Choosing a flute solo for a flute competition in Middle School can be a big challenge. You want to find one that's easy to memorize, fun to play, and challenging (but not too difficult). Some pieces sound easier than they are and vice versa.
Plan to pick a solo that was originally written for the flute and that's not an arrangement of a piano solo, orchestral piece, or Disney tune. Often you will find judges at competitions have strong opinions and you want to set yourself up for success by picking a piece they find suitable. If you don't know where to start, check out my top five recommendations.
Movement II: Sonata in Eb Major by J.S. Bach is a beautiful choice. It looks harder on the page than it is to perform because it's written with a lot of sixteenth notes. I like this one a lot. Breathing can be a challenge, so be sure to plan out your breaths in advance of the performance and write them into your music.
Gavotte by Gossec is a standard "first" flute solo and you've probably got it in a flute solo collection you already own. It has an easy piano part and requires some dynamic contrast. The breathing isn't too difficult, but make sure that the fast spot is possible before diving in. To do it well at competitions make sure you're practicing lots of scales slurred and tongued.
Movement II: Idylle from Godard's Suite is a beautiful piece that requires a lot of breath support and projection. It's a mature piece when a flutist is ready to use air to his/her full advantage.
Movement I of La Flute de Pan by J. Mouquet is a great option for an advanced Middle School flutist. It requires good rhythm, focused tone, and musical timing.
Sonata in G Major by Telemann offers several movements to choose from. You can select one movement or perform them all, depending on the time constraints and rules of the competition. Breathing is easier in this piece and you'll want to work with a teacher on how to approach the trills. Check it out!
“Music is love in search of a word.”
― Sidney Lanier
The Encouragement: Pick a solo that pushes your boundaries as a performer and sparks your desire to master it. Be realistic (with the help of a teacher) and be brave. There's beautiful music within your reach no matter what your ability level currently is.
The Challenge: Pick a solo that you can love. It doesn't have to be a perfect piece of music that reflects everything you love about the flute, but it needs to have an "it" factor. The flute solos you perform in high school help shape how you view performing and practicing. If you don't love how it sounds you'll be left with loving the competition more than the music itself.
This Collection: Here are six recordings of flute pieces that are worth a look. Enjoy!
10. Master Your Scales - Major and Minor Scales in two octaves and the Chromatic Scale in the range of the instrument are standard on most auditions. If you don't own it already, purchase the Taffanel and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises and master No. 4. Add to it The Flute Scale Book by Patricia George and Phyllis Avidan Louke. Spend at least 1/3 of your total practice time mastering all of the scales at a variety of tempos. Getting bored? Look up Michel Debost's Gamme Game and check out video tips from Leone Buyse and Sir James Galway.
9. Learn Mozart's Concerto in G Major and Concerto in D Major - Learn them slowly, focus on quality, and listen to some pros knock it out of the park here, here, and here. (Be sure to work small sections up to tempo before running the movements up to tempo.)
8. Make a List of Your Top Five Schools and Print Out their Audition Requirements - Here are links to take you to the 2015 Audition Materials from a sampling of locally and nationally respected music programs: Juilliard, University of Texas at Austin, University of Kansas, Oklahoma State University, Wichita State University, University of North Texas, UMKC Music Conservatory, DePaul, Cincinnati Conservatory, Eastman, Carnegie Mellon, Florida State University, etc... Many programs require that recordings be received as early as November 1st or December 1st. In addition, you may also have to submit an application to the university on or before those dates. Make sure to write down all dates and requirements for each audition you take in a calendar. It's easy to miss deadlines. Let your teacher know what your goals are so you can make the most out of your preparation. They may have tips on which solo editions to purchase, especially for music from the baroque and classical eras. (Not all editions have good articulation and dynamic edits.)
7. Take Summer Lessons - Flutists and teachers often take time off during the summer to travel. This is great! We all need some down time, but if three or more days go by once you've returned home from your trip, contact your teacher ASAP. If they're not available have them recommend someone for summer lessons. Motivation is a tricky thing. Don't lose yours.
6. Fill Out a FAFSA in the Spring - I've seen students overlook free money because they're not sure how or when to apply for financial aid. Filling out a FAFSA is essential so you can qualify for grants and loans. Get familiar with this website and mark your calendar for next Spring when it's time to fill it out. If you miss the deadlines you may be giving up thousands. (Your college, your state, and the US federal deadlines are at different times. Make sure you write them all down.) For Wichita flutists, check out this grant opportunity from the Koch Cultural Trust as well. They often help fund Juilliard auditions and the like for deserving HS Seniors.
5. Invest in a Great Flute - If you have the means, now is a great time to step up into a professional instrument. If you don't know where to start, try attending a flute fair or the National Flute Convention. Exhibitors will display instruments of all kinds but they often focus on professional flutes at these events, and you can try them all! Always get input from your flute teacher before making a final purchase, but expect that a professional flute will cost $5,000 or more. It's a lot of money, but it's a standard piece of equipment if you are a music major. Great brands to consider include: Haynes, Powell, Burkart, Brannen, Altus, Nagahara, Emanuel, Miyazawa, Muramatsu, and Sankyo.
4. Attend a Masterclass that Specializes in How to Prepare for Auditions - There are many out there but here is my top recommendation: The Consummate Flutist
3. Make an Audition Recording - Even if you don't plan to audition for a school that pre-screens applicants with a recorded round, it's a great motivational tool. If the thought of recording yourself is overwhelming, all the more reason to do it. Facing your fears about your playing now means better preparation down the road. Be kind to yourself, but firm in your approach to setting this goal. If you're taking a November or December audition, now is the time to get comfortable using recording equipment. Zoom recording devices work well. Check out this review. (I prefer using two ribbon mics, but that gets expensive. Talk to your teacher and see if they have audio/video equipment if you're not ready to make an investment in recording devices.)
2. Mark Audition Dates on a Master Calendar and Take the Earliest Available - Whenever possible, take the early auditions for schools on your list. Sometimes (but not always), scholarship money is allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so you may have a better shot at a scholarship if you take the Fall audition instead of the Spring audition if your playing is in top shape.
1. Believe in Yourself - Every step you take towards your goals as a flutist is a step towards believing that you can grow and perform at a new level of skill. No matter who you are or where you're from, take that next step forward.
“If you think of something, do it. Plenty of people often think, “I’d like to do this, or that.”
― Lydia Davis
It's back! The 2015 Summer Flute Challenge has some different options than last year. Rewards are available for my current students, but the challenge ideas can work for anyone. Let's do this! Make summer count.
“What goes around may come around, but it never ends up exactly the same place, you ever notice?
Like a record on a turntable, all it takes is one groove's difference
and the universe can be on into a whole 'nother song.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice
Ellen Johnson Mosley is a flutist & fan of fine television.