All Posts by markflegg

Announcing: Dr. Flegg’s Structured Practice Method!

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve written a post to this website. I’m happy to report that I continue to get close to 2,000 visitors every month in spite of this. But, it’s time to explain why I’ve been so quiet (I have a really good reason!).

Some Background

I’ve been performing professionally on the trumpet for a little over 30 years. This means that for the past 40 years or so, I’ve practiced the trumpet. Nearly every day. For many, many hours. But in spite of (or perhaps because of) my vast experience with practicing, I’ve always believed I could do better… be more efficient, more thorough, more effective.

I’ve read countless articles, papers and books on the subject. I’ve taught hundreds of students over the years, seeing again and again how we all struggle with similar challenges. I’ve studied with many of the world’s finest trumpeters. In short, I’ve studied practicing very deeply.

One thing you’ll see again and again if you read about practicing: Most people recommend you keep a practice journal. What most people don’t talk about, is HOW to keep a practice journal. I’ve tried journalling off and on for years, but paper journals seemed cumbersome. Yes, it’s helpful to write things down, as that process definitely focuses and refines your thinking, but what if you’re working on something specific and want to track your progress, or quickly refer back to the notes from the last few times you practiced that passage? With a traditional journal, you end up flipping all over the place trying to find the two or three sentences you want to see.

About two years ago I started experimenting with different ways of solving that problem. Eventually, I settled on a system where I used a collection of folders and documents in Google Docs. By the Fall of 2013, my system was working quite well for me, though I still knew it could be better.

Toward the end of 2013 I decided the way to take my journalling system to the next level was to develop a computer program to automate it. I began work in January of 2014, and the project has been my main professional focus ever since.

It turns out there are a lot of things to learn and do if you want to produce a high quality web application, especially if all of your professional training is as a trumpeter! I have learned an enormous amount over the past year about programming and about the interwebs. It’s been a fascinating and exciting journey for me, and it’s nowhere close to being finished.

That being said, I’m very happy to announce to the world that my Structured Practice Method is now available to the public.

Dr. Flegg’s Structured Practice Method

I’ve actually been using it in my own practice since May of 2014, and all of my students at Wayne State University and Saginaw Valley State University have been using it since the Fall Semester 2014. It has been incredibly helpful. I have definitely noticed that I am a more effective practicer than I was previously, and the difference in my students has been even more significant.

As of today, I’m opening up the “Public Beta Testing” phase of the application’s development. I’m accepting a limited number of new subscribers in order to really run the system through its paces. I think most of the kinks have been worked out by my students, but in computer programming, I’ve learned that there’s always another bug in there somewhere!

I also hope to get valuable feedback from musicians who are not my students. The dynamic of the student/teacher relationship can make it difficult to offer honest criticism and suggestions, especially when at the end of the semester I’ll be giving out grades.

If you’re a musician who practices, please stop by Dr. Flegg’s SPM and sign up for a free beta tester account! I promise you you’ll be glad you did!

PS: I have big plans for the future of this application. While it currently allows teachers to monitor their students’ practicing from within the app, I’m already working on adding some great additional features to help teachers guide their students in their practicing. Stay tuned to the Structured Practice Method website and this blog for more announcements!

PSS: I also would like to give credit where credit is due. My step-daughter, Katherine Perkins, has been incredibly helpful in developing the public face of the SPM. Among other things, she designed our logos and has been a great help and encouragement in my work. And, she uses the app herself to track her workouts! Perhaps more about that at a later date.

Finally, I’d like to publicly thank my wife, Betsy, for putting up with me over the past year. I’ve put a LOT of time in on the computer when I could have been taking the trash out, or doing laundry, or… Thanks, Honey, you’re the best!

-Mark Flegg

Video of Haydn Trumpet Concerto with Livonia Symphony

It turns out that the Livonia Symphony has an agreement with Livonia Public Access Television that allows them to put concert video online. Here’s the video from my concert with them on March 15, 2014. I enter at 13:00, and perform Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in Eb, then Leroy Anderson’s Trumpeter’s Lullaby, and finally team up with LSO Principal Robert Hawkins on Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets and Orchestra.

Livonia Symphony Orchestra – Chamber Classics from Livonia Television on Vimeo.

Triage in the Practice Room

Imagine a busy hospital emergency room. An ambulance roars up, and paramedics quickly unload a patient, clearly in distress. A doctor runs up, takes a quick look, and says:

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“I see you’ve been stung by a bee!”

“Yes, but..” the patient responds, weakly.

“Well, let’s get some ointment on that and see if we can get you feeling better.”

At this point one of the paramedics speaks up:

“Doctor, what about the stab wounds?”

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Performance Video

Back on February 11, 2013, I was honored to perform Robert Bradshaw’s Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble with the Wayne State University Wind Symphony. I’m happy to report that a video recording of the performance is now available online!!

The first and second movements are combined here:

And the last movement is here:

Notable Upcoming Performances

I have a couple of performances coming up in the very near future that I feel merit extra attention here on my website.

The first will take place on Saturday, January 19th, at The Whiting in Flint, MI. Notable about this performance is the programming of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7. In my 17 years with the Flint Symphony, this is the first time the orchestra has performed any Bruckner work, and it’s also the first time I’ve ever performed a Bruckner Symphony as Principal.

Bruckner makes heavy use of trumpets, similarly to Mahler, so this should be lots of fun!

The second notable performance will take place on Monday, February 11, in the Music Box at the Max Fischer Music Center (Orchestra Hall) in Detroit.

In this concert, I’ll be performing Robert Bradshaw’s Concerto for Trumpet with the Wayne State University Wind Symphony. I have performed several of Robert’s works over the years, and his Sonata was the subject of my doctoral document at MSU. I’m very excited to be able to bring his Concerto to a new audience!

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year!!

My original intent was to write a fairly large post to ring in the new year on my website. I had it all mapped out in my head… I was going to write about what it’s like to be a free-lance musician in December… the grueling schedule of holiday gigs, teaching, and the occasional family or friend gathering.

I was going to write about performing in the pit for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” an extra gig that came up which fit perfectly around my other holiday gigs. A gig that fit so perfectly that I only had one day off between the Monday after Thanksgiving and December 31st.
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