Tag Archives: Adam Kuenzel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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