August 2015 Convention
Washington, D.C.

Competition Masterclass with Jonathan Keeble

Featuring three winners of the NFA Masterclass Performers Competition, this class provided valuable pedagogy tips from veteran teacher Jonathan Keeble. Working with these talented students, Keeble was quick to praise their fine playing, while insightfully honing in on one or two areas of improvement for each performer.

From left: Natalie Jefferson, Krista Pack, Jonathan Keeble, Eric Leise

photo by Rosene Rohrer

Krista Pack’s performance of Hüe’s “Fantaisie” led to an invitation to move in a horizontal motion (like a ballet dancer), avoiding jerky vertical movements with the end of the flute (“karate chops”). Quoting one of his teachers—“The difference between a professional flutist and a non-professional is in the way final notes of phrases are played”—Keeble urged Pack to vibrate past the note end while maintaining powerful airspeed with the vibrato.

Next, Natalie Jefferson played part of the first movement of Mozart’s Concerto in G. Addressing the challenge of navigating large leaps, particularly to sudden low notes, Keeble offered tips to better match note quality and timbre, avoiding edginess in the low register by keeping those notes light and beautiful like the preceding upper notes. He also asked Jefferson to add interest by portraying various opera characters that appear in Mozart’s music, e.g. a gallant hero in the opening bars followed by a playful child scampering through the set in the descending scale passages. This last image helped her achieve a lighter, détaché tonguing more appropriate to Mozart’s graceful style.

The last portion of the class was devoted to Eric Leise and his performance of the Nielsen Concerto (first movement). Noting that Nielsen was an avid ornithologist, Keeble encouraged Leise to mimic the birds calls found throughout the piece by playing them with chirpy lightness and freedom. With a focus on intonation during diminuendo, Keeble invited the audience to join Eric in placing hands around sides/rib cage, keeping the rib cage open by hissing, and maintaining released/relaxed shoulders. Then with that support in place, he asked Leise to change from an “ah” to an “oo” vowel shape and increase the airspeed while tapering.

As a teacher, I especially appreciated the way Keeble ended the sessions: 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