About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I haven't written anything here since before going to Fearless Camp. That is mostly because I've been trying to decide what to write about FAT Camp. It was an amazing experience. Fearless Performance Camp is the brain child of Jeff Nelsen, horn professor at Indiana University and hornist of the Canadian Brass. It is an intense week of working on performing in front of an audience, whether at an audition, concert, or recital.

I knew from my daughter having attended last year that everyone played an audition every day of the camp. I also knew from the information sent out to us that  we needed to have the exposition of a concerto and five excerpts prepared. While getting these ready I started to have second thoughts about going to Fearless Camp. Most of the participants would be in college, serious horn students getting ready to audition for orchestras. What if I was out of my league? Focusing on my reasons for going, I kept reminding myself that my goals were different from the objectives of college students.

The first day of the camp everyone assembled in a hallway "lounge" in the music school. The "campers" ranged in age from about 17 to retired adults. I met my Facebook friend Tina Barkan in person! We reconnected with several horn players who we had met during Jamie's first year at IU. It was a friendly group of people and that spirit of support and sociability, with a dash of Let's Party! continued all week.

 Almost every morning started at 8:00 with Jeff's Routine, which I had thought was a warm-up, but it turned out to be much more. The routine is a means of working on the basics of horn playing, including timing, tonguing, tone quality, breathing. I had a big breakthrough later in the week when I applied the breathing technique from routine to all of my playing and found that I was missing fewer notes and feeling more confident.

Besides the daily audition, everyone was assigned to play in one audition class, one post-audition analysis, and one small group lesson during the week. All of these involved playing in front of other people. On the second day I was scheduled to play audition class, post-audition analysis, and of course, an audition. I was feeling like maybe I had gotten in over my head by that time. However, I played and survived and got good feedback. The most fun was playing Shostakovitch 5 (the low horn excerpt) with Jeff. Awesome! I learned I need to make more of my musical phrases, and to put more "fronts" on notes. Fronts are the nice, clean, clear articulations at the beginnings of notes.A significant part of these performances was learning to graciously accept applause. This is surprisingly difficult. Many people, myself included, tried to grab the music and leave, or grimaced painfully.

Jeff also gave lectures and brought in two guest lecturers. Jeff's talks were about his philosophy, which is a very positive one. I left every lecture feeling inspired, not just to play better performances, but to live a more positive life. Go to Jeff's website to read some of his articles that reflect his philosophy. He's also a wonderful storyteller, and shared many stories from his own life to illustrate his points.

Besides all the playing and listening during the day, we also had activities at night! Most were social, but the last evening featured the first annual Fearless Camp Talent Show. Performing was a requirement. There were funny acts, more serious acts, and Jeff did some magic for us. It was a different kind of performance opportunity.

Our last activity was a shared reflection on what the week had meant to us. It was an emotional session -- many participants felt that their lives had been changed, that they had rediscovered their love of playing music. There was so much positive energy all week it would have been difficult to resist the pull to be upbeat. This is what I took away from the week -- not only do I feel more confident about performing, but the positive philosophy has infiltrated all parts of my life. I also have made important technical improvements on the horn because of what I learned. And, I have more friends on Facebook!

Saturday, September 11, 2010