Information about transferring to
Universities as a flute major:
Hopefully it won't come as too
much of a shock to discover that in major Universities,
flute performance programmes are full of very active,
very dedicated and very talented flute students.
When you're setting your goals
for yourself, and you're picturing yourself making the
flute an important part of your career, you should also
set your sites on some of the specific talents and
qualities that the top Universities are looking for in
their interview and audition processes.
Using my knowledge of University
of Toronto, as a Flute Performance Major in the 1980s,
and as a teacher of students currently auditioning for
the larger Univerisities across Canada, I've sketched out
the following hypothetical marking system for flutists
who may be hoping to continue as professional musicians.
Use the following as a method of
determining just what it is that you should
personally be working on, and to visualize the life-style
and focus that will enable you to become a successful
flute candidate. With "time, patience, and
intelligent work" (as T. Wye says) you can be an
"A" student by the end of a four-year
University would rate a prospective flute student:
- Poor tone production; poor
physical familiarity with the instrument.
- Hazy knowledge of
scales/arpeggios; stumbling on even simple
- Irregular or unclear use of
articulation (tonguing and slurring not as
- No dynamic variation. No
variation in tone colours.
- Poor sight reading; very
- Rhythmical reading
difficulties; lack of pulse.
- Lack of private lessons; No
previous instruction. Self-taught
- Lack of a daily practise
- Knows some scales but
performs them haltingly
- Tone quality breathy or
weak in highest and lowest registers
- Loud breathing or laboured
breathing (too frequent or too desperate
- Little or no background in
performance. (uncomfortable with audience)
- Incorrect fingerings (top
finger down on D2); slow or messy finger
- Tuning noticeably poor.
Flat in low register, sharp in high register.
- No accumulation of flute
solo repertoire and etudes prior to audition (can
only play 2 short pieces and no others.).
- Insufficient private
lessons to find out about current standards.
- Student has not listened to
flute CDs or attended live performances before.
- Dynamics (forte to piano)
attempted, but tone and tuning often distorted as
- Last notes in long phrases
go flat in pitch. Crescendos go sharp.
- Upper register passages
sound uncontrolled in tone and without nuance.
- Rhythm and pulse
occasionally secure, but rushing/dragging also
- Finger technique uneven in
quality. Quick tempo passages sound fingery and
- Tonguing and articulations
haphazard in quality. Staccatos all different
- Sight reading from note to
note; Not looking ahead for phrases and patterns.
- Student has not researched
current performance levels of professional flute
you find your own flute-playing level in any of the above
categories, you may wish to take private flute lessons
for a year or more before reapplying to Universities for
'Flute Performance' programmes.
You may also want to read this article on eradicating the bad habits of the
self-taught flutist when starting private lessons.
You'll need and want to study
intensively to develop the following flute player's
- Posture and holding
the flute comfortably for rapid fingering
- Breathing, breath
control, musical phrasing.
- Rhythm, pulse and
musical styles (solo repertoire and
- Tone production,
dynamics and tone colouring.
finger accuracy for daily scales & arpeggios
and daily exercises
- How to practice and
what areas to cover during practice
clarity; work on etudes (studies) to improve
- Sightreading at
level just below or same as performance level
- General music
history knowledge of styles, composers and
- Research on flute
performances, flute CDs, current standards &
- Public performance
& ensemble experience (chamber
If you would like more
information on how to progress really quickly on the
flute, click here.
- Knows scales and arpeggios
by memory and plays with variety of
- Playing repertoire at the
grade 9 level RCM; see Royal Conservatory
- Sight-reads with rhythmic
accuracy and attention to musical details.
- Adjusts own intonation in
ensembles and in unaccompanied solos.
- Tone quality acceptable to
good in all three octaves
- Attempts tone colour
variations and dynamics, shaping and phrasing.
- Practices steadily, 7 days
a week, between 1-3 hours daily. Completes all
- Scale speeds and lightness
of finger technique increasing weekly
- Uses breath control in
executing musical phrases. Has planned breathing.
- Articulations are clear,
accurate and effortless sounding.
- Playing repertoire at the
grade 10 level RCM, see Royal Conservatory
- Prepares all assigned work
fully, and often explores beyond assigned work
- Researches other flutists,
repertoire, concerts to attend, CDs, sheet music
- Dedicated to
self-development; has personal and musical goals
clearly in mind
- Sight-reads accurately with
a good sense of intonation, tone, style and
- Performs with carefully
worked out intonation (studies score/listens to
recordings of work)
- Uses a variety of tone
colours; chooses colours for personal expressive
- Works difficult exercises
to perfection; plans performances carefully
- Flawless tone; captivating
sound, beautifully shaped phrases.
- Playing repertoire at the
A.R.C.T. level or higher;see Royal Conservatory
- Has distinct range of
dynamics from ppp to fff and many shades between.
- Uses tone colours for
expressive effect. "Speaks" to the
listener with music.
- Can vary expressive
interpretations and musical style on demand (for
- Practises 2-5 hours a day.
- Has a great sense of drive,
dedication and focus. Goals very clear.
- Performs with a compelling
personal message within the music.
- Demonstrates complete ease
and freedom while performing.
The purpose of the above
"musical skill ratings" is to inspire the
student to move forward in their quest to obtain
flute-skills.It's always a great motivator to be able to
see the level just above your own if you're a C student
trying to become an A student. :>)
Pre-University (or Junior
College) preparation is geared toward discovering all the
above skill areas, and learning the skill of focused,
daily practising, in order to make all the important
musical skills physically familiar,and "second
nature". It also teaches you to use your practice
time wisely and to focus on the improvements you seek
See ~ Royal Conservatory Syllabus.
It is advisable for young
flutists to be playing flute repertoire at a minimum
level of Royal Conservatory Grade Nine before applying to
a major University. Grade 10, A.R.C.T. or higher is even
better assurance of University acceptance. Each of the
grades listed in the syllabus is comprised of advanced
repertoire, advanced etudes, memorized scales/arpeggios
and standard Orchestral Excerpts, as well as basic
Harmony/ Music History and some basic keyboard ability.
Please feel free to
print out the above list of skills, and you'll soon find
that through dedicated and focused practise, with your
goals firmly in mind, that you will continue to be a much
sought after young musician.
For Jens Favourite flute repertoire
Jennifer Cluff ~
Back to Jen's webpage