August 2007 Convention
Albuquerque, NM

Masterclass: Amateur 30+ with Bart Feller

Bart Feller’s masterclass for adult amateurs attracted a large audience. Working with five volunteers from the audience, Feller’s friendly, clear teaching quickly brought noticeable improvements to each flutist’s playing.

After the first participant performed Ganne’s “Andante et Scherzo,” Feller lowered the music stand and positioned it closer to the piano to allow better communication with the audience and accompanist. He then demonstrated using finger breaths to “get the most air from the best place.” Next he encouraged the performer to play with rhythmic accuracy, using rhythms and dynamics to convey the mood of the piece.

Bart Feller

Bart Feller

With the second performer, Feller focused on body position and breathing. Demonstrating how to play with “floppy arms,” he invited the flutist to release her arms and let them drop, to engage the breath through the arms. By taking more frequent mouth/face breaths, the student managed breaths that allowed the music to keep flowing. Because the student was moving too much, Feller gave her the image of being a tree: feet and knees firmly rooted, but still allowing flexibility in the torso.

With the third performer, Feller continued the emphasis on body position with his three-point checklist: 1) position feet at 45-degree angle to the stand; 2) bring head and upper torso to the left to look at stand over the left elbow; 3) bring flute to the head. Feller also focused on dynamics by visually placing his hand in front of the student and then raising his hand higher and lower to show airstream angle changes to correspond with piano (higher) vs. forte (lower).

The next flutist, playing Milhaud’s “Sonatine,” gained better musicality and flow by feeling a bigger beat (in 2) and then using color to highlight tonality shift between major and minor. Shortening the articulation helped highlight the syncopated rhythm and its contrasting angular feel. Feller’s light touch on the performer’s shoulders helped guide her to take a better breath by not caving in or breathing too low in her stomach area.

Use of vibrato by the final performer was enhanced by using faster vibrato on directional notes and large intervals, then relaxing the vibrato on arrival notes.

As a teacher, I especially appreciated the way Feller ended the students’ session with a clear recap of the lesson, sending the flutists on their way with helpful tools to take their music to the next level. A master teacher, indeed!

—Rosene Rohrer