The Anatomy of a Flute

by Adam Kuenzel

Capable of reaching higher notes than any other woodwind, the flute is used in everything from classical music to jazz and pop. While the flute may seem like a relatively basic instrument at first glance, the classic woodwind is an intricately designed piece of equipment with many nuances. Here is a brief overview of the three main components of a flute and the way in which they work together to produce music.

Headjoint: The first piece of the flute is the headjoint, the part of the instrument that touches the musician’s mouth and allows him to breathe into it. This makes the headjoint one of the most influential components in the final sound the flute produces. Several key parts of the flute are included on the headjoint, such as the lip plate, the curve of which can affect the instrument’s tone and the flutist’s ease in playing, and the headjoint cork, which can be used to adjust pitch.

Body: The largest portion of the flute, the body contains the vast majority of the keys. Keys come in two types: open hole, also referred to as French, and closed hole, also called American or plateau. While there are no strict rules about what type of keys to use, most professional flutes have open holes while most student flutes have closed ones.

Foot Joint: As its name suggests, the foot joint is the final part of the flute. Before the foot joint was invented, the downward range of the flute was limited to D above middle C. Flutists can now choose between a C foot joint, which adds brilliance of tone and makes it easier to play in the upper register, or a B foot joint, which extends the range of the flute to B below middle C, and increases the depth and richness of the flute’s sound.

About the Author: An accomplished flutist, Adam Kuenzel possesses close to three decades of professional experience and is currently the Principal Flutist of the Minnesota Orchestra. Kuenzel has performed several concerti during his career, including works by Otaka, Bach, Corigliano, and Manue Sosa. Sosa won a 2011 Guggenhaeim Award for his work, Eloquentia, which was premiered by Kuenzel and the Minnesota Orchestra. Adam Kuenzel received his undergraduate training at the Oberlin Conservatory under Robert Willoughby, where he earned a Bachelor of Music and won the Concerto Competition in 1981.

Tagged , , , ,

The Work of St. Stephen’s Human Services

by Adam Kuenzel

Founded by St. Stephen’s Church in Minneapolis, St. Stephen’s Human Services provides a variety of programs and services to local citizens without homes. Instead of simply providing people with food and shelter, St. Stephen’s Human Services conducts an assortment of programs designed to empower families and individuals and impart the skills they need to enact significant change in their lives. Below are a few of the main initiatives currently supported by the organization.

Street Outreach: Working in conjunction with religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, and social service providers, the Street Outreach program actively seeks out those without homes and provides them much needed resources including food, clothing, and shelter. In many instances, the Street Outreach team works with local police to find social service assistance for those committing minor crimes as an alternative to arrest.

Alliance of the Streets: This program helps both people living without a home and those at risk of homelessness connect to important services. Through Alliance of the Streets, St. Stephen’s Human Services publishes an annual resource guide, provides free voicemail boxes to those without phones, helps people struggling to claim social security, and assists with obtaining birth certificates for those in need of state IDs.

Kateri Residence: Designed specifically for American Indian women recovering from chemical dependency, the Kateri Residence offers a focus on American Indian culture and spirituality alongside on-site healthcare, case management, parenting classes, life-skills training, and other essential recovery services. Once women leave the residence, they can continue to receive support through an off-site alumnae program.

Others: In addition, the organization promotes artistic pursuits and awareness of homelessness through the zAmya Theater Project, advocates for human rights in the local community, has multiple programs designed to end long-term homelessness, and maintains a free store which carries clothing and smaller household items for those in need of them.

To learn more about St. Stephen’s Human Services and volunteer opportunities, visit www.StStephensMpls.org.  

About the Author: Adam Kuenzel has been principal flutist of the Minnesota Orchestra since 1990.  In addition to his work as a musician, Kuenzel contributes to several nonprofit organizations that benefit the local and global community, including St. Stephen’s Human Services, Environment Minnesota, and the Sierra Club.

Adam Kuenzel: Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

By Adam Kuenzel

Ask Minnesota Orchestra Principal Flute Chair Adam Kuenzel to list some of his preferred classical pieces and he will surely include composer Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Considered one of Debussy’s most famous works, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun features a score for the entire orchestra and lasts roughly 10 minutes.

Many consider the Prelude as heralding in a new period of modernist music marked by smaller ensembles, as compared to the large orchestras of the late-romanticism era. Considered controversial at the time of its premiere, the symphonic poem debuted in Paris in 1984 and subsequently garnered Debussy international attention. In writing Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Debussy drew inspiration from French poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem L’après-midi d’un faune.

Debussy wrote that in no way does Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun try to build upon Mallarmé’s creation, but rather develops a parallel storyline describing the dreams and intentions of the main character of both works through a series of scenes. Mallarmé at first expressed displeasure over Debussy juxtaposing the poem and the orchestral composition but later changed his mind after seeing a performance of the work. Debussy’s The Afternoon of a Faun also inspired the creation of three subsequent ballets.

Intending to write the piece as the first of a suite of three movements, Debussy never finished the other two portions. To the untrained ear, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun sounds almost improvised and freeform; however, the piece actually contains complexity of motifs played at intervals by different members of the orchestra.

Tagged , , , , ,

Adam Kuenzel: The Brandenburg Concertos

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos consist of six instrumental works created during the early 18th century for Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, a prince of Prussia. Many music historians consider the six works as some of the finest compositions produced during the Baroque era. 

Bach developed the six Brandenburg Concertos to use a wide range of orchestral instruments, often in innovative combinations. For instance, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major makes use of a harpsichord, violin, and flute in the concertino, and the violin, viola, cello, violone, and harpsichord in the ripieno. Many contemporary orchestras have performed the Brandenburg Concertos to much success, including the Minnesota Orchestra, which Adam Kuenzel serves as principal flute chair. 

Active during the height of the Baroque era, Bach earned acclaim for his talents as an organist, harpsichordist, and violinist during his lifetime. However, his fame as a composer did not appear until a revival of his music during the 19th century. Today, many regard him as a primary composer in the Baroque style and one of the greatest composers in history. Music historians believe that Bach produced the Brandenburg Concertos over several years, possibly beginning as early as 1717. During the majority of the time he spent writing the pieces, Bach served as a director of music to German Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. 

When finally bequeathed to the Margrave Christian Ludwig in 1721, the Brandenburg Concertos sat in storage for close to 15 years, possibly because the prince lacked enough musicians to perform the pieces. Once the Margrave died, the concertos were sold and did not resurface again until 1849 in Brandenburg, Germany. Each of the six concertos maintains unique characteristics. For instance, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 uses a popular chamber music ensemble (flute, violin, and harpsichord) of the Baroque period, while Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major is the only piece in the collection composed of four movements.

Adam Kuenzel: Pursuing a Career Music Performance Part 2 – Practice

As principal flutist for the Minnesota Orchestra, Adam Kuenzel is proof that hard work, talent, and perseverance pay off for those intrepid performers wishing to make a living pursuing their craft. Mr. Kuenzel has spent nearly 30 years performing professionally, turning his early passion for music into a full-fledged career.

How much hard work is required for those wishing to pursue a career in music performance? Dr. K. Anders Ericsson and a team from the University of Stockholm in Sweden studied this question. The group determined that, in order to achieve performance expertise, musicians need to engage in around 10,000 hours of deliberate practice by the age of 20. Those participating in 5,000 hours of practice still performed professionally but were the least accomplished, with talented amateurs engaging in roughly 2,000 hours of practice.

The amount and method of practice was the single largest determining factor in Dr. Ericsson’s study, overriding all other facets such as early talent and genetics. Deliberate practice is a specific type of rehearsal that creates expertise in all areas of performance, such as music or athletics. To practice deliberately, musicians focus on technique rather than outcome, often breaking tasks down into specific parts in order to master each technique. They also set measurable goals for performance and mastery, and receive immediate, valid feedback they can then apply right away in their practice sessions.

What Dr. Ericsson’s research indicates is this: Talented performers are not born, they are made. By applying the principals of deliberate practice and spending the appropriate amount of time utilizing these techniques, music students can develop skills to become expert performers.

Tagged , ,

Adam Kuenzel: Pursuing a Career Music Performance Part 1 – Education

As principal flutist for the Minnesota Orchestra, Adam Kuenzel has played flute professionally for nearly three decades. He has also performed as a guest principal flutist with the Pittsburgh and Chicago Symphony Orchestras. After graduating from Oberlin Conservatory with a Bachelor of Music, Adam Kuenzel went on to pursue an active career in music involving teaching and performance. His versatility as a musician is evident in the range of music he performs, from classical chamber and symphonic to modern concerti.

Mr. Kuenzel’s
talent and versatility as a flutist led to a successful career in music performance. Every year, thousands of college students graduate with degrees in music performance, hoping to pursue their passion for music throughout their career. Music teachers, parents, and college professors often stress to these students just how difficult it is to find steady work as a performing musician. Resultantly, many turn to music education as their focus, while others steadfastly maintain the pursuit of a musical performance career.

Education is critical for a career in classical music performance. Students wishing to pursue this position should begin taking private lessons as early as possible, and participate in school and community performance groups. In college, they should seek a musical performance degree, either as part of the university’s music program or at a performance school such as Oberlin Conservatory. Upon graduation, continued pursuit of music education remains critical, as does taking advantage of resume-building performance opportunities.

Tagged , ,