Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Florida Flute Convention

All ready for Florida Flute Convention! #spottedrocket

A photo posted by Nicole Chamberlain (@nikkinotes) on

I live in Atlanta, Georgia. So it may come to a surprise to many that I had never been to the Florida Flute Convention, even though many of my students had thanks to being members of Kelly Via's fabulous Metro Atlanta Youth Flute Choir. Many students and colleagues have urged me to go and sell my compositions down at the Exhibit Hall at the Florida Flute Convention. I've always had one conflict or another, but this year I took the plunge and made my way down to Florida.

I was incredible lucky to by joined by a dear friend who made a living in the past in sales. She's a flutist who has performed quite a bit of my music and was familiar with the extended techniques. Let's just say I learned a ton about sales and how fortunate I am to be surrounded by friends who believe in what I am trying to accomplish. She would be mortified if I mentioned her name. But I hope she knows how thankful she came and what it meant to me.

Along with selling my compositions, part of the reason I traveled down to Orlando was because a couple of my pieces were being performed. Laura Clapper from the Flute New Music Consortium performed my work Asphyxia for solo flute. To my surprise, I got a lovely email a few days before the convention from Paige Long that Dayton State College and Community flute choir would be performing my work Railroaded for flute choir. Having a piece or two performed at these conventions helps people take your work more seriously. More than a few times people would walk up to my table and casually browse, but once I told them a couple of pieces were being performed, I got their attention. Its rare that I get recognized at these things, so winning people over when they don't know you from Adam is probably the largest obstacle. I enjoyed meeting all the new people and why they were at the convention.

The Florida Flute Convention was encouraging. We made more sales than I thought we would, and people seemed to enjoy my pieces that were performed at the convention. I also met many people who are interested in what I have written, and perhaps interested in commissioning more. Seeds were planted, and let's hope I'm better at cultivating paid commissions than I am a actual vegetable gardening.  It has motivated me to try a few other regional fairs. I will be attending the Atlanta Flute Fair in a couple weeks, and have added the Mid-South Flute Fair as well. Now I just have to pray my poor printer can hold up. That's another blog post.

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016, the year I started saying "No, thank you"

Last year, my real New Year's Resolution came quite clear around February. It became evident that I
had agreed to take on too much, and my own health and sanity were the victims. During February, I was conducting a musical, composing a commission, getting ready for the Atlanta Flute Fair, finishing an Atlanta Flute Club newsletter, updating their websites, and performing several concerts when I wasn't conducting the orchestra. Let's not forget I still had a full load of private students, and my school sectional obligations. I wasn't sleeping well, and pretty anxiety ridden. It wasn't healthy, and I needed to make some changes.

I took hard look at a long list of my obligations for the concert season, and decided I needed to make some tough decisions in order to keep this from ever happening again - which was going to require me to disappoint some people. I'm always flattered that people want me to be a part of their projects, but I can't do everything. So I had to decide how I was going to untangle myself from which projects, and how I would determine which projects to turn down in the future.

It turns out I was doing a ton of stuff for other people to help their organization or careers, with not much to boost my own or even getting paid for it. I decided that if I wasn't getting paid then I needed to decide if a certain project was helping my composing career. If neither were true, then I had to decide if I was going to enjoy the project.  I found that made my decisions incredibly easy.

After CHAMBERlain MUSIC concert
It turns out saying no isn't hard, once you start saying it. Actually, it got pretty addictive. By May I had managed to give clear intentions about the responsibilities and obligations I would no longer be able to continue. It was plenty of time for the other groups to find my replacements. In fact, it was easier to find people to take up the torch than I initially thought it would be. Of course people were disappointed, but because I gave references for other people and plenty of notice I managed not to burn any bridges. The key was that I was clear, adamant, kind, and prompt when addressing concerns about me leaving organizations. Most people are put out when notice or help to find a replacement isn't offered. I gave help, and a deadline when I could no longer help.

By summer, I found myself composing more, and when I did perform it was music I enjoyed. I no longer do any web or print design, which makes me immensely happy. So here we are about the same time as last year, and I am looking ahead to February. With all of the other time consuming obligations from last year obliterated, I now have a schedule that looks more like I care about my composition goals.

2017 is starting to show the fruits of some hard labor since I quit the old day job in 2009. The tough decisions I made in 2016 really did kick start some other things and help me focus on my ultimate composing goals. Now its time to buckle up and start the daily hustle, and remembering sometimes saying no is the best for everyone.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Every day at NFA

I didn't plan to go to the National Flute Association's Flute Convention in San Diego this year. Going to the convention is an expensive endeavor especially when it involves flying to the other coast. Unless I had something major being performed I was going to sit this one out. So when my friends started conspiring to perform and commission new pieces with the hopes they would be selected to perform at NFA, I had my doubts any of it would be selected - especially the proposal that involved playing 30 minutes of my works on one program. I had made up my mind that we couldn't swing going to NFA this year, and that if would be crazy to think any of those proposals would be selected.  So when 5 of the 7 proposals were selected, I was in total disbelief.

from last year's NFA
This year's NFA really is going to be an extraordinary experience for me. First of all, I've never been to California - yay, travel! Secondly, I have 6 pieces being performed. SIX!!!! I always feel lucky to just get one piece performed during the 5 day convention. This means every day at the NFA convention I am having a piece performed. Thirdly, in spite of my printer's attempts to die, I've managed to convince Flute World to sell my music at their humongous booth at the Exhibit Hall at NFA. Lastly, I get to take an epic road trip with two of my friends and conspirators from Boulder, CO to San Diego, CA which includes stopping at the Grand Canyon for a couple nights. The best part about going to NFA is a chance to see and meet all the wonderful people who have performed my pieces and friends I rarely get to see. I also hope to meet people who I've made connections with online who have performed my music. It's a rare opportunity and I had to figure out a way to get to NFA.

So how do you get to NFA on a budget. I have been putting some money away from my sheet music sales since Christmas on. With that, I was able to pay all my NFA fees and plane tickets. The hotel is expensive, especially in San Diego. Luckily, nothing like friends to help defray the costs on the hotel. My 3 other cohorts and I are splitting a hotel for 4 of those days. I have to stay over by myself one night. Believe it or not, the cost of my hotel with my 3 friends was cheaper than my one night alone.  The only thing I have left to pay is food. Food, in my opinion, is the easiest way to save money. If the hotel doesn't serve a free breakfast, I can run to the grocery store and get some Luna Bars for the week. Lunch is usually catch if you can - if I remember to eat. Dinner - well dinner is always worth a good sit down meal with some adult beverages. For someone who didn't plan to go to NFA, I was able to do it. Now next year, I'll have to play be ear again. The lesson is "Always Be Saving".

Last year's NFA with my sister and FNMC
What do I hope for this year's NFA? I hope that I reinforce previous relationships with performers, learn some new tricks for my student's sake, and make new connections for more commissions. I've reached a lull in commissions. It happens. I may have exhausted my current connections and its time to make new ones. While I hope to have a good time with my friends and get a chance to see a bit of San Diego, I will have to put on the used car salesman hat my grandfather left me and go shake some hands.I'm just lucky that I enjoy my job so much that it doesn't always seem like work. Let's face it, its a Sunday afternoon - I should be relaxing, but I love what I do and it doesn't seem like work.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Traditional Hymns for Flute Duet

I've made it no secret that the summer is a struggle for us freelance musicians financially. A good bit of my students take the summer off for travel or camps. So I am teaching less. It is also slim pickins for paid performances, with the exception of some "Stars & Stripes" gigs for us flute/piccolo players . The result is I typically have more time to compose. While I have been doing that, sometimes I like to revisit doing arrangements especially for flute duo.

Christmas Flute Duets
 My Christmas Flute Duets have by far been the best seller of anything I have available for sale on my website. Unfortunately, those typical only sell during October through early January then sales drop off. I managed to prolong some sales by adding Easter and Lent Flute Duets as well as Wedding Flute Duets. Although those have been received well too, I have had many requests over the years to do a collection of traditional hymns. Music for church services is performed quite a bit, and people who perform that music on a weekly basis are always hungry for new music.

 The result is I finally had some time this summer to get to a project I have always wanted to complete. It solves many problems for me. It makes me brush up on my basic composition skills, create some much needed income, and gives me some new music to perform with students and friends at my own church. Right now, I have 5 Traditional Hymns for flute duet: "Amazing Grace", "Be Thou My Vision", "How Great Thou Art", "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name", and "O Sanctisimma". So far, people seem to really enjoy them. Perhaps in the future I will be able to expand on the collection. They are always fun to arrange and perform. I'm always so please to hear how other flutists are so glad to find some new hymns to perform at their own church.

You can listen and buy all of the Traditional Hymns for Flute Duet here!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lilliputian for piccolo and music box

Lately, I've had lots to compose. I've had back to back commissions (hooray!). In fact, I still have one left on the table that is due in July that I should get to hacking away at before I get stressed about it. But, I bought this music box back in December and haven't had time or inspiration to compose for it. I decided to take a break from composing my "to do" list, and compose for my "want" list. So I composed a little piece for piccolo and music box. You can watch a video below:


It was as fun as I hoped, and I hope I get to do more. Since this music box would be new to a good bit of folks, I also put together a music box tutorial to explain the process:

I did this project as a fun exercise to get me to think differently. My last year of compositions have been all for flute in one aspect or another and I needed a different challenge. But now, it looks like its turned into somewhat of a fundraiser for my dog who will have EXPENSIVE knee surgery tomorrow so she can walk on all four legs again. You can read about the surgery from our pal Jarrett Bellini who went through the same thing last summer and made me feel good about our decision to do this surgery. It will be worth every penny to see Annie run and terrorize squirrels again...also its painful to watch her try to squat to take care of business. Turns out a dog's back leg is pretty crucial to day to day function.
So help us out and buy the sheet music to Lilliputian or you can browse some more of our music at, in case you are not a flutist or piccoloist. Or if you don't see anything you like, you could always commission me. I've got nothing lined up after this one I am working (about to work) on. Thanks for your continued support!

Monday, January 04, 2016

Catching My Breath!

The day after my last blog post, the hubs had a brain aneurysm. He came out the end as good as new, and I couldn't be more relieved! It certainly brought our relationship to a whole new level. It was great before, but now there is certainly more gratitude about the time we have together.

A question I get asked frequently is "Were you scared?". There wasn't time to be. Everything happened so fast. We were taking it as we were dealt with it, and having to make decisions quickly. I got to have my meltdown when they rolled the hubs into surgery, but it was a healthy meltdown. The next question I get asked "Wasn't anyone with you?". No, no one physically was there. I think that was best. I think I would have felt obligated to keep it together if someone was there. Because when I break down, it is ugly and worrisome. When they wheeled Brian back in, he was chatty and "drunk". Then I wasn't worried anymore. The whole experience was amazing. He was in agony, and then two hours later he felt great. He just kept getting better. I almost felt guilty his parents drove/flew down from Pennsylvania in record breaking time to be there when he got back - I know they were glad to be there and see for themselves he was fine.

Looking back at the whole thing, I probably should have been more terrified. I don't think at the time I had all the information about what usually happens when people get brain aneurysms. People love to tell you stories about how they know someone who was 26 years old with a wife and four babies who died from a brain aneurysm. There's nothing more comforting than hearing that (sarcasm). Rest assured, we witnessed first hand in the Neuro ICU what the usual outcome is for brain aneurysm. Poor Brian got severe survivor's guilt every time he had to go for a walk down the ICU unit. Every other patient was not usually even conscious. When Brian walked down the ICU unit it was like a parade. All the nurses would get so excited to see a walking patient. I sometimes think the walk was better for the moral of the staff on that ICU unit.

Once Brian was on the mend, my focus changed fast. Nothing like the possibility of health and financial disaster to really get one motivated. Our two weeks in the hospital really kicked things into overdrive. Usually, I don't take on more than one commission at a time with the same deadline. Motivated by the need to pay hospital bills and the weeks the hubs was going to be out of work while he got back to 100%, I signed two commission contracts with the same deadline and a third soon after. I'm thankful that worked out, and that people have faith in my compositions, it gave us more latitude financially. However, I had to ramp up my work. If it paid, I didn't turn it down.

What should have been a month of hanging out with the hubs while he healed, turned into the craziest month of taking care of Brian, juggling work, family, dogs, and sleep. I do have to say I never slept better during that month. If I laid down on the bed I was out. I am grateful to friends and family who helped take care of us during that time - some of them I missed because I fell asleep during the visit. Friends did everything from showing up with magazines to help with the boredom (not mine!), buying me dinner - because you forget to eat, to getting my paycheck to me so we wouldn't miss a mortgage payment, and even a friend who stayed the weekend last minute while Brian was in the ER and transferred to Emory. All those little things really made a huge difference. So next time this happens to a friend, even just showing up at the hospital to say hi or giving them a couple bucks to hit up the vending machine can really help out. It doesn't take much in a time like that. I know I never know what to do when friends are in that situation - it doesn't have to be a big gesture to make a huge impact.

So Brian is back to "normal" and so am I by the time October rolled around. It's been a flurry of flute playing, teaching, and composing. So much happened, I'll have to space out the posts. The next 4 months look equally packed. Then May will hit, and I will long for these days that are too busy to blog about any of the events. For now, this post explaining my absence will have to do. I'm pretty sure the "My Husband Had An Aneurysm" excuse has been played out by now. Don't worry, we joke about it, but we know things could be a lot different and that is not lost on us. I'm thankful we get more time together.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Summer Insomnia for Flute Choir

This summer has certainly been uncharacteristic for this freelance musician. Typically, I'm working on one commission and more than likely trying to make Christmas arrangements (my biggest seller) to make up for the lack of income from vacationing students and the drought of gigs. This summer, however, I have found some flute love.

At the beginning of the year I always make a list of pieces I would like to compose in case I find myself without a project to work on during the year. Most of the time the pieces I plan to work on vary in instrumentation and form to help me keep things different and fresh. This year has been the year of the flute, however, and it doesn't look like I am going to write a piece where the flute isn't the featured instrument.
Flute Choir of Atlanta premieres Summer Insomnia

I suppose it makes sense that my main instrument is the same instrument of my commissioners. It certainly is the instrument I am most comfortable composing for, obviously. I usually meet other flutists at flute fairs and the National Flute Association Convention who have heard a piece of mine there and would like me to compose a certain piece for them.

I just had a piece for flute choir premiered at the 2015 National Flute Association Convention in Washington, DC. this month. I was commissioned by Flute Choir of Atlanta, under the direction of dear friend Kathy Farmer, to compose a piece for flute choir with the hopes to perform it at the National Flute Convention. The program was called "American Seasons" and that I could pick whichever season I would like. I had been experimenting with cricket and insect sounds using the flute with other pieces, but this time I could experiment with the sounds on a bigger scale in a flute choir. So I picked summer, the height of bug season.

I had found memories as a child spending the night at my great aunt and uncle's farm in Dearborn, Missouri. The days were warm and the nights were cool. The windows were always open at night. I remember on particular night staying at the farm for the first time without my parents or sisters. Falling asleep listening to the crickets, but then a my imagination ran away with with me. Needless to say it resulted in me waking up my great aunt and uncle and having them drive me an hour back to St. Joseph, Missouri where my parents and sisters were staying with my grandmother. So this is for my poor great aunt and uncle who gave me wonderful memories and never complained about driving me back to my parents in the dead of night on that long gravel road.

That night was the inspiration for the piece Summer Insomnia. Some of the extended techniques were new for many of the members of the flute choir, but what troopers they were about learning! I not only had the privilege of composing for the choir, but I got to play with them as well. It was a wonderful experience and and experience I'll never forget. They even made me a special bug crown!

So the question now, as always, what's next? I just finished another flute choir commission for the Atlanta Flute Club. It's a piece for the 10th Annual Flute Choir Extravaganza event on November 15. So far there are 5 flute choirs signed up to join the premiere performance, with a possibility of a couple more. That will be an amazing experience to stand in front of all those flute choirs and conduct a premiere of my own piece.

I will premiere another work of mine for flute and piano, Three-Nine Line, with pianist Ipek Brooks on October 3. Now, I am just about to start putting the first notes on the page for a flute and trombone duet commissioned by Dr. Shelley Martinson. I also have a couple of commissions out to be signed and negotiated...yes they are for flute. Of course I have my usual load of students, Terminus Ensemble performances, and Perimeter Flutes has a plethora of performances coming up as well. Needless to say, I am going to take advantage of the holiday weekend to get the house in order so that our house isn't condemned by Christmas....

Flute New Music Consortium also interviewed me. Watch me try to speak English, shockingly my first and only language, but I'm not sure you can tell: