Samantha Norton

Equinox Staff


Crisp gusts of wind filled the brisk November air while Woodwind Festival took place on Saturday, Nov. 5.

However, these soft breaths of wind did not compare to the gentle exhales exuded from the lungs of the musicians gathered at this event. These controlled exhales aided in producing hypnotizing melodies that resonated from instruments such as flutes and clarinets.

Woodwind Festival offered the opportunity for Keene State College student musicians and also local high school students to receive feedback on the music skills they possess.

Lessons in improvising, body mechanics, and breathing control are tools these artists will utilize throughout their musical endeavors in order to perfect the delivery of each note. Directing some of these lessons was guest speaker and guest performer Katherine Borst Jones, professor of flute at Ohio State University. During the event, Jones critiqued not only the notes produced, but also how each note was played. Music is a lifelong journey where there is constantly room to grow and learn. This is the notion Jones advocated throughout her lessons.

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“You never know everything and you’re always getting better and your interpretive powers come about as what happens in your life too. If you’ve never suffered or had joy then you wouldn’t play as well,” Jones said.

Incorporating emotions of suffering and joy will allow students to tell a story with their music.

“Everybody’s story might be different, or there might be differences. But it’s about imagination and when you use your imagination then it’s going to influence the quality of the sound and how you decide to articulate. It is also about learning the language of the composer that you are playing,” Jones said.

However, learning techniques such as this are ones that only come with experience. Dr. Craig Sylvern, professor of music and the host of Woodwind Festival, believes that creating an opportunity for communication between college students, high school students, and professional musicians will allow students to develop their skills one step further.

When selecting a guest artist, Sylvern wanted someone whom he knew could deliver a set of ideas and skills to which  students have not yet been exposed.

“I’ve known her for years and I know that she’s an excellent teacher and an excellent player and that’s one of the qualities I was looking for in a guest artist. I wanted somebody that I knew who could communicate well both verbally and musically,” Sylvern said.

Throughout the festival, Jones communicated and emphasized the idea that it’s not about the performer; it’s about the music.

It is the musician’s job to present the piece to the audience in a manner that emphasizes a sense of understanding and appreciation. “If they do that then they will feel a sense of accomplishment and they’ll have done their job,” Jones said. However, before this happens, artists must understand the piece in its entirety before presenting their composition.

In order to do so, it is important for musicians to remember that their performances will not compare to the experience of listening to a CD that is perfectly edited. Instead of editing their work to perfection, performers must rely on the score and trust their own instincts.

“On one hand it’s great that we have access to so many performances, but on the other hand it might make students afraid to come up with their own ideas,” Jones said.

Developing a performance that describes the musician’s personal story or idea through the notes heard is Jazz Studies Professor Scott Mullett’s expertise. Learning how to become comfortable with improvisation is what will help performers breakout of their comfort zones according to Mullett.  Mullett said that it is important for all artists to remember that not all musicians use the same inflection, scale, and articulation.

The quality of the performance stems from the basics: body placement, breathing techniques, and a strong stance. These basics will help increase the value of the story told. Jones believes that music is a constant journey that possesses countless of stories.

Each story allows the artist to become one step closer to achieving their goal. Musicians, especially student performers, just have to be persistent enough to capture what they desire most.

“Don’t dream too small because if you dream too small than that’s where you’ll end up. Don’t be afraid to go for that dream. Find something that you really love and go after it,” Jones said.


Samantha Norton can be contacted at

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