Practice Tips in Style : Jolene Harju Madewell’s Practice Room Revelations

I came across Jolene Harju Madewell’s blog about 4 months ago. I was immediately taken by her playful approach to such a serious topic: practice. Her creative genius is best experienced at her website.  I was curious to know about Jolene’s story, specifically how she melds her photography expertise with her flute career.

What was your inspiration for Practice Room Revelations? (When did you start writing, why, how, etc.)

Practice Room Revelations began in 2012 as a means of collecting my thoughts during my summer before graduate school. During my junior year as an undergrad, I received a research grant to study Body Mapping, and I was astounded by how much and how quickly I could improve my playing through self-awareness. I had a revelation at every lesson with Vanessa Mulvey, and I continued to digest and practice toward discoveries on my own over my senior year. When I first started writing, I was working at a golf course in the Hamptons, and my job was primarily to hold down the desk until someone walked in. I spent a lot of time reading and reflecting about practice and performance, and found myself jotting down new ideas for blog posts every day. Ultimately, it helped me put concepts into words as I prepared for my role as a teaching assistant at Florida State. Today, it still encourages me to research new ideas and aim to improve on my own in a way I can describe in words.

How/when did you develop and eye for photography? Can you give us a glimpse of how you create your masterpieces?

I’ve always loved art and design – I wanted to be an interior designer growing up! I received a Nikon camera one Christmas about ten years ago, and right away, I began setting up flute photo shoots in my living room and editing photos with different filters. Through trial and error, I’ve learned how to use natural lighting. I often wait until the room is the brightest during the day and set up right near the window. Bright, natural light makes it much easier to capture true colors and achieve a crisp, sharp quality. I also take at least 50 shots from all angles to make sure I find one that’s in focus and eye-catching! I use the editing tools right there in Instagram, then I’m ready to post! I love that Instagram and the blog provide an outlet to be creative visually as well as musically.

What tech tools do you use every day?

I use Instagram every day to share images and videos, but also for the chance to connect with other musicians. There is a wonderfully supportive community of people who are courageously sharing their own musical journeys, and they really inspire me! I recently got a Canon EOS M3 camera that I use for photos, and for videos, I attach a Rode microphone. Before that, I used an iPhone for everything. (A phone with a clean lens and good lighting can produce some impressive photos!) Additionally, I use Skype each week to teach lessons to flutists from all over the world. Many have connected with me through Instagram or the blog, and they often come with questions related to playing with excess tension or practice frustrations. Teaching and guiding others toward their own revelations is the most rewarding part of my week.

What revelation have you found to be most helpful to you or your students?

Breathing is a common area of difficulty, and many other obstacles with tone and technique all tend to relate back to balance and breathing. Understanding the whole-body picture of breathing, and especially uncovering the difference between a natural, automatic non-flute breath and a gasping, over-working flute breath has been really eye-opening for me and my students. I shared a post on this idea called: A Simple Trick for Better Breathing, where lifting the flute to playing position during the inhalation translates a more natural breath to playing position.

Do you have any projects on the horizon?

In addition to collecting and creating more resources for musicians, I am currently working on adding more in-depth tutorial videos to my library. I often receive flute-related questions that are best explained with a demonstration and verbal explanation. Talk-through videos have really pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I’m always driven to help others, especially the younger students that reach out to me for help!!

About Jolene Harju Madewell

Originally from Carver, Massachusetts, Jolene Madewell is a flutist and teacher currently residing in Austin, Texas. She received a Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from Florida State University where she held a graduate teaching assistantship in the studio of Eva Amsler. She received a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of New Hampshire as a student of Peggy Vagts.

Jolene was the recipient of an Undergraduate Research Fellowship Grant from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research to complete a project entitled: The Balanced Flutist: A Study of the Benefits of Body Mapping of Flute Performance, and has studied Body Mapping with Vanessa Breault Mulvey and Dr. Jenni Cook. She has presented workshops on holistic performance in several states, and her private instruction integrates principles of Body Mapping, the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method, and other awareness techniques to unlock natural, effortless playing.

Jolene has performed at the National Flute Association Convention and Florida Flute Association Conventions, and she has been privileged to perform in master classes throughout the nation with such renowned artists as Amy Porter, Ian Clarke, Bonita Boyd, Amy Likar, Liisa Ruoho, Judith Mendenhall, Tim Munro of Eighth Blackbird, Jean Ferrandis, Aldo Baerten, Gary Schocker, and more.

Jolene maintains a private studio in Austin, TX and teaches internationally via Skype. She is the author of the blog Practice Room Revelations.

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