Wild confessions of a professional flutist.

Archive for February, 2014


Music Is Math

Music Is Math

My flute student, Kelly Makechnie, gave herself a math manicure before a recent math team competition. The next day, she had a flute lesson. Does music make you smart, or do smart people play music?


“I Tried To” Means “No”

I often wonder about conversations doctors have with their patients, especially follow-up conversations.  I imagine a patient visiting the doctor to deal with some sort of ailment.  The doctor gives a diagnosis, then prescribes a course of action.

A week later, does the conversation sound like this?

DOCTOR:  How are you feeling?

PATIENT:  Not good.  That toe is still infected.

DOCTOR:  Did you take the prescription and apply the cream?

PATIENT:  I tried to. . .

DOCTOR:  So, you didn’t do it every day?

PATIENT:  No.  Just once or twice.

DOCTOR:  Well, do it every day for a week, and you’ll see improvement.

I find this scenario to be fairly common in flute lessons.  The student needed help with something challenging, I gave them a daily course of action, and a week later the student expresses frustration over not having made any progress.  When I ask if they did the exercises, they respond, “I tried to.”

If you don’t take your doctor’s advice, you won’t feel better.  If you don’t take your mechanic’s advice, your car won’t run properly.  If you don’t take your carpenter’s advice, your roof will still leak.  If you don’t take your trainer’s advice, you won’t get those rock-hard abs.

And, if you don’t take your flute teacher’s advice, you won’t have gorgeous high notes, or control of your pitch, or perfect rhythm, or the ability to play that technical passage.

After seeking professional advice, when your problem hasn’t improved and you are asked if you did the exercises every day (or took the prescription, or changed the oil, or put a tarp over the hole in your roof, or did those crunches), and you respond, “I tried to,” I (and the doctor, mechanic, carpenter, and trainer) actually hear, “NO!”

People who worked hard to follow the expert’s advice, when asked if they had done the exercises, always respond with, “Oh, YES!  I did them every day!”  They then go on to explain what worked, what didn’t, how they felt about the assignment, and how they scheduled it into their routine.

No one works on something every day for a week, then says that they “tried to” do it.  They DID it!  And, because they did it, they probably have very strong opinions about it and want to discuss the outcome.

Take my advice – when you seek out advice from an expert, do what they recommend.  If, for whatever reason, you are not able to fit the suggestion into your life, just come clean and say you didn’t do it.  Please don’t say “I tried to,” because we all know that means “no.”

The Tangents

I was delighted to stumble upon this wonderful post by a high school English teacher. As it turns out, my students aren’t the only ones who think starting a “random” conversation will save them from doing actual work. And, I am not the only teacher who believes the tangents are worth the time.

Check it out! (Click on the title below and you will be magically transported to her original post.)


You see, (I won’t go so far as to insert any of the student names here. . .), I know what you are doing. The joke is on you!

Thanks, Mrs. Roberson. You rock!!

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