolina School of the Arts; George Pope, professor of flute at the University of Akron; and Mark Vinci, a jazz saxophonist, recording artist and composer who teaches at SUNY Purchase and Skidmore College.

Humorous interactions with our audience and a lively exchange of ideas throughout the hour we spent together inspired me to summarize our discussion in the following paragraphs.  Jan Vinci’s thoughtful questions directed the dialogue and lent continuity as we shared life experiences.  Her questions and my responses appear below, with some commentary from colleagues added immediately beneath.

Jan began the session by defining an artist as someone who is always striving to better him or herself.  This reminds me of Martha Graham’s celebrated quote to Agnes DeMille:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique…You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.  Keep the channel open.  No artist is pleased.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
No

How does an artist define his/her own personal peak performance?
A performance during which you feel no impediment to communication and are able to access what sports psychologist James Loehr terms your Ideal Performance State.

IPS components, as described in Loehr’s The New Toughness Training for Sports, include:

  • Being able to concentrate and focus mental, emotional, and physical energy superbly
  • Staying relatively relaxed and calm
  • Being confident
  • Remaining flexible and resilient
  • Giving your own personal best under pressure

How does one achieve a comfort zone in the performance of challenging compositions?

  • By recognizing and instantly discarding negative thoughts, which interfere with joyous, spontaneous music making.
  • By accessing the personal discipline to give such works maximum preparation, a strategy that engenders confidence.  Program a new work correctly in your ear and your brain the very first time you read through it.  Practice it right and you’ll play it right!

Tadeu Coelho: Julius Baker always said, “If you don’t ever make a mistake, you won’t make a mistake!”

George Pope: Always try to value the ingredient of fun in a performance of a challenging work.  Once before a performance of Berio’s Sequenza I told myself “It’s just music—Dance when you go out there!” It worked.

How does one utilize the plethora of exercise materials to achieve superior technique?
Always remain aurally aware!  It’s not just about your fingers, but also about how you use your air, focus your sound, and shape a phrase when you play scales, arpeggios, thirds, etc. over the entire register of the flute.  Listen and learn, always playing technical exercises as musically as you can.  Engage your brain, breathe, and play in tune.

Mark Vinci: Try reversing the flute!

How does one build the mind to perform by memory with ease?
Memorization is a skill that must be practiced.  Aural memory, visual memory, and kinesthetic memory all play major roles in developing security when playing without music.  Can you sing the piece?  Write it out?  Do you understand the note relationships, harmony, and structure within the piece you’re memorizing?

Mark Vinci: If I want to play music from my heart, I can’t be reading it with my eyes. Other suggestions: Internalize the music and turn off the world.
Revisit memorized repertoire to keep it in your ear and brain.

How does one reach out to the audience during a performance, while keeping your cool?
Why be cool?  Why not be hot?  Or do we need to keep our cool onstage in order to be hot?
Swedish violinist and performance psychologist Ake Lundeberg writes of Baldassare Castiglione’s timeless book Il Libro del Corteggiano (The Book of the Courtier, 1528).  In it we can find the three attributes that are essential for successful performance, namely:

Decoro – maintaining a sense of dignity and professional pride
Sprezzatura –  showing courage or even non-chalance.  Put another way, this would mean possessing the ability to show your audience how easy it is (even if it isn’t!).
Grazie- knowing that the gods will be present, offering divine grace. If you’ve done your part, displaying decoro and sprezzatura, the gods will surely wish to assist you!

George Pope: Daniel Barenboim speaks of the dichotomy that we must embrace as performers.  On the one hand, we must concern ourselves with preparation; on the other, with the emotion we wish to convery.  If we find the right balance, magic and great communication can result during a performance.

Tadeu Coelho: Always feel deep gratitude for what you are doing!

How does one block out distracting life issues, and focus on performing?
As musicians we live in parallel universes: we have personal lives and we have performing lives.  Life experiences contribute to what we are able to say when we perform, and should be embraced, even when painful.  Learning to compartmentalize and focus on the job at hand during stressful times is a necessary and very important skill.  “The show must go on!” is an apt truism to remember whenever personal problems threaten to disrupt your concentration.

How does one eliminate physical distractions: uncomfortable halls, out-of-tune pianos, whispering, movement in the audience, bad lighting, cell phones, personal physical complications, etc.?
Maintain your sense of humor!  Try not to take those things that are beyond your control too seriously.

Remember the words of flutist/pianist Marie Jureit:
“An artist needs to be selfless in order to see through to the real expression.  It’s not about how good you are, it’s about how much you can give and about sharing with the audience.  Just remember that you are in the healing business.”

Those words should help to put minor irritations in the performance venue into their proper perspective.

How does one adjust warming up or practice during times when a consistent schedule of practice is not possible, due to travel, teaching, family, etc.?
Rather than staying locked in a training mindset, put yourself in a trusting mindset. You’ve practiced well over many years, and you’ve built a solid technical foundation. Now you should trust in the work you’ve done, just as a hiker needs to trust the Vibram soles of hiking boots to grip rock on a steep incline.

Also, when pressed for time, streamline your routines and also use mental practice.  This really works!

How does one maintain a basic repertoire, memorized or not, over many years?
Learn a work really well the first time!  Plan to rotate works on recital programs over time, so that you have the experience of performing a basic repertoire again and again, making it your own over a period of years.  Keep learning and adding new works to expand and maintain a sense of freshness in your repertoire.

What qualities do you look for in assisting artists?

  • Flexibility.  In particular, this means a willingness to try different ideas and offer a fresh viewpoint (meanwhile not insisting on that viewpoint being adopted).
  • Energy, especially in rehearsal.  If a collaborator’s working rhythm is radically slower or faster, it can be difficult to work together comfortably and efficiently.
  • Chemistry.  This is sometimes hard to define, but when it exists musical collaboration seems effortless—and deeply rewarding.
  • Enthusiasm.  Enough said!

[hr]

What I Look for in a Prospective Student

Excerpted from remarks made on August 19, 2000 during a Pedagogy Panel presentation at the National Flute Association Convention in Columbus, Ohio

© Leone Buyse, 2002 excerpted from remarks made on August 19, 2000 during a Pedagogy Panel presentation at the National Flute Association Convention in Columbus, Ohio

  1. Innate musicality, which often manifests itself as a special “spark” that demonstrates musical imagination.
  2. A good ear. Of course an ear can be trained, but if a student is seeking chamber music or orchestral employment, naturally fine pitch recognition is a pre-requisite for first-rate ensemble playing.
  3. Excellent instrumental command for her or his age group. I currently have 2 DMAs, 2 second-year MMs, 2 first-year MMs, a senior, 2 sophomores, and a freshman. When they first auditioned I evaluated each on the basis of tone and vibrato production, finger technique, and articulation in comparison with their peers .
  4. A spirit that indicates drive, determination, and a passion for music and flute playing.
  5. Curiosity and flexibility. Over the years, I’ve found that the best students are those who genuinely want to try new ideas and give different viewpoints (whether a teacher’s or their peers’) a chance.
  6. Communication skills. These are so necessary in our profession, and can be taught to some extent, but some people have a better natural grasp of their importance. The world is a web–especially the music world– and a successful career is often dependent upon how well you can express yourself. An example of what gets my attention would be a letter, email, or phone call in which the inquiring student immediately identifies her or himself as being a student of so-and-so, briefly describes important successes to date, such as placing in a national competition, or attending a competitive summer festival, and explains how an interest in Rice developed. That approach gives me so much more to work from than the typical “Hello; I’d like to take a lesson sometime because I’m considering your school.”
  7. Good citizenship. In addition to honing fine communication skills, a musician needs to to understand the importance of being a supportive colleague. A music school is a world in its own right, and a studio is a microcosm within that world. When I am choosing potential new studio members, I imagine them as citizens of the Shepherd School flute community, people who will be asked to contribute not only in the orchestral program but also in weekly studio classes. There will always be prima donnas in our world, but I believe in encouraging and cultivating those students who have a unique musical message yet at the same time appreciate and celebrate the individual gifts of their peers.

SHEPHERD SCHOOL ADMISSION INFORMATION
For information on undergraduate and graduate programs, please visit the Shepherd School of Music’s Graduate and Undergraduate Admissions Area.

[hr]

Owning the Stage

Strategies for Successful Performance

Excerpt:

You’ve practiced well and are eager to perform. Standing backstage, you hear the audience become quiet as the house lights dim. Next comes a crucial moment: your opportunity to connect with your listeners and put them and yourself at ease even before playing a note…

Strategies for Successful Performance
by Leone Buyse

You’ve practiced well and are eager to perform. Standing backstage, you hear the audience become quiet as the house lights dim. Next comes a crucial moment: your opportunity to connect with your listeners and put them and yourself at ease even before playing a note.

Many instrumentalists ignore a simple fact that singers learn early in their training: Your stage demeanor creates a vivid impression and is vitally important to the success of your performance. Music lovers attend concerts rather than listen to CDs at home because live performance offers the excitement of unexpected, spontaneous interaction among the musicians onstage. Since watching performers is as entertaining to many audience members as listening to the music, instrumentalists need to practice skills which will make a favorable visual impression. Read on for advice about acquiring a polished, professional stage manner as well as mental confidence.

First, when walking onstage immediately make eye contact with your audience, smiling in a natural, unforced way. Both your pace and your physical posture should convey purposeful assuredness rather than nervousness or hesitation. Choose a walking speed that is neither too hurried nor too deliberate. Standing tall, imagine a rope attached to the top of your breastbone and allow yourself to be reeled onstage effortlessly by an imaginary pulley. A confident posture will lead to a confident performance and also helps your audience to relax, eagerly anticipating your performance. Women wearing heels should avoid stepping heel-first, which produces a loud, clomping sound. Instead, practice placing your weight first on your toes, then on the rest of your foot. Carry your instrument in a comfortable way and avoid bringing your own music onstage whenever possible.

Applause–essentially a pat on the back from afar–is an audience’s way of both welcoming and thanking a performer. Bowing graciously to acknowledge applause is one of the most essential stage deportment skills a musician must master, and also one of the most difficult. Your bow offers an opportunity to reach out to your listeners and also to take the pulse of the hall. It should be unhurried, so try counting slowly to three as you bend forward to study your shoes. Make sure that the top of your head (rather than your face) is visible to your audience, but refrain from bowing too deeply, which can look awkward. Remain smiling whenever you look directly at your audience.

Videotaping yourself or asking a friend to evaluate your bow can be very helpful as you work to improve this gesture. In addition, observe performers whose stage manner you admire and then emulate those qualities which you find particularly appealing. If you are using a music stand, stop to bow just before you reach the stand so that you won’t be hidden. When performing with other musicians, wait until your colleagues have arrived at their respective places and then bow together. In a woodwind quintet formation, always step well to the right of your chair so as not to block the oboist behind you, reminding the clarinetist to do the same thing for the bassoonist!

Unless you are performing unaccompanied, you’ll need to tune once you’ve completed your bow. Remember that turning your back to an audience appears rude and makes the process of tuning seem embarrassing or secretive. Instead, rotate slightly toward the pianist for a tuning note while basically still facing your listeners.

Your body language throughout your first minute or two onstage will reveal a lot about your mindset, and it’s important that you maintain a poised demeanor before beginning to play. Sports commentators often discuss an athlete’s body language, especially during tennis matches, and musicians should realize that audiences are just as likely to be affected by a performer’s bearing and actions as sports fans are. Whether standing or sitting, strive to maintain erect posture throughout your performance. Erect shouldn’t imply stiff, but rather flexible, with a feeling of energy flowing upward through the top of your head. Lessons in the Alexander Technique can be very useful for developing a strong sense of physical freedom and upward direction onstage.

While playing, stay calm and focused in the moment, resisting any urge to dwell on negative thoughts, such as a missed note or cracked attack. Refuse to engage in a dialogue with any internal judging voice that may attempt to interfere. Your face should remain serene despite any unexpected or momentarily annoying occurrence; actors learn to do this and so must musicians.

Developing powers of concentration and positive visualization to aid in performance is as necessary for musicians as it is for athletes, and there are many fine books dealing with these subjects. For ideas, see the list at the end of this article. Nonetheless, the single most effective way to prevent performance anxiety and assure success is to be thoroughly prepared for every concert or competition you play.

If you are playing an entire recital, or several works in a row, it’s always a good idea to plan when you will exit and return. Leaving the stage between each piece might be excessive, but after a particularly long or intense work your audience will welcome a short break just as much as you will. While backstage be careful about engaging in loud post mortem discussions with your collaborator(s). Instead, keep your mental focus and prepare for the next item on your musical agenda.

At the end of your performance respond again with warmth to applause. There is no need silently to mouth the words “Thank you,” which looks strange; just smile and bow graciously. If you have been playing a work with piano, first look toward your pianist and wait for that person to rise so that you can bow together. Exit the stage briskly, and if applause is strong return promptly for a curtain call rather than keep the audience waiting. Again savor the gift of applause and leave the stage quickly, returning once more if applause remains enthusiastic. Leave your music onstage unless there is no stage assistant to remove it. If you must take your own music offstage, leave it in the wings before taking a curtain call.

Quintets or any other chamber ensemble should always discuss group choreography before a performance, reviewing basics such as who will lead on or off, who will lead the bow, and where to stand for curtain calls. Generally, the musician with the farthest distance to walk will enter first, and the last to arrive onstage will leave first. A good strategy for a curtain call is to form a line and bow behind the set-up rather than returning to quintet formation. Yet another curtain call might be well served by a line bow in front of the chairs near the edge of the stage, space permitting. It is always better for members of a group not to carry music on or offstage but rather to let a stage assistant do so.

Getting adequate rest and nutrition prior to performing is as important for musicians as it is for athletes. If you stay up late in the week preceding a concert, your ability to concentrate and your physical coordination may be seriously impaired. Likewise, if you overdose on sugar or drink caffeinated beverages before performing, you will probably notice unpleasant mental and physical effects. Plan to eat healthfully in preparation for any performance; you are in training for a big event and need proper sustenance!

Final considerations for performers are the issues of concert attire, coiffure, and verbal communication with an audience. Whether male or female, performers should choose clothing that will 1) allow them to breathe, bow, and play with ease; 2) help them and the audience feel that the performance is a special occasion; and 3) be appropriate for the concert venue and time of day. If more than one person will be onstage at the same time, colors need to be coordinated so that listeners aren’t subjected to half an hour of brilliant orange next to shocking pink. Solid colors are highly preferable since polka dots, large floral prints, or other designs are tiring to look at for long periods of time. An evening concert often requires a more formal style of clothing, but the most important consideration is to have a similar style of dress among the performers involved. Women should dress stylishly and attractively without causing audience members to be distracted from the music. Rehearsing in recital shoes is a wise idea because balance can sometimes be affected by heels. Hair should be kept away from the face so as not to fall into your eyes or (worse yet!) your mouth. Attractive clips or pins and a can of hair spray are inexpensive ways to avoid those dangers.

At this point in time, classical musicians are working harder than ever to attract and build future audiences. Being able to demonstrate your excitement about music to your audience, whether in a concert hall or in an informal atmosphere such as a community brown bag lunch concert or school means potentially reaching new listeners. Whenever you study a new work, learn enough about the piece or the composer to be able to tell your audience about it. Write a few special points on an index card if you don’t feel adept at speaking extemporaneously, and refer occasionally to your notes when addressing your audience. They will appreciate having information about what to listen for, and you will gain valuable experience in public speaking each time you reach out in this meaningful way.

One last thought about performance. If you walk onstage remembering that you perform because you love to play, you’ll always understand what a privilege it is to be able to share that passion with others. This attitude will sell both your performance and the joy of music. Take it with you throughout your performing career and you will truly own the stage.

Recommended books on Performance Psychology. Titles in bold are especially recommended.

Julia Cameron The Artist’s Way Putnam, 1996
Shirlee Emmons
Alma Thomas
Power Performance for Singers Oxford U. Press, New York, 1998
Timothy Gallwey The Inner Game of Tennis Random House, New York (1974)
Timothy Gallwey Inner Tennis: Playing the Game Random House, New York (1976)
Charles A. Garfield Peak Performance Warner Books, New York, 1984
Barry Green
Timothy Gallwey
The Inner Game of Music Anchor Press, New York (1986)
Don Greene Performance Success: PerformingYour Best Under Pressure Routledge Press, New York, 2001
Don Greene Fight Your Fear and Win Broadway Books, New York, 2001
Don Greene Audition Success Pro Mind Music, New York, 1998
Eugen Herrigel Zen in the Art of Archery Vintage Books, New York (1971)
Phil Jackson Sacred Hoops Simon & Schuster,1995
Susan Jeffers Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway Ballantine, 1987
James E. Loehr The New Toughness Training for Sports Plume, 1994
James E. Loehr Toughness Training for Life Plume, 1994
James E. Loehr Breathe In, Breathe Out Time-Life, 1999
Dan Millman Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life New World, Novato, CA, 1999
Eloise Ristad A Soprano on Her Head Real People Press,1982
Paul G. Salmon
Robert G. Meyer
Notes from the Green Room Jossey-Boss, 1998
Kenny Werner Effortless Mastery (includes CD)


Internet Resources
:

http://www.dongreene.com
http://www.musicianswellness.org

[hr]

Inspiration from Jean Ferrandis

Excerpt:

When an artist challenges me to explore new approaches to music making and teaching, my fondest hope is to be able to share that gift of inspiration with students and colleagues. Summarized below are some ideas that have proven energizing and thought-provoking to the Shepherd School Flute Studio–and their teacher!

When an artist challenges me to explore new approaches to music making and teaching, my fondest hope is to be able to share that gift of inspiration with students and colleagues. Summarized below are some ideas that have proven energizing and thought-provoking to the Shepherd School Flute Studio–and their teacher!

On November 19, French soloist and conductor Jean Ferrandis presented a master class and recital at Rice. His ability to communicate the importance of playing naturally, and of using the body freely to enhance the musical message, was deeply inspiring.

First and foremost, he stressed saying “Hello” before beginning to play. This simple act can connect us to the essence of artful flute playing: a natural inhalation that bypasses thoughts of blowing across an embouchure plate or reading notes and instead leads to direct, personal communication with our listeners.

A musical score is only a guide, and our goal should be to convey a personal message as if we were singing or speaking. He advised students to focus completely on the music rather than thinking about sound, saying “If your music is beautiful, then your tone will necessarily be beautiful.”

Reminding everyone that a long note is “many small pictures,” he repeatedly underscored the need to eliminate lower back tension, and to loosen knees, hips, and shoulders in order to find maximum air.

His recommendation for rapid technical passages: Think long fingers, light pressure, with power coming from the back, and above all, don’t change who you are! You may be riding on a fast train, but only the train is going fast–not you.

Perhaps his most powerful message: “While you are playing, you must love the music and you must love yourself.”

Merci, Jean, for all the inspiration you continue to give us.