We have reached that point in the year where many of us are starting to do more outdoor performing. As we get back to performing together, the outdoor setting brings about challenges that are quite different from the inside gigs that are old hat. I thought it might be nice to discuss instrument care while performing in the hot summer sun, and I will also include a short list of recommendations or things to consider for performing out in the sunshine.
Although the idea of performing under that beautiful summer sun, in the bright green grass, with cool breezes, swarms of bugs, sudden rain storms, massive wind gusts, painful sun burns…ok, see how quickly that scenario changed. When performing outside, we all have to be prepared for anything and everything!
First and foremost, we should talk about our precious instruments. I think we all realize that if the rain starts, the instrument gets put away immediately. But if you get caught in a little drizzle or a downpour, prioritize getting your instrument out of the water. Make sure that when you get home that you wipe it down and dry it off, carefully. DO NOT put it in the case. The case and the flute both need to be left out to dry or you could cause more damage. I always prefer my good instrument for any gig, but if the weather is questionable, I use my backup flute. While still an expensive instrument, it is far less costly than my good flute. If you don’t have a backup instrument, then it is even more important to protect your investment from the elements. Letting your flute and case dry out prevents rust, pad rot, and potential mold growth.
Along the same lines, think about the sunscreen and bug repellent and hand sanitizer you may use in the summer months. All of these leave a film on your hands from application which then end up on your flute (and potentially on your lip plate which can be bad for you if you ingest any of it). I suggest keeping wet wipes in your gig bag and washing your hands to get the sunscreen and bug repellent chemicals off of the parts of you that come in contact with your flute. Not only can the chemicals hurt you if ingested, if left on your flute, they could cause tarnish, pad damage, mechanism binding, or even corrosion. When you get home from the gig, be sure to wipe your instrument down (after washing your hands) to remove any and all finger prints and film. Even the sweat from gigging on a hot day can cause damage to your instrument. I recommend a microfiber cloth for this purpose and be sure to wash it before using it again or it will just collect the residue and redeposit it on your instrument the next time you use it. Wood grain is even worse at trapping the dirt, oils, and chemicals than metal. Take great caution using wooden instruments for outdoor gigs more so for the residue than the heat!
If possible, book an end of summer appointment with your technician well in advance of the end of summer festivities so you are sure to have a time slot. Doing this will guarantee to beat the rush for repair appointments and make sure you are prepared for orchestra season and school auditions in the fall.
Here are some things to consider for making an outdoor gig easier. Remember the previously mentioned gust of wind? I have a reasonably solid folding music stand that I keep in my Jeep. I also have wind clips (the large ones with plexiglass pieces that cover the entire page). I also sometimes like to use my tablet and pedal to show my technological prowess, but make sure they are both charged or have a backup battery pack for longer gigs. Also, sometimes the glare on the screen in full sun makes them impossible to use so don’t envy those who use them. Sometimes the paper is better. I usually decide which I use based on the gig. Do what works for you. I also like to have a solid flute peg but you have to be cautious because uneven ground and tufts of grass can make them useless. I also like to have a small cloth just in case I get too hot and sweaty and need to wipe my chin or hands to dry them off. I prefer a separate cloth from the one I use on my flute for obvious reasons and those mentioned above. I usually throw a few band-aids in my bag, too. Mosquitos love me and inevitably I will get a bite and it will just start bleeding because I couldn’t help but scratch it. I also always throw my water bottle in my bag too because dehydration is not fun and the audience won’t appreciate having the concert stop because I have passed out from dehydration and overheating. Sunglasses and a hat are a must and most directors allow these for outdoor concerts (hats not as much).
Here is my outdoor gig list:
Appropriate uniform (per the gig requirements)
Music (paper or tablet)
Wind clips or pedal
Backup battery source for the tablet or pedal
Heavy duty collapsible music stand (I keep one in my trunk)
Sunglasses and hat
Sunblock and bug spray (maybe one day I will find some that work well)
Water bottle (usually full of ice cubes, cool water as they melt)
Bandaides (for the bug bites I scratch open)
Wet wipes (to clean my hands off before playing)
A snack (gigging makes me hungry)