August 2014 Convention
Chicago, IL

Career Mini-Conference, Day 1: Unlock Your Potential for Success

Jeanne Baxtresser and Alberto Almarza

Each year the NFA’s Career and Artistic Development Committee puts together a Mini-Conference designed to help flutists expand their “repertoire” of practical ideas for launching and maintaining meaningful careers as flutists. This year Jeanne Baxtresser and Alberto Almarza led an exceptional workshop detailing practical and philosophical ideas for professional teachers with students from a variety of levels. As I listened I was amazed at how many topic choices applied directly to my teaching and studio prep, not simply to college professors from elite music programs. (Disclosure: I teach 10 private students, ages 4-20, and 10 community college students, ages 18-20.) Jeanne Baxtresser led most of this event, and her poise, candor, and respect for the participating flutists gave the workshop a warmth and ease that went beyond the topic; it affirmed the work that so many of us do on a daily basis. 

Ideas that stuck with me

  • Teaching is Part Science, Part Art, and Part Magic
  • Students Usually Have Three Major Teachers
  1. The first helps spark the love and passion for flute;
  2. The second (and most challenging role) takes the student’s love and passion for the flute and introduces greater skills and responsibility;
  3. The third brings students to their ultimate abilities and always stands on the shoulders of their first teachers.
  • Teach the Person, and adapt to her personality. Try to determine what her best path/greatest potential is and don’t resist where she should go with it.
  • Baxtresser prefers to be interested in a student’s personality, not personal life.
  • Giving students an awareness that their time is short or that there is a time limit to working with you can help them maintain their focus throughout the semester or year.
  • Don’t ask students to do a task that is really out of step with their personality. Some musicians are extroverts and some are introverts. Give them opportunities to shine within their set of abilities on stage.

Collaborative teaching
Alberto Almarza and Jeanne Baxtresser discussed how to work together in a collaborative teaching setting. Both agreed that showing respect for colleagues shows strength on the teacher’s part. But also, it’s important for students to understand that in orchestras you often play for different conductors, and each conductor may want something done differently. Being able to adapt to the goals and different styles of your different flute teachers shows strength and teaches necessary career skills of flexibility and listening.

I enjoyed hearing Baxtresser’s tips for dealing with specific student issues:

  • The Hopelessly Negative Student: She encouraged us to discuss with the student how constant negativity affects us when we’re teaching and expressing concern for how it’s affecting their life. Let the students know that they’re not letting you be the best teacher you can be unless they let go of the constant criticism.
  • There’s a place for everyone on stage. Encourage students to be themselves on stage.
  • Consider having students bring in a notecard of their goals at the beginning of the lesson—it’s empowering for them and helps keep you on task.

I was really thrilled with the work that Jeanne Baxtresser and Alberto Almarza shared with us at this event. It was well attended, with more than 90 flutists in the audience, and it helped me develop a clearer picture of how to shape my career goals as a flute instructor. Many thanks to both of them for sharing their generosity and expertise!

Jeanne Baxtresser

—Ellen J Mosley

photos by Brian Covington and Ellen J Mosley